How to Gauge Competitive Level for SEO and AdWords

Everyone wants to win, and – in a certain sense – there are few prizes for seventh place. That said, how do you gauge the “competitive level” of keywords in SEO and in AdWords? In this video, I am going to give you some tips, tricks, and tools, so you can gauge the competitive level of various keywords. Along the way, I’ll remind you that “riches are in the niches,” namely you’re best keywords are high value (as measured to you in terms of conversions or sales), but not fully discovered by your competitors. Let’s get started!

Watch the Video


Why Competition Matters: SEO Firepower and Bids Per Click in AdWords

“Hey Mom!, I want to go to the Olympics and get a gold medal!,” says the boy. “Yes, son,” says the Mom. “What sport?”

“I don’t know. Swimming?”

Competitive Level in SEO / AdWords

Photo credit: maHidoodi via Foter.com / CC BY

“No, son, that’s really competitive. Find another sport that’s easier – specialize, train, and some day you’ll go to the Olympics and bring back the gold, but not in swimming.” (Archery might be your best bet).

You want to think of both SEO and AdWords as “sports,” and you’re trying to win the gold: rank high, get the click, and ultimately get the conversion. So, “riches are in the niches” if at all possible; choose sports (a.k.a., keywords) that are high value to you, and likely to lead to a click and a conversion.

That’s competitive level: finding keywords that you can actually win on AND that are likely to lead to a click / conversion.

Measuring Competitive Level Using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Fortunately, the Keyword Planner gives you some easy clues as to what keywords are the most competitive – namely those that have a decent value, and also have relatively low cost-per-click. The higher the recommended bid, the higher the competitive level (and vice-versa). So, go to the Keyword Planner and compare some keywords, such as:

family law attorney, family law lawyer, divorce lawyer, child custody lawyer, divorce lawyer for men

Assuming you practice family law, you’re looking for keywords that you think ARE indicative of your client but are relatively cheap. “Riches are in the niches,” so “child custody lawyer for men,” for example, might be an easy-to-win yet profitable niche.

Or take,

knee surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, knee doctor, arthroscopic knee surgeon, sports knee surgeon

Ditto. Look for a “niche” that is relatively less competitive AND you can make money off of.

Look at Search Results

Another way to see competitive level is to look at the results on Google.

  • Do you see many or few ads? Do they ads that you see ‘regurgitate’ the keyword in the ad headline and/or text? If there are a lot of ads, and those ads replicate the search term, this is a strong sign of competition. On the contrary, if you see few ads and/or few ads that regurgitate the keyword, then it’s less competitive.
  • Look at the organic results. Do you see MANY headlines (Title Tags) that contain the target keywords? If so, then it’s competitive. If not, not.

Riches are in the Niches

Now, don’t get discouraged about competitive level. Take some of your keywords, and drill down using a tool like Ubersuggest or Google autocomplete. Dive ‘down’ from the high level keywords, and consider optimizing (SEO) or advertising (AdWords) on more focused phrases. By tightening up your match, you can more easily rank on Google, buy ads more cheaply, and/or get more, focused clicks that are likely to end in conversions.

Indeed, a secret fishing hole is when you find a very nichey keyword that others have not discovered. This is usually a very focused, long tail or micro search term. That others haven’t discovered and yet still is likely to end in a sales or a sales lead.


Photo credit: maHidoodi via Foter.com / CC BY

How to Gauge Competitive Level for SEO and AdWords
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Jason McDonald

About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason’s motto as a consultant is that he doesn’t do SEO ‘for you’ but rather he does SEO ‘with you.’ That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.