One of the most common questions that I get from people is whether or not its easy to beat eCommerce sites on the first page of Google. More specifically, if all the first page results in Google are site like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, or other eCommerce results, can these be outranked?
Today, I am going to dig into why I always avoid competing for a keyword when all the results are eCommerce sites, even if all the metrics point to it being an easy to rank for keyword. That's right, even if all the pages have very few juice page links, low Page Authority, or other poor metrics, I will still usually avoid these keywords.
In addition, are there other circumstances when these SEO “rules” don't apply? In fact, there is. I think its important to not only analyze the metrics of the top 10 sites, but to analyze the TYPES of results you are seeing and whether there is some sort of PATTERN. Let's dig into this…
The Standard SEO “Rules”
I've covered many times in the past how I analyze the top 10 results in Google. In a nutshell, if you can find weak competition, you can outrank these other sites by doing these things better than them. Here is what I look at:
- Target keywords where not all the results are using the exact keyword in the title.
- At least 2 of the top 10 results have less than 30 Juice Page links (0 links preferred)
- At least 2 of the results with less than 30 backlinks also have a Page Authority less than 30. Or you can look for results that have a low PageRank (0 preferred) – but Page Authority is a better metric. Meaning 2 results need to have a Page Authority of 30 or less AND have less than 10 links.
- Target results with weak types of sites (article directories, forums, yahoo answers, etc.).
- Target results where ranking pages are NOT root domains.
- Or if you are using Long Tail Platinum, you can just try to look for results that have a KC (Keyword Competitiveness) of 35 or less. Less than 30 is great. The platinum KC calculation takes into account most of the other points I made above (Page Authority, links, relevancy, etc.)
So, for MOST keywords, if you can find low competition in regards to the above points, you are well on your way to snagging a keyword that will be easy to rank for. This is exactly what I did to get a #1 ranking for my public niche site, bestsurvivalknifeguide.com.
However, for certain queries, such as eCommerce keywords, these standard rules don't apply. Even if you find a result that has all low Page Authority and all low Juice Page Links, etc…or even if it has a super low KC (from Long Tail Platinum); it might be a keyword that is difficult to rank for and should be avoided.
Why eCommerce Keywords Might Be Difficult to Rank For
Google is a computer program that does its best to think like a human. So, if we simply think about why it might be difficult to outrank eCommerce results with our niche website, it makes perfect sense.
When someone types in an eCommerce keyword, they are usually hoping to buy the product or certainly see prices and real options. Google has learned this, and therefore returns sites that actually sell the product when these search queries are typed in.
Let's take a look at an example. Suppose we were analyzing the keyword, “Queen Comforter” . While its not a perfect example, I think its a very good example to illustrate my point.
Here is what the top 10 sites look like that rank for Queen Comforter:
If all you were doing is looking at the number of Juice page links and PageRank, you might think you have a winning keyword! After all, 2 of the results have no PageRank (- no PR), 1 has a PR of 0, and 2 more only have a PageRank of 1. In addition, none of the results have more than 30 Juice Page Links! Bingo, right??
Well, first of all, you've learned to not just look at PageRank (as its becoming less and less important); so you look at the PageAuthority. You will see some that have a PageAuthority of 1 – this means that either the page is new, or SEOmoz just hasn't assigned a Page Authority. In this case, I usually look at the Domain Authority and split it in half. So, really the PageAuthority for the #1 result would be a 50.
And overall, the KC is 37.
So, if you were looking at this keyword just based on that criteria, you might be considering going after it – and you are correct that many of the NORMAL SEO metrics would indicate that you might have a shot to rank.
But, guess what, its a special case because its an eCommerce keyword.
And how do I know that its an eCommerce keyword and that special rules apply? Because all of the 10 results are actually selling the product (eCommerce sites). So, no matter how low the competition for a keyword may seem, you have to realize that users, and therefore, Google, want to see sites that ACTUALLY SELL THE PRODUCT at the top of the search engines.
So, if you don't sell the product for these types of special keywords, I would avoid it.
