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A Guide to Competitor Keyword Research

Date published: December 04, 2023
Last updated: December 4, 2023

SEO is a great way to help a brand grow. Things like link-building and technical SEO are effective ways to enhance a brand’s visibility online. 

One of the most common tools associated with search engine optimization is keywords. If you’ve invested in SEO, chances are, you’ve done your homework when it comes to keyword research. 

However, as you’ve consulted Google Keyword Planner, considered your target audience’s organic keywords, and selected the best options for your brand, have you ever added competitive analysis to the mix?

Competitor keyword analysis is a great way to give you an edge over the competition and help you establish yourself as a leader in your industry. Here’s how to identify and make the most of competitor keywords.

Identify Your Top Competitors

It’s difficult to conduct competitor keyword research if you don’t know who your competitors are. You may already have a vague idea of the brands that overlap with and compete for your target audience.

If you want to invest in serious competitive keyword research, though, you need to be more specific. Take a closer look at the variety of companies within your industry 

Yes, it’s tempting to focus on the big dogs, but think twice before you put all of your energy there. Bigger companies will have more resources to fight over a specific keyword, which can be difficult to compete with. 

In addition, smaller and medium-sized companies that are thriving likely have found a different degree of success with their SEO. What target keyword is helping them survive and thrive? 

Identify several different companies that are doing their best. As you research, this will give you a larger industry snapshot of what keywords are trending with consumers. This will help you create your competitor keyword research strategy.

Find the Common Keywords

After you find competitor companies, you want to find the a relevant keyword that will allow you to compete within the SEO arena. That means it’s time to uncover the common keywords you’re fighting over. There are multiple keyword analysis tools that can help with this.

BuzzSumo, Ahrefs, and Semrush are just a few popular options. Each SEO tool comes with its own approach for how to find competitor keywords. Semrush, for example, offers an Organic Research Competitors report that combines identifying competitors and the keywords you battle over.

Find a keyword research tool that you’re comfortable with and begin running searches for common keywords. Once you collect data, it’s time to begin analyzing and turning it into an actionable SEO strategy.

Review Competitor Keyword Data in a Few Different Ways

Once you have collected your competitor keyword data, you have to interpret it. There are a few ways to do this to give you a well-rounded sense of how you stack up against the competition, SEO-wise:

  • Start with top-ranking keywords. Consider which keywords your competitors are ranking for really well. High-ranking terms with high search volume are the ones with the potential to provide a lot of brand awareness and traffic. Be mindful of their keyword difficulty. 
  • Consider top-performing competitor landing pages: What kind of content is your competition creating to get those great rankings? You’ll want to emulate this while adapting it to your brand’s own voice, style, and tone.
  • Conduct a gap analysis: Look for keyword gaps between your brand and your competitor. What terms are they dominating while you’re lagging behind? Which areas are you already outperforming? Are there keywords that neither of you has considered yet?

By taking the time to conduct a thorough competitive keyword analysis and cross-examination of keyword data, you set the stage to get the most out of your competitor research.

Dig Deeper Than Single Keywords

Once you’ve identified a keyword opportunity, it’s time to dig even deeper. Look beyond single keyword ideas and phrases to consider the larger SEO elements at play.

As you identify important keywords, research long-tail iterations of those related keywords that have enough search volume to be worth pursuing. For example, if a coffee shop was investing in a local SEO keyword like “coffee shop Portland,” they might also choose to incorporate the long-tail keyword “ethically sourced coffee shop in Portland.”

You should also look for topics and themes that stand out. If a competitor is focused on a specific niche product or service that doesn’t relate to your company, you may be able to differentiate your keywords to focus on your unique service lines. 

Remember to look at your keywords, long-tail keywords, topics, and themes on a cluster level, too. Just because a competitor ranks for a good keyword doesn’t mean they’ve capitalized on it. If they don’t rank for similar or sub-keywords based on a high-ranking keyword, you may be able to take some of their search traffic through a quality content marketing strategy that establishes your brand as the true authority in that area.

Using Competitor Keyword Research to Up Your SEO Game

Whenever you’re pulling together an SEO strategy, remember to keep competitor analysis in the mix. An SEO agency can help you keep tabs on these metrics. By factoring in competitor keywords, you can expect to improve your SEO efforts.

By clarifying the search terms that your competitors are prioritizing along with normal audience and industry-related keyword research, you can ensure that all of the on-page content, social posts, and Google Ads you create are optimized and tailored to put your brand in the SEO spotlight.

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