Competitive keywords


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Competitive Keyword. Before targeting a new keyword vertical, it's imperative to evaluate the difficulty of the market. This is done by analyzing keyword competition. Search marketers estimate how much time and effort it may take to achieve top rankings for particular keywords or search terms. But the question is, how do you judge keyword competitiveness? What are the factors involved in competitive keyword analysis? Is there a specific keyword tool or tools you can use to analyze keyword competition effectively?

The following feedback for determining keyword competitiveness was provided by our panel of 35 search marketing experts. We asked them each a single question, “What is your best tip or trick for determining keyword competition?” and aggregated their answers into one comprehensive guide for competitive keyword analysis.

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Competitive keywords

  1. 1. Competitive Keywords- the Ultimate Guide to KeywordCompetition: Tips from 35 Experts on CompetitiveKeyword AnalysisBefore targeting a new keyword vertical, its imperative to evaluate the difficulty of the market.This is done by analyzing keyword competition. Search marketers estimate how much time andeffort it may take to achieve top rankings for particular keywords or search terms. But thequestion is, how do you judge keyword competitiveness? What are the factors involved incompetitive keyword analysis? Is there a specific keyword tool or tools you can use to analyzekeyword competition effectively?The following feedback for determining keyword competitiveness was provided by our panel of35 search marketing experts. We asked them each a single question, “What is your best tip ortrick for determining keyword competition?” and aggregated their answers into onecomprehensive guide for competitive keyword analysis.Competitive Keyword Analysis Experts Rand Michael David Ann Tom Larry Jill Adam ToddAaron Wall Fishkin Gray Harry Smarty Demers Kim Whalen Audette MalicoatMarty Michael Patrick Jordan Jon Lee Todd Tad Garrett Ian LurieWeintraub Martinez Altoft Kasteler Henshaw Odden Mintz Chef French Terry Dana Danny Gab Andrew Glen Manoj Sage AlexBen Wills Van Lookadoo Dover Goldenberg Shotland Allsopp Jasra Lewis Cohen HorneAmber Federico Rising Thomas MonchitoSpeer Munoa Phoenix Fjordside
  2. 2. Aaron Wall (SEO Book and PPC Blog)When considering entering a new market with a new website: I look at the search results withSEO for Firefox turned on. That gives me lots of data about site age, links to the ranking pagesand sites, if people are leveraging domain names, site traffic estimates, and if there is muchbrand strength in the market. That last bit mostly comes from knowing the web pretty well andunderstanding the markets you operate in well. And if an area is new and you are uncertain ofhow strong it is then clicking on some of the background information links can help give youmore information and insights.When considering a new keyword set for an established website: Sometimes it is easy to justpublish content and see how well you rank for it. Even better so long as you optimize page titlesto capture relevant longer tail keyword variations, then even if you dont rank for the core/rootkeyword you can still make some good money by rankings for variations of the keyword. Andkeep in mind the content does not have to be sales-oriented, perfect content just to test themarket...look at the crap eHow publishes could just make a new blog post andtest. Then from there, for areas where you get good results, you could always chose to makehigher-quality, sales-oriented content targeting those keywords more from the conversionperspective.Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz)Were actually in the process of designing a new version of our Keyword Difficulty Tool. Iveattached a screenshot of some wireframes.
