Why you should target the most competitive keywords

by Hamlet Batista | September 10, 2007 | 28 Comments

competition.jpgEverybody writing about SEO will tell you that it is not a good idea to optimize your site for the most popular keywords in your niche. What are your chances of success if you tried to rank for “internet marketing, where there are about half a million websites ranking for that term and most likely many savvy competitors?” I want to tell you why I chose to ignore such advice years ago, and how I was able to reach heights I couldn't have dream of by doing so. Of course it is also clear why the guys at the top are so eager to give such advice—nobody likes to face more competition. 😉

I remember reading such advice five years ago when Sumantra Roy's KEI was a key ratio to identify keyword opportunities. I similarly recall an earlier period when I was still working on salary and planning to branch out on my own. I used to ask my friends and colleagues, mostly engineers, whether they thought that starting a business was a good idea. Their answer was always that they didn't think so. “Why leave the security and comfort of a paycheck every two weeks?” “Why take unnecessary risks?” After a while I realized that I was asking advice from the wrong people. How could they provide advice for something they didn't have any experience with? I decided to trust my instincts instead, and put my confidence in taking calculated risks.

Most of my affiliate web sites were promoted to seek highly competitive keyword niches. I did not initially target the competitive keywords, I always started from the tail, but the head was the ultimate goal. The advantage is that you see some, albeit minimal, results as you improve. You continue with these incremental results as you move your efforts toward more competitive keywords.

It usually took more than a year of link building effort to get to page one or two of the search results for the most competitive ones, but it was definitely a rewarding experience. I had decided to take the risk of working on several sites for so long because I was confident in my ability to reach my goals. The more successes you have under your belt, the more confident you get about your decision-making abilities and the better you are at judging risk.

If I had followed the experts' advice, I would probably still be a work-from-home affiliate, earning a good commission every month and switching links as merchants went out of business or as markets saturated. Fortunately, that was not how I envisioned my future. 🙂


The lesson seems clear. The goals that appear most out of reach are actually the ones that we are more likely to achieve—if we pursue them hard enough. Why? When you have tough challenges you prepare and work accordingly. You know you need to work hard and you set high goals for yourself. On the other hand, easy goals can be deceiving for a couple of reasons. First, everybody is targeting the easy goals, hence seemingly easy goals put you up against a lot more competition. Secondly, because we suppose them to be so easy, most of the time we don't put in enough effort. The combination of increased competition and a lack of will on our own part can spell the end.

Please note that I am not saying that it is easier to go for the gold medal every time. Rather, I am suggesting that, ultimately, fewer people go for it, which may open up an opportunity. But no matter what, to be successful you must be prepared for hard work.

I can tell you from experience that the reward is definitely worth it.

Hamlet Batista

Chief Executive Officer

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds US patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months



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