Neil Patel

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SEO Competitor Analysis: Discover Your Competitor’s Keywords

A graphic that says "SEO competitor analysis: discover your competitor's keywords."

Don’t be scared of competition in Google’s search results. Embrace it.

Your competitors aren’t just a fantastic source of high-quality backlinks; you can also use them to find hundreds of relevant keywords that generate a serious amount of traffic.

Competitor keyword analysis is the process of finding high-value keywords that your competitors rank for but you don’t. It’s an essential tool in any keyword research strategy and an effective method of competing in competitive search markets.

When done well, you’ll leapfrog your competitors and send your traffic levels soaring.

In this post, I’ll cover how to analyze your competitor’s content step-by-step and the best tools for the job.

Key Takeaways

  • Keyword competitor analysis is the process of finding new keyword opportunities by analyzing the efforts of your competitors.
  • Competitor keyword analysis helps you identify content gaps—topics that align with your audience’s interests that you aren’t covering.
  • There are several tools that can help you with how to do competitor keyword analysis, including Ubersuggest, Buzzsumo, and SpyFu.
  • Make sure you create exceptional content for each keyword you target to give yourself the best chance of stealing a ranking spot.

What Is Competitor Keyword Analysis?

Keyword competitor analysis is the process of finding and analyzing keywords that you’re not ranking for but your competitors are, and then taking steps to reverse engineer their success and outrank them.

It is one of the quickest and easiest keyword research methods—and a great way to find keywords that generate traffic and sales. 

Not just any competitor keyword will do, however. If a keyword isn’t relevant to your business, there’s no point trying to rank for it.

Why You Need to Do Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis

The biggest benefit of keyword research and competitor analysis is identifying your site’s content gaps—topics that align with your audience’s interests that you haven’t written about yet.

The truth is you’re probably not going to find every relevant keyword and topic with a keyword research tool—even if you use it every day. That means there are potentially hundreds of keywords that your competitors are getting traffic from, but you aren’t.

Keyword competitor analysis also helps you to understand how to rank for those keywords and, in particular, what you can do to outrank your competitors.

Even if you’re a novice digital marketer, you should be able to identify the type of content Google ranks for each competitor keyword (whether that’s a blog post, a product page, etc.) or the intent behind the search. You can even use the structure of your competitor’s page to guide your efforts and mine the page’s backlinks for link building opportunities.   

In short, running a keyword competitor analysis and acting on it ensures your site attracts as many users and delivers as much value as possible.

Tools for Competitor Keyword Analysis

You don’t have to manually trawl through your competitors’ pages to do keyword research. There are several tools that can help:

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest keyword analysis tool.

My SEO tool, Ubersuggest, is an excellent way to identify your organic competitors, analyze their keywords, and find keyword gaps automatically. 

BuzzSumo

Buzzsumo keyword analysis tool.

BuzzSumo is a great tool for finding relevant keywords and comparing domains against each other. Add your website and one of your competitors and instantly see how you stack up. 

SpyFu

SpyFu keyword analysis tool.

SpyFu provides a huge amount of competitor data, including how many organic keywords they rank for, the number of inbound clicks from Google, and the number of keywords each site’s competitors also rank for. 

Ahrefs

Ahrefs keyword analysis tool.

Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool makes it easy to identify your top competitors and see content gaps between their websites and yours. 

How to Do Competitor Keyword Analysis

Use the steps I outline below to find high-value competitor keywords quickly and easily.

1: Find Your Competitors

The first step is to identify your top competitors.

If you already have some target keywords in mind, try checking out who’s already ranking in SERPs for those keywords and add them to your list. 

You probably already have a few companies in mind, but build a more complete and accurate list by considering the following criteria:

  • Size of target. Do you have the capacity to go after the biggest players in your niche, or do you want to go after low-hanging targets?
  • Nature of competition. Do you want to target businesses that are direct or indirect competitors? A direct competitor would be a business that offers a similar product or service that serves as a substitute for yours. An indirect competitor offers a different product or service that can solve the same problem as you.

In my experience, it’s smart to focus on your direct competitors. Let me explain why.

While a perceived competitor may solve a similar customer problem, if they don’t use the same product or the method, then you may have a completely different prospect pool.

What about the size of your target? It’s up to you. The resources you have will help decide whether you want to compete with the biggest players or those next in line.

If you want to find your niche’s heavy hitters, a simple Google search will do the trick. They’ll be the ones dominating both the organic and paid results.

If you want to find smaller sites ranking for relevant keywords, I recommend using a site like Similar Web.

Similar web keyword analysis tool.

It will give you a range of statistics about your website. But you want to pay attention to the section that says “Similar sites.”

Contently keyword analysis tool.

You can also use the Similar Websites search tool on Ubersuggest. Just enter your site, and it will show up to 20 competing domains.

Ubersuggest keyword analysis tool.

2. Identify Potential Competitor Keywords

Now, it’s time to start mining your competitors’ keyword data to identify the keywords you don’t rank for.

