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SEO Secrets: Uncover Competitor Keywords

An SEO competitor analysis can help you pinpoint valuable keywords so you can increase your visibility in Google search results. Learn how to find competitor keywords so you can create more traffic-driving content.

Aug 25, 2023

8 m read

There are almost too many ways to find search engine optimization (SEO) keywords. To echo a sentiment embodied in a popular keyword research tool’s name, keywords are literally everywhere.

The seemingly infinite nature of keywords can make it feel impossible to decide which ones are valuable enough to support your keyword strategy and invest in.

Fortunately, there’s a foolproof way to uncover the terms and phrases your top competitors deem most valuable, and that’s through an SEO competitive keyword analysis.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What a competitive keyword analysis is.
  • Why it’s useful to analyze competitive keywords.
  • How to conduct a competitor keyword analysis.
  • Insights on top competitor keyword analysis tools.
  • How to use Ahrefs (and other tools) to conduct your competitor keyword analysis.

What Is a Competitive Keyword Analysis?

A competitive keyword analysis, or keyword gap analysis, is the process of discovering the keywords your competitors rank for that your website doesn’t. It can also help you pinpoint keywords your competition is outranking you for. This analysis helps your team create new content, or optimize existing content, to outrank your competitors on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

The key to a successful keyword competitor analysis is to uncover keywords that are:

  • Relevant to your business.
  • Valuable to your audience.
  • Related to your current content topics.
  • High in cost-per-click so you can target them organically.

Why Is It Useful To Analyze Competitor Keywords?

Uncovering competitor keyword data can help you improve your SEO strategy by highlighting topics to improve on, new keywords to target, and gaps in your content compared to competitors.

There are good reasons why your competitors made it to the top and why they chose those specific keywords. Their keyword strategy is clearly working for them!

Analyzing competitor keywords is a quick, easy way to narrow down your relevant keywords to the most important of the thousands you could target. It’s also helpful for assessing how hard it will be to surpass your competitors on the SERPs and to take advantage of low-hanging fruit in areas where your competitors are lacking.

How To Conduct a Competitive Keyword Analysis

Now for the fun part! Here are the nitty-gritty details on how to conduct a competitive keywords analysis. 

1. Identify Your Top Competitors

For the sake of your time and sanity, pick only your top three competitors who you consider to be at the top of their game.

To narrow it down to the top three, consider only the competitors who:

  • Share the same customer base as you.
  • Offer a product or service most similar to yours.
  • Are top of mind for you most frequently.

If you’re struggling to choose your top competitors, or you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best three, the tips below will help you uncover additional competitors:

  • Perform an online search. What companies are at the top of the results when you search for your product category or other primary keywords you’ve identified?
  • Engage in market research. Who sells a product that serves a similar function to yours? 
  • Ask your sales team. Which competitors do they hear about most during sales conversations?
  • Survey your customers. Who did they try or consider before purchasing your product?
  • Head over to social. Which of your competitors are the most active on their social channels? Who has the most followers?

2. Research Their Keywords

There are many ways to conduct competitor keyword research, but the smoothest is with support from an SEO keyword research tool.

In a moment, we’ll discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and methods of using several popular keyword research tools. No matter which tool you use. However, a competitor keyword analysis always starts with keyword research.

Basic tools will provide a list of competitor keywords and their rankings, and you can manually compare these to your list of keyword targets to identify the gaps. 

Other tools make it easy to uncover your competitors’ top-performing pages and the keywords on those pages. 

With just the click of a button, some advanced SEO tools will run a full keyword gap analysis to reveal which keywords your competitors rank for, those you rank for, the gaps, and the overlap — Venn diagram-style.

3. Organize Keyword Data

Last step! Sort through the keyword data you uncovered and identify the right keywords to target.

