How To Tell Why A Competitor is Outranking You On Google

There are a number of useful, free tools available to help you find out why and what to do about it.

These tools are all the proverbial blind men touching and trying to describe an elephant, but when used together, a picture can start to come together.  Here I’m going to go through the steps that I normally go through when doing research for a client.

This is a “live blogging” post.  I am writing it and taking screenshots as I progress…

Step 1: Check My Client’s Website in Majestic

I randomly picked a website ranking on page 2 for “dui lawyer cherry hill.”  This is going to be my hypothetical “client.”  Let’s take a look at some of his numbers:

majestic seo for lawyer




To start, Majestic didn’t even find a title tag for the home page.  The trust flow and citation flow are typical of what one may expect from a local law firm that isn’t ranking too highly, but that begs the question “how can I get this firm to rank on page 1?”

Step 2 Let’s look at the other firms that are ranking on page 1 for the same term.

I cut and pasted the firms ranking on page 1 into Majestic’s “bulk backlink tool” (found at the top under “tools”).  This is what I found:

dui lawyer cherry hill

None of these sites have insurmountable numbers, so I would feel confident that this firm can get some backlinks.  There are a couple things that I would like to point out about these competitors.

  1. When you see a huge spread in numbers like the one that you see for or, there is a higher likelihood that this site has done some bad linkbuilding.  I would not recommend copying these sites’ strategy, since there is a chance that they may get penalized in the future.
  2. The one that I would be most interested in emulating is  It is clear that they have done some linkbuilding and the TF/CF spread does not look particularly suspicious.  Let’s take a look at their backlink profile to see if there’s anything that can be copied.

I discover the strategy

I plug the website’s url into the search bar and click on the “backlinks” tab.  The strategy is pretty clear—he is getting tons of links from other law firms in other parts of the country.

lawyer exchanging links

There are two possible explanations for this:

  1. He is creating great content that everyone is linking to
  2. He is involved in a link exchange scheme, which is against Google policies and could get him penalized (if he gets caught.)  If you’re interested in learning more about what Google considers a “linkbuilding scheme,” read here.

There’s only one way to find out, so I clicked on one of the links!

yea, it's a link exchange

Yea, it’s a link exchange.  At this point, you either:

  1. Start over and look for someone that’s doing SEO the safe way
  2. Say “screw it, he’s probably driving business this way and I should do the same thing!”

I’m not going to tell you to go one route or the other, but I will tell you that there is risk involved with going route #2.  Google has some really smart people working there, and it is likely only a matter of time before they catch onto this site.  On the other hand, he may generate a few hundred thousand dollars in business before it happens, so you make the call.

Hell, I’m curious, let’s see what kind of business he’s generating…

Step 3 – See what the results have been

For this, we’re going to switch over to Spyfu.

His monthly traffic skyrocketed in October, which may have been when he started this current strategy.  It has been driving 1k-2k visits a month to the site, so assuming that 4% of this traffic converts into clients, he’s likely getting in the ballpark of 60-100 cases a month.  At $1000-$2000 a pop, this is a good chunk of change.

A final thought

This is not the way that SEO is supposed to be done and it is a little risky.  Engaging in this firm’s strategy can potentially backfire, but it could also generate a large amount of business for some time.  Ultimately, your decision to take this approach is entirely dependent on your tolerance for risk.  I would also add that Google often tells us that we should do one thing, yet the algorithm rewards something else.  Wil Reynolds gave a great talk on this frustrating part of SEO back in 2012 and it is 100% true even today.