Evaluating the Level of Competition for a Keyword

Last updated: July 25, 2016

Competing against others in the same industry or selling the same products you have to know the level of competition and like all competitions if you want to win you have to be better than those who you are competing against.

Knowing what keywords competing websites are targeting and who your competitors are before deciding what keywords to compete for.

Every time you try to rank for a keyword, you are competing with a business’s website to rank for it,before you start you need to know how many keywords you are targeting.

It is a mistake to weigh the number of competing pages in the search results as a significant factor, search engines will display multiple pages of results for a specific keyword search.

Although Google may display 50 million website results for “cheap car insurance” but this does not mean that you are competing with 50 million competitors.

This is because not all those pages are targeting the phrase “cheap car insurance” so you do not really have to outrank all of them because many of them are not trying to rank for “cheap car insurance” they are trying to rank for other keyword phrases or not targeting any particular keywords to rank for in the first place.

You cannot determine the precise number of website owners that are actively seeking to rank a site especially for any given keyword, the only way to do this would be by checking every single page that is returned in the search engine results and assessing its keyword profile.

You are only really trying to compete against the top 10 pages displayed on the first page of the results; your goal is to outrank one of these if you want your business’s website to rank in the number 1 position. Therefore, you are competing against the first page results (the top 10) competition for a keyword, in order to get #1 position ask yourself if your site deserves first place in the Google results.

You have to ascertain if you think it is possible to outrank the first 10 sites on the front page, if you can then there is no point in trying to rank for that keyword. Only sites that are on the first page are competitive, in this race first place really is the only option, otherwise its unlikely your site will get seen and therefore clicked on by people who are searching for your keyword.

Competitor analysis is very important when conducting keyword research, do not analyse websites that are not in the top 10 just focus on those websites that are ranked on the first page for a keyword you are targeting. I tend to focus only on the top three pages as websites ranked here are the ones that you want to dislodge in order to get your site ranked.

Once you have determined who your competition for a keyword is, it is now possible to reverse engineer their strategies and look for similarities in competitors pages in order to try to rank your website for the keyword. The primary elements to focus on when evaluating competitor’s sites fall in to several distinct categories.

Page title – arguably the most important onsite element the pages’ title is the link that appears in Google search results, the blue underlined clickable link that is displayed in the search engine results for each page.

Its standard SEO practice to include the keyword you are targeting in the title of the webpage that you want to rank. When sites are not using the keyword in the title it is a good indication that it is not a hotly contested keyword and there is a low level of competition to rank for it.

Using the keyword or semantic variations of it in the on-page tags such as the page’s header or image alt attributes are a good way of optimising a page for the targeted keyword.

By dissecting the competing pages, you will be able to tell if your competitor has spent money on SEO services to improve their rankings.
Using the keyword in the on-page tags increases your competitors strength helping them outrank weaker un-optimised pages.

Your content is also vitally important, if competitors have taken the time to write good content that is authorities and high quality, with long detailed pages that target multiple terms; this is an indication that there is a high level of competition to rank for the keyword.

Getting your site to rank well requires that you produce content on the page that is comparable or improves upon the content of the webpages returned in the search results of your top 10 competitors.

The next thing to look at is backlinks, understanding your competitors requires a detailed analysis of this important off-site factor.

Backlinks are defined by quantity and quality, it’s not just as simple as getting an equal or greater number of backlinks, but assessing where those backlinks come from, the anchor text used in the link to their sites, the diversity of IP addresses and the trust each of these linking domains has.

Backlinks from pages with high PageRank (a now defunct metric that has been superseded by concepts like trust flow and citation flow will be more beneficial, backlinks.

Using the keyword or a semantically related term in the backlink will be a signal that your chances of being able to rank for the keyword will be harder as the level of competition is high.

As I mentioned PaeRagnk (PR) is a metric that is used by Google to rate or value a page on a score of 1-10, each webpage used to be assigned rankings based on an algorithm that determined the authority and therefore importance of a webpage based on its internal linking structure, backlinks and content.

This never was a reliable indicator of rankings are also related to relevance as well as authority of page. Now Citation Flow and Trust Flow metrics supplied by Ahrefs, MOZ and Majestic offer a more reliable understanding of a webpage in terms of its importance and can be used as a more reliable way to analyse a webpage than the old metric of PR.

Therefore, although PR can be helpful, because it has not been updated for some time, if you want to rank higher than the top 10 webpages then high PR is not something you should focus on but sites with High citation and Trust Flow scores should be scrutinised when trying to ascertain if level of competition is high.

In order to truly understand all of these points its using dedicated tools will help you understand what is going on. I usually recommend collecting as much data as possible form Ahrefs.com, MOZ.com, Magesticseo.com, and combining all the data in to one actionable spreadsheet.

This will give you a better understanding of the competition for a keyword that you want to rank for. Trying to rank for a keyword with very high competition without having all the information readily available is going to be impossible.

It is probably going to cost you some money to make an impact on the top 10 results for competitive keywords; you will need a pretty big budget to compete.

In order to get a return on your investment its vital you understand how much money it will cost you to rank for the keyword and what the possible financial returns are for your business.

If you do manage to rank well for high competition keywords, so make sure you are aware you are going to have to spend some money on SEO to get your company’s website ranking in the top three and it will probably take some time to do so.

So to really understand what’s involved it’s about how much money is being invested by the level of competition to reach the top, the nearer to the top you get for a competitive keyword the more money you are going to have to spend to beat the competition.

Beating the competition to win and get good results requires lots of time a real drive and desire to compete in order to win the competition and be a success.