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Still, I'm just curious as to what others would regard as "high" and "low" competition, based solely on the number of matches to a search query (without quotes) in Google.
Try to imagine that you have no other criteria -- i.e. that you don't know what the search phrase is, or what the returned links are.
My own rule of thumb is that <100,000 matches indicates low competition, while >1,000,000 is high competition.
Does that sound about right?
In this definition, to SEO means to target on page factors such as title, H1 and keyword density, and get some decent incoming links for the purpose of increasing ranking (as opposed to accidentally getting linked to).
Number of results is pretty meaningless - you want to know number of users searching for it, not number of webmasters typing it. Oh, and how much each user is going to pay for it. :)
Like the last few posts were getting at, you're trying to quantify something by using the wrong measure. The number of results returned is certainly not the important factor in determining what is a "competitive" area; in fact it's barely worth considering in making that determination.
It's like asking which car is faster, a big one or a small one... it almost seems like it might make sense, until you think about how much it doesn't. :)
The word "addition" has around 50 million matches. the word just maens so many things that it really isn't worth fighting for. It might be worth having it as part of some of your keyphrases, but not on it's own.
But if you consider a search like "malibu beach mansion for sale" (or something with an equally rediculous amount of money involved) where there are only a few thousand matches, you might just find that it is incredibly competitive. You can bet that everyone that stands to make that 3% on each of those $20 million houses will fight tooth and nail to be at the top of an obscure search like that.
My general rule-of-thumb definition of low competition would be where the top ten returning results haven't been SEOed. Medium competition would be where the top ten returning results have been SEOed. High competition would be where the top hundred results have been SEOed. Really high competition would be where a major site, like Amazon, Yahoo or WW is targeting that keyphrase.
I particularly like this way of looking at it. :)
search engine optimization
All the top ten results have got the keyphrase in the title, often with several different variations. Plus they've got quite high keyword density on the page for the keyphrase.
Do a link:www.example.com search to count their backlinks - they've all got quite a lot. You could look in more detail at those sites to see whether their backlinks include the anchor text "search engine optimization".
Compare that with a sure-not-to-have-been-SEOed search:
pumpkin bouncy engine (it's a nonsense phrase, by the way)
None of the top ten results have got the keyphrase in the title, most haven't got any of the words in the title and none have got the complete keyphrase in the text. The top result has a couple of backlinks, neither of which has the keyphrase in the anchor text.
So it would be extremely easy to rank number one for "pumpkin bouncy engine" and much more challenging to rank number one for "search engine optimization".
Even though it's wrong, I would assume that any site that you can reasonable determine is violating G's wembaster guidelines should be put in the SEOed group. Yes?
1) SEO unaware
The site owner is unaware of the fact that the way they design their site can affect their search engine ranking.
Search engine ranking is irrelevant.
Example: a university site providing information primarily for its students.
2) SEO aware but ambivalent
The site owner is aware that site design can affect search engine ranking but isn't too bothered either way. SEO design goes as far as putting company name and a few keywords in the title, and submitting the site to a few big directories.
Example: a corporate site that needs a glamourous public face website that it can print on its promotional literature and business cards but doesn't generate business from.
3) SEO aware and active
The site owner gets a decent chunk of business through search engine traffic, so works hard on optimised site design, builds a site map, actively acquires incoming links, keeps in touch with developments via online forums.
Example: a florist in a medium sized town who competes for "keyword location" keyphrases.
4) living and breathing SEO 24/7
The site owner gets their living from their website and their website gets the major part of its business through search engine referrals. Webmaster tries to achieve the ultimate in optimised site design, sometimes pushing the boundaries of 'legitimate but optimised' (e.g. keywords in the title tag) to 'naughty' (e.g. multiple doorway pages, hidden text).
Example: an online travel booking affiliate.
Using those two tactics and some others already mention, you can usually get a bearing on how competitive a term is.
- See how many of the pages in the top 10 are index pages vrs internal pages. Index pages only => more competitive.
- Take a look at the number of "exact matches" for the phrase.
- In addition to the number of backlinks, look at the PR (yes, PageRank) for, say, #1, #5, and #10.
You also have to consider how dedicated your page is going to be for a particular phrase... what you need to put in the title or inbounds, and what you can rank on with some of the words in titles and the rest just on your page.