How to determine actual keyword competition

Keyword Research 101

What is a keyword

Think of keywords as billboards. A billboard advertises your business to all the real world traffic that passes by on the street. A keyword ranking advertises your business to all the cyber traffic that passes by Google for the keyword you rank for. In the real world there are many factors that go into who sees a billboard. One of the advantages of cyber traffic is that it is much more targeted. You may put up a billboard selling beer and 50% of  the people passing the billboard are under 21. That is terrible targeting.

High conversions and Return On Investment rely on the ability to target and even hyper-target potential customer’s. Now because the cyber world is constantly collecting data, you will know ahead of time the amount of traffic to expect when you are targeting keywords online. Google gets X amount of searches per month for each individual keyword. If you are on the first page for that keyword, you will get a percentage of that traffic. The more keywords you rank for the more traffic your site will receive.

Long Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords

Long Tail

A long tail keyword is a phrase that is made up of 3 or more words. “Buy Cheap T.V.’s Online” or “Boston Car Accident Attorney” are examples of long tail keywords. These keywords generally have less search volume, but also less competition. Long tail also have higher conversions than short tail keywords.

  • Low Search Volume
  • Low Competition
  • High ROI
  • High Conversions

Short Tail

A short tail keyword is a phrase that is made up of less than 3 words. “Accident Attorney” or “Buy Gold” are examples of short tail keywords. They generally have high search volume and high competition. They tend to have a lower conversion rate than long tail because they aren’t as targeted.

  • High Search Volume
  • High Competition
  • Low ROI
  • Low Conversions

These rules are not always the case, but more often than not this is what you can expect.

Buyer Keywords vs Browser Keywords

A buyer keyword is a keyword that has commercial intent. Commercial intent is when somebody has the intention to spend money rather than browse. A browser keyword is a keyword that somebody would use to find information or something free. This keyword has little commercial intent so the person is not likely to buy. They are more likely to browse and get all their information, then buy at a later time. If your goal is to make money online you should focus on buyer keywords with commercial intent.

Buyer Keywords

“Buy iPhone 6”

“Canon 2500 prices”

“Tablets for sale online”

Browser Keywords

“Free software downloads”

“iPhone 6 information”

“Batman movie free download”

Ranking Different Platforms

When it comes to rankings there are numerous different platforms that you can use to achieve top results in the search engines. Some people favor one over the other, but the fact is you can rank all of them in Google.


Hangouts are videos that are created live and uploaded onto Youtube. When it comes to Hangouts and regular Youtube videos or Youtube Live, keep this in mind. Youtube has a Domain Authority of 100. Google favors products that are owned by Google. Youtube and Hangouts can be used to achieve faster rankings than could ever be accomplished with a website. A video is 60X more likely to hit the 1st page of Google than a website. The biggest disadvantage with these type of rankings is they can be flagged and removed very fast and for no good reason. In competitive niches videos are regularly flagged by competitors. So the best strategy is fly under the radar or make a lot of accounts and spread the videos out among them.


Websites come in all designs, niches, platforms and sizes. With the right website you can rank for virtually any keyword you want. As long as you do the proper on site optimization and link building. Once you can rate the competition, you will know what you can rank for with the site you have. WordPress is the most popular platform. Websites are much harder to get penalized than a video is. There is negative SEO going on, but you have a window of time before you are hit by Google. Where as a video can be removed in 1 day, a website would take closer to a month due to indexing factors of backlinks.

Amazon Listings

Amazon listings are good to rank if you are selling a product on Amazon. You can rank the listing in Amazon, but you can also rank the listing in Google. If you have a product page ranked in Google it’s a good way to earn affiliate commission or sales depending on the product.

How to Find Keywords

With so many keyword tools out there. How do I know which one if the best and which one will work for me?

Well, the only keyword tool that anyone needs is provided for free by Google, This tool performs a number of functions that help when doing keyword research. See below.

1. Pulling Search Volume – First and foremost you need to know how many searches a keyword is getting a month. Without this info you’re pretty much in the dark. This is where most experts will tell you to start when looking for specific keywords that are going to target. Simply put your keyword in the search button of the keyword tool and click search. Google will return the search volume for the keyword that you are researching.

2. LSI Keywords – Who better to tell you the keywords that Google looks at as similar, than Google. This is where broad match comes in if you are looking for LSI keywords for articles, websites, or any other type of rankings. Use the keyword tool provided by Google to find the similar terms. Just put your keyword in the box and click search. You will get a list of keywords that are related to your keyword.

3. Scraping Keywords – Have you ever wanted to find out what keywords your competitor is pulling up in Google for? Now you can. Just enter the website that you want to pull keywords from in the website field of the keyword tool. This will pull the PPC, Search Results, and On page keyword combinations for the website you are analyzing.

