Wondering whether that niche you’ve been thinking about has real potential?
Here’s a list of things you can do to find out – once and for all!
We’re going to take a look at some of ways you can work out who your competition is, and – most importantly – what the quality of that competition is. That way, you’ll be able to make a confident decision one way or the other.
Firstly, we’ll go through the specific bits of research you need to do to find out who those real competitors are. We’ll look at how to use some different tools to get this research info. And we’ll also cover off some of the potential downside of these, so that you know their limits with what you’re doing.
In our next post, we’ll be going through exactly how you can then apply all this info that you’ve gleaned here for a significant competitive advantage.
Once you’ve nailed each bit of this analysis process with your top competitor – you can simply rinse and repeat with the other four.
So – let’s say you’ve got some interest in “learn Italian”, as an example. (We’re going to assume for the sake of this exercise that these are the keywords you want to rank for.)
What‘s the important stuff you must consider when weighing up competition?
Let’s take a look:
1. How Many Sites Are Competing For Your Keyword Phrase?
First up, type your keywords into the search engine you want to rank on. How many web pages show up in these results?
We need to get an idea of the breadth of competition. If you wanted to check on this with Google, you’ll find this by checking out the top right of their search engine.
Because we’re going to choose the search term “learn Italian, in this instance, it comes back with: “1 – 10 of 44,300,000 results for the term “learn Italian”.
So in this case of “learn Italian”,we know this means that we’ve got 44,300,00 other web pages competing for this term that Google considers worthy of indexing.
Do this for each term you’re thinking of targeting. That way, you’ll get a good idea of how many pages you’re competing with for each search term.
2. Who Are The Top Five Sites Competing For Your Keyword Phrase?
One of the first things we want to take note of is the top five competitors for our “learn Italian” key phrase. This will show us the quality of the competitors we have to beat! Let's take a look:
Now we can see our top five competitors for this search term.
The bad news is there’s quite a lot of info you’re going to need on your competitors. Don’t get overwhelmed by this.
The good news is – there’s a quick way to get what’s required!
Here’s how to get answers to a lot of the questions we’re going to need: just download the free tool SEOBook Toolbar from Seobook.com.
This is a great tool that gets you all sorts of useful info on a site – all without leaving the page.
For example, you can:
• Get the page rank of a site
• See the number of page links it has from Yahoo
• See how many links there are from the Yahoo directory
• Check out the age of a site domain
• See how many links there are from the Dmoz directory
• Get the site’s Alexa ranking
• Find out the keywords used
• Check out the number of external and internal links
• Do a keyword density analysis
• Use the section of competitive analysis tools
• and a whole heap of other useful things.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these, and how they can help you.
One of the best parts of this tool is Site Information. You’re going to love this – it can help you grab info at a glance!
Click the first icon button you’ll find on the left side of the main SEOBook Toolbar:
Here you'll find a whole heap of statistical info that’ll make your research job a lot easier.
We’re about to go over some of what the most useful ones of these are, and why they are important.
By the way, there’s a real advantage of this tool you’ll love!
You can use the abridged versions of this data that is all one place (click the Site Information Icon), and export all these critical bits of information to an Excel spreadsheet. (Pretty much everything else you need you should be able to get from the rest of the toolbar options!)
Do this for each of your main competitors, and you’ll see at a single glance just how they stack up against each other with the different criteria.
So – let’s take a step-by-step look at how some of the features on SEOBook Toolbar work, and the stats they report. This will help you to check the boxes with your competitive analysis!
As an example, we’ll continue working with our Number One competitor for “Learn Italian”.
3. What Are the Ages of Your Competitors' Sites?
Something you need to consider is how old your competitors’ sites are. Why’s this so important?
Well, the age of a site is one of the things the major search engines look at for ranking purposes. If a site’s been online awhile and still going strong, the search engines take this as an indicator of it being a genuine business that’s trusted. They’re much more likely to rank a site higher if it has a few wrinkles!
Because sites that have been around for a while are favoured in this way, these are often difficult to outrank. This is something you’d need to consider if you were going to compete with them.
So how do you tell how old a website is?
Here’s the easy way to tell a site’s age at a glance!
If we look at the site age icon of this tool, you’ll see it automatically grabs the age of the site that we're on at the time. In this case, we can see that the top competitor for “Learn Italian” was first registered in 1996. (We can also view this age as part of the site info button.) That’s a long-time competitor!
If we then click on this, we can also grab more detail if we need it…
…like this! We’ve now doing the time warp with the Internet Archive Way Back Machine. This shows you the number of pages a site has had in each year of its history.
Be aware some duplicate pages are not shown here unless you click the “See all” link. The other thing to consider is that it generally takes around six months for stuff to appear because of the time it takes to transfer and store info for the long-term. This means, while the info is useful, it may not represent things as they stand right now.
However, it’s important to get an understanding of a site’s history. This way we’re able to judge how substantial that competitor may be.
If we look at our top competitor for “learn Italian” with this, we can see there’s a significant web history for them that goes back to 1996. (You can see that if we want to, we can even to check their archives over the years. With this example, the tool has taken the whole of the bbc.co.uk site , rather than just the “learn Italian” segment.)
Regardless of the somewhat skewed data accuracy with this one, a site with 1998 birthday means a looonng time in internet terms. Definitely something we’d need to consider if we decided to go head to head with this particular competitor.
4. What’s The Size of Your Competition?
One of the next things to do is a search on all the top sites that rank for your search terms. That’s because you need to have some idea of how big your site has to be to compete for that term.
