A proper keyword research is paramount for a successful online business. you have a 99% risk to fail if you don't do your keyword research well.
In keyword research you need to consider three main criterias.
Relevancy is hugely important but is a topic for a separate article. This article will focus on competition and search volumes.
You are rarely so lucky that you find keywords with high search volumes and low competition.
You mostly need to find a niche with enough search volume and a not more competition that you can handle.
Let's first take a look at what determines the competition of a keyword.
Keyword competition factors
The competition of a keyword is the number of pages which are optimized for a specific keyword, either intentionally or not. Some pages are seemingly optimized for a keyword but it's not done purposely, just a matter of chance.
It's very rare that all factors known to determine competition points in the same direction. In fact, you will often see that some factors points at low competition and some at large competition.
How can we determine the competition then?
Collect information about the major important factors impacting competition. Using this information you can estimate the competition.
You partly need to use your intuition.
Here are the most important factors for keyword competition.
Pages including the keyword
You can get a rough idea about the competition by checking how many pages that includes the keyword.
You just type in the keyword in the search engines and see how many hits you get.
Use Google for this test.
It's not a very good measurement of competition because most of the millions of hits you get are not really competitors. They just happen to mention the keyword somewhere in their page.
Titles including the keyword
You can get a better idea on competition by checking how many pages use the keyword phrase in their title.
Typing in the following command in Google will tell you how many pages Google indexed with the keyword in the TITLE Tag: allintitle:keyword
The Title tag is one of the most important factors for on-page optimization so more pages with the keyword in its title mean more competition.
Use Google for this test.
The bid levels at Overture are also a good indicator of competition.
High bids mean that the competition is stronger, especially if you plan to bid on PPC search engines.
Use the free tool Overture to check bid levels.
There are much better tools for checking bid levels but more about them below.
Page Rank for top 10 pages
The top 10 pages get about 70% of all the traffic and they are the real competitors you must challenge.
Check the Google page rank for the top 10 positions in Google. You can use the Google toolbar for this test.
A page can have a page rank between 0 and 10. A page with page rank 10 is very competitive and a page with page rank 0 is almost dead.
Link popularity is very important to determine competition. A site with a large quantity of high quality links is a very tough competitor.
The quantity of links can easily be found in the search engines but the quality is harder to analyze.
Google gives the best information about which pages are our toughest competitors but provides at best very poor information about inbound links to a site.
Yahoo on the other hand provides reliable information about inbound links so we need to combine the results from Google and Yahoo.
Check the quantity of links following these steps:
1. Go in to Google and search for your keyword.
2. Copy and paste the url's for the top 10 pages in a text editor.
3. Go to Yahoo and use the following command: link:http://www.site1.com where site1 is the url of the first page in Googles result. Copy the url from the text editor.
4. Repeat step 3 for all top 10 pages taken from Google.
This will give you a good understanding about the competition. If you see that all 10 sites have thousands of inbound links you face fierce competition.
The quality of the links is as important as the quantity. This is a list of factors that determine the link quality.
* A text link is generally much better than an image link.
* The anchor text in a text link should include your keyword or a related word.
* The link quality is higher if the content of the linking site is relevant to the linked site.
* The link quality is higher if the linking site has a high page rank or is an edu or gov site or is very old.
It can be extremely time consuming (undoable) to do all this but luckily we have software's that can do the job for you. I personally use Web CEO and all this information is just a few clicks away.
Alexa traffic rank
Take the top 10 pages from Google (you should have the url's in a text editor from the previous step) and check the traffic rank in Alexa.
The lower the number the higher the competition you can expect.
The information from Alexa is also good to predict how much traffic your competitors have and how much you can expect if you can beat them.
Knowing the daily word search essential to understand how much traffic you can expect. No one knows the daily search volumes exactly but there are a few things you can do to get a better understanding.
Yahoo search marketing (formerly Overture)
Yahoo search marketing have a useful free tool that shows the number of daily search volumes.
A problem with this tool is that it only shows the search volumes on Yahoo and it's partners. The accuracy of the resluts are inferior to other specialized tools such as WordTracker and Keyword Discovery.
Keyword Research Software
WordTracker has a very reliable tool that predicts the daily word searches and competition but it cost quite a lot of money. WordTrackers database is based on search statistics from other search engines and is very clean and reliable.
Keyword Discovery is similar to WordTracker but has a few more features and a larger database. Keyword Discovery also cost quite a lot of money.
Both WordTracker and Keyword Discovery are also extremely useful to help you identify new and relevant keywords. You will get very accurate data to base your keyword selection on and that is key for success.
Keyword Elite is becoming one of my favorite Keyword Research tools. It's ideal for the small business that can't afford more expensive tools and it's very capable. You can generate large keyword lists, check bid volumes at many PPC search engines and much more. Keyword Elite is well integrated with WordTracker and Keyword Discovery if you later need a larger database to take keywords from.
Read more about this cheap little miracle software in the Keyword Elite Review.