Keyword Research Part 2 – Competition Analysis.

This is one part of SEO that is very important and many people don’t actually do it and then wonder why they can not get page one rankings for their keywords.

The main problem with competitor analysis is that it can be very time consuming if done correctly, there are not any free tools and only a few good paid tools that can really do the job properly.

There is also a lot of miss information about how you should analyse the competition.

You will find that most tools used to analysis competition look at the number of sites found by Google search and use this number as part of a calculation.

Let’s use our previous example of “ladies designer shoes”. Search for this and today you will see Google says “About 31,200,000” pages found. Do this again next week and the number will probably be larger. This is not your competition, you don’t need to worry about all 31 million websites. Google won’t even show you these 31 million sites. Today they will only show you 704.

Some tools will look at the number of sites using an exact search (keyword in quotes). Search for “ladies designer shoes” in quotes and Google says there are About 95,900 pages found. Google will only show you 466 of these.

Now, in a previous post we talked about the title tag. This is the most important place to add your keyword. So we can assume that anyone optimising their website for “Ladies Designer Shoes” would add this phrase into their title tag. We can find these sites very easily by searching for the following:

allintitle: “ladies designer shoes”

This produces About 4,620 results. This is a more realistic count of your competition.

But to be honest, you want your website to be listed on page one of Google. There are normally 10 websites listed on page one. These 10 websites are your real competition. These are the sites you need to analyse. These are the websites you need to beat! Forget the other 4,610.

How can you beat the competition and get onto page one?

There are a few factors you can find out about your competition fairly quickly.

  • Are they using the keyword in the most relevant places on page? Title tag, Meta description, H1 tag or in the URL?
  • Are they using the keyword in the domain name? Google gives a lot of weight to this and you will need to do much more off page optimisation to beat these.
  • How old is the domain?
  • What is the Google Page Rank?

(You may hear that PR is not very acurate and not a good measure but it does give you a rough idea of how much off page optimisation has been done. Say all websites in the top 10 for your keyword are PR5 or above. If your website is fairly new with PR0, I would personally look at other keywords and come back to this one in 6-12 months.)

All this information can be easily seen using a free tool call SEO Quake.

Now you need to look at some of the off page factors;

  • How many incoming links are there to each site?
  • How many different domains are these links coming from?
  • Are they using the keyword in the anchor text?
  • How quickly are your competitors building links. (This is very important because you will need to build links at a quicker rate to catch up.)

I’m not saying that the number of links is the be all and end all. 10 high quality links from authority sites can be better than 1,000 links from low quality sites, but looking at the number of links gives you another indication of what you need to do to beat the competition.

Even when you have gathered all this information about your competitors you can not tell what they will be doing in the future so when you decide to optimise for a keyword you are simply making an educated guess if you can rank on page one and how long it will take.

Some of the tools I use for competition analysis are below

  • SEO Quake – Great for quickly looking at on page factors
  • Internet Business Promoter (IBP) – Good for a more in depth look at the top 10 competitors’ on page factors.
  • Market Samuri – Good for a quick look at the top 10 on page and off page factors
  • SE Cockpit – The tool enables you to look at the top 10 on page and off page factors for a number of keywords and gives you a good indication of which keywords are more competitive than others.
  • Majestic SEO – This is good for looking at the backlink history, how quickly they are building links
  • Open Site Explorer – Probably the best free tool for competitor analysis. The free version is limited

A good way to look at the competition is to find the site in the top 10 with the least amount of backlinks, (discounting any keyword rich domains) and look at where their links are coming from. Their links are probably higher quality than the other sites who have more links. Try and get links to your site that are similar.

I recommend you work on as many different keywords as you can. I will be discussing link building techniques in a future post but for now look at my off page optimisation guide.

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Roger Weavers

Roger has been working in the telecomms and IT industry since 1973 working for international companies such as BT and Honeywell. Roger founded Sytec Computers Ltd in 1996 and provided consultancy services to a variety of UK companies. In 2001 Sytec diversified into web design, marketing and hosting and now Roger specialises in SEO.

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  • Hi Roger, very informative post as usual. I have heard a lot of panic about Googles Panda and Penguin updates. Do you think that this panic is justified? Has it changed Seo so much that it warrants all this hype? Like to know your thoughts.
    Best wishes,

  • Hi Gerald,

    All the Panda and Penguin updates are supposed to do is get rid of spammy sites from the listings. There are still plenty in the listings so I’m sure there will be more updates to come. There are bound to be casualties along the way and some poor quality sites will slip through the net. No algorithm is perfect.
    The only people that should be panicing are those who have been using Black Hat techniques to try and cheat their way to top rankings. Play by the rules and there is nothing to worry about.


  • Hey Roger

    I have always been a big believer in just being natural when it comes to SEO! I have been monitoring my sites since Panda & Penguin hit the internet.

    I am lead to believe the algorithm is updated approx every 4 weeks. I noticed that one of my websites, now has over double the daily traffic it was receiving just 4 weeks ago 😉

    Very pleased with the results, and not worrying at all 🙂


  • Hi Paul,

    Yep, keep it natural, or as natural looking as possible and there should not be any problems. Rumour has it that the big sites are being hit so they have to spend more money on adwords! Its just a rumour 😉

    Good news about your traffic, well done.

    All the best

  • Hi Roger, thanks for the answer.
    All the best,

  • Kevin

    The first website I created I did no keyword analysis. I put up a ton of pages and didn’t see any traffic because I didn’t have the right keywords. If only I had done the keyword research first I wouldn’t have spent all the time building a site that didn’t get any love from google. Great, informative post.

  • Hi Kevin,

    Its not too late. If you still have the site you can do the keyword research now, make some changes, build some links and away you go. If you are using an ‘aged’ domain name Google will love you more than a new domain.

    All the best

  • Hi Roger,
    i will be honest with you, I am clueless when it comes to SEO. haha..
    But I am glad that after reading your blog, I was able to pick up a thing or 2 about SEO.
    Anyway where do I start reading in your blog to get a general idea about SEO?

  • Hi Muhsin,

    Thanks for your comment. SEO is divided into 2 parts. On page optimisation and off page optimisation.
    Take a look through this site starting with Introduction to SEM and follow on to keyword research, on page optimisation and off page optimisation.
    I will be following this series with SMO (Social Media optimisation) but not got around to writing yet.
    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.