Nov 12, 2006

Finding Your Real Competition On Google

Seems to me that doing a simple query on Google and then having a glance at the amount of results returned isn’t really the best way to gauge how competitive a keyword or keyphrase is. This figure represents all the pages in Google’s index which are even only a small bit relevant for the query, it does not give a fair indication of the amount of naturally relevant pages or the pages which have been specifically optimised to appear for the searched upon query.

A better way is to use a combination of Google’s advanced queries to run a much stricter search to filter out all the pages which are ‘accidently relevant’. Examples of these advanced queries include ‘allintitle:’, ‘allinurl:’ and ‘allinanchor:’

A search with ‘allintitle:’ before it on Google will only return pages that have all the words following ‘allintitle:’ in their HTML title tags. An example is ‘allintitle:football tickets’ which returns 376,000 results, all of which have the words ‘football’ and ‘tickets’ anywhere (regardless of position) in their titles. A further restriction on this would be ‘allintitle:”football tickets”‘ which only returns 226,000 results. Notice the double quotes around the search phrase, this basically means that football and tickets have to be A) in the correct order and B) one after another. I think you’ll agree that these figures are a lot more useful than the figure returned for a basic search for ‘football tickets’ which currently returns over 55 million results, a figure which is dominated by pages which are accidently relevant and thus don’t provide real competition.

Allinurl: is basically the same kind of idea except it looks in the URL of pages and not the title. Using the football tickets phrase in conjunction with allinurl to run ‘allinurl:football tickets’ and ‘allinurl:”football tickets”‘ against returns 116,000 and 65,000 results respectively. Again these figures are both massively less than the 55 million results returned for the basic search. Pages with keywords in their URLs are very likely to be your real competiton and tough enough competition too.

A final advanced query and perhaps the most useful one is allinanchor. I know some people have been experiencing ‘issues’ with this type of search but it appears to be working for me at the moment and thus deserves inclusion. Using allinanchor: before keywords/phrases in a search forces Google to return only those pages that have all those keywords and phrases present in at least one of their backlinks, these backlinks can be internal or external. Search Engine Optimisation consultants know the power of keyword rich backlinks thus it is likely that many of the top results for an allinanchor search have had their sites/pages optimized and thus are going to be hard enough to outrank. For instance is currently #1 for a ‘allinanchor:search engine optimisation ireland’ search, this basically means that I have loads (well more than the competition) of valuable links to my site which use the words the four words ’search’, ‘engine’, ‘optimisation’ and ‘ireland’ scattered about the text which links to me. Due to this #1 ranking you can bet your bottom dollar that my site is going to be a ‘tough competitor’ on the normal ’search engine optimisation ireland’ results, and hey what do you know I’m #1 on those normal results too. If the figure returned by an allinanchor search is in the millions get prepared for a long 15 rounder slugfest because there are lots of real competitors.

Of course the figure Google returns for any search basic or advanced is not 100% accurate but is only indicative, a good way to find a more exact number of competitors is to run one of the advanced queries and keep on skipping by 10 results pages until Google shows you the following:

In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the XXX already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.

XXX will / should be a fair indication of the task you have ahead of you in terms of competing sites and pages. Please share you thoughts and comments on these issues.

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