The only research that this tool isn’t great for is keyword generation. For that, I would suggest another free tool You just input a few keywords and it generates a list for you.

There are a ton of ways to use the Google keyword tool. Just experiment and see what you come up with.

Latent Semantic Indexing

LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing is a technical term for Google being able to associate like ideas together without the actual connection being there. A good example of this is if you type in “When was George Washington born?” The first result is a Wikipedia page about George Washington. Although the term “When was George Washington born?” doesn’t appear on the page. Google understands that this page has the information you need through a series of associations made about the website.

Google, through LSI also sees some words as the same:

Top – Best

Lawyer – Attorney

Price – Cost

Accident – Wreck

These rules aren’t hard and fast as the results will change, but generally similar terms will be returned in the results.

Broad Match vs. Exact Match

Keyword competition research is an area that a lot of marketers struggle with. Sorting all the different numbers out can be confusing especially if you are just starting out. One of the big reasons is that they don’t understand the difference between broad match and exact match results when searching in Google. Knowing how to pull this number will definitely help you out when trying to determine the actual competition of a keyword that you want to rank for.

If you type the term Car Accident Lawyer Boston without quotes you will get 487,000 results targeting that keyword. Everything that relates to this term is being pulled in the results. Which means that initially it looks like you will be going up against almost 500,000 competitors.

Accident Lawyer SEO

Now if you put the keyword in quotes “Car Accident Lawyer Boston” you will get back 57,500 results. Now that’s not as bad as the first result, but that still seems pretty competitive. Now, click on the last page of search results on the bottom of Google. You will know when you hit this page because you will get a message that states the following.


In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 85 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.

You get 85 results back. This is your real competition for that keyword. Dig deeper than the initial returned results to get the real competition for a keyword.

When looking at search volume in the keyword tool, remember that Google is set to Broad Match by default. You have to check the box under keyword options that says “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms“. Or click on the tab that says “keyword ideas” next to the “ad group ideas” tab. Your keyword will be at the top separated from the other keywords. This will give you a more accurate search volume number.

How To View Competition

There are many different levels of competition. With the right tools you can get an accurate number that will tell you the amount of competition involved in ranking the keyword. There are really only 2 things you need to consider when checking out the competition of a keyword.

1. Real Number of Competition – The example I gave you above explains how to identify the real number of competitors fighting for a keyword. This number is extremely important. The broad match result number is virtually worthless. If you know how to target a keyword the only number you need are the other websites ” actually” targeting that keyword. Some experts say to target keywords with less than 400 real competitors, for beginners. This number used to be much higher but Google has eliminated mass amounts of duplicate pages, so it is much lower today than it was in the past.

2. Authority of Competition – There are different ways to analyze the authority of the competition. You need to have a realistic grasp on the authority of the sites you are going up against. Even if there were only 10 competitor results for a keyword, if they are all authority sites it will be difficult to take over those rankings. Two of the most popular tools are Majestic SEO and SEO MOZ. Both of these tools use backlinks to grade websites on a scale of 0-100. A decent Majestic score for an average website is CF 20 TF 10. A decent MOZ score would be DA 20 PA 20. Let me explain how the metrics are set up for each tool and then I’ll explain what they are used for.

Majestic SEO

Citation Flow – This metric focuses on the number of websites that link to that website. Generally Citation Flow is higher than Trust Flow.

Trust Flow – This metric focuses on the trust of the websites that link to that website, using the idea that trustworthy sites will naturally link to other trustworthy sites.


Domain Authority – DA is the number given to the overall domain and it’s strength when it comes to ranking. A site with a high DA will usually rank for terms that they aren’t specifically targeting or short tail / broad terms. Think of Youtube, Wikipedia, and Yelp.

Page Authority – PA is the number given to the individual page on the website. This predicts how likely it is for that page to rank for a particular keyword. PA seems to be secondary to DA for competitive terms. A combination of high DA and PA and you have a website that will rank for competitive terms in the search engines.


MOZ stats for general competition – Average the top 5 results

Easy (DA|PA 1-20)

This would be a term like “Pawn Shops Sarasota”

Medium (DA|PA 21-30)

This would be a term like “Miami SEO service”

Difficult (DA|PA 31-60)

This would be a term like “Buy Gold”

Extremely (DA|PA 61-100)

This would be a term like “Buy Health Insurance”


Strengths and weaknesses

Majestic is very good for finding high quality domains that are healthy in Google. It can be a little slow to index backlinks and off the mark on some search engine rankings.

MOZ has pretty much nailed competition in Google. The problem with MOZ is that a website can have a DA 60 PA 50 and be spammed to death or even deindexed from Google.

If you can, use both of the tools in conjunction with each other. The link below is for the free MOZ toolbar.

Check out this video with the MOZ numbers analyzing competition for different niches.