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5 Ways to Size Up the Competition – and Beat Them

Are you stressed about competition? With almost 200 million websites currently online and climbing every day you could be forgiven for thinking your affiliate site will get crowded out by the competition. But you can still thrive despite competing sites in your niche. How?

It comes back to an old schoolyard principle.

At school if there was ever a chance you might get into a fight, and you were smart, you would check out your potential opponent first. What were your chances of successfully winning or what unique strengths did you have that you could use against them? How you answered those questions would usually determine if you stuck around or made a run for the hills.

Keyword competition bears some semblance to schoolyard battles. There were plenty of potential opponents, and some were obviously bigger and stronger but others you could stand a sporting chance of coming off victorious. You just had to develop the smarts to know how to pick your battles.

Here are 5 ways you can pick your battles when it comes to keyword competition and be successful.

#1 - Identifying the top keyword for your niche

The top keyword phrase for your niche will obviously vary based on what niche you're targeting but the more familiar you get with your niche, you'll soon learn which are the 'buzzwords' that you want to be targeting.

For example, if you're in the weight loss niche, then the phrase “weight loss” is generally going to be a very competitive keyword. Use the Google Keyword tool to identify the phrase with the most competition, in fact it allows you to sort by advertiser competition and search volume.

By knowing which phrases have very high advertiser competition and search volumes you can quickly identify the top phrases in your niche, so you don't jump in the deep end and find yourself struggling to stay afloat. Better to start in the shallows and build up your confidence gradually.

#2 - Number of results in Google

This is a controversial suggestion as it has caused more than a few affiliate marketers to get a bad case of 'analysis paralysis' and we've talked before about how these numbers can potentially be misleading when doing SEO competition analysis. 

The way to use Google search results is to determine if there is much interest in this phrase. Results under a million generally indicate there is not much of a 'buzz' and the competition was actually too low. Remember you're not trying to avoid competition altogether – a healthy amount of competition is actually important as it indicates there is money to be made with a particular keyword phrase.

You can use the Allintitle and Allinanchor search modifiers to further analyze the results to see how many sites may be trying to optimize for this phrase. For example, you might search on “allinanchor: weight loss” to check how many sites have backlinks that use the anchor text “weight loss”.

Remember these numbers are a guide online. For more discussion on reviewing sites that optimize for a specific phrase go to point 5.

#3 - Number of authority domains ranking highly in the SERPs

A high number of authority domains ranking highly in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) is an indicator of tough competition. Authority domains are generally well-established, have a high PageRank from Google and a lot of backlinks. If you're a brand new site that's just getting started you might find it easier to nail Jell-O to a tree than compete against these guys.

Authority sites include domains such as or These sites will find it easier to rank for a keyword phrase since they have the benefit of an aged domain, a high number of backlinks and a high PageRank, even if they are not overly optimized for the specific keyword phrase you are targeting.

To check your phrase do a Google search and see which sites appear in the top ten results. You'll quickly see if it's a phrase that authority sites are ranking for. If not, you will often have a higher chance of ranking for it yourself. If they are, then you might be better off contributing an article to one of these sites and trying to get that to rank instead.

#4 - Number of words in keyword phrase

This is an easy indicator of how competitive a phrase might be. The more words in the phrase, the less likely it will be competitive. This is because more words indicate a phrase that specifically targets long tail searches, and will have lower search volumes.

For example, a phrase dealing with “bichon frise” (approximately 1,580,000 search results) is very competitive but “stop bichon frise puppy biting” (approximately 41,200 search results) has more words and is more targeted, meaning much less competition.

#5 – Use the SEO Analysis tool in Traffic Travis to check the top 20 results

Traffic Travis is a free SEO analysis tool that will allow you to review the top 20 results for a specific keyword phrase. If you haven't done so already, download and install Traffic Travis, click on the SEO Analysis tab and enter a keyword phrase. Traffic Travis will review the top 20 results and give you a detailed analysis of each site, showing what they're doing well and what they haven't optimized for.

You can use this tool in two ways:

You can use it at the start of your keyword research to choose which keywords you want to target. Create a reasonable list of keywords to begin with, and then plug each one into this tool to see what star ranking Traffic Travis gives it. Keywords with a four or five star ranking will be easier to target, and are a good place to start.

Alternatively, if you’ve got your heart set on a particular keyword, you can use this tool to see exactly how strong the competition is. Traffic Travis checks things like the number of backlinks from .edu domains, whether the site is listed in the Yahoo directory, whether the keyword is in the description of the page, and so on. All these things give the site/page real weight in the search engines. At least with this information you have some targets set for yourself: Make sure you’re filling in any blanks that your competition might have left (check those red crosses) and shoot for the sky with your backlinks.

It's not all about competition, but don't let the competition knock you out of the game! Keyword competition is actually a very complex concept and there are a lot of factors at play. In fact, nobody knows exactly what makes for a competitive site since it's a closely guarded secret of the search engines. However, there are a range of factors that can indicate if a site is a tough competitor or not, but it's more a combination of factors than any one thing.

What you really want to do is focus on page one of Google's search results, the top ten, and aim to topple just one of those sites - ignore the thousands of other sites because they really don't matter!

Hopefully these five points will help you to choose keyword phrases you can rank for successfully. By picking your battles wisely, you can avoid the discouragement of ranking 77th in Google's search results and instead build up organic traffic to your site using well-chosen keyword phrases.

  • What techniques do you use to test how competitive a keyword is?
  • Do you find it overly challenging trying to rank for your keywords or did you get good results in a short space of time?

 Daphne Spurlock

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