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33 Ways to Measure Your Online Competition

Feb 15, 2011 / by Kevin Phelps

Brand new websites with huge ambitions often go after the big fish keyword when, in reality, they are sitting in a rusty, row boat with a wooden stick for a fishing pole.

Sure it’s possible to reach your goal with your elementary resources, nonexistent tools and skewed understanding of how to catch that big fish, but it isn’t likely. If you want to go after keywords that will provide a big return, do your research and invest in the right tools and resources. When you are contemplating pursuing that trophy keyword, you might want to take an in-depth look at your competitors to determine if you really measure up.

For this example, I used 3 simple tools: OpenSiteExplorer.org, SEO for Firefox and the essential Ctrl+F key. Then, I chose one of the most competitive online industries I could think of, online education. You see, when you search for "online education” or “online degrees,” there is a plethora of companies out there doing SEO for these keywords, which makes everything extremely difficult to rank. In this example, we’ll use the keyword “online degrees.”

Key Factors When Comparing Your Website to a Competitor

For the top 10 competitors that rank for this money-making term, I gathered their:

  • PageRank
  • Domain Age
  • Page Authority
  • Domain Authority
  • Linking Root Domains
  • Total Number of Links
  • Number of Indexed Pages
  • Best of the Web Listing
  • Yahoo Directory Listing
  • 10 Most Used Anchor Text
  • Number of Root Domains and Individual Pages Linking with "Online Degrees"

I then analyzed their on-site content and looked to see if they included the keyword in the:

  • Title Tag
  • Meta Description
  • Body of Text
  • Navigation
  • Domain Name

Finding Averages and Percentages from Gathered Data

To compete for the keyword "online degrees," you need to have a similar website, backlink profile and other data to be included in those top 10 positions. To do this, I found the averages and percentages from all that data I collected above. Below is what I found:

  • The average website PageRank is 6.
  • The average domain age is from 2001.
  • The average page authority is 73.
  • The average domain authority is 68.
  • The average amount of linking root domains is 1595.
  • The average amount of total backlinks is 29642.
  • The average amount of Best of the Web links is 2.
  • The average amount of Yahoo Directory links is 14.
  • 70% of the websites had a “natural looking” backlink profile. ***
  • 60% of the websites had “Online Degrees” as one of the top 10 most used anchor texts.
  • The average amount of root domains linking to a website with “Online Degrees” is 64.
  • The average amount of pages linking to a website with “Online Degrees” is 290.
  • 90% of the websites had the keyword within their title tag.
  • 90% of the websites had the keyword within their meta description.
  • The average number of occurrences of the keyword within the text was 7 times.
  • 40% of the websites had the keyword as a link within their navigation.
  • 30% of the websites had the keyword within their actual domain name.

***I determined a natural backlink profile by looking at their top 10 most used anchor texts, and taking the following into consideration: branding anchor texts, URL anchor texts and long tail anchor texts.

Exceptions and Keeping Everything Relative

When sorting through all this data, there were some websites that stood out. Some focused on particular methods of SEO while others completely ignored other areas. In fact, despite best marketing services, some didn't even have the keyword on their homepage. One didn’t even have it within the most crucial area, the title tag. There are so many exceptions with SEO, but to get a good understanding of what you're going up against, you need to find the averages of these important SEO areas and set your sights on having your website compete with those averages.

When creating goals for your SEO efforts, whether it be to have a certain number of domain links, a certain number of anchor text links, or to have an increased page authority within a certain amount of time, you need to make sure it's relative to your industry.

Don’t Quite Compete? Take Baby Steps & Use the Right Tools

If you don’t have the time, money, knowledge or momentum to catch that trophy keyword, consider other keywords that are more realistic. Look at keywords in your niche where the ranked pages aren't quite as imposing.

Like I said before, you can't expect to catch a big fish keyword with a wooden fishing pole and without line and bait. You need the right resources to go after serious keywords. If it's obvious that your competition has an SEO team, whether in-house or an outsourced digital marketing agency, you might want to do the same. If the keyword(s) you want to rank for is going to be a game changer for your business, consider investing some serious money.

Remember, You Still Need to Perform Keyword Research

If you have a handful of keywords that you’ve sorted through and deem the most valuable, keyword research is that final step to make sure your efforts aren’t going to waste. Once you’ve put yourself up against the websites that already rank, you can then determine whether you think you can get there, too.

Keep your eye on the big picture. Just because the ranked websites have a page rank of 6 or a massive amount of links, doesn’t mean you can’t outrank them. But, if the ranked sites all consistently trump you in just about every area that Google looks at to determine keyword position, you might not want to pursue that keyword quite yet.

Topics: Keyword Research Blog Competitive Analysis

Kevin Phelps

Written by Kevin Phelps

Kevin is a former SEO Manager at SEO.com. He has been actively involved in the SEO industry for over three years and has worked with small and large businesses nationwide.

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