Quick Ways To Do Manual Analysis Of Keyword Competition

Last Update: Jul 12, 2018


Hey all,

After my last post about the KGR keyword method, I had a few questions that made me realize I should probably talk about manual analysis of competition as well.

Now, I'm going to preface this post by saying that getting really good at manual analysis just takes practice and experience. It's the kind of thing where the experienced folks can look at the SERPS (search engine results pages) and say "Oh yeah that's a tough keyword" while beginners are left scratching their heads thinking "But it's low QSR?".

So don't worry if you don't immediately get the hang of manual analysis.

But first...why bother with manual analysis?

There are a few reasons why you should take the time to get better at manual analysis:

1.) You'll pick niches better because you won't enter something that was more competitive than a keyword tool was suggesting.

No keyword tool is perfect, and while Jaaxy et al are great for helping you quickly filter out the obviously competitive keywords, there are still false signals.

Low QSR isn't the be all end all of ranking in Google, so the better you get at manually checking SERPS, the better you'll be able to leverage Jaaxy to confirm if a niche is really as low competition as you think it is or not.

2.) You'll pick keywords to focus on better as well.

I don't know about you, but when I'm working on sites, I like to pick a few "Core keywords" to focus on. There are always going to be articles I write that never rank, so I instead choose some main keywords. Of course, a large part of choosing these comes down to their search volume, but I'll also base it on how well I think I can rank.

Once I have my main keywords, I'll build many other posts around this topic so I can link internally to the main posts from the supporting ones, and get better ranking as a result.

A key factor in figuring out which ones to pick is how competitive I think they are. "Make money online" might look like a cool keyword to focus on, but I'll never beat the sites already ranking for it, so why bother?

3.) You'll generally get better at learning how Google works.

I often get asked "Should I put these two keywords in the same post because they're similar? Will Google rank one article for both keywords? Or do I need two articles?"

Well, the answer to the above question is usually to merge the keywords into the same post, but how do you know what Google is likely to do? Google the keywords for yourself and see if one article is ranking for both.

The more you manually look at what Google is doing and rely less on a tool, the more you'll learn.

This is also why I said it's going to take a bit of practice before you can properly master manual analysis.

Anyway, let's move on and talk about doing things manually.

As I've explained, it takes practice to get good at this, so what I've done instead is come up with a list of manual checks that every beginner can do.

It's not an exhaustive list, because some things in manual analysis are subjective (like judging how "strong" a particular site is), so I've only focused on the things anyone can do without needing to guess too much.

Alright so let's get started, the first thing you're going to want to do is Google your keyword, and take a look at the top 10 results ranking. Ignore the paid ads and other stuff Google might show.

Question 1: What Types Of Sites Are Ranking?

Are the majority of them eCommerce sites?

You might see this if you are searching for a product type without "best" or "review" in it. For example, let's search for "Straight Razor"

The ones I've highlighted in red squares are eCommerce stores. They aren't reviewing razors, they physically sell them.

When you find a SERP that is dominated by eCommerce stores, it's going to be hard to rank your info or review article there.

In this particular case, there is a "best straight razor" and a "how to" article ranking too, so it is possible for an affiliate site to rank...but it's going to be tough.

Instead, let's look what happens when we search for "Best straight razor" instead of just "straight razor".

Every single one of those sites listed above is an affiliate/review site. This is the kind of keyword we want to find.

So, before continuing, ask yourself "Is Google ranking the kind of articles I plan to write for this keyword?" if it is, then great, we can keep digging deeper. If it isn't, then maybe you should forget that keyword.

Question 2: How Strong Are The Sites That Are Already Ranking?

This can be a tricky question to answer.

For me, I can tell within a few minutes whether a site is a big, strong, authoritative site or not, but if you're a beginner, you might have no way of really knowing.

Here's a few quick tips:

1.) Search for a lot of keywords in your niche. If you see the same site(s) coming up over and over again, then that's probably a good strong site. If you see that these sites are always ranking for the keywords you're looking for, and every site on page 1 looks strnog, then it may take you a while to rank up there with them.

This is never a conclusive test, so don't be scared and think "ah man, all these guys have awesome sites, I'm screwed". I'm just using it more as a way to identify if a keyword is weak or not. If you DON'T see these tough guys up there and you just see a few crappy looking affiliate sites, then you're probably good to go!

2.) Check the size of the site. Enter "Site:thatdomain.com" into Google and see how many indexed pages and posts it has.

Check out "best products" vs "standingmixers"

One has thousands of pages or images indexed, one has just a hundred or so.

So if you do this for a few sites, you should start to get a feel for whether they're just typical affiliate sites (A good sign!) or whether they're huge publications, magazines, or authority sites.

If you see about half of the sites in your keyword's SERP are weaker affiliate sites, that's a great sign that you can rank up there among them over time.

3.) Do they rank highly for a lot of keywords?

Imagine you find a keyword, and there's a site ranking position 1 for it. Now you go and search for about 20 other keywords. Is that site ranking for them too? Then it's probably a strong site.

If that site is nowhere to be seen, or only ranks for a few of them though, then it's probably a weak site. This means that the keyword it ranks highly for is probably a lower competition keyword too, since a weak site is ranking for it.

Does that make sense?

Edit: Just realized I put this tip in twice, but hey, now you have twice the chance to learn it.

Question 3.) Are There Forums Ranking?

Whenever I see a keyword where there are forums ranking (or other similar sites), I lick my lips. These are my secret weapon.

Google doesn't really like ranking forums very highly unless they are huge, so when you find forums on Page 1, guess what!? It means Google hasn't found anything better to rank for that keyword. This means your site is going to become a prime candidate for ranking.

