Your Guide to Effective Competitor Keyword Research

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Keywords are an excellent insight into brand values, product and service priorities and the audience a brand targets online. Conducting an in-depth competitor keyword analysis helps marketers identify content gaps that improve organic keyword positioning and capture more clicks from the competition.

With time, creativity and thorough research, competitor keyword targets could be your ticket to increased site traffic and conversions.

Read on to find out how to do a keyword gap analysis and leverage that information to improve organic performance with new and existing content …

What Is a Keyword Gap Analysis?

A keyword gap analysis compares the keywords held by competing domains to show which keywords your competitors outrank you for. These identify “weak keywords” (poorly ranking) as well as “missing keywords” – keywords in your industry space that you do not rank for at all.

We typically recommend focusing on missing keywords against one competitor at a time, although comparing multiple domains broadens the scope (and the opportunity) and may provide additional context to guide forward strategy.

It’s easy to imagine how this information would be helpful.

If done right, after analyzing competitor keywords, you’ll be able to better compete for eyeballs and clicks in the search engine results pages (SERP). For example, you’ll be able to:

  • Create new content (blogs, service pages, product pages or other resources) to fill the missing keyword gap
  • Strategically optimize your existing site content to improve your position on weak keywords, ultimately outranking your rivals

How to Find a Competitors’ Keywords

Ready to get started?

The following steps outline how the Oneupweb SEO and Content Marketing team tackles a Content Gap Analysis for our clients. Our Content Gap Analysis identifies weak and missing content using competitor keyword research tools like Semrush.

How to find keywords used by competitors in three steps:

1. Choose a keyword gap analysis tool

There are ways to tackle this project manually, but we recommend using a keyword research tool that offers competitive keyword analysis. We use the Semrush Keyword Gap tool, which allows us to compare up to five domains simultaneously. It also allows us to compare subfolders for each domain, making it easy to compare keywords within certain content categories; we can focus on blog, service or product content to capitalize on the biggest opportunity first. (Both Moz and Ahrefs offer similar tools, and free versions of these sites are available, if limited.)

2. Gather the keyword data

Use your chosen tool to export keyword data into a spreadsheet. We export the keywords between the websites (“shared keywords”) and missing keywords.

These spreadsheets ideally will include:

  • The current position for each keyword
  • The keyword search volume (typically expressed as the average monthly searches)

These pieces of data will help identify the most valuable keywords to target. Remember that higher search volume usually means more competition. That’s why we recommend mixing in lower-volume longtail keywords that may win users who are more qualified.

3. Analyze the data

Now, it’s time to find the top keywords to target. Start by flagging keywords that are branded for you or the competition. In nearly every case, you’ll win keywords that include your brand name, and your competitors will win theirs.

Next, flag any references to products, services or locations you don’t serve. You may have some irrelevant keywords that don’t apply to your organization; save all these in another tab or sheet if you need to reference them later.

Once any irrelevant data is sifted out, sort the spreadsheets to identify the most significant keywords for which the competition is outranking your website. You’ll notice a variation of keywords that appear repeatedly throughout the document. The key is to group these to form the basis of a new page or content optimization.

Use a filter or a good old-fashioned CTRL+H to group similar keywords by topic, service or product. For example, if you notice variations of the keyword “what size bike do I need,” use a filter to find terms like “bike size,” “sizing a bike” and other keywords.

Repeat the process until you’ve organized relevant keywords into groups. (Not so) creatively, SEOs tend to refer to web pages as “content groups” for this very reason: They’re basically a group of related keywords!

a mans hands rest on a computer keyboard while various devices show pie charts, bar graphs and other data to analyze

Apply Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis to Your Content Strategy

With all your keywords neatly grouped, it’s time to find them a home on your site.

Here’s how:

  • Review existing keywords on existing site pages where your newly discovered “missing keywords” could be implemented. It’s important to retain any current, effective keywords while establishing a plan for implementing the new keywords on each page.
  • If you’re missing those “bike size” keywords, look at a relevant existing page to optimize with those keywords. (You could easily sprinkle them into an existing blog post about “bike fitting” or “how to choose a new bike.”)
  • Some keywords won’t have an obvious home on your site, which means they are best used to create new service, product or blog pages.

You’ll need a strategy for building new pages. Take the time to analyze the site’s overall structure and determine where those new pages can logically fit. Having a solid plan for what the expanded sitemap will look like is important for encouraging buy-in from stakeholders.

Do you have more questions about paid media marketing?

Use Keyword Research to Inform Paid Campaign

Though the goal of your competitor keyword analysis may be organic keyword ranking, it’s also useful to inform more effective paid media campaigns. For example, should you run campaigns for a new service keyword to help you compete faster? Be sure to sort through any irrelevant keywords and see if any should be added as negative keywords for your campaigns.

Should I Target a Competitor’s Brand Name?

Speaking of that “irrelevant” keyword list, do you remember when we sorted brand keywords out of our spreadsheets? Competitors’ branded keywords are challenging to target because we don’t usually want to reference the competition directly in our content. That said, in some unique instances, businesses may wish to use the competition’s branded keywords in their content, explaining why to choose them over the competition. Just know that it’s nearly impossible to outrank a company for its own branded keywords in organic search results.

Another strategy is to save these keywords to use within a PPC campaign, targeting the competition’s most effective branded keywords to pull users toward you instead. If you’re interested in bidding on a competitor’s branded terms, data from a keyword gap analysis is extremely helpful as you build a keyword list.

Need Competitor Keyword Research?

Targeting the competition’s paid and organic keywords requires the right tools, rigorous research and a knack for content strategy. With nearly three decades of digital marketing experience across several industries, Oneupweb is your go-to SEO partner.

Let us design an effective SEO strategy and provide ongoing support that drives results. Invest in your organic success; get in touch or call (231) 922-9977 to get started.

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