Enter each of your competitors into a keyword analysis tool and get a list of their top keywords. In Ubersuggest, you can do this by heading to the Traffic Estimation tab, clicking Traffic Overview, and entering each of your competitors’ domains:

keyword analysis tool traffic overview.

Scroll down to the SEO Keywords section, and you’ll find a complete list of the keywords they rank for.

You can sort keywords by volume and then go through the page one by one, making a note of the unbranded keywords that you don’t think you rank for.

Large site owners may hit a snag using this method, however. If you already rank for thousands of keywords, this can be incredibly time-consuming, and you’ll likely miss out on great keyword opportunities.

Instead, I recommend automating the process using Ubersugget’s Keywords Gap tool found under the same Similar Websites feature you used to create your list of competitors.

Simply click the View All dropdown button for each competitor to get a list of keywords that you aren’t currently ranking for.

Ubersuggest keyword analysis tool.

3: Choose Competitor Keywords to Target

Once you have your list of keywords, it’s time to start finding ones that make sense to target.

First, rule out keywords that aren’t relevant to your business or target audience. There’s no point creating content to rank for a keyword if it isn’t going to bring in potential customers. 

For smaller businesses, eliminate keywords that are obviously too competitive. These could be super high volume keywords, one-word keywords, or keywords that have a high SEO difficulty score, as shown in Ubersuggest:

Ubersuggest keyword analysis tool competitor targeting.

I recommend targeting keywords with an SEO difficulty of 30 or less unless your site has a huge domain authority score. You don’t have to delete these competitive keywords from your list, as they’ll come in handy in the future. Simply disregard them for now and create a new list for the keywords that make the cut.

Finally, do a manual search to check the viability of your remaining keywords. Plug each keyword into Google, look at the top three results at a minimum and evaluate the following things:

  • If you were a user who searched for this keyword, would you be fully satisfied with this result?
  • Is the result an established site, forum, or social network?
  • Does it load quickly?
  • Is it mobile-friendly?

These criteria will help you decide whether it’s worth attempting to rank for each competitor keyword. The worse the results, the easier you should find it to rank—especially if you have a strong domain yourself.

Tips for Analyzing Competitor Content

It’s not enough to find low-competition, high-value competitor keywords. If you’re serious about stealing their spots in the SERPs, then you need to create (and promote) better content.

Analyzing your competitor’s existing content is the best place to start. By analyzing the existing results for each keyword, you should be able to identify several ways to improve the searcher’s experience and give Google every reason to rank your content.

Start by thinking about what the user wants to achieve, as this will help you determine what kind of content to create. This will be obvious in some cases. High-intent queries where users are looking to buy a product will be best served with category and product pages like the image below:

Google results mens basketball sneakers.

In other cases, it will be more nuanced. Does a search for “web analytics” require a product page or a blog post? As you can see from the Google results, both have a chance to rank:

Web analytics google results.

Next, assess the quality of the content ranking at the top of Google for your keyword. Does it answer the query? Does it provide a good user experience?

In most cases, I bet you’d be able to create better content by:

  • Using up-to-date information
  • Adding more examples
  • Making it longer
  • Making it easier to read
  • Including more graphics
  • Citing better sources

Finally, see if there’s an opportunity to optimize the on-page SEO of your new content using a tool like Surfer SEO or Frase.

Frase SEO tool.

You can use Surfer SEO’s keyword research tool to score your competitor’s optimization efforts out of 100 and identify the headings, keywords, and topics you need to include to outrank them.

FAQs

What is a competitor keyword analysis?

Competitor keyword analysis is a method of identifying the keywords your competitors rank for, but you don’t. This analysis helps you discover potential keyword opportunities that you may have overlooked and provides insights into the market trends and search behaviors in your industry. It’s an essential part of developing a competitive SEO strategy.

How do I do a competitor keyword analysis?

To perform a competitor keyword analysis, start by identifying your main competitors and use SEO tools like Ubersuggest to analyze their websites. Next, look for the high-value, low competition keywords that you aren’t ranking for and then go after them. 

What insights can I gain from competitor keyword analysis?

Competitor keyword analysis provides several valuable insights:
Keyword opportunities: Discover keywords your competitors are ranking for but you might be missing.
Content gaps: Identify topics they cover that you could also address, potentially in a more comprehensive way.
SEO strategies: Understand the keyword density, backlink strategies, and on-page SEO tactics your competitors use.
Performance benchmarks: Evaluate how well your competitors are performing and set benchmarks for your own SEO goals.

How often should I perform competitor keyword analysis?

How often you perform competitor keyword analysis will depend on the size of your industry and the aggressiveness of your SEO strategy. For most industries, conducting this once or twice a year will be sufficient. However, you’ll want to continuously monitor competitors in SERPs to be aware of changes. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, I’ve shown that your competitors can be a source of inspiration as well as aggravation. Keyword research and competitor analysis helps you find high-value keywords you’ve overlooked and also offers valuable insights into the SEO strategies that work for your competitors.

But finding competitor keywords is only half the battle. Make sure you spend as much time creating great content and giving it as much chance to rank as possible by building backlinks.   

What’s your process for competitive keyword analysis?

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