For most SMBs, the key to generating more traffic, leads, and sales lies in outsmarting your competition.
In digital marketing, especially, established brands make it incredibly difficult to compete. They not only can attract the best sales, marketing, and research talent but also possess the financial clout to quickly outmuscle you in a toe-to-toe contest. It means that if you’re not smart, you’ll forever feed on scraps.
So, how do you get past this hurdle? How can your small business compete despite these obvious challenges? Simple – competitor analysis – researching your competition! Competitor analysis allows you to;
- Find out what makes your competitor tick; what’s their secret?
- Uncover and exploit opportunities the competitor has overlooked
This guide should help you plan and execute one of the most rewarding forms of competitor research in digital marketing – competitive keyword analysis.
It’s not exactly easy. But, with dedication, you can do it even on your own. Let’s start with a definition;
What is Competitive Keyword Analysis?
Competitive keyword analysis, also known as SEO competitor analysis or SEO keyword competition analysis, is just that – unraveling your competitor’s keyword strategy.
By analyzing the competitor’s keywords, you’re able to gain insight into the interests of your shared audience and adjust your SEO campaign accordingly to improve your SERP performance.
Benefits of SEO Competitor Keyword Analysis
There are three main reasons why you should prioritize competitor SEO analysis for your search engine optimization campaign;
- Discover keywords that work
Using SEO competitor research tools, you can find out the full list of keywords your primary competitors use, along with the number of clicks received for each keyword, and overall search volume. You can then sort out these terms to come up with a list of proven keywords to drive your campaign.
- Find out keywords you omitted
If you already do SEO, competitor SEO search can also be instrumental in finding out valuable keywords that you might have overlooked in the past. What’s even better is that most competitor SEO analysis tools now let you compare your SEO keywords with the competitor’s to uncover the keywords missing in your campaign.
- Gives you a competitive advantage
Business is about outsmarting the opponent. It’s about finding new ways to stay ahead of the pack. Competitive SEO analysis adds another weapon to your business intelligence arsenal. Once you know the keywords that are driving your competitor’s success, you can find high-performance long-tail versions and even alternative keywords to outrank that competitor.
Tools like RankingGap will certainly play a huge role in helping you work out your keywords, what your competitors rank for, and how you fare against them.
It has 4 core features or keyword views that cover the necessary areas of a keyword gap analysis practice.
But of course, before you jump straight into the tool itself, maybe learn a bit more on how to perform competitive keyword analysis.
How to Perform Competitive Keyword Analysis in 3 Steps
So, having learned about the above benefits, you’re probably thinking – where do I start my competitor keyword analysis? Here’s how to proceed;
Step #1: Define Your Competition
Who are your competitors?
Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. While it’s easy to discover your local rivals by searching your primary keywords in Google, SERP results alone won’t reveal all your global competitors.
For instance, for a local bakery trying to rank for the keyword “tasty buns in Texas,” the competition would be limited to bakeries in Texas. But, the moment the same bakery attempts to rank for a how-to article, it’d be up against even national brands such as Taste of Home and the Food Network. Making it to the first page then becomes a lot more difficult than in the first scenario.
For purposes of competitive keyword analysis, therefore, we prefer to define a competitor as; “anyone who ranks in the first result page for your target keywords, whether or not these people are your local business competitors.”
With the Competitor Discovery feature in RankingGap, you can quickly identify your top competitors. You just need to paste your domain to RankingGap and wait for the results. RankingGap will show you your top competitors in a chart view.
When you click on a specific competitor, you can get information about your competitors, including the common keywords, the estimated volume of web traffic, and the percentage of keywords on the first page of SERP.
Step #2: Find Out Your Competitor(s) Keywords
This part should be easy! Pick an opponent (one of your competitors) and use SEO analysis tools to discover the core keywords driving their campaign.
Begin by searching your target keyword in Google and see the results that come up. Then, pick brands/companies behind those results and analyze their SEO strategies one by one.
