It’s no secret that keyword research is probably the most important aspect of getting organic search engine traffic. Without the proper keyword research, you could be targeting keywords that don’t get very much traffic or ones that won’t get ranked well in the search engines.
We all know that getting on to the first page of Google, preferably within the top 3 spots, is the best way to grab the bulk of the traffic. But, there is a key part of keyword research that must be done in order to determine if you can, indeed, rank in the top 3 – and most people fail to do it!
I’m talking about evaluating your competition – a step that is critical to your success and one, if ignored, could cause you to waste a lot of time going for the wrong keywords.
Here are the 5 things to look at when evaluating the top 10 sites in Google:
1. Page Rank
While Page Rank per se is not an indicator of a top ranking it does show you how “important” google thinks those competing pages are. Do all the pages you are competing with have a high PR? Can you match that? If not then you might want to reconsider your keyword.
If the top 10 is filled with PR6 pages, you might want to move on, but if there are several PR3 or below than you can probably wedge your way in. Sometimes those top PR pages aren’t optimized for the keyword and you can beat them out by getting better backlinks and doing better onpage SEO.
Are the other sites targeting your keyword phrase? Do they have it in the title, the url, an image and sprinkled throughout the content? A lot of times Google can’t find good matches for keywords and find the best thing it can. If this is the case with your phrase then you can out SEO those sites and sail to the top.
For the pages that are optimizing for your keyword phrase, you can assume they have done the proper keyword research and may be formidable opponents. You must take a good look at them and figure out if you can beat them by optimizing better or getting better backlinks.
3. Domain Age
Domain age can be a factor in determining which site should come out on top for each keyword phrase. After all, domain age cannot be faked or gamed so an older domain can have some clout.
That being said, it depends on the overall niche the domain is in. I’ve seen some really old domains rank for terms that really weren’t what they were focusing on only because there was simply no one better. So, while you should take the age of the domains on page1 into account, you have to weight this with the other factors for each page.
4. Number Of Back Links
For any new keyword you want to target, you should have a back link campaign in mind so looking at the number of back links that your competitors have is critical. If they all have way more back links than you could ever hope to get, then you might want to reconsider. Then again, the amount of back links isn’t nearly as important as the quality of those links.
Also, you want to look at the back links to the actual page that you will be competing with, not the domain. I don’t mean to ignore how many links the domain has entirely because this can be a factor in the ranking as a lot of good quality links could signify that Google perceives it as an authority. But mostly, you should just look at the back links to the actual page you will be competing with.
5. Quality Of Back Links
This is another critical piece of the whole keyword research puzzle that a lot of people ignore. It’s not enough to just count the number of back links a page has – you have to evaluate the quality of those links. You see, a page could have 5000 links to it, but if they are all form PR0 pages on PR0 domains and many are reciprocal or nofollow then they will have little influence over rankings.
The types of back links that you want to be on the lookout for are those that have the keyword phrase as the anchor text, ones that are dofollow and ones that are from pages that have PR or pages on domains that have a high PR. These types of links will have a direct influence over how high Google ranks the page for your keyword phrase so you need to be able to get more of the same types of links to beat your competitor.
Doing keyword research properly can be a time consuming and daunting task. However, it is well worth the time spent because evaluating your competition properly can show you the keywords that you should focus on to really get that organic traffic as well as highlight the ones that would only be a waste of time.
Lee Dobbins is a full time internet marketer that specializes in website development and promotion. Visit her site websitepromotionblueprint.com for more about keyword research and other website promotion techniques. You can also submit guest posts about SEO tips and share your expertise.