When acquiring competitive keywords the rules of engagement change. Today’s SEO tip revolves around using 301 redirects, internal links and search operators to leverage previous content for present-tense SEO objectives.
There comes a time where you must decide, is that page from 6 years ago worth significant value for my website or user experience now? If not, then in the interests of SEO, what can I possibly do to leverage the trust and authority it has acquired?
This is a dilemma many webmasters face daily, yet the answer to this dichotomy is simple, either implement 301 redirects or use the aged page as your best strong internal link to prop up a new page or site segment. For more information on the topic of issuing 301 redirects then follow the link provided.
The possibilities are virtually limitless when considering to the number of keywords you can optimize (take Wikipedia for example). The only condition is (1) you must exceed the on page tipping point based on the existing index and its weight, trust signals and ranking metrics and (2) it must exceed the off page metrics the 99% of the other websites in the index exhibit for its respective keywords (in contrast to those sites that currently occupy the top positions).
That on page tipping point is different for each keyword, and with its own respective relevance thresholds, finding and exceeding the guardians of the SERPs (search engine result pages) a.k.a. existing websites holding down the top 10 spots requires the ability to dissect their virtual foundation (to assess and overcome their influence).
Without much difficultly you can assess your own websites on page prowess by taking your most competitive keyword using a Google search box with “quotes” around the phrase to query the keyword or key phrase in phrase match to assess how many pages are competing in the index for that shingle (group of words).
Then, based on that threshold, you can get an idea of how vested your site is for that keyword or by changing the keyword “in between the quotes”, you can assess how much relevance your site has for related keyword clusters.
Based on that information, you could find out what the threshold is for a given keyword or phrase. For example a keyword with 25,000 competing pages (noted by the Google search which states 1-10 or X amount of results) that X amount is the number of pages in the index fighting for a relevant ranking position.
For something so low on the food chain as far as competition, acquiring a ranking for a keyword with 25,000 competing pages or less could be accomplished through a few blog posts on the topic.
You could then test the waters to determine if the keyword was traffic bearing and then make adjustments to your strategy to optimize additional keywords based on its semantic root.
The more competitive the keyword, the more content, time and trusted signals you will need to scale the search engine result pages (SERPs).
As a result of creating new content or modifying aged content to retrofit relevance into a new container, landing page, subfolder, sub domain or silo, it’s a matter of using the buddy system to internally link or redirect the content to a preferred / consolidated page or segment to solidify a foundation.
Then based on that foundation, you start to cultivate additional content (or look to the past for relevant pages to redirect to augment the process). You can look for relevant content by using a simple search command in Google (which is one of the most used search operators in SEO).
site:yoursite.com keyword [obviously replace with your website and keyword to inspect]
Now if you see for example page 1-100 for “keyword X” then you have 99 pages you can harness to consolidate relevance through internal linking (by linking all 99 to the preferred landing page) or using redirects to ball roll those pages into a new sub domain or subfolder.
The advantage of redirects is you can transfer the off page trust and authority of the aged pages while presenting it under a new light, premise or landing page which is lean, mean and efficient to facilitate conversion.
In a way, it is like retooling older pages to supplement new content to give it an immense jump start, until it can run on its own batteries.
At least consider those pages (the pages outlined in the site:yoursite.com keyword search operator) as the pages that algorithmically made the cut (as search engines are only interested in the best and most relevant results) based on various on page and off page metrics.
Then, you have to equate the barrier to entry and what type of battering ram you intend on using. So, after you find your ceiling say for example keywords in the 300,000 to 500,000 competing page range, you can then set out a suitable strategy to topple the scales in your favor for the on page and off page requirements to occupy a top position.
Granted, this changes based on the industry, the quality of the content or websites you are up against and how densely populated the keyword cluster is; however, rankings are a by-product of a unifying the right metrics. Your job is to determine the threshold and then get to work building traction for those respective metrics.
We prefer to target keywords ranging from 500,000-200,000,000 competing pages, since acquiring rankings based on those metrics are typically keywords with pay per click traction and tremendous organic search volume.
Even though keywords of this magnitude take time, the rewards of all of the rankings you can devour along the way to the top and the degree of stability you build for the more competitive keywords are ultimately just a matter of time as things come into focus.
Finding the tipping point is just a matter of time and with each keyword managed like its own campaign, it is a matter of prominence, content, leverage and popularity. The respective keyword / low hanging fruit (keywords under 300K competing pages) falls in place on its own accord for sites with authority.
For newer sites looking to build authority and traction, then they will need to spend some time shoring up the content, internal links and deep links for the respective keywords and key phrases until they cross the threshold and generate their own momentum capable of putting those keywords in orbit in a search engine.
A typical example of this would be:
Keyword: used cars
Competing pages: broad match 140,000,000 competing pages
Phrase match: 62,000,000 competing pages
Number of Pages Indexed for Website with Keyword for #1 Position: 1,380,000 results
This means that the website with the #1position for this keyword has 1,380,000 pages of content where this shingle appears in the title, meta data, url structure, text on the page or links from within its website or from others.
Off Page Factor: 970,000 inbound links (which is good to note, however it is not always the best metric to assess competitiveness). Site architecture and internal links can compensate for inbound links, so, depending on how dedicated you are to the keyword will determine which SEO tactic you employ.
Looking at this keyword from the outside in tells us that unless you have a large budget for content and have a properly constructed site, then acquiring this keyword considering the competition for it would be quite the task.
Acquiring a keyword of this magnitude takes years (to procure the proper on page and off page metrics). However, it is only a matter of time if you know where to put your energy.
If you have been targeting a keyword like used cars for some time and have “ranking credit” you could invest from other areas of your website, then you could go back and augment this keyword through a number of SEO tactics to consolidate ranking factor.
By cross referencing the top 3 to top 5 competitors on a keyword by keyword basis, you can take their total number of pages indexed:
site:competitorsite.com then extract the percentage of the site they have dedicated to the keyword site:competitorsite.com keyword
to see the correlation of the on page equity they have dedicated to capturing a specific keyword. Just because you see pages returned using that search operator, it doesn’t imply that all of them are powerhouses.
You can still punch a hole though rankings like this is a fragment of the time using a structured approach, topical continuity, theming and siloing and using deep links to rank for a keyword with 1/10 the links of the top competitor, but you will have to wait for the authority and trust to kick in.
This is where the value of both using a themed and siloed website come into play in addition to using redirects for aged content to unify the metrics of trust and on page relevance needed to topple a competitive keyword such as used cars.
Depending on your industry and circumstance, you will have to observe the appropriate metrics or enlist the aid of SEO services from a trained professional to act as your guide.
Competitive keywords require a unique approach and brute force tactics with off page links alone can only take you so far. It is more about finesse and relevance to move up in the rankings once you hit the top 20 results; and for competitive keywords gaining one position per month is not atypical.
If you have competitive keywords on the horizon and have had difficulty gaining traction, then perhaps it’s time for a live site review to determine your websites strengths and weaknesses.
We hinted at only a few methods for assessing the “SEO Ceiling” of a site, a basic method for analyzing the competitive threshold of the competition and a method for determining how vested they are, but you will need a master plan to gain traction and overcome competitors who are just as SEO savvy and have a significant head start.