  3. 3. Our process is to get the top ranking pages for a particular query (the top 10 is usually sufficientsince any results after that receive very little traffic), then run analysis on the domain and pageauthority metrics. Since these numbers are directly tied to the ranking models for Googlesordering of search results, weve found that the data is especially accurate in predicting therelative difficulty of ranking on page 1 for a particular search.Were also looking into the ability to detect and report vertical search results in the SERPs so wecan quantify the impact of image, local, video, business news, blog, real-time, etc. on therankings.Historically, our tool used data like: # of results for a given keyphrase # of results in quotes # of results using allintitle PageRank of the top ranking pages/sites # of links pointing to the top ranking pages/sites Maximum bid price in the paid search results # of ads showing for a given queryHowever, these were all poor proxies for the actual data of how competitive and difficult tounseat the top results might be. Were pretty bullish on the new process and the new tool being asignificant upgrade to our previous second-order measurements.Michael Gray (Graywolfs SEO Blog)Take the top 5 results, do a whois for the domains and see when the original registration date isfor each of the domains. If all or most of the domains have been registered for more than 5 years,youre going to need a trusted domain to rank. Domain age really isnt what youre looking for,but the trusted links that have come from being around and publishing that long. If youre on anew domain, youve got a 5 year link building hole to try and overcome.David Harry (Huomah SEO Blog and SEO Dojo)Well, as with most things I do it is a combination of data points. At the end of the day it is part ofthe art -- being able to analyze the competition. Getting intimate with a query space is the way togo, and there is nothing like digging in and looking through the top 10-20 listings to see wherethere may be holes.It is worth mentioning that it is also a balancing act. Just because a space isnt competitivedoesnt mean we want it. So its not exactly seeking non-competitive spaces, but ones where wecan get a foot in the door or with the volume to chase the big dogs. So, we can start with the usual suspects (tools mentioned already) Then cross-reference some PPC data, always a reasonable gauge of value/competitiveness
  4. 4. Juxtapose data from straight search, exact match, allintitle, allinurl Just for fun have a peek at Trends/Insights...Then, dig in, see what the competing sites have working for them and where there areopportunities. What will be the estimated cost/time frame?Ann Smarty (My Blog Guest)The keyword competition tip is basically this: Check SERPs for [intitle:keyword],[inanchor:keyword] and compare results. This is your exact competition, i.e., those who use SEO(optimized titles and incoming links anchor text) to achieve rankings. Those phrases that havethe fewest results are the easiest to pursue. I described my tip in more detail here.Tom Demers (Wordstream Pay-Per-Click Software and Keyword Analyzer)For me all the best keyword competition data comes from SEO for Firefox. If Im looking for areally quick, high level analysis, Ill just run the query and pull the data into a CSV, then sum thefollowing columns: Y! Links Y! Page Links Majestic SEO Link Domain Page Rank Age (for this I strip the months then just sum the numbers: lower is better for this one :))Typically I find this to be a much better indicator than number of documents or even allintitle(which is pretty good, and is a great link building query) simply because my intent is to crackthat top five/ten, so the strength of those pages is what Im concerned with (and in most cases ifIm doing this level of depth of analysis on a specific query, its pretty unlikely the top five willbe omitting it from their document/title).Larry Kim (WordStream PPC Software and SEO Tools)I’ve never worked in a search vertical that wasn’t super competitive, nor have I ever had thegood fortune of inheriting an old, trusted domain. So I’ve always operated under the assumptionthat every keyword I target is going to be hard. And rather than developing my own formulas formeasuring keyword competition, I take a slightly different, iterative approach to competitivekeyword research.For organic search, it looks like this: Publish something - It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just something quick to get an read on how difficult it is for your site to rank on a particular term. Who knows? You might get lucky and your content might rank well immediately. Or it may only require minor optimization to rank better. If you got lucky, then mission accomplished. Move on to next keyword targets.
