Using Competitors for Advanced Keyword Research

Using Competitors for Advanced Keyword Research

by Spencer Haws

Here are our goals with this lesson:

  • Find a few good competitors
  • Find 3-5 extremely profitable keywords
  • Increase the volume of keywords we’re finding
  • Look at our competitors to find keywords with better odds of success

Why finding competitors is critical…

If you remember the last lesson, we chatted a bit about why seeing a few good competitors in your market is a good thing. Basically, if you see competitors doing well in your market, it’s a REALLY good sign that you can do well, too.

However, having a lineup of competitors you can research provides you with a lot more than just confidence.

By researching competitors, you can also get all of this awesome stuff:

  • Amazing, obscure keywords
  • A list of the most profitable keywords on websites that already exist in your market
  • Lists of your competitor’s competitors, which gives you even more sites to look at
  • Examples of content strategies that have been proven to work
    Link opportunities you may not have known about

In other words, most of the time, researching your competitors will tell you EXACTLY what you should be doing.

If you have a list of just 3-5 competitors in your market—sites that are doing exactly what you want to be doing—it’s basically like having an instruction manual.

All you need is the right research tools (more on this below).
Let’s talk about how to find them…

First, what kind of competitors should I look for?

There are three types of competitors: large, medium and small. Here’s what that means:

  • Large competitor: A site that is both bigger and more authoritative than you can expect your site to be in about a year. So, if you think your site will have 100 articles and a domain authority (DA) of 40 in a year’s time, a large competitor would have more than 100 articles and have a DA in the 50s or above.
  • Medium competitor. A medium competitor will be similar in both size and authority to your site (in about a year’s time).
  • Small competitors. These are sites that will have less content and authority than your site in a year’s time. So, if we’re still using the example above, small competitors would have fewer than 100 articles and a DA below 30.

These aren’t hard and fast rules, but you get the idea.

When you’re looking for competitors, you need at least one big one, at least one small one, and several medium competitors. Why? Well, mostly because you’ll be using them for different things.

Your medium competitors will be most useful by far, since you can basically copy most of what they’re doing. If they are the same size and authority of your site, you can be relatively sure that if you employ the same strategies, you can capture some of that same market. I typically keep a list of around 5 medium-sized competitors.

Your small competitors are going to be used to get you started. These guys are going to have low authority, so any keywords they’re actually ranking for will be very low competition.

Finally, your large competitors will be kept in your back pocket for later. After you gain some authority, you’ll want to transition to the keywords, content strategies and business plans your largest competitors are using.
So how do you find them?

Finding competitors using Google

One of the simplest ways to find competitors is just to use Google.
I like to type in an obvious keyword that someone in my market would probably be trying to rank for. As an example, if I wanted to start a hunting site, I might Google “best hunting rifle.”

Then, I’d use Mozbar to check the DA of all the sites listed on the first and second pages. I’d organize the sites by DA and put them into small, medium and large categories.

I’d then filter them out by the quality of site and keep the best-looking ones.
My sites usually end up being around DA35 in a year’s time, so I spend the most time gathering sites with 50-200 pages of content with a DA between 30 and 45. These are the medium competitors, and they’re most important. But I also find at least one big one (usually around 2-3) and at least one small one.
However, it’s not the most efficient way to find competitors…

Finding competitors using SEM Rush

My favorite way to find competitors is to use SEM Rush.

As long as you have one, good, medium-sized competitor, SEM Rush will automatically generate a bunch of competitors for you. You’ll also be able to see which have the most traffic—plus a bunch of other cool stuff.

Most of the time, you’ll have at least one competitor in mind when you go into a market. But if you don’t, just use the method above to snag one.
Here’s how:

  • Go to
  • Plug your competitor’s URL into the search box
  • Click “Overview” in the left sidebar
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page
  • Control + Click on “Competitors in Organic Search”
  • Control + Click on “Competition Graph” (same section, small print, bottom of the box)

This should give you a MASSIVE list of competitors. It should also help you visualize which competitors are the most relevant and have the most traffic.

Ok, ok, great. But how do you USE your competitors?

The best way to use your competitors, by far, is for keyword research.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just plug your competitors into a tool and see EVERY SINGLE KEYWORD they were ranking for?

You can!

And that’s exactly why I love SEM Rush.
Here’s how:

  • Plug your competitor into SEM Rush
  • Click “Positions” in the left sidebar

And that’s it!

You’ll be able to see literally every keyword they are ranking for. And this is SUPER useful.

Why? Because you can see exactly how much traffic each keyword is bringing in.

When you combine this with Long Tail Pro, this is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Honestly, it cuts your risk in HALF.

