Random musings on startups, coding, SEO, and everything in between

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

OMG 47 days?!?! Here's ALL of my money!! Take it!

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…

Ummm…where'd the competition go?

…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.

Now here’s the exact match results:

700,000 results. Time to dig in and really pound it out, and hope that the FTC doesn’t shut shit down before you start ranking :)

Finishing Up

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.


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17 Responses to The Truth About Competing Pages – SEO Gurus Are Liars

  1. So you’re saying the top 3 keywords in one of my niches with between 300k and 6.2M competing sites in quotes is gonna be difficult to rank for? That’s not what Ryan Deiss says!!!

    {Seriously|Honestly|Sincerely} tho, {good|great|awesome} {post|article|quit outing|blog}!!! {Subscribed|Grabbed the feed|Bookmarked}, thanks!

    Follow up post on examining the strength of the frontpage is probably in order as well.

  2. gdubs12345 says:

    good stuff. hope you keep posting more often

  3. This is why honestly about key phrases is the best policy. Otherwise people get incredibly over the top expectations.

  4. dantex says:

    Nice to see you post again.

  5. jdrmar says:

    looking forward to more!

  6. Garrett says:

    Plus, the keyword isn’t a buying keyword, so this keyword and bragging is all kinds of fail.

    I have to disagree with this. ‘review’ keywords convert great. people don’t search for reviews on things they haven’t considered buying, and they also have tons more volume than a true ‘buying keyword’ ;)

    with that said, LOL that guru is full of fail. pwned.

    btw, the new template is dope! keep posting more!

  7. Just found this site from a link on WickedFire. Finally somebody who hasn’t bought the crap they shovel on the Warrior Forum.

    SEO is more than buying the latest WSO being pawned by some small time Warrior who probably stole it from some else.

    SEO can be a multi-million dollar business if you’re good and have a brain……too bad most people pushing it online are unemployed twenty year olds still living with mommy.

  8. Larry Davis says:

    hey man when talking here:

    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.

    are those global or local numbers?

  9. It’s been years since we paid any regard to the number of competing pages at all. The main issue I have with that approach is that it’s measuring the length of the tail in an attempt to gauge the height of the head (strength of the top 10 pages). As keyword traffic distributions vary greatly, it’s not a great way to go.

  10. YouDontKnowMe says:

    Dude, I fcking hate SEO “gurus.” 95% of them don’t know jack shit just like you said. They say dumb shit like “Google will get you banned for paid links” or “quality of more important than quantity.” LAWL

  11. [Phrase] and “exact” matches do provide the most realistic figure. However, even when there are only few competing pages, it does not necessarily mean that the keyword is easy to rank for. Sometimes the first 3 – 4 ranking even in low competing keywords are occupied by well know companies. Domain names are a good example. No matter how long tail your keyword is, or how less the competition, you are bound to see Godaddy.com listed in the number 1 position for any keywords containing domains or domain names.

  12. James White says:

    I asked myself the same question in the past “How can this fu**in’ guy can rank as high as this in a few weeks ?!”

    And like everyone I bought one of these products which is only BS..! Now I know how to recognize them :)

    Please Guys don’t do the same errors as everyone !

    Thanks for this useful post :)

  13. Do not get me started on this kind of BS, I am fed up with hearing some chump shout about how quick/brilliant/easy it is to rank/market/profit from any of their SEO crap products.

    Anyone who’s half way clued up can easily find 99% of the info they parcel up in every smaller eBooks online FOR FREE! The rest of it is either not worth knowing or easily deduced if you know most of the stuff anyway.

    We got took by one so called “Guru” for an eBook that was full of BS and then they wouldn’t honour their own money back guarantee, currently with our lawyers, but in the meantime we evened the score…

    How can you trust these yoyos when they can’t even protect their own products? Are they so cynical that they think they can just leave them wide open to be found on their own servers and then charge people for them?

  14. The term Guru is commonly banded about is the SEO communtiy. Its usually the case that they have just read a couple of books and never tried and tested strategies in a live environment.

  15. gadgets says:

    This is an ideal goal of the bloggers or googler occupy the first position. need to work hard and smart to reach out

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