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Who are You Competing Against Online?

Posted by on April 30, 2008

seo competitive analysis pictureIn the online market space, it is important to know what your competitive landscape looks like. This is especially crucial for SEO. If you are going to target particular phrases and keywords that you want your site to show up for, you need to know who is already showing up for them and how good of a job they are doing. Let’s face it, if you are a new shoe store that only sells Nike shoes, you probably don’t have much of a shot at ranking well for the term “Nike.” That is where keyword research comes in, but that is a topic for another post. Ok, so how do we analyze your competitive landscape?

Let’s say you are in the online clothing store business and you want to see how competitive “online clothing store,” is online. First let’s just type in the query “online clothing store” into google.

online clothing store results screenshot

google online clothing store results screenshot

Here you can see that that there are quite a lot of sites showing up for this phrase, 2,840,000 to be exact. In SEO, the title tag is considered to have the most weight, so let’s see how many of our competitors are actively using the phrase “online clothing store” in their title tag. This will give us an idea of how man “real” competitors we have.

To do this type: intitle:online clothing store

UPDATED, Use: allintitle:online clothing store for more relevant results

online clothing store google results screenshot

google results screen shot

Notice how the amount of sites that use “online clothing store” in their title tag has dropped significantly to around 347,000. You can repeat this query using quotation marks around your desired keyword phrase and this will give you an estimate of how many sites are showing up for this EXACT phrase. Searching without the quotation marks just means that the words needs to be located in the title tag but the phrase doesn’t have to match. Let’s see what happens when we use the EXACT match approach.

To do this type: intitle:”online clothing store”

UPDATED, Use: allintitle:”online clothing store” for more relevant results

results page screen shot from google for

google results screen shot for

Now we can see that the number of competing sites has decreased even further. We went from roughly 3,000,000 to around 25,000. These 25,000 sites are using the exact phrase “online clothing store” in their title tag, this means that these sites are really gunning for this phrase.

Anchor text is also very valuable in SEO. The anchor text is the actual text you click on to go to that desired link. So let’s take a look at how many of of the sites out there are being linked to with the phrase “online clothing store.”

To do this type: inanchor:”online clothing store”

screen shot for google results for inanchor online clothing store

google screen shot for inanchor online clothing store

Here we can see that there are around 213 sites that are being linked to with the exact text “online clothing store.” Removing the quotation marks will give you a much higher result because that means that the words can appear in the anchor text in any order and the phrase doesn’t need to be an EXACT match. Removing the quotation marks should give you around 2,500,000 results.

So now that we know how many sites are using the phrase in their title tag and how many are being linked to with our phrase. Let’s find out how many sites are BOTH: using “online clothing store” in their title tag and are being linked to with “online clothing store.” This will give us a good idea of how many competitors are out there, really gunning for these terms and actually using onpage (title tags) and offpage (links) SEO to rank for them.

To do this type: Intitle:”online clothing store” inanchor:”online clothing store”

google screen shot results for inanchor and intitle

google results screeen shot for intitle and inanchor online clothing store

Here we can see that the rough number of sites out there competing for “online clothing store” in both onpage and offpage SEO is 108. Keep in mind that this is a very rough number. There are many other factors that still go into ranking a site. You still need to outrank 2,840,000 pages to be number one. This gives us an idea of how large your competitive landscape is. Many of the rankings sites are not really gunning for “online clothing store,” and may in fact be ranking for them on accident, this mean that it shouldn’t be to outrank many of your competitors if your pursue aggressive and smart SEO.

I hope this brief competitive landscape tutorial has helped, please give me your thoughts/comments.

Thanks for reading everyone!

  • Very helpful post, Jacob. Once you identify the main competitors, do a followup search on site:(competitorurl) and you’ll see how many pages are on that site. That gives you the second factor you need to be aware of to figure out how to compete effectively.

  • Thanks for the comment John. That is exactly correct. Most people get overwhelmed when they see there are 3 million sites showing up for a particular phrase. However once you dig down to find out how many “real” competitors you have, you realize that the competitive landscape is much smaller. Still tough, but definitely easier than going against 3 million.

  • Hey Jacob,

    I find questionable benefits using these Google operators. Using intitle: the number of search listings indeed does drop, many of the listings are not relevant at all. For example, if I query intitle: “rainforest” I get all kinds of crap such as a listing for Car Rental in Budapest (Car Rental Budapest – Car Hire Hungary and Cheap Car Rental from

    This Google operator is better (courtesy of Kingsley Joseph)

    allintitle: “rainforest” actually pulls up a relevant listing of rainforest related sites. Page one results are nearly identical to the results delivered with a simple query “rainforest”, though total number of listings is 422,000, which seems much easier to tackle competitively than 14M listings.

    This is a good example of the weight Google accords keywords in Title tags. However, depending on where you place in the SERPs, this method of determining your competitive landscape may or may not impact your strategy.



    Green Marketing 2.0

  • Hi Lorna,

    That is absolutely correct, the allintitle: operator is another great way to narrow down the competition and is actually the operator that Dan Thies prefers to use as well:

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • RB

    I’m pleased to know that I rank well for key words that my competitors are using. However, here’s where I am at a stalemate… My blog is an industry-wide blog (I can work in NV just as well as I can in CA). But I’m from CA, Los Angeles to be exact. Should I narrow my key words to my region? Am I hurting myself by not doing so? What do you think? I’d like some feedback here.

  • RB,

    That depends on what locale you are trying to target. If you are trying to target a specific region such as Los Angeles, then I would recommend including something like “Los Angeles Real Estate,” as opposed to just real estate.

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  • laurapittman

    Jacob. I am working on a very complicated keyword/SEO report to help me determine what keywords would be the best to go after by looking at the number of average monthly searches and looking at the google listings — the competition. Do you know if there is a tool out there that will let you import a list of keywords – EXACT MATCH – return the google listings and allow you to export those listing counts? I've come across several that are at the broad match level, but not exact.

  • nikusept

    Cand aveti nevoie de o masina de inchiriat de la oricare din cele doua aeroporturi (Baneasa sau Otopeni) apelati cu incredere la Rentacarfirst ce va pune la dispozitie cele mai bune oferte pentru inchirieri auto baneasa. Rentacarfirst are cel mai diversificat portofoliu de masini cu reviziile la zi si va asteapta sa va bucurati de experienta inchirierii unei masini.

  • nikusept

    Cand aveti nevoie de o masina de inchiriat de la oricare din cele doua aeroporturi (Baneasa sau Otopeni) apelati cu incredere la Rentacarfirst ce va pune la dispozitie cele mai bune oferte pentru inchirieri auto baneasa. Rentacarfirst are cel mai diversificat portofoliu de masini cu reviziile la zi si va asteapta sa va bucurati de experienta inchirierii unei masini.