To sift through the keywords, follow these tips:

  • Remove keywords that don’t make sense for your site. Discard keywords irrelevant to your product or customers, as well as competitor-branded terms.
  • Remove keywords that are too highly competitive or don’t have enough search volume. You might set a filter to remove keywords with a certain keyword difficulty score or too low a volume of monthly searches. 
  • Look for areas where your competitor is lacking. Identify low-hanging fruit that allows you to swoop in and crush your competitor’s rankings. These might be keywords that your competitor isn’t ranking highly for, and you believe you could outdo their content and rank better. Or it could be relevant, high-value keywords that your competitor hasn’t even targeted yet. 

Top Competitor Keyword Analysis Tools

We’ll discuss a range of SEO keyword research tools with different strengths and weaknesses depending on your budget, preferences, and goals.

First, let’s start the discussion with what all the buzz is about.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a cloud-based tool that helps marketers find content and outreach opportunities on social and search. Marketers can discover and monitor new keywords, unearth customer questions, explore trending topics, and analyze successful content.

BuzzSumo’s Strengths

  • The Content Analysis tool makes comparing your brand’s content vs. your competitors’ easy. 
  • The reports are comprehensive, with suggestions for updating content and detailed explanations of why certain content ranks well.
  • You’re able to quickly see and analyze a domain’s top-performing content.

BuzzSumo’s Weaknesses

  • Buzzsumo’s wealth of other features may warrant its high price tag, but the competitive keyword analysis functions are a bit lacking for the cost.

How To Use BuzzSumo To Collect Competitor Content Insights

  1. Log in to BuzzSumo.   
  2. Navigate to the Content tab and select ‘Content Analyzer.’
  3. Enter your brand’s URL into the search bar and hit enter.
Content Analyzer imager from BuzzSumo
  1. Click on the ‘View Analysis Report’ tab.
  2. Find the search bar on the right under the words ‘Add Comparison’ and enter your competitor’s URL.
Image displaying where to find BuzzSumo Analysis Report
  1. Explore the ‘Top Pieces of Content’ for your competitor’s brand to discover their content with the most engagement.

SpyFu

SpyFu is a competitor-focused keyword research tool that helps SEOs and digital marketers discover their competitors’ most profitable keywords.

SpyFu’s Strengths

  • SpyFu is a strong competitive research tool even at its limited free version capacity.
  • For access to even more data, affordable paid options are available starting at just $16/month.
  • SpyFu identifies your top competitors for both organic and paid keywords.
  • Beyond your competition’s keywords, the easy-to-use dashboard offers information on your competition’s top competitors, traffic, inbound clicks, ad spend, monthly search volumes, top keywords, inbound links, top pages, and page one keywords.
  • Related keyword insights help you craft better campaigns.


SpyFu’s Weaknesses

  • SpyFu’s free version identifies a limited five to 10 competitor keywords and gates the remaining. 

How To Use SpyFu To Collect Competitor Keywords

  1. Go to spyfu.com.
  2. Type your competitor’s URL in the search bar.
An image of the SpyFu search page to help find competitor keywords
  1. Find the SEO Keywords section below the header and click.

Semrush

Semrush is a heavy-hitting, multi-functional marketing tool that offers a suite of insights beyond just SEO keywords. As for keyword research functions, Semrush offers valuable insights into keyword volume, trends, and related keywords. The Keyword Magic Tool allows you to discover long-tail keywords and filter results based on specific criteria, making it useful for in-depth keyword research. The Keyword Gap tool helps you identify specific keywords your competitors are outranking you for.

Semush’s Strengths

  • The tool offers many report options to help you evaluate how your keywords compare to a competitor’s and help you assess who is doing better.
  • Semrush assesses paid keywords for PPC to help you avoid targeting words that are too competitive. The tool also helps you determine good opportunities to invest your ad spend.
  • Semrush offers some free features and a free seven-day trial. 
  • You can see your competitors’ keywords, rankings, gaps, and organic performance metrics.

Semrush’s Weaknesses

  • The wide array of functions in this comprehensive tool might overwhelm new marketers. 
  • If you have needs beyond the free version, you’ll pay $119.95/month for a subscription.

