If you’ve been coming up with keywords for your niche with free tools like the keyword planner within adwords, you may find that it’s impossible to check the real competition if your goal is to gain organic traffic. The CPC or keyword competition level within Adword’s planner doesn’t indicate the level of competition for that particular keyword if you’re not involved with a PPC campaign. The presence of ad competition (high, medium, low) is an indicator the keyword is a money term (which is good!) but doesn’t mean squat when it comes to organic competition.
So, I’m going to share with you all a free keyword competition tool I’ve discovered that will let you easily highlight any text and right click to check what you’re up against.
This will let you know how good of a chance you have of getting on the first page of Google if you were to try and target that keyword. This tool extracts the QSR for any particular keyword of interest. QSR = Quoted Search Result, or the exact number of competing pages within Google.
It’s important to note that this is NOT the results you see within the first page of Google when you type it within quotes:
Rather, it’s the number you find when you click through to the last page of the search results
For “best mattress for a bad back” the exact competition is 104. Theoretically you can do this manually without any sort of tool by just clicking through to Google’s last page of search results for any quoted search term, like I just demonstrated here. But that is extremely time consuming and not practical for any in depth keyword research. For that, there are more efficient tools.
Wait.. let’s backup for a minute…
If you’ve spent any length of time researching keyword competition, you probably weren’t taught anything about QSR. Most likely, you were told the need to spend your time checking out the front page of Google and seeing the competition there. But it isn’t as important as some people make it out to be. Many tools analyze first page metrics like page rank, juice links, domain age, etc… but I can tell you that I’ve researched thousands of keywords and QSR is actually a pretty darn good indicator of keyword competition. (But more of that for another post).
Let me just say I am able to outrank sites like Forbes, Huffington Post, Amazon, Consumer Reports, etc on a regular basis, so this really does work. Google wants to display the most relevant results to its users to give them the best experience possible, so if you can be as relevant as you can to any particular search term with low competition, you have a very good shot at showing up on the first page.
PART 1 – Finding the Competition
It’s relatively simple but surpringly effective. There’s an amazing tool that does the same thing (only instantly, plus tons more), but first I want to tell you the free way to do this.
This tutorial is dealing with the CHROME browser extention called Context Menu Search. You can find it here.
If you’re using Firefox, it’s just called Context Search.
Once you have it installed within your browser, you’ going to need to tweak the settings a bit to make it perform the way we want it to.
You see, the purpose of this exention is to right click any piece of text and easily be able to search for it within Google, Bing, Yahoo, IMDB, Wikipedia, and many additional online informational platforms… which is pretty cool, I guess.. but we don’t really care about all that right now.
All we need this tool to do is find the Google QSR. If it isn’t already there, add in “Google QSR” into the display label and paste this within the link column:
Now, highlight and right click any piece of text within your browser and you should noticed the Context Menu Search option. Once you roll the mouse over, the search features should pop up, and you’ll want to click on the Google QSR field we just created.
Now this tool will instantly search this term in Google for you, however we’ve edited it to automatically display the last page of search results instead of the first. This is really handy because now you can immediately view the competition for this particular search term. Above we can see “mattress for bad back” has a QSR of 168 – this is the number that displays at the top where it says “Page 17 of 168 results”. It’s also at the bottom of the page as well.
This is the exact number of pages in Google (at least the ones Google finds relevant) and it’s a pretty good indicator of whether a keyword is worth going after or not.
What’s a “good” QSR?
Here’s the general range for QSR –
over 300 – high competition, I wouldn’t even try it
200-300 – moderate competition, but still rankable with time and effort
100-200 – lower competition, fairly easy to rank for
50-100 – very low competition, can easily rank these terms
0-50 – almost no competition, extremely easy to rank
I’d recommend for anyone just starting out to try and aim for terms with under 100 QSR. It is going to be a lot easier for you to start ranking and getting traffic that way.
With a competition of 168, “mattress for bad back” is a fairly low competition keyword and would be good to target.
One last step, take a glance at the first page of Google!
It can be a good idea to at least glance over what is already ranking for that particular term, and ask yourself , Can I create something better (and more relevant) than what’s already displaying in the top 10 results?