We wrote a whole blog post about this here (it includes a tutorial video), and it goes into much greater detail, but in general, these are the types of keywords you should be watching out for:

  • Keywords that are ranking in the top 5 for that also look good in Long Tail Pro
  • Keywords that are ranking on the second page for that still bring in lots of traffic

That’s it for this lesson!

Remember, there’s a much more detailed version of this material in the blog post mentioned above.

Tools mentioned in this lesson

How to Pick a Market & Find Your First Keywords

How to Pick a Market & Find Your First Keywords

by Spencer Haws

Picking a market is absolutely vital to creating a site that actually brings in some revenue.

And it’s not easy!

There are also about a million things to consider. A lot of them depend on the type of site you want to build. So before you pick a market, you should be asking yourself (at least) these questions:

• Most important: Are there plenty good keywords?
• Do I want to build a large site or a small one?
• How do I want to monetize?
• Is it absolutely clear there’s money being spent in this market?
• Are there several good competitors I can emulate?
• Is it important to me to write about something I’m passionate about?

Let’s go over each of these in detail.

Are there plenty of keywords?

For me, this is one of the most important things to consider—mostly because keyword research is what I’m best at. My whole niche site business has been built almost entirely on keyword research.

Don’t get me wrong: all the other stuff helps. However, even before I know about that stuff, great keyword research was making me money.

So, when I head off to build a new site, I fire up Long Tail Pro and check for keywords. Why? Because I’ve learned a few things over the years:

• Keywords consistently surprise me. It never fails. I’ll think I have some good ideas, and they turn out to be terrible keywords. And I’ll think some keywords are way too competitive, but they turn out to be fantastic.
• Finding good long tail keywords have been the single biggest source of revenue in every single site I’ve ever built. So why not start there?

Depending on the type of site you want to build, you may need a few keywords, or you may need a bunch. For the site I’m currently building, I used Long Tail Pro to find almost 1,000 profitable keywords before I did anything else. I knew it was going to be a big site, so I wanted to be 100% certain I could find enough keywords to support it.

Here are a few blog posts to help you get started researching keywords:
How to Do Keyword Research for Authority Sites
How to Rank in Google: The Beginner’s Ultimate Guide
Good and Bad Examples of Low Competition Keywords

Do I want to build a large site or a small one?

This will probably depend on a few key factors: (1) how much work you want to put in and (2) how much time and money you have to invest.

Of course, a large site has the potential to make much, much more money. But not everyone has the skills, time or money to create one. So to some people, building a smaller site may be a more attractive option. And that’s cool!

I personally like to build authority sites because I like bigger businesses and bigger paychecks. But small niche sites still work just fine, and they can be a good way to get your feet wet, learn SEO and earn a bit of money.

Here’s how this plays into picking a market.

If you want to build a large site…

Pick a bigger, broader market. A lot of the time, these are going to be markets that most people think are “competitive.” For example, we know plenty of people crushing it in the health market. Obviously, the health market has thousands of blogs.

But it’s still a great market to enter. Why? Well, (1) there are tons of keywords; (2) there are tons of different categories you could add to any site; and (3) there are many, many opportunities to make friends, which gets you links. If you want to build a big site, look for bigger markets (just stay away from super spammy ones—casinos, pills, payday loans, etc.).

If you want to build a smaller site…

Pick a super-specific micro-niche in a bigger market. Basically, you want to pick a niche in which you can write 15 solid articles on some very specific thing that is part of a larger market. If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you’ll know that one of my very first niche sites was about buffalo nickels.

That’s really, really specific! It’s also a sub-niche in a much larger market: coin collecting. In other words, if your goal is to build a smaller site, go to specificity. Shoot for a sub-niche in a big market. All you need is about 15 great keywords to make this work.

How do I want to monetize?

Sometimes, it won’t matter, but if you have a particular monetization method you’re good at, you’ll want to choose a market in which you can really leverage those skills.

For example, I’m good at AdSense and Amazon. So most of my sites are built to capture the kind of traffic that converts on those platforms.

But there are plenty of other ways to monetize:
• ClickBank
• Private affiliate programs
• Selling your own products
• Lead generation
• Selling advertising space
• And a bunch more

If you do have a monetization method you prefer, you’ll need to choose a market (and keywords!) that jives with that platform. For example, if you want to use Amazon to monetize, your site should be about a product your readers can find on Amazon.

Is there clearly money being spent in this market?

This gets overlooked far too often. You can’t just pick any market, set up a site and hope to make money. Even if you used Long Tail Pro to find a batch of great keywords, you may not make any money at all if there’s no money being spent in the market.