  5. 5. If you can’t find your page in the SERPS, then try moving to an adjacent, longer-tail variation of the word. At WordStream, we invented the Keyword Niche Finder for doing exactly this: finding related, yet less competitive keywords so that you could avoid hypercompetitive niches and uncover less competitive and potentially more profitable keyword niches.In paid search, it’s more or less the same idea: Start by trying out bidding on head terms If the ROI meets your target objective, mission accomplished – Move on to next keyword targets. If ROI is terrible, then adjust to target long tail keywords, which are likely to be less competitive and better value, particularly if you do a good job at grouping together relevant keywords and being relevant with your ad-text creation and landing page.So in summary, I guess my tip for determining keyword competitiveness boils down to two keypoints: Dont get hung up in estimating keyword competition Perform a quick test to ascertain true keyword competitiveness for your website or paid search account, then iterate on those resultsAnd a finally, a Bonus Tip: Stop thinking of keyword competitiveness as something to apply toindividual keywords. A site like WordStream generates millions of visits through search everyyear through millions of different search queries. Trying to figure out keyword competitivenessfor each one is a path to madness. Instead, we’ve organized our keyword taxonomy into around500 groupings of similar keywords, and look at the competitive landscape on a per-keywordgrouping basis.Jill Whalen (High Rankings SEO Consulting)My quick and dirty trick is to find the most relevant keyword phrases that have decent searchcounts, then do an Allititle:"keyword phrase" check in Google on them. If you put them in aspreadsheet with the number of searches and the AIT you get a clear picture of those with highnumber of searches vs. low Allintitles and your "keyword gems" become clear.Adam Audette (Audette Media Internet Marketing Boutique)Its usually a combination of tools, but heres a quick rundown of a good process we employ atAudette Media: Look at search results, and total returns for intitle:[key phrase] and allintitle:[key phrase] searches. The search volume numbers will show a rough idea of how many are competing for these terms on their pages. SEMRush has excellent data (for example, see the attached screenshot).
  6. 6. AdCenters Ad Intelligence tool for Excel is excellent, and although looking at a smaller sample of data on MSNs engine, will show a number of revealing competitive insights. I especially like their Monetization segment for keywords. Heres more from Aaron Wall on this. AdWords data; SEMRush also shows CPC bid estimates for AdWords buys. If I could only use one tool, it would be Googles awesome keyword research tool here. It shows a number of interesting data points, including the top terms by category. You can use this with the Google Traffic Estimator tool to find approximate keyword values, best used alongside a tool like SEMRush.Todd Malicoat (Business Management Consultant at a birds eye keyword competitive analysis, I use a few things: two toolbars, two metrics, andgut feel on four variables (which you should obviously back up with some hard data). SEOMoz Total unique linking domains SEMRush Value from the SEO Book ToolbarFour variables specific to each site: 1. Content volume (do they have 10 pages or 10 million?) 2. User data (Alexa, others) and social graph metrics (are they actively participating in social media?) 3. Anchor text and title tags (what are they targeting with these?) 4. Domain name keywords (do they have an exact match?)As important as competition is the BENEFIT of ranking for a keyword. Pick your keywordsbased on benefit to YOUR site, and look for the sweet spots with low competition.Marty Weintraub (AimClear Search Marketing Blog)Starting with the top 3 non-news and non-personalized results in the Googles organic SERPs(permanent results), we look at ToolBar Page Rank, SEOmozs mozRank (mR), mozTrust (mT),
  7. 7. domainRank (dR), domainTrust (dT) and inbound anchor text semantics using LinkScape. If anygiven result is not the sites homepage, we have a look at the Googles toolbar PageRank of thesites homepage as a very general indicator of inbound link strength. Also, its reasonable to havea gander at Yahoo Site Explorer for an additional view, albeit vague, at the inbound link-strengthspectrum.Ian Lurie (Conversation Marketing and Portent Interactive Internet MarketingCompany)Look at your own site stats! Find the keywords that generate traffic to your top site pages. Thenuse WordStream to expand a keyword set around those core traffic generators. Youll build long-tail traffic, fast, and grow quality traffic.Michael Martinez (SEO Theory and Analysis Blog)Assuming I need to make a quick review, I look at the advertising associated with the queryresults. If its substantial and promoting relevant domains (as opposed to "broad match"advertisers), thats a signal a query is competitive. I also look at the first two pages of organicresults. If they all use the query in title tags and page URLs, thats a signal the query iscompetitive. Finally, if a quick perusal of keyword activity in any major tool shows substantialrelated queries (in addition to significant traffic for the primary query), thats a signal the query iscompetitive.Patrick Altoft (Blogstorm Search Engine Optimisation)The way we would do it is to see how many sites are using that exact key phrase as a major partof their homepage title tag. This lets us determine how many sites are what we class as "strongcompetitors" rather than just sites who happen to have a page about a subject and therefore rankfor it.Jordan Kasteler (Utah SEO Pro)I use the Google query allintitle: “keyphrase” to get a rough estimate on how many people usethat keyphrase in their title tag. This will roughly let you know how many people havedeliberately or not have minimally optimized their page for that keyphrase. After using the querylook at the upper-right corner and see how many results were returned.For example, simply searching for SEO Firm returns 1,990,000 sites but searching allintitle:“SEO Firm” returns 70,900 sites. This provides a much clearer idea.Jon Henshaw (Raven Internet Marketing Tools)I look at keyword competitiveness from an organic SEO perspective. I want to know how hardwill it be for me to get my site to rank in the non-paid SERPs.
