SEOmoz have just released an exciting update to their keyword difficulty tool. The new version of the tool gathers data from the Google Adwords API and Linkscape to help get a more detailed understanding of the SEO challenge involved with targeting a specific keyword ranking. I’ve been super lucky to get an early view of the tool and in this post we’ll take a first look at it and use exported data to get a sense of how competitive some search engine rankings can really be.
Using the keyword difficulty tool
Using the tool is very easy. Just plug in up to 5 terms in the “analyse” field and select your local Google search engine. The tool is designed to allow you to compare a range of terms or drill down on one specific phrase.
The comparision report presents you with a keyword difficulty score, which is based on the data collected by the tool from its various sources. To take a look at the data, proceed to “Full Analysis”.
The keyword difficulty tool dissects the search term you’ve entered and presents you with page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA) metrics in the top 10 rankings.
I found the competitive analysis table particularly useful. The values from the table allow you to explore the top 10 rankings URL by URL, providing data on links to each domain and the ranking URL found in the search results for your query term. Depending on the search result (and its competitiveness) you can see what variables might be driving a specific result. Where Linkscape and Open Site Explorer make it possible to explore a domain URL by URL, the keyword difficulty tool allows for visibility across an entire search results page.
Using the tool to understand your search results
Using the tool is really easy, and thanks to a killer CSV export function, we’re able to get a lot more data to where it matters most – Excel. I’ve spent some time in the last few weeks pulling data out of the tool to see how far the data can inform my overall impression of what factors are driving a particular set of search results, and how competitive that search result may be. Most frequently, I found this tool provides most insight when you’re looking at domain and page level authority metrics, by ranking position. Creating a chart with the exported data is easy and can reveal quite a lot about the search engine ranking. Let’s take a look at some search results at different levels of competitiveness and see what we can learn.
How competitive is the phrase “Pallet Delivery”?
“Pallet delivery” is a phrase with medium to low monthly search volume locally (3600 searches per month locally, and 3600 searches globally, suggesting little to no demand outside of the UK). Page authority and domain authority vary wildly in this chart, offering no correlation to ranking position for this term.
The term would be relatively easy to acquire a position on page 1 for, and given such low levels of authority required for a page one ranking, internal link strategies, page relevance and anchor text optimisation may be an easy win for this SERP. Positions 9, 10 and 17 are all recent additions to the SERP and have not yet been included in the Linkscape index. The ease of rapid progression on to page one of this SERP again highlights the level of competitiveness offered by this term.
How competitive is the phrase “Pivot Tables”?
A phrase with low to medium local demand (2900 searches per month in February 2010) but higher global demand (12,100 searches). Overall domain authority measured across the top 20 rankings appears consistent, and the highest ranking positions are occupied by domains and subdomains of Wikipedia and Microsoft. Where domain authority is high, the ranking pages themselves carry relatively low levels of authority and low page links from independent root domains. A new page (example article on pivot tables) is able to rank in the top ten of this SERP provided that the page is published on an established domain and is able to attract a few authoritative back links.
How competitive is the phrase “Things to do in London”?
Competitiveness for the term “things to do in London” increases with a high monthly search volume of 40,500 searches in February 2010. Overall domain authority remains consistent, and aside from the occasional ranking anomaly, page authority appears to play a strong role in the top rankings. Domain authority appears to make up for any ranking URL that has lower page authority in the top ranking positions, but is a prerequisite to having any serious positioning at all.
How competitive is the phrase “Flights” in the UK?
“Flights” in the UK is an extremely competitive term where local search volume in February appears around the 450,000 searches per month mark. High domain authority and page authority is required for this SERP. High levels of inbound link diversity to the page and the domain ensure this ranking is innacessible for most, an extremely competitive search engine ranking.
How competitive is the phrase “Airline Tickets” in the US?
The word “Extreme” is barely able to describe rankings in organic SERPS in the US for the term “airline tickets”. A local search volume at around an estimated 1,000,000 searches in February 2010 and more than double that value globally, ensures the highest level of SEO competitiveness for the term. The top ranking sites have upwards of 10,000 links to the ranking page and many more links to the domain overall.
While reviewing the data in this particular ranking, two results that caught my eye. AOL’s travel.aol.com (P23) and Yahoo’s travel.yahoo.com (P18) both appear to have extremely high authority domains but the pages that rank have low levels of page authority. Both sites use sub domains which is causing them both significant ranking problems. If either domain hosted their flights content on their root domains (eg: yahoo.com/flights), they may be in with a chance of a top ten ranking.
How difficult is your keyword?
The new Keyword Difficulty tool has vastly simplified extracting keyword volume data, ranking by URL and page / domain level metrics for any phrase. The obvious benefit to this tool is the speed in which you can gather the data and begin analysing. I realised that to have written this post a few weeks back, I would have needed the SEOmoz API or a URL by URL comparison from Linkscape, combined with authority metrics scraped from Open Site Explorer and rankings data from Advanced Web Ranking. I think that’s the main point with this tool – the data itself has been available to us for some time, it’s just that until now, none of us have built a tool that aggregates at this level.
You’re still going to need a tool to help understand additional variables such as anchor text distribution and unique inbound c-block IP’s, but I’m glad that as an SEO, I can invest more time into thinking about what questions I’d like to answer next, rather than spending that time wrestling with the data collection process. Awesome.
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