Here’s a quick example: I knew of a gal who had a recipes website. She was making about $5,000 per month. Sounds great right? Anyone would be happy with that. I know I would. But, she had over one million visitors per month. A million!

Not only is that an insanely low revenue-per-visitor, but it’s also impossible to achieve that level of success for the average site builder. For most people, lading on a site that big is like getting into the NFL. It’s the top 0.001%. Plus, it took her years and years to build. That’s not what we do here.

By contrast, Perrin, my full-time employee, created a shaving site that was earning $4,000 per month with 50,000 visitors—or about 5% of the traffic.

The major difference between those two sites is that there are loads of people spending money in the shaving market. There are relatively few people spending money in the recipe market.

And that makes sense right? If you want to find a recipe, you look it up, write it down, and leave the site. The visitor looking for a recipe is much, much different than the visitor looking to buy something.

Here are a few ways to check to see if there is money being spent in the market:
• Is the advertiser competition for keywords high?
• Is the CPC for keywords high?
• Are there a lot of ClickBank products in this market?
• Are there plenty of big sites/blogs?
• Is there lots of high-volume products on Amazon?

Are there several good competitors for me to emulate?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this to Niche Pursuits readers: COMPETITION IS GOOD!

Seriously… I would never, ever go into any market in which there was no competition. Why? Because if there is no competition, it almost always means that there is no money in that market!

I would also mean that there is no one for me to emulate. And emulation is one of the most powerful business strategies you have at your disposal.

If you build a site that emulates (not copies!) a competitor, you’re going to be making decisions based on what you already know is successful for someone else. That’s a much, much better option than just building something from scratch willy-nilly.

It gives you much better odds.

An even better thing to do would be to find several good competitors and emulate the things each of them are doing well while making improvements of your own.

After keyword research, this is one of the first things I do before building any new site: find some good competitors!

In the next email, I’ll show you how to analyze these competitors and siphon some of their best keywords. So stay tuned!

Is it important to me to write about something I’m passionate about?
I wanted to include this because it’s really important for some people.

Personally, my passion is SEO and business, so I can go into any market and have a good time, since no matter what I do, I’ll be applying SEO and business tactics.

For some people, though, investing a bunch of time into something they’re not passionate about is really tough, and it can be difficult to get motivated.

If that’s you, don’t sweat it! Just be sure to pick a market you really have an interest in. And don’t be afraid to take a couple weeks to find one. Trust me… it’ll be worth it.

Here’s what’s coming in the next lesson…
• Advanced keyword research
• How to find good competitors
• How to analyze your competition
• How to siphon your competition’s best keywords and tactics

Tools mentioned in this lesson
Long Tail Pro

Affiliate Beware: 11 Things NOT-To-Do With Amazon’s Associate Program

What most people don’t know is that I’ve also done Amazon Affiliates for over five years and have actually sold quite a few successful websites.

Over at MonetizePros, my team and I have been teaching people how to create a blog and as a part of that, I’ve built up a huge list of Amazon Affiliate niches that we’ll soon be sharing with our readers (and Niche Hacks readers).

During the process of finding those 1,000+ niches and keywords, I manually visited and inspected over 2,500 different Amazon Affiliate websites and the majority of them repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

What You’ll Learn

  • The common mistakes Amazon affiliates make
  • How to avoid being banned from Amazons Associates program
  • The best type of content and call to actions for affiliate marketing
  • Branding yourself to look more credible and trustworthy

Here’s a NOT-To-Do List for Amazon Affiliates

1. Listing Prices

This is a big one.

There’s two reasons you should avoid this.

First of all, it can get you banned from Amazon Associates.

They change their prices very often and most affiliate marketers don’t update old posts on their niche sites as often, so products get misrepresented.

That’s why Amazon has made it a rule that you’re not allowed to state exact prices in your content.

It’s tempting, because they sometimes offer crazy discounts – but it’s not worth the risk.

Secondly, one of the best ways to get click-throughs is through curiosity.

The majority of my Amazon Affiliate clicks come from review posts, where I’ve added a button after listing all of the pro’s of the product, asking to “check the price on”.

If you mention the price right away, they’ve lost one reason to click to Amazon and you’ve lost a potential 24-hour cookie that might lead to a sale.

2. Not Linking to Amazon

I cannot even believe I’ve got to list this but it’s an extremely common problem.

We’ve all started to write “skyscraper” content as our homepages but many marketers seem to forget to link from the products listed on that page.

Every time you mention a product name, every time you have a picture of a product and every time you’ve said something amazing about it – include a call to action and a link to Amazon.

