The number of competing pages shown by Google is not necessarily a true indicator of actual “head to head” competition. It is however a true indicator of how many other pages have been (and remain) indexed by Google.
So what does that mean? It’s simple, all of these pages might not be stiff competition, but they are all potential contenders to be recognized for that keyword – at least as far as the search engine is concerned.
Simply put, Google believes these page are relevant to the keyword searched. That in itself is competition, even if much of it is somewhat weak by comparison (if those “competing” Web pages have not been carefully optimized).
For example, do a search on Google for “New York pizza” (no quotes) and you will get a number similar to 22,000,000. Do you suppose there are really twenty-two million Web pages on the Internet that are trying desperately to be number one for the keyword “New York pizza”? It’s extremely doubtful.
However, of the 22,000,000 results (potential competing pages) for the keyword “New York pizza”, even if only the tiniest percentage (say 1/10th of 1%) was actually optimized, that is still a great deal of tough competition (22,000)!
This is not to imply there are 22,000 pizza shops in New York, but it does beg the question – how many pages does each website have? If each only had ten pages, that’s 2,200 actual sites. Of those, probably half are likely not a shop in the city but rather an online business – or shop in another city – selling New York style pizza. But it’s still competition on the Web. YOUR competition.