Ever wondered how to determine if a search term is a likely target for your SEO? Here are a few tips that will let you test the waters with your measuring stick to determine if you may be getting into something too deep. Surveying the horizon of search engines is essential to determine if you are looking at a long journey to the top, or if your path is unobstructed by obstacles for a coveted keyword you are seeking to acquire. Although various methods exist, we will just stick to some fundamental basics that allow you to get a feel for what the competition is up to or what terms they have set their sights on in search engines.
How to Determine if a Keyword is Worth Pursuing
Search based research – First of all conduct a search, then look at the first organic listing that does not have the keywords in the name of the domain. From there you can use any of the steps below to get a better idea of how they got there, or if it’s worth pursuing.
Keyword Research – Getting the specs from Wordtracker, Trellian Keyword Discovery, Overture or Google Adwords Keyword Selector Tool is a great way to get a glimpse of the competitions take on keyword research. I will abstain from suggesting one of the other, but perhaps spending an hour searching for the terms using any of all of these keyword research tools is a noteworthy tactic. Once you have your keywords then you can check the all in anchor for the keywords or use the KEI trick by surrounding the keyword in quotes in a search.
Layman’s Term Translation – search engines that are meta-based crawlers like Google for example are akin to being influenced by links (hence, the more backlinks for a specific term, the higher the rankings and relevance). As such, the number of relative quality and quantity of links can be easily surmised as a result of a simple search command which is allinanchor:insert keyword here. allinanchor: is the command, your keywords should follow the colon without any spaces, hit return and you will see a listing of the sites who have the strongest relevance for the occurrence of the keywords, just like a standard search.
This let’s you know who has the strongest links for the search engine in question for those terms essentially letting you peer behind the scenes at who has been building the best links for those keywords.
By having the website address (URL) or the company at the top of the list, you can essentially reveal the locations they have used to build links by using the link:www.competitorswebsite.com command in yahoo to see where they may be getting their juice. Here is link to a more detailed method for competitive research, but this is only one piece of the puzzle.
The KEI (keyword effectiveness index) shows the amount of search results to number of pages indexed in that search engine (using some form of the keyword in their titles, tags or pages) which is essentially competing for that term.
It is a ratio that is calculated by dividing the number of searches by the popularity for the term. Say for example your search term gets 200 hits per day and it is divided between 400,000 sites (which you can see when you perform the search in quotes for the keyword), the KEI for that term would be calculated by dividing 200 / 400,000 which is 0.0005. If the KEI is higher, the that basically means that the keyword in question has high search volume and lower competition for the search term, if the KEI is lower, then that means it may be harder to crack the barrier to entry for that exact match phrase.
Another way to look at it is, you can reverse engineer the affect by taking one of the highest / most competitive keywords you rank for in the top 10. A term preferably is not part of your domain name and then encasing the term in quotes.
If you are in the top 10 for that term and it truly is competitive (more than 200,000 pages for example fighting for it), then you can access your ceiling for your website.
Bear with me in my attempt to describe this example.
So for example, if you rank for the term barcode labels in Google and you are in the top 10 or top 20. Take the term barcode labels and perform a search in quotes “barcode labels”, the response was 1 of ten of 593,000 competing indexed references in Google. If you are top 10, then you know your site can hang with a term in the 500,000+ KEI category and you can target similar terms. If your in the top 20 or top 30, then you better cap your SEO efforts at terms in the 400K range.
So, this method is more about seeing where your website can hang in the SERPs (search engine result pages) so you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Targeting terms that are outside of your websites’ SEO ceiling can be futile, so your better off targeting a term that is less competitive, get a top 10 ranking and then amass as many as you can for that range.
Once you start to acquire multiple top 10 rankings as a result of link building “using the keywords from the term in the anchor text referencing your site”, then something phenomenal happens. The search engine starts to award points to your site as an authority, as a result your rankings increase and your ceiling raises the bar a little bit higher with every top 10 ranking. Over time you can climb the search engine ladder and hit your mark, which may be something in the 800K competing pages range. This is not an exact reference, but is does help as a signpost to determine where your cap should be for the keyword in question.
So to summarize allinanchor:keyword shows how many pages are in line for the keyword and how they will rank in a meta based search engine. The “quotes around the keyword” will show you how many pages are out there shooting for the term.
If your on the 4th or 5th page in the allinanchor: search, then build more links, or if you see a two or 3 word key phrase for a related term that has a lower “search in quotes” than your ceiling, then go for it. 50K competiting pages is usually a safe place to start, anything less then go for it, 100K or more start building links and watch your stats as you close in on the top 10. Rinse and repeat and go after another term.
Also, you can see another companies SEO Ceiling by taking a term they rank for and applying the quotes to see where their internal ranking power caps. SEO Chat for example for the term “SEO” is good to go out of 184,000,000 competing pages (177,000,000) according to word tracker gives you a KEI of 0.01, so if you want to rank in the top 10 for that term (too rich for our blood, maybe in a few years), you should definitely start building some quality links.
I hope this helps.