  8. 8. The main things I look at when determining keyword competitiveness are Google AdWords data(especially search volume), and the quality of the sites that rank well organically for thatkeyword phrase. I then do a direct comparison with the site Im working with against the toporganically ranking sites to give me an idea of how far I have to go. I also like to look at relatedlong-tail keywords, because the competition and performance can vary greatly.Ultimately though, its really about the marketing strategy, not necessarily the keywordcompetition (which many people can get mired in). If you have sufficient control and flexibilityover the website youre trying to rank with – including the ability to frequently publish veryhigh-quality content, create altruistic resources, and improve how the site is coded – youll beable to start improving your SERPs quickly. And over enough time, if the link buildingtechniques you use arent too risky, and dont get your site penalized or banned, the site will rankvery well organically for most of the keyword phrases youre targeting.Another thing to keep in mind is that short-tail keywords arent always the best keywords for asite. Going after highly competitive short-tail keywords will not only take you longer to rank for,they may also be driving the wrong type of traffic. This is especially true if youre trying to sell aniche widget. Instead of focusing on the competition related to the keyword "widget," considerfocusing on who your competition is for long-tail keywords that are more closely related to whatyoure trying to sell. Then make your content, marketing, and link building strategies focus onlyon those terms. That will improve your overall organic search referrals and conversions muchfaster than a more competitive, broad, and short-tail term.Lee Odden (TopRank Search Engine Marketing Services)Initially, I keep it simple: Look at query volume and the overall number of SERPs for the phrase,placement in title tags and anchor text links in ranking pages. After that, break out the tools.Todd Mintz (Todd Mintz is with SEMpdx)So, let’s say the term in question is “Green Widgets”: 1. Take the term and drop it into the WordStream Keyword Tool (or Google’s AdWords Tool) and pull out the top 50/100/500 results. 2. Copy and paste these results into Notepad. 3. Do a global delete of all the “spaces between words.” 4. Drop all the “words” into your domain registrar’s “bulk search” tool and search the availability of .com, .net and .org domains for each term. 5. The lower the available inventory, the more competitive the keyword niche.Tadeusz Szewczyk "Tad Chef" (SEO 2.0 SEO Blog)With keyword competition, always start with what you already know. As I often work in many cases I know most of the sites that rank well already. This way it takessometimes only a few seconds to determine how difficult a keyword is. I see where Wikipedia is,I see where the strongest shopping search engine is, I see where the major newspaper is.
