Being _slammed_ in the SERPs by inferior sites

Phillis86

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Running an ecommerce site and we're getting outdone in the SERPs for our money keywords by some really shady and straight-up lower-quality sites with worse matrics in just about every sense.

Most of the keywords have a difficulty of less than 10. This one has a difficulty of 9, and we're in position 36 with a URL that's about 2 years old:

Keywords Explorer - Google Chrome 2022-01-18 10.20.png


Another example is this one, where we rank in position 23 with a URL that's about 18 months old for a keyword with a difficulty of 1:
Keywords Explorer - Google Chrome 2022-01-18 10.28qwe.png


As you can see, we're being outranked by eBay and Amazon, but also sites that have no links, much lower DR and a similar UR. I'm having this problem with category pages, collection pages and product pages. A lot of the links pointing to our competitors are spammy and syndicated, whereas mine are from good quality guest posts. I've got all the pages linked well internally, no manual actions and CWV are in the green.

Our homepage ranks in 1st position for our main keywords, but I'm also noticing that brand new sites that have been over-optimised for that keyword are starting to pop up in th SERPs.

I'm doing everything white hat, above board and by the rules, but it doesn't seem to be bearing any fruit.

Any idea what's happening here, or how I can get these pages to rank higher?
 

SunnyLeon

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Why are you guiding yourself by DR and UR? They are third party tools and far from reliable. Just continue grinding with proper SEO and have patience. And check manually for hidden networks, because those will surely not pop up on ahrefs
 

tazarbm

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2 of the most important (if not THE most important) factors in ranking a website in any niche are backlinks and user engagement. If your competitors outrank you with poor content it means that the user engagement is not the reason, so this means that they're outranking you with backlinks (PBNs most likely since these are the most powerful links on the market today). And since you can hide backlinks from all these 3rd party tools (Ahrefs, MOZ, Semrush, etc) via robots.txt or .htaccess it's only normal not to see the links of your competitors and assume that they're weaker than you when in reality Ahrefs might be blocked and unable to show you the real DR of your competitors.

And aside from these 2, there is also stuff like link injection and authority hijacking, but I'm not very tech-savvy so I don't know how they work (and I've never been interested in them, either if I'm being honest). All I know is that they work, and they might be why you're getting outranked
 

Phillis86

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Thanks for the input guys

How can I try and spot a PBN, and what can I do about it if they are using PBNs? Also, is there any way to spot links that are boosting their position in the SERPs but are blocked by .htaccess or robots.txt?
2 of the most important (if not THE most important) factors in ranking a website in any niche are backlinks and user engagement. If your competitors outrank you with poor content it means that the user engagement is not the reason, so this means that they're outranking you with backlinks (PBNs most likely since these are the most powerful links on the market today). And since you can hide backlinks from all these 3rd party tools (Ahrefs, MOZ, Semrush, etc) via robots.txt or .htaccess it's only normal not to see the links of your competitors and assume that they're weaker than you when in reality Ahrefs might be blocked and unable to show you the real DR of your competitors.

And aside from these 2, there is also stuff like link injection and authority hijacking, but I'm not very tech-savvy so I don't know how they work (and I've never been interested in them, either if I'm being honest). All I know is that they work, and they might be why you're getting outranked

I'm not sure I understand what you mean about user engagement here. Our site looks better and much more trustworthy - you're saying that if theirs looks worse but is ranking higher, these shady links are probably why?

That I understand, but then why is Amazon and eBay outranking me?
 

seomaster5

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You might not be tracking the backlinks of these websites correctly. They must be having more backlinks than your website.
 

tazarbm

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I'm not sure I understand what you mean about user engagement here. Our site looks better and much more trustworthy - you're saying that if theirs looks worse but is ranking higher, these shady links are probably why?
sorry for the late reply, I just saw your comment a minute ago...

