Building your website's content strategy off the back of your search competitors' work can be a pretty effective approach to grow your search traffic. They've already done most of the work by publishing content for a similar audience.
You can study your competitors' pages to uncover relevant keywords that they are using to rank successfully in search engines. And then use this keyword information to improve your page rankings.
In this guide, I'll show you what competitor keyword research is and how you can use it to find keywords that your organic competitors are using on their pages.
- Competitor keyword analysis can help you uncover keywords used by top ranking competitors that you can then use to improve your pages.
- This method will save your keyword research time and effort since you're analyzing pages that are already ranking well in the SERPs.
- Identifying your search competitors is a crucial first step when conducting competitor research.
- Finding your competitors' keywords is a straightforward process whether you want to analyze a specific page or find keywords for a new one.
What is competitor keyword analysis?
Competitor keyword analysis, also known as competitor keyword research is the analysis of your competitor's web pages to identify their valuable keywords, often for traffic and ranking.
Why is competitor keyword research important?
Examining your competitor's keywords can help you uncover actionable insights to inform your content marketing strategy. Identifying content that performs well for a similar audience could do the same for you.
This can reveal words they use in their titles, meta descriptions and body text. Armed with this information, you can make informed decisions on optimizing your content to rank well.
Properly researching competitor keywords allows you to identify content gaps in your industry that you can fill to increase search visibility and expand your reach. Additionally, you'll find new target keywords you may have overlooked as well as information to prioritize existing content ideas.
Keyword competition is most often linked to keyword difficulty scores and is an important rating to assess ranking difficulty and find valuable keywords to add to your list. Including competitive analysis of keywords in your SEO strategy will help you understand how to use these keywords in an already successful context.
Think of keyword difficulty and competitive keyword analysis as two sides of the same keyword research coin.
By understanding your competitors' strategies, you can adapt your content marketing efforts accordingly and stay ahead of the competition. Additionally, competitor keyword analysis will help you identify new keyword opportunities for organic traffic growth.
How to find competitors' keywords
Step one of finding your competitor's keywords is a matter of entering your target keyword in the search bar and selecting from the search results to inspect their content. Doing so will reveal the keywords your top SERP competitors use for the same topics you're aiming for.
You'll want to carry out competitor keyword analysis in two possible scenarios.
- You already have an existing page URL
- You're conducting keyword research before writing a new article.
I'll show you how to find competitors' keywords in both cases.
How to find competitors' keywords for an existing blog
First, let's look at the steps you should take if you have a web page that you want to optimize or a competitor's URL that you want to analyze for keywords
You want to audit a particular keyword and URL for its search results that you can then study for competitor keywords and search intent. A keyword audit will identify successful content and uncover keyword gaps you can fill to improve your content performance.
Perform these steps to find competitors' keywords for an existing page.
- Head to Surfer Audit
- Enter the saved page URL and target keywords
- Select the country, device preferences and check the Sentiment box
- Click Create Audit
Note: This method works to find competitor keywords for your blog post or a competitor's URL
In a couple of seconds, the keyword audit tool in Surfer will study your target keyword's search results and display a keyword competition analysis report.
For example, I want to conduct keyword competitive research on "how to go viral" and picked the top result from Sprout Social to find competitor keywords.
Before looking at the keyword results, you should verify your SERP competitors. Doing so will ensure that your competitive keyword research is based on relevant websites.
1.Identify your organic competitors
You probably already know your competitors if your company has been in business for some time. But business competitors are different from your competitors in the search engine results pages (SERPS).
Regarding competitor keyword research, we're only interested in websites ranking for organic keywords that you want to target. Because search engines only display 10 or less top pages, you're competing for limited space.
So for example, if you have a website about drone cameras, a film school may be your organic competitor if they publish content about drone cameras, just like the New York Film Academy has.
To pick your search competitors, click Select competitors at the top of the report.
This will allow you to select your keyword's most relevant pages from the top organic search results. I excluded a 4th ranking search result from Wikipedia since they're not a true competitor site for my target keyword.
Select at least 5 pages and click Let's go.
2.Find your competitor's keyword data
Surfer Audit will then display a comprehensive report of your keyword's competitive analysis based on the top search results you selected. Scroll down to the section marked Terms to Use to find a complete list of keywords your competitors use.
Note: Although the recommended actions are personalized for the URL you entered, the keyword list is based on competitors for your target keyword in Google search.
You'll find several other important metrics for each keyword like the suggested frequency, relevance and monthly search volume to help your keyword research process. Sort your list by the Relevance column in descending order so that the most relevant keywords for your topic appear at the top.
These are the top most relevant keywords your competitors are using. Here's what my report looks like, sorted by the Relevance column.
If you are running a competitor analysis on someone else's webpage, sort the Action column to show All good! on top. This will reveal the keywords used on the page you're analyzing.
To export this list, click on the Export option on the top right of the report. I'll show you exactly how to use this list of competitor keywords in an article later.
How long are your competitor's blog posts
The Surfer Audit report will also show you an optimum range of how long your blog post should be based on the top competitors you selected. Knowing the blog length can help you prepare an article outline or brief for your content workflow. Or optimize an existing page's length.
Scroll down to the Word count section to find the recommended range for your keyword's blog post length. The graph will also show your selected pages' lengths while highlighting your URL.
