The Truth About Competing Pages – SEO Gurus Are Liars
You’ve seen it time and time again. Google SERPs screenshots with red handwritten font and hand drawn looking circles showing off the millions of competing pages a certain keyword has and the site the person was able to rank #1 in “just 28 days!” On the surface, it looks impressive. I mean, damn, 25 million results for that keyword? #1? That person must know their shit, right?
I’ve literally never seen a guru advertise a product with a screenshot like this that showed a legitimate, challenging ranking that they earned. Nearly every single time, the person is blowing smoke up your ass, for a variety of reasons that I’m going to try and explain here.
Let’s Get Started
Anyone who tells you that SEO is easy and fast and is trying to 1) get you to buy their software/ebook/service or 2) trying to get you to opt-in to their list and are hands down not telling you the truth and probably don’t know the first thing about SEO, link building, or anything else. They most likely grew up in Warrior Forum and have learned that it’s more important to launch a product than actually learn a single fucking thing about what they are actually trying to sell. It’s a self perpetuating mess that has left the SEO space full of shitty products, shitty guides, and shitty advice.
Here’s a perfect example of what I mean:
This screenshot is a prime example of the crap I’m talking about. From an initial glance, this looks impressive. 3 million other competitors? Wow, this person is on to something. To people just getting going with SEO, this is where they’ve reached the end of their own knowledge and begin to buy into what the person is selling, handing over cash or contact information to someone who does not deserve it. There are a few things you can do to analyze a claim like this person is making to see if they’re bullshitting you. Here’s how:
Probably 99% of the time, the screenshots these people are using to sell you on whatever they’re trying to sell you on is of a relatively long tail keyword. This is for a few reasons. 1, it’s because they’d be stupid to show you their sites that they have that rank for good profitable keywords. 2, it’s because they don’t actually have any sites ranking for good, profitable keywords. And 3, because the keywords they’re showing off aren’t really competitive at all and don’t actually make any money.
In the above screenshot, there is a simple little trick going on that these gurus are using. On the surface, this looks like a lot of competitors. But the nature of their search query, a broad match keyword, means that the results are highly inflated. Let me explain.
As I have covered before, the way a broad match search (one with no quotes) works, is that Google runs a query for pages that include all of the words in the query, regardless of whether they are all on the pages returned. So in this example for hp tablet review, the query is actually returning results that have to do with hp, tablet, review, hp tablet, tablet review, etc. So that’s why you’re seeing 3 Million+ results.
Also, notice how they cut the paid ads out of the screenshot. That’s because, as you’ll see in the next one I’m going to show you, there’s only one paid advertiser. That’s a big red flag when looking for profitable niches: if no one is paying to be there, chances are making money with the keyword is going to be tricky.
So the way to see the actual results for that keyword is to run the search with the quotes around it. And with that, we find that…
…there’s only 15,000 pages that actual use the whole phrase “hp tablet review”. Not so impressive anymore, eh?
But The Search Volume Is Still Good, Right?
It gets better. As was also covered here before, when checking search volume with broad match queries, the volume returned will be highly inflated as well and generally completely unrealistic. So let’s compare the exact match keyword results to the broad match results that the guru dude is advertising his skills with:
so the keyword most likely actually gets about 20-30% as much as the guy promotes his ranking as getting. Plus, the keyword isn’t a buying keyword, so this keyword and bragging is all kinds of fail.
Some More Info About Competing Pages
All is not lost here, there is some value in analyzing competing pages in Google. You just need to be doing it correctly, as you can get huge competition and search volume fluctuations if you aren’t careful. Next thing you know, you’ll be all stoked with yourself because you’re ranking in the top 3 for a keywords with million of “competing” pages. Truth be told, you aren’t really up against much.
A rule I generally stick to is that if you see more than 50,000 exact match competing pages for your keyword, it’s gonna take some effort to get up into the top 3. Less than 50k you can generally hit pretty easily, depending on the competition of the top 10. More than 150,000+, and you’re looking at a pretty serious project. 500,000+, you either need to get really advanced, blackhat, or have a damn powerful site.
So What Does Real Competition Look Like?
Here’s a good example of an actual difficult keyword: buy electronic cigarettes. This keyword is a buying keyword, has a lot of paid advertisers, and there are a ton of affiliate offers out there that make this a high profile target. Here’s the screenshot of the broad match search data:
3.1 million competing pages, a full side of paid advertisers, and every result seems to be highly optimized for the exact phrase (notice the difference compared to the screens above…every result for the ecigs page has the exact phrase in the title, description, and I’m sure in the body. Each url has a significant amount of backlinks, and packs a punch.
Beware of guys who are flaunting their rankings to sell anything. The guys who are ranking for actual difficult keywords definitely do not show off their rankings. ALWAYS dig deeper when people start bragging about what they have done publicly, because as anyone with even a bit of a clue knows in this industry, you never brag about your niche.
The majority of people peddling this shit are service providers who have ineffective services, link building tool creators (most likely crappy tools) and info product marketers who probably don’t have a clue and are just trying to sling eBooks. Be smart about it, and start to instinctively doubt anyone who leads a conversation with their rankings, because they most likely don’t get it and are just trying to fleece you.
Keep your eyes peeled and dig into the data.