How to Quickly Determine Keyword Competition

Knowing keyword competition is one step to a great keyword strategy

There’s an article you want to write, and you’re diving into your Keyword Universe – a giant spreadsheet that’s filled with columns of  keywords. Unfortunately on this day, there are keywords you want to use, but you have no idea how much competition is out there.

Fortunately, you can easily determine the competition on these keyword phrases. Go to and search for your keyword in quotes. Below the search box, Google will deliver the number of pages that are competing for that keyword.

What you really want to know though, is what the heck you’re supposed to do with that number. Typically the lower this number the better, and for new or unknown sites we recommend targeting keywords that have less than 100,000 competing pages. If they have less than 10,000 keywords and a substantial amount of search volume, that’s typically what we call a blockbuster keyword phrase.

Blockbuster keyword phrases are typically saved for free white papers and other products that we can build landing pages around. We save these great keywords for these pages/products because our main goal is to build an email list, so we want to send the most traffic to those list-building pages.

To really determine which phrases would be “blockbusters”, we look at the Keyword Competitive Index (KCI). The KCI is a simple formula that takes the potential annual search volume for a keyword phrase and divides it by the amount of exact Google listings for that keyword: Annual Search Volume/Exact Google Listings.

The higher the KCI, the better chance you have of ranking on the term. If you can find keyword phrases with a KCI of one or higher, it means there’s more search volume than exact Google listings. These are the type of keyword phrases worth targeting, especially if they are highly relevant to your audience and have high search volume. Typically our blockbuster keywords have a KCI of one or much, much higher.

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How to quickly determine your competition and KCI

Keyword strategy tip #1: Determine the potential annual search volume. Go to the  Google Keyword Tool and enter the keyword phrase into the “words or phrases” box. Conduct the search and then make sure the “exact” match type is selected on the left.

Keyword strategy tip #2: Discover the amount of Google listings for the keyword. To do this, follow the same step as I mentioned previously by entering the keyword into the Google search box with quotation marks around it.

Keyword strategy tip #3: Do the math. Look at the column in the Google Keyword Tools that tells you the exact match monthly searches and multiply that number by 12 to get the annual number of searches. Now, to get the KCI of this term, divide the annual search volume by the exact number of Google listings you found.

This number usually tends to be something like 0.15 or .91. If it’s more than one, it means that you have more people searching for the term than are competing for it.

Whether you have a keyword universe already in use, or you’re new to the project, it’s important to begin by exploring possibilities. What are your main website topics? Are they accurately covered?

Keyword tools are obviously very helpful to online editors, writers and audience development professionals. However, beyond tools, a proven strategy for executing, tracking and analyzing your keyword clusters will help you increase visibility, traffic and conversions.

If you’d like to discover your keyword universe, we can teach you how to do it or maintain your keyword reporting for you. For more information, contact Ann-Marie by email or phone at 617-886-5177.


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