I know some people are afraid of getting penalized for having too many affiliate links but it’s really not that big of a problem, especially if you nofollow the links.

In an average product review I tend to have at least one link to Amazon per 100 words and that’s fine with Google.

3. Not Nofollowing Affiliate Links

Doing SEO for niche sites is pretty tough (unless you’ve read this post) because links tend to be harder to obtain.

That’s why it’s critical to have your on-page SEO in perfect order.

Even though we really can’t take this guy seriously, Google’s Matt Cutts has stated again and again that all of the affiliate links on your website should be nofollow.

Well, screw him, that’s not the main reason why we’re doing it.

The problem is that in Amazon niches you’re often competing with Amazon product pages themselves and as you probably know – there’s nothing worse than linking to your competitors!

Nofollow your links and stop making Amazon’s product pages more powerful than your own site.

4. Not Investing In Design

Just because we have this amazing opportunity of starting a business for only fifty dollars a year, doesn’t mean that it’s the smartest way of doing it.

Amazon affiliate websites have been popular among marketers for 7-8 years now and trust me, the average person is starting to recognize them.

Stop using the default WordPress theme and text-headers or Fiverr logos.

Stop copy pasting your iWriter articles in the editor and hitting publish.

Think about the design of your website, the design of your content and the “image” of your site.

Whether this means investing in a good, premium WordPress theme or hiring an actual designer is up to you, but something needs to change.

Having a professional-looking affiliate site will help you:

  • Get higher conversion rates
  • Attract more backlinks
  • Give you more opportunities for link-building

5. Leaving Dates On your Articles

This is a much bigger deal than you may think.

You should hide the dates on all of your reviews and articles.

Most of the stuff you’ll post on the site is evergreen, but that’s not the way the customer will see it.

If you’re looking to buy a new keyboard and read a glowing review from 2013, that’s not going to convince you.

In those three years, hundreds and hundreds of better, upgraded keyboards have come out and your stuff is irrelevant.

Delete the dates and most people will not even question it.

Your content is taken seriously.

6. Posting Too Short Content

Back in 2012, affiliate marketing was super easy.

You order a 500 word article for $5, add a picture and your affiliate link and with a little bit of effort, you’ll be ranking for your super-secret longtail keyword.

In 2016 this doesn’t really work anymore, yet so many people are still doing it.

Why are pillar articles as homepages so popular? Because it works?

Just look at The Wirecutter, likely one of the biggest Amazon Affiliate websites. Every single review and post they write is upwards of 4,000 words, sometimes even over 10,000.

Put your longtail keywords into groups and write one big 2,000 word article on the subject and do some link-building.

Your traffic will increase substantially. (See Stuart’s 101 traffic hacks for more traffic)

No post should be under 1,000 words and when you do a content audit on your site, you’ll see that it probably makes sense to go in and delete a lot of the crap you posted a few years ago.

7. EMD Instead of Brand

Exact match domain names still work in 2016, there’s no doubt about that.

Even after Google devalued them, when you look at the top results for low competition keywords, the benefits are still obvious.

In spite of that, it’s still a short-sighted approach to creating an Amazon Affiliate business.

First of all, it makes it super obvious to a customer in 2016 that you’re just doing it for the affiliate commission and your content cannot be trusted.

Combine it with a few other mistakes from this post and you’ll be seeing a conversion rate around 2-5%.

Secondly, it heavily limits the potential of your website.

An EMD locks you down in one niche and there’s not much you can do about it.

Go with a brand name and once you’ve dominated your initial niche, you’ve got plenty of room (and authority) to tackle other markets.

For example, if your initial niche is electric guitars, don’t start with “” but go for something like “”

8. No Social Proof

Social proof is huge when you’re doing research on something.

If you see that other people trust a resource, you’re more likely to trust them as well.

When you’ve created a Facebook fan page for your niche site and have three likes on it (you, your mom and your dog) then please don’t add it to the sidebar of your website.

It’s basically screaming to the reader that they’re one of the first people to ever listen to you and it makes them insecure.

The second social proof aspect is comments.

A lot of niche sites show their most recent posts in the sidebar and there’s a little bubble showing the amount of comments – it tends to be zero.

Getting legitimate comments on niche sites is pretty hard until you’ve hit #1 for your main keywords.

There’s an easy work-around for this.

Go to your WordPress comments manager, click edit on any spam comment that someone has left and delete their website link, change the comment, add a new name and write your own comment!

Try to add at least 3-4 fake comments for each post you publish and people will not only trust the site a little more, they’ll also be more likely to leave a comment themselves.