So, Here's the Rule:
- If all 10 of the ranking sites are “eCommerce” sites, I look no further – I avoid the keyword. I don't care what the metrics say. This is a special case, and Google is going to rank these sites.
- If MOST of the 10 ranking sites are “eCommerce” sites, I will look at only the sites that are “different”. If these different (non-ecommerce) are easy to beat sites, then I may go for it. In reality, I still mostly avoid these keywords.
- If only some of the 10 ranking sites (5 or less?) are “eCommerce” sites, I analyze the competition for the “other” sites just like I would for any other keyword. If these “other” sites are low competition – I'll feel like I can rank despite the eCommerce sites.
Here's another example: “Heart Rate Monitor”
I've highlighted 3 results, that are NOT eCommerce sites. So, 7 out of the 10 results are eCommerce sites and sell the product – heart rate monitors. My first reaction to seeing this many eCommerce sites is that I'll probably just avoid it based on that alone. However, just to confirm, I will look at the stats for ONLY the 3 highlighted sites.
I see high Page Authority, high Page Ranks, and at least one with high Juice Page Links. I need to look no further, I'm moving on…I wouldn't want to mess with this keyword.
Other “Anomaly” Google Results
The truth is, that there are other similar situations to the “eCommerce” rule that also may not follow the normal SEO guidelines. I think the eCommerce area is the most common; however, you always need to be thinking on your feet.
So, in general, whenever you see the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) dominated by one type of site, you should start to consider that perhaps Google is doing this for a reason. And whatever that reason is (in their algorithm – your site may not match the needed criteria); and so perhaps you should avoid that.
Here are a couple of quick possible examples:
- Only Government related websites in top 10
- Only Education/University websites in the top 10
- Only Medical journal or similar websites in the top 10
- Only local providers listed for product/service
I don't have a specific list of types of results that I avoid – other than the eCommerce example. However, I am always aware that in some rare instances, the statistics don't reveal the entire story. If you have the ability to think on your feet, you will notice these patterns when you look at keywords.
So, rather than look for specific examples to avoid, try to internalize the principle that if Google is only ranking a certain type of site – perhaps you should avoid competing in that niche.
What Types of Keywords Can an Affiliate Site Rank For?
Overall, the “normal” SEO rules almost always apply. The anomalies are very rare outside of the eCommerce keywords that I've explained. So, I wouldn't worry about this too much, because affiliate site can rank for all sorts of keywords.
In fact, an affiliate site (monetized with Adsense, Amazon Associates, CPA offers, Clickbank offers, and more) can rank in Google for all kinds of keywords. Some of the types of keywords I and others have ranked for include:
- Product/Service Review sites
- How to type sites
- Other information based keywords
- Affiliate product keywords
- Long Tail Keywords of any kind (often including eCommerce keywords)
So, overall the market for affiliate sites (the type that I create) is VERY large.
And in fact my FAVORITE types of results are keywords where all the resulting sites are affiliate based sites! This means that Google is happy to rank other niche sites…so why not mine? So, if I see lots of affiliate sites ranking, I like that, but I also go back and look at all the stats (PageAuthority, links, etc); because in this case the normal SEO rules do apply.
In Conclusion and Your Thoughts
As mentioned, one of the most common questions that I get is whether going after an eCommerce keyword dominated by Amazon, Bestbuy, and other eCommerce sites is a good idea. In my opinion, its not a good idea. I believe I've explained why in pretty good detail. In addition, there are just SO many other types of keywords that are easier to rank for; so I just avoid these.
And again, just because you can't go after the specific product keyword; doesn't mean you can't add a modifying word like “review” or “best” to find a much easier keyword where you CAN compete.
Finally, I want to stress strongly, that you need to be able to think on your own and try to think like Google does (as best as possible). This will help you to better see situations and keywords that should be avoided or keywords that should be targeted big time.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you have any other examples besides eCommerce results where you think the SEO rules are a bit different? Leave a comment below, and lets discuss!