K: Alright. So you’ve done your keyword research and you’ve got a list of keywords, and now you’re trying to figure out which one of these keywords is going to be easier for me to rank for in Google.
We call that, just generally, “keyword difficulty.” Now, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about keyword difficulty. And the reality is its very abstract science. It’s very hard. And part of it is it involves what kind of site are you. It’s gonna be very hard for you to rank for the term “Batman videogame,” if you are selling Batman pyjamas.
But let’s just assume that you’ve got the right site, you’re selling the right thing, and you deserve to rank for a given keyword. Now, let’s figure out how hard it is to rank. Basically, what you want to do is analyze the strength of the pages that actually are ranking in the top 10.
R: Right. We don’t care about any pages that are not on the top 10 because they’re not in the top 10, so they basically don’t even exist.
K: Yeah. Another myth out there that bugs the crap out of us is people who do the search and look at the number of total pages that Google returns. It will say, like, these are results one through 10 out of 68 million.
R: Yeah. This is some, like, smart metric that people think that they have come up with for figuring out a back door to how difficult it’s gonna be to rank for a keyword. However, it’s complete bullshit. It’s completely ridiculous because if those 68 million keywords don’t have a single backlink amongst any of them...and that’s actually matching the keyword anchor tags and everything like that...then it’s probably not gonna be very hard to jump up in there once you start getting some relevant links with good anchor tags.
K: Yeah. All you have to do to get into the first page is to beat the current number 10. I think that’s the main thing you’ve got to realize.
R: Exactly. Number 11 is not even in your scope of vision. It’s all about taking down number 10, then taking down number 9, and finally, taking down number 1.
K: Exactly. So what are some ways you can evaluate the relative strength of these existing sites? There are a number of tools out there. We actually have our own tool that we use internally, that we may release one day. But these are basically the metrics that we kind of use:
First of all, we just look at obvious factors. If you see that nothing really matches the search at all, and there’s just kind of weird garbage ranking, it’s probably gonna be very easy for you to rank.
R: Absolutely. Even if those pages have high page rank or whatever, if it’s a bunch of discussion forums or something, I mean, if they don’t have any backlinks coming in and they’re not really that focused on the topic, and maybe they don’t have the title tag matching the keyword that you’re going after, and different things like that, most likely, you’re probably gonna have a pretty easy time ranking for it, hopefully.
K: Well, that brings us to a great second point, which is you should check the title tags of these pages. If you see that all of the top 10 have the keyword in their title tag, it means that these pages are trying to rank for that keyword. So there’s at least some intent there to rank. If none of them have it in their title tag, it could just be that Google are just throwing those together because it thinks that they’re relevant. And if you created a page with that keyword as the title, it would pretty much rank.
R: Yeah, hopefully.
K: So that’s a very important thing to look at. Look at the title tag and the metadescriptions, which is the sentence text that Google shows in the search results page. Look at those and see if they actually refer to the keyword. And if they do across the board, you know there’s a little bit more competition there.
R: Yeah. And then, the next step is you’re gonna try and do a backlink analysis to figure out whether these guys are actually getting links or not. So, there’s a number of different ways to do a backlink analysis. What people used to do is use the Yahoo keyword or Yahoo site explorer. I’m not sure if that’s still operational or not. They’ve been saying that they’re gonna take it down for a couple weeks now...
K: I don’t think...if it’s still around by the time you hear this, it won’t be for long.
R: Yeah. It’s not supposed to be around forever, so don’t really rely on that.
At this point, the two best places that we found to do our backlink research are majesticseo.com, as well as, seomoz.org. Those are two different places that basically scrape the web themselves and try and figure out how many backlinks are pointing to all these different websites. So you can make a free account on each one of them, I believe. And you can get certain amount of backlink information related to these sites.
K: Yeah. We tend to believe that Majestic is better. I think, pretty across the board, it has data that’s slightly more accurate than SEOmoz. That may change in the future. You should probably play around with both of them.
Now, Majestic is a little bit more pricey if you want to get the full paid account which gets you access to run more searches in a day. But if you’re gonna be doing this, maybe worth doing for at least a little bit.
R: Yeah, I mean, if you’re serious about SEO, it’s probably worth getting both an SEOmoz and a MajesticSEO account, at least for a little while, and just see what you think of each one of them. I’m pretty sure they both have some kind of a return policy or something, if you want to just check it out for a couple days and see what you think.
K: Sure. And SEOmoz has a couple metrics that reports about each given page that you throw in there. So it’s gonna tell you, first of all, the number of links coming into that page, which is just a raw number. Then, it’s also gonna give you the Moz rank, which is an approximation of something called the Page rank, which is Google’s main innovation in search back in the day.