9. Keyword Stuffing

Yes, it’s great for SEO to have your big pages named with keywords and it’s even better to have them in the menu with keywords as internal links.

But it’s not worth it.

Sure you may get a little better rankings from this little “trick” but it kills the user experience of the site in most cases and makes it look spammy for a visitor. (Stop users from bouncing off with this copywriting technique)

Stick to the basics and use categories like “Start Here” “Price Ranges” “Brands” “Reviews” “How-To” “Accessories” and so on and so forth.

Getting more visitors is great but there’s no point in it if your site is impossible to navigate and looks spammy – we’re after sales not traffic numbers, after all.

10. Not Having Affiliate Disclosure

This is another easy way to get your Amazon Affiliate account banned.

Every single website that promotes even one product from Amazon has to have the affiliate disclosure.

I usually add it to the footer of my website in a small font, but it’s also okay to create a separate “disclosure” page.

Here’s the text you have to add:

[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (].”

11. Only Having Reviews

If your website looks like one long sales page instead of a resource for buyers, most people are going to hit the back button immediately.

Make sure that you’ve also got educational content about your niche.

For most of these, you still have the option to monetize the post but through other methods (i.e. Clickbank).

If you’ve got a website about digital pianos, write a few posts about how to play the piano.

Explain it as much as possible and in the end you can promote a piano playing course through Clickbank.

This makes your site look like a legitimate resource, shows Google that you’re an authority and not just posting about products and it’s an opportunity to generate more traffic in your niche.

Although these visitors will not have high buyer intent, a lot of them will still end up reading your other articles and getting your Amazon cookie.

Final Words

While it may be easy to break these rules, it’s definitely not worth risking your associates account over.

Many have gone through the horror of reading that email from Amazon “We regret to inform you…” (You can imagine the rest).

These are simple to follow, but yet common mistakes that many affiliates make.

by Karl Kangur

Looking for Niche Website Ideas? Go to the Source of the Money…

There are plenty of good places to find niche website keywords, but one great place is to figure out who is spending the most money online and go there.

The idea behind this is simple, if you know which industries or companies are spending lots of money online, then you can drill down and figure out some keywords that may be highly valuable (and yes, some still have low competition).

This study by eMarketer, shows that the highest spending industries online are: Retail, Telecom, Financial Services, Automotive, and Computing Products. So, you can bet that if you can find some keywords related to these industries, they can be very high paying!

But let me even take it a step further here. Lets be honest – “retail” is a very broad industry – this could be anything from Tupperware to Toilet Paper. There are billions of retail products, so you would have to do a lot of work to figure out a great “niche” still.

However, as I look at these industries, Telecom for example looks a little more narrow. I could think to myself, “Which companies are in the Telecom Industry?”. I might come up with a list like: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and others.

Then I could think which specific products do these companies make or offer? Now I could come up with some great seed keywords like: cordless phones, wireless service, Verizon iPhone plan, HTC Mobile Phone, Samsung Epic, and many others.

These would all be great place to start some keyword research. Then as you drilled down even further and expanded your keyword lists; you are sure to find some very interesting and HIGH PAYING niches.

Anyway, hope this gives you some great ideas! As always, best of luck in your research for those hidden gems – and if you have any other great ideas for finding niche keyword ideas, let me know!

— Spencer Haws —

Google Algorithm Update (October 2016)

Recently Google confirmed on their Webmaster Central Blog the update of Google core algorithm. A few weeks before, Webmasters and SEO specialists have noticed the never seen before changes in search results.

The SEO community had assumed that Google is testing Penguin in the wild, so the update itself has become not a bombshell, but its results are important for online businesses and websites.

Let’s just recall what Penguin actually means. Google initially rolled out the Penguin Algorithm in April 2012 to control spamming sites. In particular, its goal is to identify and pessimize the sites that boost Google rankings for unnatural looking anchor texts, used in backlinks. The last time Google released a Penguin update over 700 days ago.

According to the official come out the updated algorithm has a few key amendments. Let us make clear what actually has changed and what consequences would follow:

  1. Penguin has become an integral part of core Google Algorithm. So the SEO community was close in the guesses, but here we would like to stress that Google had updated the core algorithm in general and the changes are not limited to Penguin share only.
  2. Penguin is real-time now. That means that since now, webmasters and site owners should be able to see changes at the same time as Google re-crawls the link profile for a particular website and re-evaluates the rankings.
  3. Naturally looking backlink profile has become even more important. The more Google improves, the more natural should backlink profile look like.

What else should you know?

Link building works! That’s exactly why Search Engines devote so much attention to that part. So keep your link building natural, select and create proper anchors and extend your link profile by the most efficient way.