Here are some other sites I class as weak:

1.) Pinterest (while Pinterest is a huge site, you don't really see its pages ranking in Google very often, which means it's weak).

2.) Reddit (See above)

3.) Any niche specific forum.

4.) Blogspot

5.) Quora

6.) LinkedIn

If a keyword has multiple forums or sites like those above ranking, then this is gold.

You don't find a ton of keywords like this, but when you do..BOOYEAH!

Note: I made a training in the past about how to find more of these. Watch the video here.

Practice Makes Perfect

There are other methods I like to use when digging deeper too, but they take practice and experience, and sometimes expensive software tools, so I don't recommend you worry about them for now.

If you practice the things I've talked about above though, you'll get better than most people at keyword analysis very quickly, and that's a huge advantage, since you know which keywords to focus on, and which ones to just wait and see how they pan out.

You probably have a bunch of questions, so feel free to ask them below.

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Recent Comments


Hi Dom,

I should of asked this before but it only occured to me now.

Do youconsider trustpilo dot com a forum? If not - would you consider it hard to beat like wikipedia dot com?

Its bugging me a lot. Thanks for all your help.

OH, one last thing - how many forums on page 1 is enough to consider keywords weak? I see 2/3 quite regularly.

If there is even just 1 forum - is still wise to go for that when it is surrounded potentially by authority and tough affiliate sites?

I am also wondering is the Better Business Bureua - BBB DOT ORG - easy to beat or not?

Thanks again.

- Philip.

I don't really consider Wikipedia hard to beat for some search terms to be honest, but I'm not sure about trustpilot.

If there's one forum and it's surrounded by a ton of strong sites, then that's probably a sign it's a strong forum, especially if it's not ranking number 1.

Don't know about BBB either.

Thanks Dom,really appreciate your input on this, I will have to experiment and see what happens.

- Philip.

Thanks for this Dom, KW analisys is one of the most difficult things for me to understand and apply, also my content is in spanish so is harder because the free kw tools are not very good with non english kws. What you show us here is amazing, it makes all the kw concept more "real, human and clear"
I hope you decide not to leave WA and keep sharing your knowledge here!

Yeah exactly, if you know manual analysis, the kw tools work in any language

Nice work Dom - really appreciate this.

I find that even zero comp keyword sometimes will NOT land page 1 - this is very confusing, or, was.

I see now even 0 comp don't guarantee good ranking.

If Wikipedia is ranked anywhere on Page 1 - should we go for those keywords? I was informed that we should probably not go for those keywords.

This has brought much clarity Dom so I do appreciate your training here today - good job!

- Philip.

Hi Dom, it kind of reminds me of the old, builder that is laying down some tiles just does everything by eye don't think he even has a ruler.
That is some valuable information, definitely clarified some aspects for me thanks, I think we can become too reliant on software, without understanding the processes.

Hi Dom, thank you for the effort that you have made to put together the information in this post as well as your other article. I also watched both your videos on using forums to discern prospective keywords.

I grappled with the keyword research concept when I was first introduced to it in the training at WA and extended my desire to understand it better by exploring articles written on the subject by other well-known authorities.

What should have been an accumulation of information and knowledge with glorious results has left me more perplexed than what I was in my former ignorance of the subject.

To this day I don't know how to benefit from Jaaxy or to use it correctly and the same can be said about other methods that I have attempted to master. I imagine that this stems from my misunderstanding of what keywords are. It is unfathomable that as a musician and accountant I would lack the intellectual capacity to comprehend what should be something quite elementary.

I actually abandoned my site about 2 months ago simply because I see little point in working on something that is lacking one of the principal cornerstones.

I am however here reading your post so I haven't bailed ship completely and was wondering if there is a "Understanding Keywords for Dummies" how-to that I can get hold of?



There's a ton of information here about keywords, I guess an easier way to start would be, why don't you tell me what you think keywords are for and how they're used, and I'll see where you're going wrong.

Hi Dom, thank you for your reply. Perhaps by way of illustration I can give you an indication of the dilemma that I face in respect to keywords -

Post title: Interesting Things About A Giraffe's Tongue

To avoid keyword stuffing, the content would read, "Did you know that the 'you-know-who' uses his 'you-know-what' to clean his ears?" or "The 'you-know-who's you-know-what' measures 18 inches."

That makes absolutely no sense right? The words 'giraffe' and 'tongue' are integral to the body of the post and their use can't be avoided. I would therefore have to change the title of the post which I understand to be the keyword, but what would I change it to? "Fascinating Facts About A Feature Of Africa's Tallest Animal"?

I've also noticed that post titles and permalinks are different in many instances. So which one is the keyword? Then there's also the meta description that should include the keyword from my understanding.

I think it must be clear to you that somewhere along the way I have misconstrued the simplicity of the keyword concept and it has become a mass of confusion to me.

I have many other questions about the science of keyword research but perhaps this is a launch pad for you to get an idea of where I'm at.

Thank you for your time.


Very informative, especially for newbies like myself. Thank you

All good tips thanks. Whenever I do a google search on things I want to know sometimes I will see forum links and now I know why! Because there's no one else writing about that specific problem. Aha

Sometimes a forum is very authoritative so it will rank, but usually it’s a sign the serp is weak yep

Thanks Dom!

Gotta admit I am guilty of taking Jaaxy's word for it. Never really tried the manual method. Gonna give it a try.

Jaaxy is a great first step but if you want to master keywords, gotta learn more.

Thank you for this. Very informative, I will definitely apply some of these in my keyword research.

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