SEO Competition analysis in Market Samurai

You’ve done your keyword research, you’ve identified some keywords and phrases within your niche which have the potential to bring traffic, but how difficult will it be to actually rank for them?

While the keyword research module in Market Samurai provides some basic competition data to research keywords in bulk, when you want to pick your primary keywords, you really need to fire up the SEO Competition module. It will provide all the necessary intelligence to make an informed decision. The SEO Competition module shows exactly how strong the top 10 ranking pages are.


But again, as with so many modules of Market Samurai, the amount of data can be a bit intimidating. And so, the purpose of this tutorial is to explain the meaning of all statistics provided in the SEO Competition module. What is essential, what is less important and what you can safely ignore while picking your keywords.

SEO Competition explained

Let’s start with two basic facts:

  1. SEO Competition module works on a keyword by keyword basis. It’s not a bulk research tool. You can get basic competition information for many keywords at a time in the Keyword Research module.
  2. Market Samurai uses color codes to help you navigate the numbers and stats it provides. Green means “weak competition”, yellow means “medium-strength” competition and red is “strong competition, difficult to outrank”.

After you generate results for your keyword, the screen will look similar to this one:

SEO Competition module in Market Samurai

Use SEO Competition for in-depth analysis of competition strength

As you can see, it’s a color map. The greener it is, the easier it will be to rank for your term. And to the contrary, the more red color you see, the less chance you will have. However, not all columns (and pieces of information) are made equal. Some factors are essential and difficult to achieve (to outrank strong competitors), while others can be matched in a few minutes.

I will break it one by one for you.

Market Samurai allows you to choose what pieces of stats you want to gather, splitting it to “Off page” (more difficult to achieve and emulate, much more important) and “On Page” (easy to emulate, less important).

Off page factors include:

Domain Age (DA)

Off page competition factors

The first column shows the most important information: domain age, pagerank and page backlinks

The general rule of thumb says that aged domains will rank better than the new ones, even with a lot less backlinks. Quite simply, a domain needs some time to mature in the eyes of Google.

As a result, if you want to start with a fresh domain, and all top 10 spots are occupied by well-aged domains, you’re up for a huge challenge. You should consider buying an aged domain for yourself. Domain Age is one of the most important factors I take into account in my research.

PageRank (PR)

While PageRank may be misleading (Google rarely updates the public PR values) and pages with lower PR often outrank pages with higher PR (as in my example – TOP1 page is only PR4, and yet it is ahead of some PR7s and PR6s), if all results in the top10 have solid PR, it’s a very good indicator that a niche will be difficult to get into.

On the contrary, if there are at least 3 pages in the top10 with PR of 0 or 1, you will have a much better chance of ranking well.

Google Index Count (IC)

This column shows the number of pages from a particular domain that Google reports in its index. I don’t find this statistic particularly useful and often keep it turned off to declutter my screen.

Page Backlinks (BLP)

Of all pieces of information reported in the SEO Competition module, this is arguably the most important one. However, it is also the one which can be easily the most misleading, so it deserves a more detailed discussion.

Generally, to rank well, you need a lot of backlinks. And it should be backlinks to a particular page that you want in the result. If it is an internal page, than you should have a lot of pages to this internal page.

First of all, Market Samurai currently supports two providers of backlink data: Yahoo and Majestic SEO. Yahoo is the legacy source which have been used for years. However, Yahoo is about to shut down the service which provides backlink data very soon. This leaves Majestic SEO as the only long term solution. Incidentally, it’s a good thing as Majestic SEO provides much more reliable data. Just keep in mind – you can’t compare results from these two sources, and Majestic SEO will almost always report much higher numbers.

On the other hand, while high count of page backlinks is a strong indicator that a page is highly competitive, it’s not always the case. There are three cases when you can easily compete against a page with high page backlink count:

  1. Especially with homepages, a huge percentage of links may be in the form of images, actual url of a website or its name, i.e. they don’t include the anchor text that you’re trying to compete for (use an arrow next to an url in the table to expand a menu where you can analyze anchor text and pagerank of backlinks).
  2. Similar to no. 1, your competing page may be targeting other keywords actively and rank for your specific keyword more by accident than intentional effort. Use anchor analysis and on-page analysis to determine if that’s the case.
  3. It often happens with huge backlink counts that backlinks are of very low quality, generated using automated tools. It’s perfectly possible to beat such pages with a lot less but stronger backlinks.

Domain Backlinks (BLD)

Even though it seems to be similar to Page Backlinks, it’s a very different thing and way less important for rankings. BLD is a count of all backlinks to any page of a given domain. With long-tail keywords, it happens quite often that a website has millions of BLD, but its internal page which is ranking for your keyword has zero or only a few page backlinks. You can safely disregard high BLD count and make a decision based on BLP.

Page .edu/.gov Backlinks (BLEG)

This is rather self-explanatory. Market Samura reports the number of page backlinks from either .edu or .gov domains which according to some theories carry more weight than regular backlinks, and as such, are reported separately.

DMOZ Directory (DMZ)

This column tells you if a given domain is listed in the DMOZ directory. If it is, it is more likely to be perceived as an authority site by Google and rank well even with less backlinks than competing sites.

Yahoo Directory (YAH)

Explanation is exactly as above, with the only difference that instead of DMOZ directory, this column shows if a domain is listed in the Yahoo Directory. Because of paid and costly inclusion, combined with strict editorial guidelines, domains listed here often rank very well and are perceived by Google as authority sites.

On Page factors include:

Title, URL, Desc, Head

On page factors

On page factors are easy to emulate, but they still show you if your competitors are optimized for your keyword.

These four columns tell your whether each website ranking in the top10 has your targeted keyword in its title tag, URL, meta description tag and header (h1, h2 etc.) tag. Websites well optimized for your keyword will usually include that keyword in these tags, as these are the most important on-page SEO factors.

As a rule of thumb, if on-page factors are not optimized for your keyword, it is more than likely that the anchor text of backlinks will not be optimized for that keyword either.

Google Cache Age (CA)

This column  shows you the number of days since Google last reindexed it. Generally, the more important Google considers a given website, the more frequently it will recrawl it. If  many pages in the top10 have high CA values (more than 10 days), it is a good indicator that you may have a good chance to rank with fresh, solid content.

About Marcin

I'm passionate about technology, especially SEO. I love how fast-paced this environment is. I also love numbers, finding hidden gems in statistics, and coming with unexpected solutions to typical problems.

3 Responses to SEO Competition analysis in Market Samurai

  1. Alan March 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Awesome stuff, I just started a website not quite long ago and got confused with the data, but your stuff reali helps me with understanding the data in market samurai, cheers!!

  2. dan April 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Currently learning market samurai and this post was helpful…was wondering if you could clarify this sentence in the post:

    “If it is an internal page, than you should have a lot of pages to this internal page.”

    Do you mean a lot of internal links, or external links?? not sure what a lot of pages to this internal page means!

    Thanks!!

    • Marcin April 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Hi Dan,

      actually, both types of links are useful, but external links are more powerful. I meant mostly external links in that sentence.

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