  9. 9. Also I look for the SEOed sites. When I see something like "Buy example, examples, cheapexamples" at #1, #2 and #3 I know that the competition is fierce. Then I start using the manifoldtools we have these days for keyword research.I check against "similar sized" keywords I already know. Especially in Google Insights forSearch you can find out how competitive a keyword is by comparing it to other terms. Otherpeople use a matrix to determine keyword strength or difficulty in numbers, but Im a veryintuitive non-technical person, so I judge based on my gut feeling and the above comparisons.After I did that with one keyword, all other keyword difficulties for that market are easy todetermine as you can compare to the first keyword. Then I use a simple table where I rank thekeywords based on their difficulty.Garrett French (Ontolo Link Building Company, Link Building Tools)I always look at the number of paid advertisers to get a sense of keyword competitiveness, thenumber of results in the top 10 that look "optimized" (keywords in the title, etc.), and the numberof homepages that rank for the term. Nothing scientific, just a quick way to gut-check a space.Ben Wills (Ontolo Link Building Services)I start at keyword demand in terms of how often its searched. Once I collect "X" number ofkeywords and search frequencies, I segment the keywords based on those search frequencies.Once I have a set of those keywords, I use Aaron Walls SEO for Firefox extension to view thedomain age for each of the competing results. As a general rule, I find that search results ownedby older domains (on average) are the most competitive due to Googles trust algorithms. Thatsaid, whenever I find a young domain in a large set of older domains, I want to study that site tosee what theyre doing to get a leg up on the rest of the competition.Dana Lookadoo (Yo! Yo! SEO Search Marketing Optimization & Training)Determining keyword competitiveness requires a study of a variety of factors, including aunderstanding of the query space and using ones intuition. Insights are gained by looking at termpopularity, analysis of the search results and competing sites, and related trends andconversations.The tips below show how to determine keyword phrase popularity and a competition utilizingfree tools. This is part of a 101 framework for those who are beginner to intermediate in theirSEO efforts. The following screenshots display select columns from an Excel worksheet one cancreate for evaluating two key insights, phrase demand and competition:Term Popularity / Phrase Demand
  10. 10. Research keyword popularity across various databases. 1. Use Google AdWords Keyword Tool, and display results by "Match Type: Exact" & "columns to display: Show All." Evaluate: o Exact Match Local search volume count. (Use a formula to divide by 30 for an estimated Daily Estimate.) o Estimated Average CPC cost for positions 1-3 for PPC. 2. Use Wordtracker Free Keyword Suggestion Tool . Evaluate the number of searches for the exact phrase. 3. Use WordStream Free Keyword Tool to acquire a CSV. Evaluate the number of searches. 4. Evaluate the average count for Google, Wordtracker and WordStream daily estimates. 5. Evaluate current CPC costs. Higher cost indicates highly competitive terms.SERP CompetitionEvaluate competition by looking at search engine results (SERPs) to determine how many sitesare competing for the exact keyword phrase and if these sites are well optimized and have linkauthority. 1. In Google, search for the keyword phrase in quotes to find the number of indexed pages for the exact phrase.
  11. 11. 2. Use the allintitle: Google search operator to evaluate the number of competing pages with the phrase in the title. (allintitle:"keyword phrase") 3. Divide the Competing Pages allintitle: results by the Google AdWords Exact Match Local searches per month to return a competing SERP to Search Ratio. 4. Use Yahoo! Site Explorer to evaluate and average the number of incoming links for the top 5 SERPs. 5. Keyword phrases that have the highest SERP to Search Ratios and largest number of backlinks indicate most competitive keywords. 6. Proceed by evaluating keyword optimization efforts for the top 5 results. 7. Evaluate page 1 of the search results and note Google One Box listings that display in universal search.A keyword phrase is highly competitive if the term is popular, with a high SERP/Search Ratioand if the competition has link authority is optimizing for that term. If the SERPs display morethan the standard 10 blue links and are filled with universal listings and numerous PPC ads, thenyou have a ringer and a lot of work to compete in that query space.Danny Dover (Danny from SEOMoz)My first act is to view the SERP and see the types of domains that rank for the term. Are thedomains established and names I have heard of? Are they spammy looking (.biz, .info, excess ofhyphens, misspellings, etc.)