I recently received an email from a reader who posed an interesting question. At the time, I wasn’t accepting clients, but I managed to give my 2 cents on the matter.

Basically, he wanted to know how he could improve his site which was ranking at number 2 his main keyword, to the top position.

I have encountered similar questions before, so I asked him (Thanks Ian!) for permission to reproduce our email conversation. I had to keep company names and keywords confidential so as to protect his identity.

His words in green, mine in blue.

How can I help you?


I’m Ian from *confidential company name* and we would like to see how we can rank better on google for the keyword “*confidential keyword*“. Are you able to suggest something for us?

Kind regards,

ranked number 2

SERP for his main keyword. He’s at number 2.

Hi Ian,

Marcus here. Thanks for dropping me a message.

I took a quick look at the search results for ‘*keyword*‘ and saw that you are ranked number 2! That’s really excellent! Are you very concerned that you are not at number 1?

If I were you, I wouldn’t be overly worried.

1) Sure, it would be great getting to number 1 to get those extra clicks.. but it’s better to know your audience and know what they want. If I’m looking around Singapore for *keyword*, I’ll not only stop at the first result. I’ll probably click around the top few results to compare which are better.

You’ll want your website to really demonstrate why people should choose your service over others. Openly display your USP. If you don’t have one, brainstorm for one. Find a value proposition that your competitors can’t duplicate. Doing so will increase conversion rates – something which will probably affect profits more than a shift in search rankings.

3) Do a more thorough keyword research. What are the other terms that people will use to describe ‘*his product*‘? ‘*keyword variation 1*‘? ‘*keyword variation 2*‘? I’m randomly guessing. Incorporating these keywords into your landing page will help you attract traffic from a wider variety of keywords.

4) You have global partners and plenty of corporate clients. Are they linking to you?
You might have some customers who are bloggers. Are they talking about you on their blogs and linking to you? Do you have a system in place to incentivise people tweeting, sharing, or linking to you?

search volume of related keywords

Search volume for his main keyword and some related keywords

5) Leverage on your blog! Here’s why. There’s ~900 searches for ‘*keyword*‘ a month in Singapore. First place gets ~500 clicks. 2nd place gets around 250 clicks. If you improve to first place, u get an extra 250 clicks a month. That’s quite a low cap. Having a good content strategy and content marketing strategy, you can bring in far more traffic than that. What kinds of content (related to your industry) that your customers like to read? I would advice against blindly posting content. Quality over quantity!

6) Try uploading youtube videos. One of your competitors are doing it. You should too!

7) While doing all of the above, you should think of improving conversion rates and click-through rates. Are drop-off rates very high? Are people landing on your site, but not doing the desired actions? Do people click on ‘Play Now’, but not complete the submission? It might be good to look into improving the design of the site and hiring a good copywriter to write a good copy for the page.

8) (I also noticed there aren’t many competitors in Singapore at the moment) This might be the best time for you to build your brand. It’s unfortunate that you don’t have a unique name though. The name of your business seems to be the same keyword you are targeting, and is also the name of the service you are providing. Your competitor *Competitor Name* on the other hand, has a little more unique name. And they do have a good monthly search volume in Google. Google might see this as a signal that their ‘branding’ is stronger. It’s an advantage they have at the moment.

Hope my few pieces of advice can help. I wouldn’t worry too much about search rankings at the moment. Focus on improving the website, marketing your strengths, posting good content, developing good outreach habits with clients and partners, and not ignoring other marketing channels 🙂

Have a good night 🙂

​Enjoy the long weekend!​

Hi Marcus,

Firstly, thanks for taking the time to review our website. We really appreciate the effort you’ve put in.
The pointers that you’ve brought up were really informative.
Although we’re ranked 2nd, we’re displayed rather low in the search engine searches for *keyword*. *Competitor* is actually displayed twice before us. Would you say that this is something we can fix with paid links to our website to boost our site authority?

Hi Ian,

Actually the SERPs will look different to different people. You are ranked number 2, above the fold, in my case. You are ranked number 1 for ‘*keyword* singapore‘ too. Don’t be overly concerned about ranking 1 or 2. (try using incognito mode to do searches)

Though it is possible to increase site authority with paid links, you’ll need to be careful of what kinds of links you buy. Are you thinking about purchasing PBN links?

Also, by competing with links, all your competitors need to do is to simply buy links themselves. This might result in a “who has bought more links” contest where in the long run, it’s not very good for anyone. There’s always the risk of hitting a link threshold where Google starts penalising sites with very unnatural link profiles.

Why not increase site authority the right way? Producing and marketing good, branded content. Do outreach to build actual relationships with other websites, people, users. Real world branding has a greater effect on search engine rankings than you think.

Sure, you might get some bump in search rankings if you buy enough links.. but remember, these bought links won’t share their fun experiences on Facebook, they won’t call you up to discuss business opportunities, nor will they spread your brand through word of mouth.

Hi Marcus,

Thanks for all the information provided so far.

We appreciate the effort you’ve taken in sharing your knowledge despite us not being a paying customer.

Do let us know if you would like a game with us in the future, and we will definitely offer a discounted price.

Best regards,

Hi Ian,

Haha! No prob 🙂

Just hoping to spread a good SEO ‘culture’ whenever I can.

I wish you all the best in your business and hopefully I can find some time for *keyword*. hehe

Good night.

There you go.

I’m sorry if you expected some high level SEO tactic that will teach you how to improve from the 2nd position to the 1st.

I’ve come to believe firmly in holistic SEO strategies that make use of other digital marketing channels to synergize with the effects of SEO in order to grow organic traffic together with branding.

Hopefully more business owners in Singapre will come to understand how the right SEO philosophies can have a greater effect on your overall bottom line than just improving the rankings of a couple of keywords.

Did I help open your eyes to how SEO is more than just about climbing search rankings? Or are you disappointed with my answers. Share your thoughts below.