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How to rank #1 on Google by analyzing weaknesses in search results

By Dmitry Dragilev · November 30, 2022
Hero image with an icon of a magnifying glass (search)

Throughout my career, I've helped hundreds of brands rank #1 for extremely lucrative terms. One of the most effective strategies I've found is simply taking advantage of weaknesses in existing results for the keyword you're after.

If you can identify the SEO gaps and mistakes that competing sites make, you can leverage that insight to inform your content strategy and outrank them. Here's how.

What are the common weaknesses in SERPs?

By exploiting weaknesses in a search engine results page (SERP), a site with similar or greater authority can outrank the existing results for that keyword. It's an easy and repeatable way to identify keywords that you can rank for competitively and allows you to systematically grow traffic to your site by targeting low-hanging fruit instead of writing on bigger keywords that you may or may not rank for. 

Cheat sheet to find weaknesses in SERP
Cheat sheet to find weaknesses in SERP (source: TopicRanker)

There are numerous kinds of weaknesses and problems in SERPs. Here are some of the most common ones to look out for:

  • A page title is missing some terms in your target keyword: Having your target keyword in your page title is a vital on-page SEO ranking factor. If you see that some of your competitors are missing a few terms in their page title, you can add those in and outrank them if you have a similar quality of content.

  • Page word count is less than 1,000 words: Although a higher word count doesn't guarantee better rankings, you'll usually need more than 1,000 words for most competitive terms. With under 1,000 words, it's often difficult to fulfill the search intent for an important keyword. If you can go further in-depth and answer the query better, you can rank higher than competing sites.

  • Page takes more than 3 seconds to load: Page load time is a major ranking factor, particularly for mobile searchers. If you see that a competitor's page is loading slowly, you can outrank them easily with good page load times.

  • Page was published more than 6 months ago: A common misconception most people have about large sites is that they're unbeatable. In reality, they often have old articles that are no longer relevant. You can write a new article on the same topic, and as long as it's high quality and relevant, you can outrank them.

  • Forum results: Forum results (like Yahoo Answers and Quora) are some of the easiest pages to outrank because the content is usually thin. You can write a similar piece of SEO content on the query and outrank them by answering it more in depth.

  • A page with a Moz spam score is above 10%: A page with a high spam score is often an indication that it's using black hat SEO techniques or is otherwise low quality. These pages are easy to outrank with a well-written piece of content.

If you find that a page is ranking in the top 10 on Google and has one of these issues, you can capitalize on that and create a piece of content that's better. The only exception: if the article with weaknesses has a much higher Moz Domain Authority than you, it's best to stay away from that keyword and focus on outranking sites with similar or lower authority.

How do you identify weaknesses in search results?

Finding weaknesses in SERP isn't really something you want to (or can) do manually. The best way to identify these weaknesses quickly is to use software that can scan the results for a particular keyword and identify the weaknesses for you.

A tool like Ahrefs will find a large list of keywords, but it doesn't give you specific reasons and problem areas to help you understand which ones you should go after. So once you have your list of words, you can use a tool like TopicRanker (my app) to take some of those words and identify specific weaknesses in SERPs. You just input your site and a keyword you want to rank for, and it immediately identifies all the weaknesses of other sites you can leverage to rank #1 for a keyword. 

Keywords you should rank for on TopicRanker
Weaknesses in SERP on TopicRanker

Here's a video walkthrough of how you can use these tools to find weaknesses that you can capitalize on.

What should you do after identifying weaknesses?

There are two paths you can take after identifying weaknesses: 

  1. Create a new post targeting these weaknesses 

  2. Optimize an existing post

If you're creating a new page, you should aim to create the best possible resource that matches the search intent of the user. The great thing about new content is you can go directly after the easiest keywords for your site—this will allow you to target different weaknesses and see how well you rank. With a new piece of well-optimized content, you can take aim at easy-to-rank keywords and start building your momentum. 

If you're optimizing an existing post, you should take a look at what the competition is doing better than you and try to improve on it. Analyze your own page to see if you've optimized your meta titles, updated content recently, used internal links, and all the other important ranking factors. These small changes are what will account for the difference in ranking and can help you close the gap between where you currently rank and #1.

You may not see a dramatic increase in traffic after updating one post, but doing it repeatedly for your content catalog should result in a significant increase in traffic and organic search ranking over time. By finding more weaknesses in the SERPs, you can minimize any risk of choosing difficult keywords to rank for. This will allow you to continuously optimize your pages until you have the best chance for ranking well for the keywords in your niche and sub-niche.

SEO can be complicated by many marketers, but you can systematically rank for keywords by finding and exploiting weaknesses in SERP. By leveraging software to quickly identify these weaknesses, you can take the guesswork out of SEO and have a better chance at ranking your pages. After finding weaknesses, take the time to address them in your new or existing content—this will give you the best chance to rank #1 for any keyword you choose.

Read more: How will AI change SEO?

This was a guest post from Dmitry Dragilev, founder of TopicRanker.com, an SEO tool which finds keywords your website can easily rank for on Google due to specific problems and weaknesses in search results. Over the last 10 years, Dmitry has helped 300+ brands rank #1 on Google through PR and SEO. Dmitry used PR & SEO to grow a startup from 0 to 40 million views per month, and got acquired by Google in 2014. After the acquisition by Google he translated his know-how into JustReachOut.io, an SEO tool to get covered in press and build authority backlinks without PR firms; it has been used by 5000+ content marketers to date and was acquired in 2021. More about all his projects on his personal blog CriminallyProlific.com. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Check out our guidelines and get in touch.

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