There's nothing more frustrating than to think you are doing everything right on the SEO side only to have your competition still nailing you in the search engines. You have great content, great social media connections, awesome on-site SEO with internal links, keywords, and you even got the Google authorship down. So what's going on?
If you're pretty sure you haven't been hit by any of the Google algorithm changes (and most were not) including the most recent one, EMD - Exact Match Domain, where Google is penalizing fluff sites for having the exact keyword domain you want to be ranked for, (remember, I said fluff, not solid sites), and your competition is still killing you, it's time to dig deeper.
1. Find out who's ahead of you and why.
If your competition has a domain that's been trusted for over 15 years with another 10 years to go on their expiration date, there's not a whole lot you can do about that. Trusted sites will usually always be trusted with Google and it's hard to compete with that. If you can't beat them, join them! Buy your domain for as long as you can and make sure you are using your oldest domain. Don't keep buying domains for the heck of it. Google will think it's fishy.
2. If you find one site that always comes up ahead of you for everything, check out the site and see how they do things.
This can almost be the most frustrating because you may think their site sucks, has terrible on-site SEO and is ugly. Google doesn't care too much for ugly as long as it works and sometimes, these sites just work. Check out the content, the navigability, the pages (which can sometimes be massive). By collecting a lot of internal pages with great titles, awesome content and exactly what the searcher came there for, will make the site even that much more attractive to Google.
3. Copy them.
Okay, how many times have we talked about NOT copying others? About a billion right? This is different. we are NOT talking content. Check out their backlinks. Sometimes just one or two bad back links can drop your site and if you have EVER paid for back links, Google will slap you on the search engine hand so fast you will wonder where the heck you went.
Read more: What Does Google Want, Anyway?
Go to Open Site Explorer.com and enter in your competitors site. See where their highest ranking back link is coming from and then MIMIC that. Go to that site and try to get a back link from them. Leave a comment, write a Press Release (yes, you may have to pay for it) and study where and how they are getting these great backlinks.
I know how frustrating it can be to EVER get ahead. You can always try and go for less-known keywords and phrases but getting ahead of a competitor for the big searches can be challenging. Start here and start little by little. Google loves the natural progression of a site that is always changing, evolving and becoming a better experience for readers.