Assessing keyword competitiveness: Part II

In a previous post on keyword competitiveness, we described a long list of factors that help determine how difficult it would be to achieve top search engine ranking on a keyword based upon competing websites. The process of thoroughly examining the situation is usually unrealistically involved, and the effort would not substantially change the tactics used to strive for high rankings. What we need instead is a quicker way to separate out the easily achievable from the nearly impossible — a shortcut for assessing competitiveness — so that we invest our SEO resources appropriately.

The simplest measure of competitiveness is to simply look at the number of competitors. In Google, this means all of the websites that they think are results for a particular query. When you search on, for example, “used cars”, Google and other search engines typically say something like “Results 1 – 100 of about 95,800,000 for used cars.” This last number provides a very rough guess as the sites vying for top position for “used cars”. However, this is gross overestimation of competition for several reasons, not least of which being that most such sites are not optimized and may not represent significant competition. This can be seen at least in part if you search on the phrase “used cars” by enclosing in in quotes, which cuts the number of sites almost in half. Still, these sites might just happen to use the phrase somewhere and have nothing to do with used cars in general.

The key question then is, how many sites appear to be optimized for high ranking? These are the real competition. There are two characteristics that search engines like Google make it easy to search upon that are indications of potential optimization: page title and back link text. If both of these contain the exact phrase you’re searching on, there is a good chance that such sites are either intentionally optimized or are sufficiently like an optimized site to effectively be a reasonable competitor to include in our competitiveness assessment. A query in Google would look like this:

inanchor:”used cars” intitle:”used cars”

This particular query generated 376,000 results, a huge reduction from 95 million, but still a gargantuan number. From this we now know that “used cars” is a very, very competitive keyword.

We have made looking at these counts much easier with our Keyword Competition Estimator Tool which allows you to put in a keyword and test various types of queries on several search engines to quickly get an idea of the counts that each provide, and thus how competitive those keywords are.

As a final note, one obvious question to ask is, how many results indicates a highly or non-competitive keyword? Using the above type of query, we have found that results up to 20 or so usually indicate very little competition and reasonably easy high ranking (there are other factors that we are ignoring here of course). Values over 1000 tend to be quite competitive, and they may suggest targeting easier keywords or employing a long-term strategy.

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One Response to “Assessing keyword competitiveness: Part II”

  1. Assessing keyword competitiveness Says:

    […] Read more in Part II. […]