Google search How to Assess Keyword Competition Using Advanced Search Operators

How to Assess Keyword Competition Using Advanced Search Operators

By Kevin DalPorto –

Keyword research is important when you want to find new areas of growth and increase traffic to your site, but deciding which terms to focus your efforts on can be a complicated task. Before you start to target a new keyword, it’s crucial to estimate how much time and effort it will take to achieve high rankings for each search term, along with how much value each keyword has.  Knowing this will help you prioritize your list and only go after terms that will yield the best possible outcome.

You can accomplish this by looking at two things, competition (difficulty to rank), and potential value (search volume).  Potential value is easy to measure using the Google Keyword Planner tool, but difficulty to rank is more complex to calculate.

The easiest way to measure difficulty to rank is to perform a Google search and see how many pages are indexed for each of your keywords:

Google Search Keywords - Education

But this is extremely broad and usually returns several millions results, making it next to impossible to truly assess keyword difficulty. In order to get a more realistic idea of the competition, you want to focus only on pages that have been optimized for the search engines.

To get a more accurate number you can use two of Google’s advanced search operators to return more targeted results:

Google Search Operator - allintitle: education

allintitle:keyword – returns only pages where the keyword is used in the title tag

Google Search Operator - allinurl: Education

allinurl:keyword – returns only pages where the keyword is used in the URL


This information is much more useful than a basic Google search because it removes the noise and lets you see only websites that have optimized their titles & urls, giving us a clearer picture of the competition.

Now that you’ve focused on a keyword’s competition based on title & url, the next step is to prioritize your list of keywords and target the ones that have a combination of high search volume and low competition. I started with a list of 20 keywords and narrowed the list down to the top 5.

Keyword Research - 20 top education keywords - nursing

Avg. Monthly Searches = Keyword’s search volume from Google Keyword Planner

URL Competition = Number of results returned for an allinurl: search

Title Tag Competition = Number of results returned for an allintitle: search

In order to find the keywords that have the highest search volume and the lowest competition calculate the “opportunity” for both title & url. Keywords with the highest “opportunity” have the greatest chance of getting on page one of Google, relative to search volume. Opportunity provides a balance between search volume and competitiveness.

Keyword Competition - 20 top education keywords opportunity - nursing

URL Opportunity = Avg. Monthly Searches divided by URL Competition

Title Tag Opportunity = Avg. Monthly Searches divided by Title Tag Competition

As an added step, you can add extra weight to either URL or Title Tag Opportunity by multiplying by a given percentage, if you think one gives off a stronger ranking signal than the other.

Once you have URL Opportunity & Title Tag Opportunity, calculate the Full Opportunity by adding the two together.

20 top education keywords full opportunity - nursing

Full Opportunity = URL Opportunity + Title Tag Opportunity

Full Opportunity shows the big picture in regard to difficulty to rank for a term based on title tag & url optimization, while maximizing the potential for traffic based on monthly search volume.

To prioritize your list and select the top 5 keywords, just sort Full Opportunity from High to Low.

Top 5 education keywords ranked - nursing

Please keep in mind this is just one method for determining keyword difficulty; there are several other factors to consider when trying to assess the competition for a given term, such as:

  • Quality of the page content
  • Moz Page Authority
  • Moz Domain Authority
  • Number of external links pointing to each ranking page
  • Number of domains linking to each ranking page
  • Social metrics (Facebook & Twitter shares)

Using this method, I provide clients with keywords to develop new content around, whether blog posts or new pages within their websites. I also use this method when suggesting reoptimization for existing pages that are performing poorly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *