Choosing keywords

As we said in previous articles, the SEO strategy of any page kicks off with the search and choice of keywords. Once we have created our own keywords dictionary, we have to delimit it with the purpose of optimizing our webpage for those keywords that will be more interesting. But which are the best in terms of ranking? The answer is obvious: those for which a high level of monthly searches have a low competition.

The monthly level of searches is something we can learn easily with the help of the keywords planning tool from AdWords. However, the level of competition is something we have to build ourselves. Among the data provided by the tool there is indeed something called “competition.” But you shall not forget that this tool is focused on SEM and not SEO. The way Google describes it, the ratio is “The number of advertisers that showed on each keyword, relative to all keywords across Google”, which means that this ratio shows the difficulty or competition for this area. This can be clearly seen on transactional searches: its levels of competence tend to be high despite the level of monthly searches might not be so.

How to calculate the level of competition for each keyword

There are different tools available to see automatically the level of competition for each keyword. For example, SeoMoz or SEMRush include this data. Using a specific algorithm, it calculates a value depending on the difficulty to rank a specific keyword. However, in both cases this functionality is available in exchange for a fee. Should we give up knowing this because we are not subscribed to any of these tools? Not at all. Instead of these programmes we can use Google search commands. The values we are interested in are:

Global competition. It is a generic value that includes the number of results for the keyword we want to analyse. It is as simple as entering the keyword on Google’s searchbox.

Competition for the title. Being the metatag one of the most relevant aspects for ranking, if we know the number of pages that contain a specific keyword on the title, we can figure out the level of competence SEO in a more realistic way. To get this result we have to enter the following parameter on Google’s searchbox – allintitle:keyword.

Competition for the URL. It has a similar functionality as the previous one: knowing how optimized the pages of the competition are for that keyword, and therefore the difficulty to rank for that keyword. We can control if the pages include or not the keyword in the domain. For this we will enter the following command allinurl:keyword.

Competition in anchor. This allows us to know in how many entry links does the keyword appear. Again, it allows us to get an overview of the SEO competition level we have to address. This data can be found with the parameter allinchor:keyword.

At this point we have to include an exception. The results obtained from these indicators are too “stable”, in the sense that they can change depending on the browser we use to make the search and even the day of the week when it is made. If we use them carefully they will still be useful to have an approximate idea of how complex it will be to rank the page for a certain keyword.

So far we have analysed quantitatively the difficulty of ranking keywords, but we shall not forget the quality of this competition. To know this, we can make an evaluation of the competition as it appears on the first search results. We choose a keyword and we make a search on Google. We write down the results that appear on the first results page and we visit them, watching carefully parameters like the level of optimization of pages, the density and consistency of keywords, the quality of the contents, the domain’s age, the quantity and quality of links, its technology, its structure, its source code, its PR or D/A… Because even if for a specific keyword the number of pages in competition is low, if the top ten is for domains with high authority, ranking will be much harder for us.

What keywords should I keep?

After arranging all the information on an Excel spreadsheet, it is time to know which are the keywords we are going to choose. We can use indicators to weigh the appeal of each word. There are many formulas to obtain them, and each SEO will use the ones that finds more useful. However, we shall not go crazy with mathematical equations: criterion, experience and common sense of experts on ranking are also key for this. As an example, here are some of the most used indicators:

KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index). It is very used as a selection index of words to rank. It is calculated dividing the number of searches by the number of results. The formula is

KEI = (search volume) 2 / number of results on the SERPS

KOI (Keyword Opportunity Index). Very interesting for establishing a linkbuilding strategy. We calculate it dividing the number of searches squared by the number of links with a specific anchor text. The formula is:

KOI= (search volume) 2 / number of anchor text in competition

KFI (Keyword Feasibility Index). Interesting as a content optimization index. To calculate it we do the same as in the previous cases but dividing by the use of keywords on the title:

KFI= (search volume) 2 / number of titles in competition

Bear in mind that both the SEO strategy and the search for keywords is a continuous process. Take some time to find and implement your keywords, and remember that this is the basis of your ranking.

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