Yeah, that's what I meant. I might have expressed myself wrongly in saying "user engagement" with regards to your case, but in general user engagement is a big ranking factor so I wasn't completely wrong. But what I meant in your particular case is that since those guys outrank you with garbage sites user engagement is definitely not the reason for outranking you, which means that the reason can only be the backlinks. They probably have hidden PBN links, or they're spamdexing using really black hat methods (which I have no idea how they work because technology is not my strong point, but I know that it's possible to outrank legit sites like yours with such methods, you can see it happening all the time if you'll stick on this forum for long enough)

That I understand, but then why is Amazon and eBay outranking me?
Amazon and Ebay outrank everyone, not just you :)
 

fb3003

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Running an ecommerce site and we're getting outdone in the SERPs for our money keywords by some really shady and straight-up lower-quality sites with worse matrics in just about every sense.

Most of the keywords have a difficulty of less than 10. This one has a difficulty of 9, and we're in position 36 with a URL that's about 2 years old:

View attachment 199198

Another example is this one, where we rank in position 23 with a URL that's about 18 months old for a keyword with a difficulty of 1:
View attachment 199199

As you can see, we're being outranked by eBay and Amazon, but also sites that have no links, much lower DR and a similar UR. I'm having this problem with category pages, collection pages and product pages. A lot of the links pointing to our competitors are spammy and syndicated, whereas mine are from good quality guest posts. I've got all the pages linked well internally, no manual actions and CWV are in the green.

Our homepage ranks in 1st position for our main keywords, but I'm also noticing that brand new sites that have been over-optimised for that keyword are starting to pop up in th SERPs.

I'm doing everything white hat, above board and by the rules, but it doesn't seem to be bearing any fruit.

Any idea what's happening here, or how I can get these pages to rank higher?
can you tell how old those top sites are? did they suddenly jump to the top spot or it has been like this for a while?

what is the keyword density for one of the keywords that you are not ranking at the top vs the top sites? what about the usage across H tags and other major tags? i would pick one of your pages and try to match the averages of the top 3-5 sites. see what happens to ranking. please report back!

also, totally agree with @tazarbm. there is some major PBN at play here.
 

nakamura

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Its because of the Google algorithm. You can optimize your website/page however you want. Google will prefer the one with more authority. Content is only king, if you have an authority website. Otherwise, you got no chance. Until 2017 you wouldn't have any problems ranking your website, but Google changed their algo...preferring authority sites over anything else.
 

BigBoogie

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You have to write to match what is ranking. The top 5 pages average 711 keywords. Your page is 193. I am not saying that is the issue but it shows that your page is clearly much different from what google likes. You are probably just short on content. How do your total words compare to the top 5? You should perhaps look into trying some tf idf type stuff.
 

upick3

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Have you consider that your onpage seo might not be optmised correclty? I've had some experience with this. I found that
  • adding fresh content to the pages that dropped in ranks helps boost yolur page for your targeted keywords and other low hanging fruit
  • double check that your page is correctly optimised with h1 tags, you enough content not just a paragraph.
  • it also helps to do more keyword research and find LSI keywords that you missed then write content around
  • also your over site authority could be the issue too
Plenty of reasons why your ranked had dropped, I find that only look at your competitors as a benchmark on your seo efforts. If your ranks are dropping, don't panic, and don't look at what others are doing.
Look at what you can do to improve your site.

And just as @SunnyLeon said, You need a ton of patience. What you do now might only take effect week / months later.
 

Starblazer

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There are only a few weak competitors in the screenshot. Anything above DR 40 is not a weak competitor as they might be better at some other metrics like DA and TF. Moreover, these are all 3rd party metrics and can only hint you at Google's internal page rank. So, either they might have more authority than you, better optimized content than you, or better user engagement than you. Google won't rank your site simply because you have higher DR.
 

warriorsam53

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Does the type of page you’re trying to rank for match the majority of the results on the SERP?

For example, lets take a keyword for one of your product pages. Are the majority of pages ranking on page 1 product pages? Or are they blog posts, review articles, category pages etc?
 

