How Hard Is It To Rank For X? 30 Second SEO Competition Check

Wondering what it’s going to take to rank #1 on Google for “auto parts” or “Toyota Tacoma rock rails” or any other term?

Short answer: It’s depends on your site, your competitor’s sites, how Google interprets the intent of the searcher, etc. But there are some quick and dirty ways to estimate difficulty, which we’re explore in our longer answer below. 

Get ready to compete for SEO rankings

Once you know the score, you can better compete.

How To Get A Rough Estimate Of Search Term Competitiveness

When we say “rough estimate,” we mean:

  • Is it hard, easy, or somewhere in between?
  • Is your site “close” to ranking for this term, meaning that you can rank higher with effort?
  • Is it realistic to expect to rank for this term given your budget, timeline, etc.?

With our process, you don’t have to be an SEO “nerd” to make an assessment.

NOTE: For all you executives and managers reading this post, check out our free Executive’s Guide to Auto Parts SEO. It’s a great starting point for anyone trying to manage an SEO marketing push, without getting into the weeds on the technical ‘stuff.’

Google It, Then Score It

Start by using the ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ mode in your web browser (you have to be anonymous or you will get personalized results). Then, go to Google.com, type in the term you want to assess, and make some notes:

  • Which sites are ranking? If you see Amazon.com, eBay.com, AutoAnything.com, CarID.com, Toyota.com, etc. you’ve found a competitive search term. If you see a bunch of forums, ecommerce sites you’ve never heard of, etc. than you’re looking at an easier term.
  • How deep are the links going? When you look at the search results, are they for homepages, or for ‘deeper’ pages like a product page, an article, a category page, etc. If you see a link to a product page as result #1, that could be a sign that the term isn’t so competitive.
  • Are the results good, in terms of relevance? Let’s say your search term is “Jeep Cherokee liftgate struts”, and let’s say the first result links to an article about buying a new Jeep Cherokee. That would be a low relevance search result…someone looking for liftgate struts doesn’t need to buy a new Jeep. Therefore, this is a poor quality search result.
  • Are you seeing non-commercial results? If the first result for your search term is Wikipedia, or some article on a news website like Forbes or Washington Post, that means Google doesn’t think your search term has much commercial intent. That will make ranking an ecommerce website #1 very difficult.
  • Do you see more than 4 AdWords ads on the first page? The more advertising you see on a search term, the more competitive it is.

Here’s a chart that will help you quickly score the difficulty.

Looking at the first page of Google search results… Score
Do you see well-known ecommerce websites like Amazon, eBay, etc. in the top 5 slots? If so, score 2 points.
Do you see search results linking mostly to homepages? If so, score 1 point.
Do you see search results that are mostly relevant? If so, score 1 point.
Do you see non-commercial results in the first 3 positions? If so, score 2 points.
Do you see 4 or more AdWords ads? If so, score 2 points.

Total up your score. If it’s 5 points or higher, your term is probably difficult. If it’s 3 or 4 points, it’s moderate difficulty. If it’s 2 or less, it’s pretty easy to rank for.

Other Tools For Ranking Search Term Competitiveness

If our quick and dirty points system isn’t feeling very accurate, you can use any one of the following tools to estimate search term difficulty:

All of these tools will offer you scores and very concrete metrics. Just remember:

  1. Difficulty scores are relative…if you want to understand what a specific score means, you’ll have to compare it to other search terms
  2. All these tools are merely estimates, and they can be wildly incorrect

At Spork, we do not use any keyword difficulty tools. Our ‘points system’ is very effective, at least in terms of setting expectations and making a plan.

Remember, No Free Lunches

Everyone’s heard the expression “There are no free lunches.” This is as true in SEO as it is in anything else.

All the “great” search terms are competitive. There are a handful of “good” terms that are easy to rank for, a lot of “OK” terms you can rank for. But all the great, high value terms are competitive. Any strategy that includes ranking for a great term needs time and investment to be successful.

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