There are multiple tools you can use to accomplish this process, including Google Analytics, SEMRush, and Moz. We, however, prefer (and recommend) BiQ Ranking Intelligence. With BiQ, all you need is the competitor’s site URL. Once you enter the URL into BiQ, the dashboard fills up with all the intelligence data you need.
Even better, BiQ allows you to select from five SEO intelligence parameters, i.e., keyword, content, link, rank, and site intelligence. You only pay for the selected parameter(s).
In this case, you’d select keyword intelligence. Under this parameter, BiQ will help you;
- Discover your competitor’s keyword profile
- Collect all the keywords you like
- Find trending keywords for your content
- Uncover hidden long-tail keyword opportunities
- Conduct keyword searches for local SEO
- Determine the real SEO value of each keyword
The “real SEO value” in this case refers to metrics such as search volume, average CPC, and the average competition for that keyword.
Here is how you can find out your competitors’ keywords with RankingGap.
In order to know what keywords both you and your competitors share, you need to first create a project by inserting your domain and your competitors’, Then, you pick your location and language setting.
When you set everything up, you can generate your project. When the results are out, go to the “Common” keyword view, which you are already on by default.
You’ll see a list of keywords with your competitors’ ranking positions as compared to yours.
What’s displayed here are the keywords that you, including all your competitors, have. You can see the ranking and the rank movement on each column. Other data like CPC, Volume, Competition, and SERP Features are also shown.
If your ranking is lower than your competitors, then it is where you should do your optimization.
In addition, the “Gap” keyword view lets you tap into the keywords you don’t have and keywords that some of your competitors are missing as well. The “Missing” view will show the keywords that all of your competitors are ranking for except you. Finally, the “Unique” view is the keywords that you rank for but not your competitors.
With that amount of information, you can do your competitor keyword analysis and start planning your content strategy.
Step #3: Pick the Best Competitive Keywords
Not all keywords are equal – some promise more traffic and leads than others. Additionally, some keywords are extremely competitive. Getting an article to the first page for the term “content marketing,” for example, isn’t easy because it’s one of the most competitive keywords at the moment. You need to pick keywords that justify your efforts.
For the above reasons, sometimes, you may need to assess every keyword on your list to pick out the right ones. It’s what makes this part a little more challenging. To shorten the process, we recommend that you focus on finding;
#1. Keywords your competitor ranks for that you don’t
Are you leaving a few vital keywords out of your SEO strategy? Could your competitor be ranking higher in SERPs because they use these keywords you’ve often overlooked? If so, you need to start using the keywords more often.
#2. High-ranking competitor content that doesn’t match search queries well
Is your competitor benefiting from a lack of quality content for a particular keyword? Do they have rather poor content at the top of SERPs because there are no quality alternatives? You can take advantage of this situation by creating high-quality articles around these keywords.
#3. Keywords your competitor is paying for that you can rank for naturally
If your competitor is paying for these keywords, it follows that they’re valuable keywords in your industry. So, what do you do? Try to see if you can rank organically for these words. Create quality articles around the keywords and submit them to Google for indexing.
Invest in Keyword Gap Analysis
Finally, competitive keyword analysis isn’t complete without keyword gap analysis. A gap analysis entails comparing two domains (such as your site and a competitor’s site) to identify disparities in keyword use and performance.
We’ve already talked about finding keywords that your competitor ranks for, but you don’t. A keyword gap analysis will help you reveal such keywords.
But that’s not everything. A gap analysis will also help you discover long-tail keywords you might have overlooked as well as terms you perhaps need to use more frequently.
Having a tool like RankingGap will definitely up your SEO game and generate an actual ROI as compared to doing manual guesswork or basic keyword research.
Competitive keyword analysis can significantly benefit your SEO campaign. With informed SEO competitor analysis, you could even topple some of the mainstays in your industry to rank at the top of SERPs for specific keywords. It’s something you should prioritize going forward.
Using a competitor keyword analysis tool like RankingGap is what you need to speed up your SEO process.
This post was originally written by Vivian and published on February 16, 2021. It was most recently updated on Feb 22, 2022, by Claire Le.
Updated: 1 October 2023