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Performance Marketing (PPC) Keyword Competition Analysis Checklist

Performance Marketing (PPC) Keyword Competition Analysis Checklist

Analyze your competition before you launch any keyword-focused paid ads.
Record your efforts
Check page-level authority
Review referring domains
Review domain authority and brand presence
Assess link profile
Evaluate on-page SEO
Identify easy target results
Inspect content quality
Create and print action items
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Utilize this performance marketing competition analysis checklist to determine how hard it will be to rank for a chosen keyword. Before investing time and money into trying to rank for a keyword it is important to figure out how much effort will need to be spent to actually rank.  

This checklist will walk through the process of checking competitors page authority, domain authority, brand presence, backlink profile and more. 

This keyword competition analyses checklist is modeled after Chapter 5 of Brian Dean’s (founder of Backlinko) Definitive Guide to Keyword Research. We took the steps that he created and put it into an actionable and easy to use process. 

Record your efforts

Input initial tracking data.

Time flies when you’re having fun. When you initially conduct competitor research it is easy to make a mental note and think you will remember. However, will you remember the data you found three or six months down the road? To ensure you retain this information please fill out the information below.  

PRO TIP: Make sure you have automated as many recurring processes that you can. This will help save you time, money, and energy by improving work productivity and increase efficiency. Step by step guidance can be found in the business process automation guide

Fill out the form fields below.

Check page-level authority

Please be aware that the instructions throughout this checklist are based off using the MozBar. You will need to have this installed before moving forward. The MozBar is a free browser toolbar you can use to pull important metrics quickly. This saves you the time of manually inputting each website into an SEO tool. To install, go to the MozBar landing page and click the yellow download button:

Utilize the MozBar to check the page authority of your focus keyword.

An important fact to keep in mind when you are considering a certain keyword is that the number one factor in a page’s ability to rank is the authority of that particular page.  A site’s domain authority and brand presence play important roles, but they are secondary factors. 

The best measurement of a page’s authority is Moz’s Page Authority.
To check Page Authority, look at the “PA” number in the MozBar SERP Overlay:

Make sure to look for low-PA pages. These pages are the ones most likely to get knocked off by your better-optimized page. If you see many of these low-PA pages, then the keyword you chose is likely a good one to use.

It’s fine if a few high-PA results pop up on the first page. That happens for most medium or high-volume words. But if there are too many high-PA results, then it’s best to move on to a different keyword.

Be sure to record your findings below.

Review referring domains

Analyze referring domains and track findings.

Google is basically a vote collection engine. It tends to rank a page higher if that page gets more backlinks, or “votes.”

Does that mean that links aren’t important anymore? On the contrary, recent studies have found that the number of referring domains was correlated to higher rankings more than any other factor. So it’s definitely worth it for you to take a look.

There’s a lot of conflicting data about how many links a page has pointed to it, so two good tools to use are MozBar and Ahrefs.

MozBar’s index may not be as good as Ahrefs’, but MozBar is convenient because it shows you the data from within the SERPs.

For a full breakdown of features check out this comprehensive article, Ahrefs vs Moz: The Ultimate SEO Tool Showdown

How to use both:

If you have a pro account in Moz, you can see the number of referring domains right in the search:

You can also use Ahrefs to see how many referring domains point to a certain page. Just take a URL from the top 10:

Then paste it into Ahrefs and hit “Explore.” It’ll show you the number of referring domains linking to that page:

This process isn’t as quick and direct as using Moz’s toolbar, but the information from Ahrefs is usually much more accurate.

Review domain authority and brand presence

Identify competitor domain authority.

When you evaluate keyword competition, you also want to look at the sites you’re competing against, not just the pages. One reason is that Google loves ranking pages from major authority sites like Amazon and ESPN.com.

Many pages from these popular sites get bumped up in rankings simply because they’re on an authoritative domain.

The MozBar displays Domain Authority on the SERP overlay:

You want to see a lot of the top 10 results with low PA and DA.  Those are the keywords that you can easily rank for. Results with high PA and DA are usually very competitive, so that is something to watch out for.

A page’s authority is still the most important part to look for, but you also want to take DA into consideration.

Competing with a Big Brand:

Brand signals are becoming more and more integrated into Google’s algorithm. They are used to show search engines that a certain site is part of a larger brand.

This means that sites like YouTube and CNN.com are given an advantage over small brand results with similar page and domain authority. So when choosing a keyword, you really want to take a brand’s size into consideration.

Evaluate on-page SEO

Evaluate on-page SEO factors

It’s important to pay attention to the on-page SEO of your possible competitors in the top 10 results. On-page SEO plays a big role in determining a site’s ability to rank.

First, notice the page’s title tags. This is the blue link displayed in Google’s search results.

These two results are an example of well-optimized tags from the search “best pumpkin pie recipe” because they used a very close variation of the search in their title.

To look further, click on one of the results and then click on the “Page Analysis” icon in the MozBar:

This will display information on the page’s basic on-page attributes:

If the keyword is included in an H1/H2 tag and in the URL, the page is well-optimized.  Even if the page has decent authority, it can still be easy to knock it off the top 10 searches if it has poor on-page SEO.

Identify easy target results

Determine if your keyword has low competition.

You know you’ve just found a low-competition keyword when you see one or more easy target results in the top 10.

Some results that usually indicate a very low competition keyword are: Ezine articles, Yahoo! Answers, Ehow.com, Buzzle, Ebay, Blogspot, pages with <10 PA and DA, or spammy press release titles.

Below are two examples of keywords with Easy Target results:

Include the keyword you tested and any insights gained.

Inspect content quality

Review competitors content to determine quality level. 

Besides looking at referring domains and title tags, remember that the quality of your content is a huge part of your ability to make the top 10. That means you have to be prepared to beat, or at least match, the quality of the top 10 results.

To get an idea of what type of content you’ll need to produce, just search for your keyword and read the content of the top 5-10 results.

      An example keyword is “health benefits of garlic.”

The first result is from Healthline, and it’s a high-quality article written by a legitimate nutrition expert:

It would take some very good content to beat this first result.

Now let’s look at a page that’s lower in the results, WHFoods:

To figure out what you’d need to stand out from the current top 10, looking at aspects like a page’s design is a good way to start. This page’s design is really dated and lacks appeal, so now you’d know that design is one way to go about improving your own chances.

Let’s look at one more result on the first page, organicfacts.net.

The author of this article is anonymous and doesn’t cite any research. That makes this content easy for you to beat, as long as you provide good details and references in your own content.

Include your notes and findings below.

Create and print action items

Summarize your findings.

Now that you have thoroughly reviewed competitors of your target keyword it is important to summarize your findings and list action items. We have included many of the variables you have entered below. This is to help you more easily reference your findings.

Focus Keyword: {{form.Keyword}}                                                                             

Average Domain Authority : {{form.Average_domain_authority}}  

Average Page Authority: {{form.Average_page_authority}} 

Average Referring Domains: {{form.Average_referring_domains}}                             

Backlink Profile Notes: {{form.Backlink_profile_notes}}            

Content Quality Notes: {{form.Content_quality_notes}}


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