Day 3 — Checking for Competitions in Natural Search
Competition research in natural search engine is necessary to gauge the likelihood to rank for certain keyword. Finding the keyword with enough traffic is easy but nailing down for the sweet spot is an entirely different thing. Your aim today is to add a factor to solidify your keyword selection.
Thirty Day Challenge recommends that you have less than 30,000 – 50,000 competing pages for a phrase-matched search for the keyword. Phrase match can be better explained with an example. Let’s take this right from the horse’s mouth:
Phrase Match – If you enter your keyword in quotation marks, as in “tennis shoes,” your ad would be eligible to appear when a user searches on the phrase tennis shoes, in this order, and possibly with other terms before or after the phrase. For example, your ad could appear for the query red tennis shoes but not for shoes for tennis, tennis shoe, or tennis sneakers. Phrase match is more targeted than broad match, but more flexible than exact match.
Factors Checked with Market Samurai
The tool is really helpful for automating the process. I can just enter a keyword and press a button to have the entire information returned to my desktop, color coded.
There is a free option available though and it is called SEO for Firefox, which is a Firefox extension for competition research. Although the name implies Firefox, it works flawlessly with Flock too.
In this discussion, let’s refer to a particularly useful matrix compiled by SEOmoz. The document, as of this writing, is in version 2. It represents the collective wisdom of 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimization.
If you have been reading blogs related to search engines, chances are you read some of their work. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Here are the factors checked by the Market Samurai (Note: More advanced analysis is likely to come in the future to the software):
- Domain Age. How many year(s) a certain domain has been alive. Although this factor certainly means something it is not very accurate, so you can’t solely make your decision based on this factor alone. According to SEOmoz, domain age factor is not the date of original registration of the domain, but rather the launch of indexable content seen by the search engines. This can even change if a domain switches ownership. To increase accuracy, you should check for that in the Wayback Machine and perform a thorough check of history of the owner of a domain. Domain Tools provides this feature, but unfortunately it is not free.
- Page Rank. The only PageRank information that is accessible to the public is the same information that appears in the Google Toolbar. This is outdated data because Google updates it only a few times a year. Many people believe that the actual PageRank used by Google is wider in range, say from 1 to 100. A lot of people claim that PR is meaningless, but it is still a good barometer regarding crawling priorities and other things. Perhaps a better advice is to avoid making decisions just based on this factor.
- Alexa Rank. This is irrelevant, and as the team says it is going to be removed from the main matrix, and only made available for further per domain analysis. Alexa Rank is inaccurate but still it is a good measure about popularity of a site to other web sites in similar niches.
- Backlinks to the specific page. The logic behind this is that the more backlinks you have to a page, the higher the authority this page becomes. Combine with the complementary analysis like PR analysis and anchor text analysis, you should be able to gain more insights, although certain factors like text surrounding the link, age of the link, text surrounding the link and other things are not available.
- Backlinks to the overall domain. This is the number of total inbound links pointed to the domain. Generally, the higher the number, the stronger the authority is. The thing is, Google takes into account the link popularity of the site in global and topical community, and rate of new inbound links to site as well. The quality of backlinks and the overall link structure of a site also matter.
- Number of backlinks from .edu and .gov domains. Government (.gov) and educational (.edu) sites are usually very authoritative, especially domains that are getting a lot of inbound links and have been around for quite some time.
- DMOZ directory listing. This field shows whether the web site is available in the DMOZ directory listing or otherwise. Manual authority or weight given to a site by Google matters. Some experts think this is the only way DMOZ survives. If Google grants authority to DMOZ, getting a link from this site certainly helps.
- Yahoo directory listing. Pretty much like the DMOZ directory. Yahoo requires you to pay $299 per year to be included in the directory. And even if you’ve paid that, there is no guarantee you will be included. Money back guarantee is non existent. In other words, it is the fee you pay to have the team review your site for possible inclusion in the directory.
- Keyword optimized title tag. Keyword used in the title tag according to SEOmoz is exceptionally important. This is the most powerful on-page factor. When you have the keyword in the title, search engine users will see your title bolded in search engine result pages. That increases clickthrough rate (CTR) of your pages in the search result.
- Keyword in the URL. Having the keyword bolded in search engines is important. This technique still works very well in Yahoo.
- Keyword optimized meta description. It shows if the page ranked in Google has the meta description tag optimized for the ranked keyword. Google uses this description in the search engine listing. It can help influence users to click on your page. This needs to be unique within each page though.
- Optimized header tags. Whether the keyword is being used in the H1, H2, H3 and so on. These tags are like the title and sub-title of the content page. This depends on the topic of the site too, so if your site is about X, having a H1 tag on Y is not going to help at all. In this case, because you are searching for certain keyword, looking for the existence of header tags help you gauge the on-page optimization for that page.
- Cache age. This has nothing to do with rankings directly. It is just a good indicator about the freshness of the page. If Google visits the page often, that should mean it has good authority.
Some Advanced Analysis by Market Samurai
Market Samurai also allows analysis of a few advanced stuff:
- PR analysis. Analyze the Page Rank spread of links to this web page.
- Keyword analysis. Analyze the anchor text spread of links to this web page.
- Google Trends. Access Google Trends data pertinent to this domain.
- Whois information. Using domaintools.com to get various domain related information such as contact information, the server the site is hosted on, etc.
- Quantcast. In-depth demographic information about site visitors. This is only available for relatively high traffic sites.
The information provided by this tool is more than enough to help you identify the competitiveness of certain keyword in broad-matched search engine result page. More advanced tools and search engine ranking factors should be considered only for competitive keywords because for that every single thing matters.
Getting a quick overview of various factors above can usually help in the decision making process.
It is possible to perform your own analysis. For example, if you are looking for PR of the sites that link to a domain, you may query for that, visit each of the page and jot down the PR value. That takes time but is doable.
SEO Competition Analysis Review
Search engine optimization is a complex topic in an of itself. It takes a team of full time staffs to stay on top of things. However, there are certain principles that have been there and are still strong after the years.
By taking notable factors into account, you can get good search engine rankings in less competitive micro niches. As sites that rank for these long tail keywords are easier to conquer, you don’t need to be an SEO expert before you are able to rank for the keyword. This is obviously a strategic advantage.
To conclude, by the end of Day 3, you should have nailed down one keyword that is searched at least 6,000 times in the previous month, have less than 50,000 competing pages for phrase-matched search and relatively acceptable competition for the top 10 result pages for broad-matched search. You may have 3 to a dozen second-tier keywords, ones that meet the criteria above, related to the your niches, but not as good.
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