? This usually gives me some indication of the competitiveness of thekeyword. If this doesnt answer it for me, I check the top 5 results in the mozBar to gauge howmany linking root domains these domains have. (This metric is highly correlated to goodrankings right now). Lastly, if I really need more data I use Googles AdWords Tool to see howmany searches there were for the term. This is not exactly the same as competitiveness of thekeywords but it usually correlates.Gab Goldenberg (SEO ROI SEO Services)For keyword competition, I basically have a feel for SERPs based on: 1. Yahoo! SE linkdomain numbers (via SEO for Firefox) 2. Whether there are exact match domains 3. Whether deep pages are ranking (domain authority + a few links) or homepages 4. Digging around the top ranking sites backlinks to get a view to quality 5. Any brands in the resultsAndrew Shotland (Local SEO Guide)Achieve #1 ranking for it and reflect on how much of a pain in the ass it was to get there. :)Glen Allsopp (Viper Chill Viral Marketing)
  12. 12. There are a number of ways to determine keyword competitiveness such as how many links thetop sites have or how many results there are (though this is less accurate). One good way todetermine competitiveness that most people dont look at is how many sites on the first page arehomepages, and how many are communities. Generally, search engines follow people so if thereare a number of large social sites like forums ranking around your keyphrase, its going to behard to rank above them.On top of that, I find it far harder to outrank homepages with my affiliate sites than article pages.If a lot of the results are homepages, i.e., they end in .com and are not a file name like/blog/keyphrase-here/, then that could be a sign the phrase is going to be tough to rank for.Terry Van Horne (Toronto Ecommerce Website Design & Marketing)Well, in the old days I would review the SERP for the obvious and "learn the query space"players, then do G searches using allititle syntax to ascertain overall title strength, then do all inanchor to see the amount of linkage. Another recent addition was using exact match with theterms, which is the most competitive. This basically indicates the degree of "professional gradeoptimization" in the query space.Currently, I take that a step further with universal search. IMO, you also have to add a "content"review, i.e., can we use video and other UNI components like news to fill in spots. IMO, allSEOs should be taking care when adding video. I was early into that and found the 300 vids weadded often blew out the text position and in that case ... no indented listing just a demotion fromabove the fold to below the fold of the SERP since that seems to be where vid ends up. So besure that when optimizing vids you do not knock the higher text-based position out of the SERP.Manoj Jasra (Jasra Inc. Internet Marketing and Web Analytics World)For keyword competition, I have often relied on the Google Keyword Tool (which showscompetitiveness from a paid search perspective). However, since it doesnt provide exactnumbers and generates additional keywords, I find it useful for high-level estimates only. I am abig fan of technology and APIs so I developed a web app in C# which uses Googles AJAX APIand the Yahoo API to return the actual number of competitors youd see on the search engineresults page. It has a batch-mode available so running dozens of keywords for competitiveness isnot a big issue.Sage Lewis (SageRock Digital Marketing Agency)The first thing that comes to mind with keyword competition is to use the "intitle" searchoperator. So, if you do a search for: intitle:"craft supplies." The search results will only showpages that have the exact phrase "craft supplies" in the title. That means that those people haveeither optimized intentionally or probably optimized the page naturally for your target phrase.That search returns over 1.9 million results. So, chances are, its going to be pretty tricky to breakinto the "craft supplies" results.
  13. 13. Alex Cohen (Alex Cohen of Click Equations Pay-Per-Click Software)I’m going to tackle this question from the PPC side. First, let’s get one thing straight: theEstimated Average CPC that Google reports in their keyword tool is so fictional that it should beon the New York Times’ Bestseller list. Ignore it.Instead, it’s more useful to focus on the Advertiser Competition column of their reports:Like many things in determining levels of competition, these data are meant to be relative. Infact, Google creates those bar charts on a scale of 0.00 to 1.00. It’s easier to see this if you exportthe data. Look at the bottom of their keyword list:Now you can see the (completely useless) Estimated Avg. CPC column and the more usefulAdvertiser Competition column on a numerical scale, instead of a graph:
  14. 14. Chances are that you’re going to pay more for keywords at the top of the list vs. those lower,though this isn’t always the case. Your bid actually plays an indirect role in determining yourCPC and your Quality Score is just as important. Depending on your Quality Score, you couldpay a penalty or get a discount that increases or decreases your CPC.