ON-PAGE competitor KEYWORDS
The importance of on-page SEO signals as ranking factors has been common knowledge amongst SEOs for a while. Besides learning about your competitors' specific keywords, it's also helpful to understand how they're used on the page.
Use the Exact keywords field to reveal how often your competitors use your target keyword in their title tag, paragraph text, and H1 header tag. Knowing this information will help you use these keywords in your on-page elements. Note that you will also be given personalized suggestions for the page you're analyzing.
How to find competitors' keywords for a new blog post
We've already seen how easy it is to use your competitor's URL to find their keywords for a target topic. But what if you're organizing keyword research for a new article?
Follow these steps to help you find competitor keywords for a fresh blog post.
- Head to Surfer SERP Analyzer
- Select your country and device preferences. Leave the rest unchecked for now.
- Click Create SERP Analyzer
On the report, scroll past the graph to click on the new Keywords tab. Again, just as we did when conducting keyword competitive analysis for an existing page, selecting the right competitor pages for examination is crucial.
Click on the Select competitors gear icon to only include relevant search results for your keyword. In addition, the panel will display other valuable metrics, such as the page's content score and word count and the monthly organic traffic the page and domain receive.
For the keyword "link building," I excluded the Wikipedia page.
Select between 5-10 pages and Save changes.
You can now see the most commonly used keywords in the SERPs for your target query with their search volume data and the number of pages using them. Sort the list by the Relevance column to see the most relevant keywords on top. The top 10 similar keywords column will reveal similar keywords to the one shown.
Check out the other tabs organized by your competitors' most popular words and phrases. You'll find the most prominent keywords here that you can insert in header tags. Then, scroll down further to load even more organic keywords for your keyword competitive analysis.
If you prefer, you can export this list of competitor keywords by clicking on the Export loaded data option.
How to find competitors' metadata keywords
When conducting SEO competitor analysis, you can also look for keywords in your competitor's metadata. This will help you to write your meta descriptions and title tags to increase your search CTR performance in the SERPs.
On the SERP Analyzer report we created in the previous section, scroll below the graph to the Search results tab. Here you'll find the top 50 search engine results for your keyword, which you can now browse competitors' metadata for.
Here are the top 4 results for a primary keyword like "link building" I'm researching.
The meta description cuts off after 158 characters, just like in Google search.
How to use your competitor's keywords
As you carry out competitor keyword analysis, you'll add to a list of important keywords for your business. However, it can be difficult to choose the best keywords and track their usage from so much research data.
Head to Surfer’s Content Editor for an effective way to use competitor keywords in your content.
- Enter your target keyword with an additional variation
- Select country and device preferences
- Click Create Content Editor
Note: For an existing article, toggle the Import content from URL button and enter the page URL for Content Editor to pull from
Click on the newly generated result with a green check after a few seconds. As we've seen already, your first step is to identify relevant search competitors. Next, select the gear icon with the blinking blue dot on the top right.
This will allow you to select your organic competitors ranking for the same keyword. For example, for this article I wrote, I excluded a product page from Spyfu in the search results.
Select at least 5 relevant pages and click Let's go.
Surfer will analyze your competitors' URLs and display the most relevant keywords and their optimal frequency in the right panel of the editor's window. Click on a keyword to see an example of its use on a competitor's page. Each keyword will be highlighted in green as you insert it within the suggested range.
For example, here's a partial view of my recommended list of terms to use for this article.
You don't have to add all the suggested keywords, but remember that the most important suggestions are on top. As you add new keywords, your Content Score will increase, letting you know when you're in an optimal range for your target keywords.
Aim for a Content Score of 75 and above to ensure that your page has covered relevant competitor keywords.
Free tools for competitor keyword research
Several free tools claim to help you with identifying keywords from your SERP competitors. However, the challenge with these SEO tools in the market is that they're not very effective at helping you find competitor keywords, often leading to increasing your efforts rather than helping you.
However, you may consider two free tools to analyze web pages for keywords.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Keyword Planner tool can help you with keyword ideas related to your competitor's page for new keywords. Unfortunately, putting this to the test for the keyword "link building" only served 12 results, far lower than you'd require for an article about link building.
Instead, click on the Start with a website tab in the Discover new keywords panel. Enter a competitor's URL to find keywords they're using on the page.
For example, the keyword tool displayed over 100 keyword ideas for a "how to go viral" page I picked up from Sprout Social's blog.
This will help you get started even if the displayed terms are keyword ideas, not competitor keywords.
Another free research tool that you can use to monitor your competitors' use of the keywords you're targeting is Google Alerts. Not exactly a competitor keyword tool, Alerts can help you track keywords that are relevant to you.
All you have to do is enter the primary keyword you want to monitor and select the best options for you. Every time a competitor publishes a blog post about this particular keyword, you'll receive a notification in your email.
You can even use this to enter your competitor's brand names, so you know how they're being mentioned online.
Ultimately researching competitor keywords and keyword difficulty is essential to a successful SEO strategy. Competitor keyword analysis can offer invaluable insights into what is working for your competitors and how you can apply those strategies to improve your search engine optimization efforts.
Taking the time to properly analyze these terms can yield powerful results in the SERPs and help ensure you stay ahead of the competition. It’s crucial to monitor trends in competitor keywords frequently to stay updated and make the most of this information.
If you haven't already, strongly consider including competitor keyword research in your SEO process. Let us know if you have questions below.