Find competitor keywords to boost your traffic and discover new opportunities

A quick guide for small and medium businesses looking for competitor keywords 

At the heart of a solid SEO strategy are your keywords. These are the words and phrases your ideal customer punches into Google to find your business, products, and services.

But there are two problems with this.

1) Other businesses doing a similar thing to you are competing for those same keywords.

2) Search is not static. The words and phrases people type into search engines to find businesses, products, and services such as yours will change over time.

For these reasons, taking the time to find competitor keywords keeps you, well, competitive. 

In this short article I’ll delve a little deeper into what competitor keyword research is, how I find competitor keywords as part of my client’s SEO services and how this information will benefit your business.     

What is competitor keyword research?

Competitor keyword research is usually just one part of a larger keyword research service. It involves finding the keywords that online businesses similar to yours are targeting. Competitor keyword research reveals what these businesses show up for in search engine results, as well as where they’re missing the mark and not ranking well. Being aware of what’s working and what isn’t for your competitors can, and indeed should, influence the keywords you choose.   

When’s a good time to look at competitor keywords? 

The sooner you find competitor keywords, the sooner you can start contending for search engine rankings. The only exception to this is if you’re new to business, as in the early stages you might not have a full understanding of who your direct competitors are. And there’s a distinct difference between your direct competitors and your keyword competitors. 

If you’re a little further down the track, now’s a good time to start looking at competitor keywords. Especially if you find you’re already ranking OK for certain keywords and want to compete on the next level. Looking at what others are doing will:

  • avoid your rankings plateauing or dropping—it’s always good to reach a little higher
  • keep you relevant if new industry phrases are coined and products adopted 
  • give you an awareness of any fresh competition and the keyword approach they’re taking.

But whatever your motivation, catching up with what similar businesses are doing will keep your hand in the race. The process for finding competitor keywords

If you read my articles regularly you won’t be surprised to hear me say that competitor keyword research isn’t a 10-minute job. Most of my clients prefer using their time for customer care and business planning, so keeping that time free means flicking the competitor keyword research over to me. And when that happens, I do one or all of the following.

1. Visit your competitor’s website

I use SEO Pro Extension by Marketing Syrup as a quick way to find out a page’s target keyword. This is a Google Chrome extension. Once installed, I can visit any page on any site, click it and it tells me:

  • the page’s metadata
  • title tags 
  • links within the page
  • schema markup data. 

This information is helpful if your competitor has launched a page promoting a new service or product. In a matter of seconds, SEO Pro shows me the keywords they’re targeting, which paints a picture of the audience they’re aiming for with this shiny new thing of theirs.

 2. See who’s in the top 20

This involves putting each exact keyword phrase from your keyword list into Google and then seeing who turns up in the top results. The next step is identifying which results are your direct competitors. Some sites that rank well for the same keywords you’re targeting may not actually be your competition.

3. Do an SEO tool deep-dive 

As a full-time SEO strategist, I invest in tools and software that show me granular data about a site. My main tool of choice is Ahrefs, as its site crawling technology is second only to Google. For competitor keyword analysis I use the Site Explorer function—when I enter your competitor’s domain I see detailed information such as:

  • how many keywords they’re targeting
  • where they’re currently ranking for their chosen keywords
  • how much organic traffic those keywords are pulling in for them
  • the cost of their chosen keywords in paid search (pay per click or PPC) 
  • what backlinks they have and the authority those links bring to the site.

With this information I’m able to give you an accurate overview of where you stand in the keyword race.  

Taking on the competition

Now we’re armed with all of this data, how can we put it to good use?

Firstly, we can use it to measure your site’s keyword performance against your competitors. If they’re ranking higher than you for certain keywords we can evaluate what they’re doing and work out a strategy in an attempt to beat it. This could involve updating a page’s content or creating fresh content. Or it could mean finding more opportunities for quality backlinks, which contributes to increased site or page authority.

Next, we can use the data to identify missed opportunities. These are the keywords and phrases your competitors are ranking for that aren’t currently on your radar. Again, creating great content puts you back in the race.

Finally, competitor keyword analysis reveals where your competitors are falling short—the words they want to rank for, but currently aren’t. By identifying these opportunities you can get ahead and win the search traffic before them, positioning yourself as a trendsetter or authority.     

Ready to find competitor keywords?

Now you know what competitor keywords are, how these are unearthed and why it’s so important to be aware of what they are trying to rank for, the next step is incorporating all of it into your SEO strategy. And there are a few ways I can help with that. 

For the DIY SEO crowd: Contact me to book a 60-minute consultation call. We’ll go through in detail how you can find competitor keywords.

For the busy entrepreneur: Book my keyword research service and I’ll handle it. We’ll catch up on the results and findings in a one-hour call.   

Completely new to keywords and keyword research?

Check out Keyword Research in 9 Steps, then we’ll catch up about competitor keywords right after.

Barb Davids - SEO Consultant

Barb Davids is an SEO consultant and owner of Compass Digital Strategies. Driven by data and analytics, she works hard to get business-changing results for her clients, such as 256% more website traffic and 22% more leads. As lockdown began and clients lost budget, she continued working on some pro bono for a couple of months. Offering free help to select industries. Her own business as a result has pivoted and begun to offer online courses so that business owners can work to gain more site traffic and leads at a more budget friendly cost. 
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