Google’s search engine likely uses over a 200 ranking factors. Paying attention to and optimizing for all these factors is not practical. But amongst these, keywords is one of the most significant factors to pay regard to.
To perform well in search engine rankings, you need to identify the keywords that you can rank for. To identify such keywords, it is simpler to skip the laborious route of evaluating hundreds or thousands of keywords that you can rank for, and directly find keywords from your competitors to try and outperform them. That way, you create good content and make your brand more noticeable than your competitors.
There are many ways to check for competitor keywords, including utilizing related keyword tools. In this article, you will learn how to perform competitor keyword research easily, compare strategies and uncover opportunities to improve your website’s search engine performance.
Using competitor keywords for business growth
Creating content without research does not reap any business benefits. You need to know what content is searched for on the web and to rank for them. Keywords are phrases searched for and hence, content is created around such phrases. With appropriate content, keywords can be the window to fetch your next set of customers.
For most digital businesses, business growth is directly tied to increase in targeted site traffic. Employing high volume keywords that your competitors are ranking for is an alternative to beat them in their own game. It will likely yield high ROI and result in efficient use of time and resources.
Benefits of checking competitor keywords
Spying on competitor keywords offers many benefits, including some beyond search engine optimization, and will help uncover opportunities that are perhaps currently being overlooked.
- Get new keywords and content ideas
Competitors who are performing better most likely have unique keywords and associated content. Identifying such keywords and strategizing content will help acquire new traffic to your site.
- Discover market opportunities
Organic and paid search marketing techniques range from company to company. So does their distribution practices, purchase evaluation, and other factors. By researching competitor keywords, you may run into a new city or a partnership opportunity that you have not targeted as yet.
- Improve product marketing
Using keywords, analyze your competitor’s product and its exclusive selling points. You can filter out what works for your product/service and make use of them in your messaging/marketing efforts. You may also get ideas for new features that can add lot of value for your current or new offerings.
- Identify competitor weaknesses
While checking competitor keywords, you will come across their strengths, mistakes and shortcomings. Take advantage of their vulnerabilities to weight your search engine performance.
How to find competitors
You can identify your set of competitors using the techniques mentioned below.
- Using niche specific searches
Google (or your choice of search engine) offers the simplest way to find your competitors. Type your niche as the search query and review the results. We illustrate using an example for a gadget review website business below.
Open each website listed and find what they do. You will also want to consider where they are located if you serve only certain locations or regions.
- Use competitor keyword tools
Many of the competitor keyword tools also help identify your competitors. Write down your important keywords and use these tools to show you a list of competitor websites that rank for those queries.
- Use Google Ads
If you are running Google ad campaigns, you can find your list of competing businesses using the Ads console. Go to All campaigns > Campaigns > Auction Insights report. Information provided in this report includes competitor domains, impression share, top of page rate and outranking share.
- Social media research
Most of the businesses are active on social media to keep in touch with their users. If you are a B2B company, your competitors are most likely to be active on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. B2C companies are most likely to be active on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tik-Tok. Search using your products/services related keywords on these platforms to identify companies operating in your same domain and region.
How to find head/top competitor keywords
Going through your list of competitors and identifying their top keywords is not very difficult as you might think. But, before we help you do that, here is some related terminology that you must be familiar with.
- Keyword volume - the number of times that the exact phrase or word is being searched on Google every month
- CPC - the average cost per click of a paid search ad for that exact keyword
- Competition - the estimated competition for that keyword among your competitors
- SERP - search engine results page
- Domain authority - SERP score that ranges from 0 to 100, which is given to your domain to show how well you have the chances to rank on the top
- PPC – paid per click advertising, where advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked
- Paid Difficulty - a score indicating how hard it will be for your website to rank high on search engine result pages for a given keyword.
Here are some of the tools and the associated steps that you can follow to check competitor keywords.
- Use keyword planner tools
You can use tools, such as Google Keywords Planner or Ubersuggest Keyword tool, to get the list of keywords and associated metrics for each of your competitor websites.
We illustrate the steps below using the example of engadget.com, one of the websites identified as a competitor for our gadget review business using Google search as shown above. To find keywords associated with this competitor website using Keywords Planner tool, choose the option to “Start with a website”, enter the domain engadget.com and select the option to search for keywords for the entire website.
You can optionally filter the keyword list generated based on the level of competition. If the Domain Authority for your website is low (say less than 20), we recommend starting with keywords with low competition.
- Analyze PPC campaign data
Paid search ads, and Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in general, are often used by marketers to drive traffic to their websites, especially to bring users who are more likely to convert given their strong of intent via searches.
Tools such as SEMrush, Spyfu and SimilarWeb can be used to check the list of keywords used by a given website for their organic and paid search campaigns. As can be seen in the screenshot below from SimilarWeb, you can see the top 5 keywords for engadget.com organic and paid searches. The top organic keywords list gives clues about where your competitors are investing more time and content.
- Identify high ROI keyword opportunities
Once you repeat the above steps to cover all of your competitors, you can extract the high performing paid and organic keywords that are likely to perform well for your business. Put them on a separate spreadsheet along with their associated metrics
Filter these keywords by their volume, competitiveness, and paid difficulty. Choose cut-offs/targets for each of their metrics and eliminate the keywords that are not up to the mark.Try to shrink the data that you extracted by at least 70%. These are the top-performing competitor keywords.
How to find product-specific/long-tail competitor keywords
To create specific targeted content, long-tail or product-specific keywords are more appropriate. Such keywords can be broadly classified into the following categories:
- Commercial keywords: keywords that have a prime chance of bringing the user to your site for purchase
- Transactional keywords: keywords that are more specific to a product or service
- Informational keywords: keywords that are used to gain knowledge (e.g. how-to guides). Visitors using such keywords may not transform into buyers.
- Navigational keywords: keywords used when the user knows exactly which brand they are looking for. Such competitor related brand keywords may not result in many clicks to your website.
Here are some sources to check for long-tail competitor keywords.
- Review your competitors’ products
Find out which products your competitors are selling and how closely related they are to yours. Analyze their product descriptions and see if you are missing any informative and potential keywords. Check the reviews for those products on trusted sites and look for words/phrases that users use the most to describe those products. Also, make a list of the user pain points when relating to those products to improve yours down the line.
- Analyze competitors’ landing pages
Analyze your competitor’s product landing pages and research the blog articles related to that product. You can use tools such as Google Keyword Planner to find keywords specific to product landing pages.
To do so, choose a landing page that you want to analyze the keywords for and copy its URL. Open Keywords Planner tool, click on ‘Start with a website’ tab and select ‘Use only this page.’ Paste the URL and click to get results.
Filter by competition and paid keywords’ bid amount. Repeat the same process for other landing pages that are of interest to you.
- Form keyword clusters
Keywords clustering is a practice where you segregate the keywords into groups based on their relevancy to your website. After making a list of the most profitable and relevant keywords, find and segment keywords for different categories of content. Assign these keywords under specific stages of the conversion funnel. Then, categorize the filtered keywords according to common subjects, paid strategies, customer journeys and so forth.
Keywords and associated content are important factors in determining your website’s search engine performance. Finding and analyzing competitor keywords will provide you with information to write new and relevant content. It also scales up your visibility in the industry. Checking your competitors’ site content and their landing pages for relevant keywords will also likely help you improve product messaging and discover new market opportunities.