There is little more frustrating as a site owner than to feel like you are doing everything right with your SEO—engaging in social media, creating a company blog, properly optimizing your site, sticking with white hat link building and so forth—and have it seem like the competition is still one step ahead. Even more frustrating is when it looks like the competition is using black hat tactics to hold onto their lead. Some site owners may think to themselves, “well if black hat works for them, it will work for me!” while others may give up on their SEO entirely. Neither of these routes is a good course of action.

Before you decide to abandon your SEO, here are a few things you should consider:

Basic competitive analysis

Run a link audit on your site (using Google analytics) and on your competitor’s (with a 3rd party link tool) and see how your site measures up to them. Do they have 100 links for every one of yours? Is their site older, meaning it has a better trust factor with the search engines? Is their link portfolio diversified and you’ve found your rely most heavily on one or two link sources? All of these factors and more could be contributing to their site’s success over yours. You have to identify what factors you can control (number of links) versus the ones you can’t (age of site) and do your best to equal their efforts.

It’s possible they have been working on their SEO for a lot longer than you have, but that just means you have to keep plugging away! SEO is not fixed and that means your site could take the lead at any given moment. Many site owners will slack on their SEO after the get the results they were working towards, but SEO requires consistency in order to maintain those successes.

Don’t copy the competition

Is your SEO two steps behind because you are trying to emulate the competition? While there is nothing wrong with getting ideas and inspiration from your competition, that doesn’t mean you should be copying them step for step. How can you ever hope to beat the competition if all you’re doing is following in their shadow? If you want your site to outshine the competition, you have to focus your efforts on doing what they aren’t doing for their SEO, not just what they are doing. What holes can you find in their SEO campaign? What niche can you carve out for yourself that they don’t have a strong online presence in? You want to take advantage of the work they’ve done and see what tactics you can tweak and implement for your own site, but don’t limit yourself just to that. Innovation will always lead you somewhere.

SEO is highly competitive

Everyone knows just enough SEO to become a competitor. You may find that, even though you dominate the offline market, small websites are outperforming you online. This is especially true in the travel, auto and legal industries. If you find yourself competing in a highly competitive market, don’t let yourself be discouraged! You can’t win the race if you don’t try and throwing your hands up in the air isn’t doing your site or brand any good. SEO is incredibly long term, so it may take a year before you really start to see the fruits of your SEO actions. If you give up now, you are effectively cutting the legs out from underneath your own campaign.