February 14, 2019

How to Conduct Competitive Keyword Research

Many businesses (and even SEO professionals) know the frustration of putting lots of time and effort into SEO, only to be outranked by one or more of your competitors at seemingly every turn. You begin asking yourself, “how do they do that? What do they know that I don’t? How can I compete?” The answer is just that: you compete.

To start ranking above your competitors, you have to compete at SEO the same way you compete as a business — try to identify weaknesses and use them to your advantage (I bet you didn’t know that SEO could be this cutthroat!). Now, we’ll go through exactly what you need to do to start ranking over your competitors for important, non-branded terms.

In short, you need to conduct competitive research in order to find out where the gaps in your competitors’ keyword strategies are and then use that knowledge to gain the competitive edge. It will take patience, diligence and a bit of work, but your efforts will more than pay off in the end.

To begin, you’ll need to identify your competition. You may have a thorough understanding of your competitors already, but if not sure, go to Google and type in some broad search terms describing your business’s core offering. The other businesses that appear in the results are likely your competitors. You can also use the SEO tool of your choice (SpyFu, SEMrush, Moz etc.) to find out what websites you’re competing with organically.

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Once you have a list of competitors, you’ll need to hone in on one and determine what keywords they’re currently targeting. To do that, you can use an SEO tool to pull a list of the keywords that they’re ranking for, or you can inspect the page source to identify the terms that they’re targeting. Look to see whether or not they’re targeting keywords for every stage of the funnel. For example, if they’re not targeting any middle of the funnel or consideration stage terms, you can work to target that funnel stage and fill that gap.

Once you have a list of keywords your competitor is targeting, you want to put that data to use.

  1. Conduct a Visual Pass-Through

You’ll want to do a quick visual pass-through in order to eliminate any irrelevant keywords that don’t make sense for your business. For example, if you sell scheduling software, you probably don’t want to target the keyword “competitive intelligence,” and you can cross that one off your list

2. Search it!

If you’re not sure whether or not a keyword will work for your business, do a quick Google search and see what results are returned. Do the results align with your business or product or are they misaligned? One thing to keep in mind is that if a query returns results from giants like Wikipedia or Amazon, it’s likely not worth the time and effort it would take to rank for that term.

3. Get Some Context

At this point, you should have somewhere around 10–30% of your original list remaining. Now you’ll want to assess your competitors’ overall authority and the quality of their website and content to determine the likelihood that you’ll be able to rank over them. You’ll want to examine things like:

    1. The numerical score of authority associated with your competitors: Use SEO tools to figure this out.
    2. How many quality backlinks does that page/post/domain have pointing to it?
    3. Is their site mobile friendly, does it load quickly?
    4. What is the overall quality of the content they produce? Does it seem to be optimized for SEO?

4. Look in the Mirror

Now it’s time to assess your own SEO capabilities, asking all of the same questions you would ask about your competitor. Do you stack up?

After completing this process, you should be left with a manageable number of terms that you can likely rank for from an organic standpoint. Complete the optimization of each page with the competitive term you’ve chosen, and keep an eye on those rankings!

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Ellie Miner

Ellie is an SEO/SEM specialist here at New Breed Marketing.


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