So the idea of the Page rank or the Mpz rank is that it’s a points system, it’s a scale, where better links coming into you will give you more credit than crappy links. So, someone with a 100 links, but with a Moz rank of 5 is gonna be taken a lot more seriously than someone with a 100 links, but a Moz rank of 1.
R: Absolutely, because not all links are created equal. So, one good link from a really serious website, like if you got a link from the home page of CNN.com or something like that, that’s a very trusted website; your site itself is probably gonna shoot up in the rankings because that site in itself passes a whole ton of trust and page rank.
And that one link is going to destroy a hundred links from spammy profile pages or something like that, spammy backlinks that you can create out there in the internet pretty easily. So you really got to look at both. You got to figure out how many links are out there, and assume that the majority of them are probably low quality, but you never know. And the way to tell better is that you have to look at the Moz rank and see. Is it Moz rank of 5, which is pretty high? Is it Maz rank of 2, which is pretty low, which is probably pretty easy to beat.
K: Yeah. And the quicker side is that these ranks are typically calculated on a logarithmic scale, which means that a 5 is 10 times stronger than a 4. And a 6 is 10 times stronger than a 5. So be sure to keep that in mind.
Majestic SEO uses its own terminology. They call it the “AC Rank.” They calculate it on the same scale, and it’s meant to be largely compatible. You’re gonna notice that Moz and Majestic give you different answers. It’s just because they each do their own calculations using largely the same formula, but they’re doing it themselves, so it’s gonna be slightly different. Again, I take Majestic a little more seriously, but you should consider both.
R: Yeah, Majestic just generally tends to pick up more backlinks as far as we’ve seen than SEOmoz has. So if they’ve got more links in their index, that means they have a better set of data. And hopefully, their AC rank should be more valuable than the Moz Rank. But, you never know, I mean, for certain sites, it might be that SEOmoz has happened to pick up more of their links than Majestic, so you should check both.
K: Yeah. So, they also on SEOmoz give you another number which is called the “Page Authority,” and also the “Domain Authority.” And what that basically is is it’s kind of an amalgamation of both the rank, as well as, some other factors about trust, as well as, some other information, that is designed to just give you a number, that’s actually out of a hundred. It’s a scale out of a hundred. I think it’s also logarithmic. It’s an overall scale of how easily this page will rank for a given keyword.
So it’s a good thing to look at when you’re trying to determine difficulty, because if you find that the top 10 are all 10 pages with high page authority, it’s gonna be hard to push them out. But if you find that maybe the top 3 have high authority, but the bottom 7 not so much, it might be kinda easy to topple those.
R: Yeah, it might be easy to pop in at number 4. There’s nothing wrong with just hanging out at number 4. You’ll get probably a fair amount of traffic that way.
You know, nothing says you have to be number 1. I mean, we get the majority of our traffic, and everybody gets the majority of their traffic as, as far as I know, from longtails and from rankings that are not number 1. So yeah, scoop it up. As much traffic as you can get. There’s nothing wrong with ranking number 8 at a thousand pages, rather than trying to rank number 1 on 1 or 2 pages.
K: For sure. I think that basically wraps up keyword difficulty. You might be asking ‘what is a hard page authority’ versus ‘what is an easy page authority?’ The answer is it depends on what the page authority of your own page is gonna be.
If you’re running just a regular backlink strategy, we find that you end up in the 30s, after running some typical backlinking that’s available to most people.
R: Yeah. It’s pretty easy to achieve a fairly reasonable level of authority. But then, after a while, you need some quality backlinks to try and scale up the ladder to the higher levels.
K: So, if you see things that are all in the 50s and up, that’s gonna be tough. If you see most of the competition in 30s and 40s, you’ve got a pretty good shot. If you see any lower than that, it’s a keyword you can go on and take.
R: Yeah. It’s the kind of thing where you really just got to get in there and take a look at it yourself because, just listening to us, you’re probably gonna have no clue what’s going on with these 30s versus 50s. You just got to go play with the tool, figure some stuff out for yourself, and then if you want, come back and listen to this again, so you actually kind of get what we’re talking about.
K: Yeah, absolutely. It’s gonna become second nature to you the more that you stare at these numbers and the more that you launch your own sites.
R: Yeah. And that’s the other thing. Don’t be scared to just launch a site. Don’t sit back, and be like, “Oh, I don’t know. Is this the perfect niche? Is it gonna be easy to rank for this?” You know, like, if you’re gonna be doing some of the tactics that we are gonna have on this site, and you’re gonna be really gangster in your promotions, then it’s not a big deal to take on big sites. Whatever. You’re gonna be a big site yourself.
K: Oh absolutely. You know what, we’ve made tons of mistakes too. We once bought a 100 plus site network in a horrible niche that we just completely failed to research properly. And you know what? Whatever, we’re moving on.
R: Yeah, that’s a thousand bucks down the drain. Not that big of a deal. Whatever.