I’m not going to go in to a huge amount of detail about keyword research other than to say that you should be using Google’s AdWords keyword tool when trying to determine which keywords to target and using only the “exact” match results. You should typically be going after searches for which you expect to be able to reach the top 3 positions and you should determine the commercial viability of targeting these keywords based on the fact that roughly 42% of the visitors to Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will visit the top listed website.
Never target a keyword where you aren’t confident about hitting the front page at an absolute minimum as 90%+ of searchers never go further than the first page of results. For my keyword research I use Market Samurai for everything and although it’s not as good as it used to be thanks to some of the restrictions put in place recently by Google on the keyword data, I would still never dream of doing it manually.
For analysis of back links, Yahoo site explorer used to be the main source of data but this is no longer reliable so now I use the free membership of Majestic SEO. Even if you’re not performing regular competitive analysis yourself, it’s always worth registering your own domains on this site as, once verified, they allow you to run advanced reporting on them as you would be able to do for any domain with one of their premium memberships. If you do decide that you want an advanced report from them but you don’t want to pay for membership, you might be able to buy an individual report for a domain from a serviceprovider on a website like Fiverr.com.
When analysing the competition of keywords, nothing else matters other than the relative competition of the top 10 results. Some people talk about using the number of competing websites, the number of websites with the exact search phrase within their title and other metrics as indicating measurements of competition but all it really comes down to is the authority and relevance of the websites currently listed in the top 10.
If you can match and exceed these sites, your website can be listed on the front page. If you can’t beat these sites, move on.
More SEO Knowledge uploaded next week.