How To Use Semrush To Collect Competitor Keywords

  1. Create a free Semrush account.
  2. Navigate to the Organic Research.
An image of the Semrush Organic Research page
  1. Add your competitors’ URLs to the search bar and hit enter.
  2. Explore the dashboard with your competition’s organic performance data.
  3. Click on the ‘Positions’ tab, found next to ‘Overview.’
An image from Semrish displaying organic research for shopzilla.com

How To Use Semrush To Find Keyword Gaps

  1. Log in to Semrush
  2. With a free account, you get a max of 10 requests per day. If you need more, sign up for the paid version or its seven-day free trial.
  3. Find ‘Keyword Gap’ along the left side panel under ‘Competitive Research.’
An image from SEM rush showing where on the site to find the Keyword Gap tool
  1. Add your URL in the first search bar.
  2. Add a competitor’s URL in the next search bar.
An image from Semrush displaying how to use the Keyword Gap tool to find competitor keywords
  1. Add up to 4 total competitors.
  2. Select ‘Compare’ to see possible keywords you should target.
  3. To view all missing or weak keywords, you’ll need a paid subscription.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is one of the most popular keyword research tools among SEO specialists. It offers every premium keyword research function (e.g., full keyword profiles and traffic, including rankings and rich snippets) you could want at a correspondingly premium price. The detailed information Ahrefs provides helps SEOs and digital marketers understand the potential traffic and competition for specific keywords.

Ahrefs’ Strengths

  • You can take a given keyword and get all the top pages that rank for that topic.
  • It’s easy to find the parent topic for a particular keyword.
  • You’ll understand how your competitors are attempting to rank for user intent to better inform your strategies.
  • There’s extensive filtering to find or exclude keywords.
  • You can export up to 500,000 rows of keywords.

Ahrefs’ Weaknesses

  • The tool has limited free functions and no trial subscription available.
  • Some functions, like position changes, are unnecessary for a basic SEO strategy informed by competitor keyword insights, but you’ll still pay for these functions.

How To Use Ahrefs To Conduct SEO Competitor Keyword Analysis

Ahrefs allows you to seamlessly analyze your competitors’ content to gain valuable information about their organic search traffic, top-ranking keywords, and backlink profiles. This data helps you understand your competitors’ keyword strategies and find opportunities to improve your own.

So without further ado, here’s how you can use Ahrefs to conduct a competitor keyword analysis:

  1. Log in to Ahrefs and ensure your subscription plan is Lite or higher.
  2. Head to the Site Explorer tool within the dashboard.
  3. Add your competitor’s URL in the text bar.
  4. Navigate to the sidebar and tap ‘Organic Keywords’ under ‘Organic Search.’

How To Use Ahrefs To Find Keyword Gaps

  1. Log in to your premium Ahrefs account.
  2. Head to the Site Explorer function.
  3. Type your web address in the search bar.
An image showing how to use Ahrefs to find Keyword Gaps
  1. Look to the left to find the ‘Content Gap’ function under ‘Organic Search.’
An image showing the Organic Search results menu with submenus displayed
  1. Add up to three competitors’ web addresses and then click ‘Show Keywords.’
In image displaying the Content Gap page for victoriousseo.com

And there you have it! That’s how you can analyze competitor keywords to inform your SEO strategy. 

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Supercharge Your Keyword Research

A competitive analysis is a surefire way to quickly find high-value keywords that support an improved strategy to outrank your competitors. 

A great content strategy is one that you consistently review and refine to ensure you’re answering your audience’s questions and meeting their content needs. By choosing to research your competitors and compare their insights to inform your own, you’ll be well on your way to creating improved content for your audience. Want to uncover the highest-value keywords and put them into action to reach your business goals? Our SEO agency is ready to help. We provide data-driven keyword research services to power your strategy and take the competition by storm. Reach out for a consultation to get started.

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