Determining the intensity of keyword competition is an important step in the process of building a keyword universe, a list of all appropriate keywords to target. To rank high in the organic SERPs for a very competitive keyword is time-consuming, takes up plenty of resources and pursuit for the top spots for such a keyword may never pay off. On the other hand, high ranking for such keywords may become a great source of income, if the optimization is successful.
There are different methods of determining keyword competitiveness. WordTracker, one of the leading keyword research companies, uses a basic method to determine whether a keyword is worth going after. Their method is called the keyword effectiveness index (KEI). The accuracy of keyword effectiveness index as a competition measuring tool has been questioned by some marketers, but it is still one of the most popular and accepted methods. KEI is calculated with the following formula, where keyword popularity is the number of times a specific keyword was used on searches and keyword competitiveness is the total number of results for a given search. (Parravicini 2004, WordTracker.com a.)
Some other methods take into consideration more elements than just the total number of search results for a keyword, such as the number of inbound links of the top ranked sites for a keyword, and the amount of top pay per click bids and the amount of PPC advertisers for any given keyword. One interesting approach by SEOmoz.org (http://www.socengine.com/seo/tools/keyword-difficulty-tool.php) takes into account 12 different variables to determine keyword competitiveness. (SEOmoz, Search Engine Watch.)
When choosing keywords, it is important not to just guess what keywords searchers use, but research the amounts of searches for any given keyword. There are a few tools on the Internet that can give an idea of how often a certain keyword is searched and suggest what other terms could be targeted.
Overture provides marketers with a free application, called the Keyword Selector Tool, which shows the number of searches per month for any given term on the Overture’s pay per click network (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/). It also shows the related searches that include the term, as illustrated in the figure 4.1.
Another popular keyword research tool is WordTracker (http://www.wordtracker.com/), which offers a free trial with limited research data. To get the full research data, marketers need pay the subscription fee. The Wordtracker Database comprises over 390 million searches carried out at MetaCrawler.com and DogPile.com over the last 60 days. (WordTracker.com b.) MetaCrawler.com and DogPile.com are meta-search engines, which means that they compile their search results from several search systems. Below is an example of keyword research done on WordTracker’s trial mode.
The third keyword research tool is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, which is targeted to pay per click advertisers but can also be used for other keyword research purposes. This research tool does not show marketers the number of searches, but a list of related searches on the Google network (Figure 4.3). Because Google does not reveal the number of searches, web developers have come up with tools to estimate the number of searches for any given keyword. One such developer is Nana Gilbert-Baffoe , an Internet technology consultant, who has developed a Google Search Count Tool (http://www.technobloggie.com/googleSearchEstimates.php), which shows an estimate of searches per month on the Google network.