Sometimes it’s a lot easier done than others, so it’s important you have a good understanding of what is already ranking and what you can do better to outrank those pages.
I’m not going to provide some in depth analysis of what to look for here, because I really believe most of that stuff is pointless to think about if you already know the QSR. It’ll only end up getting you more confused.
Really, if you know your exact competition (QSR) is under 300, then it really just boils down to being relevant and the best source of information on that particular search. If the 1st page is flooded with high authority sites that are completely devoted to the topic, for example if we pretend the first page of search results for “best mattress for a bad back” was filled with well established authority websites that were completely all about mattresses for back pain, it may be a little harder (and take more time) to rank on the first page.
In this case, it’s not. If you take a look, you’ll see completely unrelated sites like Huffington Post, Hubpages, SFGate, that just happen to have an article on the topic. Even though the first search result, sleeplikethedead, seems to be pretty relevant and on topic, a quick visit to the site will tell you it’s 1. outdated and 2. really not all that great. It would not be hard to rank well for this term.
In other cases you may find the first page competition seems pretty fierce and completely relevant, and all the pages are excellent. If this is the case, it doesn’t mean you can’t outrank them (if the QSR is right) but it may take additional time and effort.
PART 2 – Finding the Search Volume
How do you know if there are actually people searching for the keyword?
Okay, so you’ve established if the term would be easy to target, but how do you know if anyone is even searching for it? The best free source of this information would be to use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool. It requires having an account with Google Adwords (which is free) and from there you’ll have to access the Keyword Planner under the Tools option.
Next, you’ll need to click the box that says “search for new keyword and ad group ideas”.
Now, simply enter in your keyword(s). You don’t really need to put in additional information here since we’re not interested in creating an actual ad campaign, we just want to find the estimated search volume.
After you hit OK, it’ll take you to your ad group ideas… but you’ll want to tab over to “keyword ideas” here.
Now we see that the estimated monthly searches is 140, which is good. Anything over 100 is generally good.
However, it also will pop up with related keyword ideas and you can see that “best mattress for bad back” is actually quite a bit higher in search volume. It may be worth checking out the QSR for that term too to find out if it’s a better keyword.
A quick check with the context menu search tells me that best mattress for a bad back is actually a better keyword, as it has higher searches and a lower QSR! Bam, we found ourselves a decent keyword for free!
But as I’m sure you can see, that was quite a lot of work to find one keyword… what if you wanted to research tons of keyword ideas? It would take you a very long time!
A faster, more efficient alternative…
I’m a pretty big fan of a keyword tool called Jaaxy that does pretty much what I showed you, only instantly (and it does so much more). The thing I absolutely love about it is the search estimates are the most accurate I’ve come across. Google Adwords isn’t really the best indicator of search volume. It’s OK, it can give you an idea, but in some cases it’s either super inflated or incredibly deflated… I’ve had it try and tell me a term got “less than 10” searches per month, when I know for a fact it brings in the majority of traffic to one of my niche websites (getting searched hundreds of times per day)! I’ve cross checked the actual traffic volume some of my keywords were bringing in with search estimates given with this tool, and while it’s not 100% (nothing is) it’s pretty darn close (a lot closer than Adwords).
Here I’ve brought up the best mattress for a bad back search, and ta da, instant search volume and competition with 1 click….
Note the 103 QSR matches what I found manually before with the context menu search. The search volume is quite higher in this case then it was with the Google Adwords tool, but keep in mind this brings in data from multiple search engines, not just Google.
If you want to know more about this tool, you can check it out here. You can sign up for free and get 30 searches, so give it a shot!
Do you have another free way to check competition? I’d love your feedback, so drop me a comment down below!
Nice inspirational post thank you. Whilst Jaaxy is a very nice solution once your marketing begins to show results, for those just starting out it’s an added expense that we can do without. Your post gives a useful alternative, yes it’s more work but i’m all for working harder to save money when money is tight.
Thanks for your research, i was lost with the Firefox ‘context search’ but no matter i can follow the ‘last page’ + Adwords technique.
No problem! Yeah I know how hard it can be to start out as a beginner with a very tight budget, you have to save in any way you can!
I did not know much about the importance of keywords, but you have really gave me a different insight. Thank you so much Wendy!