Researching Mega Competitive SERPs

Shane Dutka


At least monthly I research a number of really competitive SERPs.

SERPs like best vpn for streaming, best online casino, best credit card, etc.

I don’t have sites in these niches, but I know they are mega competitive.

Businesses spend $1,000s on links and full time SEOs to tweak and optimize these pages.

You know it’s worth taking a beat and review these sites to see if there’s something to learn.

No matter if you have small or large sites doing this sort of research will keep you ahead of the curve.

Now most of the time there’s a bunch of DR90+ sites ranking in spite of themselves, so I usually skip over these.

Now I’m not knocking the SEOs working on those sites…

The fact is you can mess a lot up and be saved by the size of overall link profile.

What I am looking for is DR <80 sites.

The lower the DR the better because you know that something other than a massive link profile is helping these sites rank.

Is it UX, content, internal linking, external linking, who knows, that’s the point, to dig in and see what you find.

For this newsletter I’ll focus on what I find in the “best vpn for streaming” SERP (screenshot below).

Out of the gate, I’m seeing the usual suspects, nothing interesting here…

CNET and Forbes

They are some of the biggest sites on the internet, they don’t have to do much to rank.

Really the only 2 sites in the top 20 that caught my eye were CyberNews (rank 7) and (rank 15).

CyberNews is a DR83, so still a strong domain with bullseye topical authority, but it doesnt make it a shoe in.

I like the fact checked author, the emphasis on savings in their CTAs (i.e., Save 69%), and the “we tested 42 providers” language.

Although I don’t think I believe them given their UX.

I think they can improve by being more forthright on scores and their criteria for how they selected (i.e.,

It seems more like they are just working in the “we tested 42 providers” language to convince the algo the page has EEAT.

Reading through their content, it reads like a brochure for these companies, very salesly, which I’m also not a fan of.

Language like “The best free torrenting VPN is NordVPN. It offers lightning-fast speeds and P2P optimized servers on top of an audited no-logging policy.”

This language is just a matter of fact, not necessarily adding any value.

To me, it looks like the thing thats making this page rank was that they got 52 links from a news story about pornhub (screenshot below).

It looks like their page got picked up and then syndicated across a bunch of sites.

After that it started to pop.

Can’t tell you why or how they got picked up.

I assume there was probably some money that exchanged hands at some point.

Given the content and UX wasn’t great I also wanted to take a look at some other areas of their SEO execution.

For example their internal links look really solid (screenshot below).

164 internal links of well optimized and varied anchors.

Here’s a a typical example (screenshot below).

There’s a lot of SEOs who believe (and I agree) that having your internal link close to the H2 that’s relevant to the page you’re linking makes the internal link stronger.

That’s what CyberNews is doing here.

On their “Surfshark VPN review” page they have a section about streaming and within the first sentence you have a relevent internal link to a relavent page.


If you need a good example of internal link execution, look no further than CyberNews and the VPN folder.

Let’s take a look at (DR79) now, currently ranking 15th for “best vpn for streaming”.

Right off the bar I am loving their UX (screenshot below).

I think they could improve it by adding some tooltips to add more context to those numbers.

For example, adding 1-2 sentences on what these 300 speed tests mean could improve the engagement of the page.

I think also does a nice job with their content, it reads like an expert wrote it.

Their content is giving what I like to call “unique insights” and “unique perspectives”.

They aren’t just spewing a list of facts (see my comment on CyberNews above).

Here’s what I’m talking about (screenshot below).

I like this sentance…

“All VPNs slow down your internet connection, but, in testing, NordVPN slowed our devices less than most VPNs”

I like that they are real about the downsides of VPN and then tie that into their testing.

I would’ve liked them to be more specific, like how much more slow were other VPNs compared to Nord, but I’m think this style of writing leans more toward offering a perspective vs spewing facts.

The page is long 5,144 words but comparable to 4,834 words from CyberNews.

I took a look at their internal linking, that also looked really good and on par with CyberNews.

Where I saw a gap was links, for sure (screenshot below).

Only 2 links and both of them look like webspam, so yeah thats going to make it real tough to crack top 10.

Overall, I really like their SEO execution and approach to UX.

If they built 10 strong links to this page, they’d probably see some rank movement.

You know who else didn’t have many links?

Forbes… lol

It looks like they published the page late November and immediately took position 2, crazy (screenshot below).

Overall, the main takeaways for you based on this analysis would be…

  • Double check your internal link execution (see CyberNews)
  • Building links to your VIP pages (duh, but always a good reminder)
  • Publish unique insights, don’t spew facts
  • Think about how your UX ensures users don’t bounce

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