Here’s how to do this!
In the Google search box, put in: site: your competitor’s URL. In this example, we would enter into the search box: site:www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian.com
When you do this – hey pronto – up come the number of pages your competitors have as a result, which gives you an idea of their size.
Let’s see how this pans out with our “Learn Italian” example.
If we get the pages just for www.bbc.co.uk/languages/Italian, we get 979 pages.
And if we include the rest of the site as www. bbc.co.uk – would you believe a whooping 7,120,000 indexed pages?!! That is one BIG site.
5. How Many Incoming Links Do Your Competitors Have?
It’s important to do a search on all your top competitors who rank for the search terms you want. By doing this, you’ll get a good insight on how powerful your competition is.
Both Google and other engines evaluate websites on how popular they are. One of the ways they do this is by checking how many sites link to them.
We can use Yahoo! Site Explorer that’s a part of SEOBook Toolbar to quickly check this. (Check backlinks with Yahoo, rather than Google. Reason being: Yahoo shows all the backlinks they know, while Google only shows a sample. )
You can find the number of links to a specific page with this icon:
The figures are rounded off for our icon at four thousand. However, if we click through this, we can see that the actual number is 3,610.
And to check those links to the entire domain, go here to Yahoo Link domain:
Again, the number is rounded up to 22 million for the icon.
Click on this, and you’ll end up at the directory page that shows the numbers of links to this domain at the top right hand side of the page.
When we get into the directory itself, we see that in fact there’s 22,200,000 links to this particular competitor’s domain.
However, that figure is actually a misrepresentation. This tool will skew the results for our particular example, as there doesn’t appear to be a way to separate out the “Languages/Italian part of the site from the unrelated content of rest of the BBC site. A bit of a down-side .
6. Are Your Competitors Listed in DMOZ and Yahoo Directories?
A directory is different to a search engine – here’s how!
A search engine uses spiders to create an enormous automatic database. In contrast, a directory’s listing is a handpicked selection that is reviewed and put together by people.
The DMOZ is the open directory.
Check to see if your competitors’ sites are listed in DMOZ and Yahoo directories, because Google uses these to help them work out relevance and rankings for sites.
To get into the DMOZ directory is quite a challenge. And to be listed in this can lift a site’s overall ranking, as it’s viewed really favourably by Google and has their trust.
So if your competitor is listed in either or both of these – especially DMOZ – you’re unlikely to dealing with an amateur.
By checking out the dropdown menu on the Site Information tab for SEOBook Toolbar earlier, we already know that
our “Learn French” competitor is in both. (For the record, they had nine thousand links to DMOZ – and just one listing is good! They also had seven thousand links to Yahoo.)
7. What Are Your Competitors’ Google Page Ranks?
PageRank is Google’s way of counting links, and working out which pages are most important based on these. Some links they value more importantly than others.
There’s a lot of emphasis on both link popularity and link reputation when deciding on a ranking. These scores are mixed in a combo with lots of other things to decide how well a page ranks in a search. Page Ranks range from 1-10, with a 10 being the crème de la crème.
What Google are really looking at here is both quality and quantity of incoming links to a site. In fact – one quality link can carry the same benefit as 100 or so poor quality links.
Getting the Google PageRank of your competition gives you a good idea on how much “link power” that particular site has. It does have its limitations – for example, pages not yet indexed, and others taken off a site may not be taken into consideration with the current ranking.
However, your competitors’ PageRanks are still something else that you need to have so that you can use this as you evaluate the bigger scheme of things.
So – how to get this little gem so you can suss things out with it?!
Our trusty SEOBook Toolbar has this as an icon, second place to the left.
We can see with our “Learn Italian” example that our Number 1 Competitor has a PageRank of 6, which is pretty good. This lets us know that they’ve got some quality links that Google is happy with.
8. What Are Your Competitors Alexa Ratings?
Getting an Alexa rating is a way you can grab at least a rough indication of what the traffic levels are to your competitors’ websites.
These come from the search company Alexa, and get done though tracking software that grabs data on browsing behavior. A rating is scaled on from 1 upwards. The lower the number, the more highly this site ranks in terms of on the traffic volume it receives.
Some see this tool as an important indicator of a website's success. Bear in mind, however, some of the limitations with this. Because it only measures visits from users of a downloaded toolbar, the browsing behavior data collects may not necessarily be that of your own target market.
Even so, it’s still a great tool to get a gauge on a quite a few different things that are useful.
You can check out just the Alexa ratings at a glance under drop down menu of the “Site Information” of the SEOBook Toolbar.
Or go to the “Competition” tab, and you can get both this and more detailed info, such as:
• Percentage of global internet users who visit the site over a variety of timeframes
• The average time users spend on the site
• User demographics in terms of age, education, browsing location, etc
• Where people go on the site
• Keywords used
• Where users come from geographically
• The sites linking to it
• And a lot more
Once you’re familiar in putting your first competitor through its paces with SEOBook Toolbar, you should find evaluating the others even easier.
So there you have it – eight easy ways you can check out the competition in your niche!
We’ve gone over how you can use the power of the free tool SEO Toolbar. Now you know how to use some of its best features to give you competitive info at your fingertips.
You’ve got the heads-up on some of the things to be aware of when using this sort of tool. Plus you now know exactly some questions you need to have answered to make sure you know your competition – and before you select that niche.
Here’s hoping these tips have helped the usual slog of competitive analysis.
Whether this helps you decide on that niche with a particular search phrase – or perhaps choose another completely different – I’d love to get your input!