Search engine optimization (SEO) is a collection of tactics used to elevate your website's organic ranking on search engines such as Google and Bing. Due to the enormous benefits of being on the first page of results, with an even larger advantage to those who rank in the top three, every website in the world remotely similar to your business's is your SEO competitor.
You could analyze a competitor's SEO tactics and copy them, using similar keywords for example, or you could hijack the SEO process and go straight to the top of the list by being listed above the list. After all, the first organic search result may not appear until the middle of the page. What you need to do is get your business represented in the sections Google showcases before, and alongside, search results.
A selection of high-ranking images is often shown in a carousel prior to search results. This is an opportunity for your products to be displayed before a link to a competitor's website. Image placement is ranked and determined by SEO, but because there are less images than text on the internet, images are on average less competitive for SEO. This means it's easier to rank higher for an image search than a web search. The same can be said of videos.
Registering your business with a Google My Business account allows you to show up in the map section of a search. It's often presented before, or alongside, search results. What gets a business noticed is the quality of information and reviews. Sometimes this information is used to fill the Knowledge Graph, a tall side panel that highlights basic information about a business.
If you have the money to spend, Paid Search ads can catapult you to the top of the page. Competition can be fierce, so it's best to start with expert help. Even so, this method allows your business to be displayed above your competitors and track the return on your investment. Paid Search also can be more flexible in terms of copy changes and keyword targeting than SEO, including targeting those who search for your competitors.
Sometimes, the top search results related to you or your competitors are neither of your websites. Instead, they're much larger websites with more clout in a search engine's algorithm. Try to outperform your competitors on those sites (like Yelp or TripAdvisor) or work with larger websites in your industry to have your business featured in an article or two. Also consider joining business aggregators, like Angie's List, or creating a Wikipedia page for your business.
Increasing your visibility by out-maneuvering your competitors to appear in all of a search engine's customer features gives your business the advantage in getting noticed. SEO can only get you so far. Take control of the search page and get your business spotted by consumers as often as possible.