Anyone who has even dipped a toe into the world of content marketing and SEO knows that one of the first steps to a successful plan is to perform keyword analysis. Knowing what terms your audience is searching, and finding ways to incorporate them into your content in a natural way is one of the keys to achieving a higher result on search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, keyword strategy isn’t just about using the search terms that you determine to be the best fit for your content. It also means staying one step ahead of your competitors and the keywords they are using. While there is likely to be some overlap, especially when you are in the same industry and going after the same customers, you can usually gain some insights via competitive keyword analysis that you would not have otherwise had.

But Wait … Isn’t This Spying?

Because analyzing your competitor’s keywords involves some in-depth digging into their website and social feeds, you might be reluctant to go to the effort. It does take time and requires looking at all aspects of the content to figure out their strategy. But here’s the thing: Analyzing the competition is an integral element of running a successful business, and you can be guaranteed that your competitors are looking at your site to glean insights into your strategy. In other words, competitive keyword analysis is perfectly acceptable and worth devoting some resources to.

Determining which terms your competitors are using has several advantages to your strategy. For starters, you’re likely to find they are using some keywords that you hadn’t considered — keywords that you can roll into your strategy to draw more traffic to your site. You might also determine the keywords that they aren’t using, so you can target those terms and capture additional traffic. This type of analysis can also help you improve your content. If you are using the same keywords as your competitor, but they are getting better results, you can do some evaluations to determine why that’s the case. Do they link to better, more relevant content? Do they have a more compelling offer that entices users to stay? There are any number of reasons why another site could be performing better, and competitive analysis can give you that insight.

Conducting a Competitive Keyword Analysis

Again, doing this type of analysis takes time, but the payoff can be substantial.

keyword analysis researchAlthough there are online tools that can provide you with some insights, none will give a complete picture with just a few clicks. You will have to some manual digging around to get as much information as you can. To accomplish this:

  • Determine who your competitors are. Sounds obvious, but to really get a sense of what you’re up against, run a quick Google or Bing search using your top keywords. You never know who will show up.
  • Look beyond the obvious. Some of the competitors that appear in your search results may only compete with you in the most limited sense; for example, you might be a craft retailer, but one of your competitors only sells adhesives. By looking at the keywords they are using, you might be able to identify some unique keywords for a specific product category that aren’t expensive but deliver substantial traffic.
  • Look at paid listings. You can often find effective keywords right in plain sight in your competitor’s ad copy. Search your keyword or domain, and look closely at the text in the ad copy for ideas on keywords you can use.
  • Use the website’s source code. When you visit a page on your competitor’s site, right click on the page to open the “page source.” Look for keywords in in the page title, description, image titles, and optional keyword tag.

By working through these manual steps, you’ll develop a good sense of what your competitors are doing and how you can leverage their keywords to your advantage. From here, you can then employ other keyword analysis tools, such as Google’s Keyword Planner tool, to gain additional insights. However you choose to conduct your analysis, though, it will help you up your SEO game and create content that drives more traffic and gets better results.