Phillis86

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can you tell how old those top sites are? did they suddenly jump to the top spot or it has been like this for a while?

what is the keyword density for one of the keywords that you are not ranking at the top vs the top sites? what about the usage across H tags and other major tags? i would pick one of your pages and try to match the averages of the top 3-5 sites. see what happens to ranking. please report back!

also, totally agree with @tazarbm. there is some major PBN at play here.
These sites are a similar age to my own, I believe. I'd say that over the last 12 months, they've entered the top 10/top 3 while we haven't. I might give that a short, will report back for sure.

You have to write to match what is ranking. The top 5 pages average 711 keywords. Your page is 193. I am not saying that is the issue but it shows that your page is clearly much different from what google likes. You are probably just short on content. How do your total words compare to the top 5? You should perhaps look into trying some tf idf type stuff.
I'm using other pages on the e-commerce site to rank for the keywords that this specific page doesn't rank for, but the competitor does. In other words, he has one page that ranks for all those keywords, whereas I have it spread out over several. And by several, I mean perhaps 2 or 3.

Total words on the page are similar I believe, the only difference is the layout. They have more product tiles in their category/collection pages, whereas we have a lot more social proof - links to case studies and customer reviews etc. We don't have enough product tiles to populate the page the way our competitors do, but when it comes to text, we're pretty much on par with them.


Have you consider that your onpage seo might not be optmised correclty? I've had some experience with this. I found that
  • adding fresh content to the pages that dropped in ranks helps boost yolur page for your targeted keywords and other low hanging fruit
  • double check that your page is correctly optimised with h1 tags, you enough content not just a paragraph.
  • it also helps to do more keyword research and find LSI keywords that you missed then write content around
  • also your over site authority could be the issue too
Plenty of reasons why your ranked had dropped, I find that only look at your competitors as a benchmark on your seo efforts. If your ranks are dropping, don't panic, and don't look at what others are doing.
Look at what you can do to improve your site.

And just as @SunnyLeon said, You need a ton of patience. What you do now might only take effect week / months later.
I'd say that I regularly rewrite all on-page copy every 6 months or so, update the publication date in WP accordingly and then republish. I rely on SEMRush's on page SEO tool to make sure that I'm matching the keyword density of other pages in the SERPs.

There are only a few weak competitors in the screenshot. Anything above DR 40 is not a weak competitor as they might be better at some other metrics like DA and TF. Moreover, these are all 3rd party metrics and can only hint you at Google's internal page rank. So, either they might have more authority than you, better optimized content than you, or better user engagement than you. Google won't rank your site simply because you have higher DR.
There are only a few 'weak' competitors in the screenshot, but why are they outranking me? What's a more accurate way to compare 'authority' then, if not DR or similar?

Does the type of page you’re trying to rank for match the majority of the results on the SERP?

For example, lets take a keyword for one of your product pages. Are the majority of pages ranking on page 1 product pages? Or are they blog posts, review articles, category pages etc?
They're either category pages, collection pages or product pages in question. I'm usually pretty good at letting the SERPs dictate what type of page I use to compete for that keyword, but there are a few rouge keywords of course!


==
Thanks heaps for the responses guys, really appreciate it.

I've learned 2 things from these responses:
  • I'm relying on ahrefs' DR too much as a measure of 'authority'
  • There may be PBN links in these SERPs that ahrefs can't pick up on.
My questions are:
  • What's a good way to measure actual authority, based on what ahrefs can't track
  • How can I find any black hat /PBN links our competitors are using that ahrefs can't pick up on?
 

warriorsam53

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Before you buy links, I recommend making some on page changes. In one of your replies, you said that there’s a competitor ranking for multiple keywords with one page whereas you have different pages for them.

I recommend using a cluster tool to figure out which keywords should be on the same page and which keywords need to have their own pages.

Export a list of your top 100 or so keywords from search console (sorted by impressions) and run them through a cluster tool. You can then optimise your pages by merging them or changing the intent of existing pages if necessary.

This should help your rankings. The best part is that since your pages are aged, you’ll see results almost instantly. On page changes will show results in less than a week.

I would exhaust all on page options before getting links.
 
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