netmeg - 6:12 pm on Dec 29, 2012 (gmt 0)
Authority - are you the best resource for what you do? I mean really really the BEST? You might know you are, but does your site reflect it? (I can't tell you how many clients come to me and say "Of course we are" and they have some enhanced Yellow Pages website that could have been put up by any Tom Dick or Harry) If you're in a broad niche, or your niche is already saturated by the big guys, then just take one or two aspects of it, and focus on being the best at THOSE. I knew going in I could never compete on general widgets, so I picked blue widgets, and made myself the most comprehensive resource for those (even though I had other widgets) Eventually I started getting traffic (and ranking) for other widgets. Now I'm right up there with just plain ole widgets.
Trust - are you giving off trust signals? Google came right out and said one of the questions they ask their raters is "Would you trust this site with your credit card?" Are you accountable? Is there a real face you can associate with your brand (even if it's just a cartoon, ork ork)? Can people email you and get a speedy response back; are you findable on Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+ or Twitter if they have a question? You might not have a B&M (I don't) but people still like to know who they're dealing with - in a general sense, where you are, why you're doing what you do, etc etc. Testimonials, ratings and reviews are all good too. Mentions in the press, awards, anything that lets people know there are real people at the other end.
Buzz - are people talking about you? Offline, or on social networks? Ironically enough, the more time you spend developing NON search engine channels, the more it can help in the SERPs. At least, in my experience. There's no reason in this day and age not to have a mailing list. There are several services you can use for FREE up to a couple thousand names. My two biggest clients still do sizable direct mail (not everyone can send out 100,000 84-page catalogs every month, but maybe a flyer or a postcard?) You know your potential customers are searching in Google, but where ELSE are they hanging out? That's where you need to be.
When I look at the niches I work with, the big brands sit at the top in areas where I haven't established myself (or am not able to) as the authority for that search. One client has 3500 products, almost all of which are also sold by Amazon and many by big office supply stores. We can outrank the big brands on about 55% of the product line - the rest we're either working on, or else figure we don't have a shot so won't bother with.
There's a lot of people who are uncomfortable with putting this kind of effort into their sites (and their businesses, really) and that's unfortunate. Because that will be the "or die" part of "Brand up or die"
This is not (in my mind) a website issue, it's a total business issue.