It’s a sad fact of modern SEO life. You can’t slay a dragon with a sling shot and ya’ can’t rank for for Las Vegas Hotels with a brand spankin’ new domain. Life just doesn’t work that way. It only makes sense that measuring which keywords a page can reasonably expect to rank for, in this competitive Internet age, is now an essential aspect of keyword research.
With improving accuracy, it is now possible to evaluate SERPs (search engine results pages) competitiveness for a given keyword, evaluate the strength (and future predicted strength) of the page one wishes to get ranked, and base keyword selection on what is reasonably attainable for that page’s strength.
SERPs Competition & Page Strength
Google has never been willing to provide webmasters with useful measurements of either SERPS competition or page strength. Apparently to do so, would somehow subvert the Google black box mentality, which leaves many SEO ranking factors to speculation. Not revealing the information keeps SEOs from knowing too much about the sacred algorithm, and therefore supposedly makes organic SERPs less vulnerable to manipulation.
Unfortunately PageRank, that elusive pixel green fairy dust, is the best Google gives us. Generally considered obsolete before each Google quarterly update, PR sometimes determines advertising rates, who gets to keep their job and what businesses are ruined based on this crude clue regarding Google’s public expression of respect for any page.
Listening to Matt Cutts, Google’s affable ambassador to the SEM community, talk about PageRank is like listening to Nancy Pelosi explain earmarks. It’s always something like “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it and trust us. We have your best interests at heart.”
Google toolbar PR is best served with lamesauce. It’s better to have toolbar PageRank than not. Still PR observed on the Google toolbar is not always a definitive expression of Google’s respect for a page’s authority. Google just doesn’t want you to know.
SeoMoz’s brazen new flagship LinkScape, seems to be the. best fledgling “open” rank available to measure SERPs competitiveness and page strength. Having crawled over 38 billion URLs across 240 million domains, LinkScape reveals metrics that Google refuses to reveal like domain trust, domain rank and whether links are do or noFollow.
With its index catching up to Yahoo in girth, LinkScape is the anti-Google for SEOs. Ironically the tool has angered some SEO heavies, because LinkScape lays bare previously hidden link building strategies some SEOs don’t want you to see.
In a weighting an average of Google PR (which can’t be completely ignored) and mozRank, we’ve had good luck determining SERPs competitiveness and page strength with this formula:
- Turn off personalized search, to the greatest extent possible. SearchWiki is the unfortunate wildcard.
- Search for a target keyword for evaluation of SERPs competitiveness.
- Start by averaging the PageRank and mozRank of the top 5 Google organic results, including Universal Search results into an aggregate number. (((Result 1 (PR*.4) + (mR*1.6)) / 2) + ((Result 2 (PR*.4) + (mR*1.6)) / 2) + ((Result 3 (PR*.4) + (mR*1.6)) / 2) + ((Result 4(PR*.4) + (mR*1.6)) / 2) + ((Result 5 (PR*.4) + (mR*1.6))/ 2))) /5 = SERPs Competitiveness Index for the Keyword
- Not quite enough huh? We feel your pain…try factoring in any other of the reputed 200 (known and black-box) SEO rank attributes. See what you see and form your best opinion of what PageStrength and SERPs competitiveness works for you. Mix and match.
- Compare that 0-10 number with 2 decimal places to the averaged PageRank and mozRank for the Page Strength of the page you’re trying to rank in the SERPs
- If the page strength is above the Competitiveness index, then the page has a decent shot at ranking.
- We use various method to predict the future page strength, by evaluating the history of similar pages in the site hierarchy. We’ll save that for another post.
Once we know what keywords have a reasonable chance to rank given SERPs difficulty and page strength, then we can choose SEO targets based on what is attainable. It only makes sense.
SEO Metrics & API Mania
Google’s AdWords API provides access to most functions available the Google Keyword Tool. Rand Fishkin recently announced free LinkScape API. It’s easy to crawl a page to determine phrase density. Connect the dots and you’ll join legions of technical SEOs who are working to evolve SEO into more of a predictable mathematical endeavor.
SEO metrics will replace Google’s purposefully oblique PageRank in time, as third party tools like LinkScape hack ever-deeper in to the Internet’s pathology of trust, authority and citations. Stay tuned.