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Competitive Keyword Analysis: How to Find Your Competitor's Keywords

If your competitors are looking for SEO, they are likely ranking for keywords that you don't rank for.

While that may sound like a disadvantage, it can also be beneficial.

If your competitors did keyword research and found topics you missed, they did the hard work for you. You can find new and valuable keywords just by doing a competitor keyword analysis.

Here's what you will learn in this post:

What is Keyword Competitor Analysis?

Keyword competitor analysis is about finding relevant and valuable keywords that your competitors are ranking for, but you are not.

Why should you do a keyword competition analysis?

If your competitors use relevant keywords and generate traffic with them, then they are probably also very relevant for your company.

How to do a keyword competition analysis

The process of keyword competition analysis is roughly the same, regardless of whether you are looking for new topics to cover or for gaps in existing content.

In this section we focus on uncovering new topics.

(Skip to the next section if you want to find gaps in existing content).

  1. Find competitors
  2. Use a content gap tool
  3. Search for valuable topics
  4. Assess the ranking difficulty

1. Find competitors

Even if you already have an idea of ​​who your business competitors are, it is important to understand that business competitors are not always the same as your search competitors. If you are looking for relevant and valuable topics that you want to cover, it is better to analyze the latter.

To see the difference between business and search competitors, consider us and backlinko.com. We make money selling SEO tools while Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, makes money selling SEO courses. While he's not our direct business competitor, we are competing for a lot of the same keywords because we are competing for the same audience.

Let's look at three easy ways to find competitors online.

a) Do a “related” Google search

The related: Google search operator finds websites related to yours. Just search for related: yourwebsite.com.

Note that this method can be a little unsafe. If your website is quite new and doesn't rank for many keywords yet, you may only see a few search results. Either way, you should manually check the pages before moving on to the next step. If they don't look like competitors, ignore them.

b) Find websites with overlapping keywords

Enter your website in Ahrefs' Site Explorer and view the report "Competing domains”(“ Competing domains ”). Each website in this report ranks in the top 10 for some of the same keywords as you, with the sites near the top having more overlap.

Note that this won't work particularly well if your website is new and not yet ranking for many keywords because the tool searches for common keywords. There can't be any overlapping keywords if you don't rank for one.

c) Find websites that rank for valuable keywords

If none of the above methods produce relevant results, enter a few relevant and valuable keywords in the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and review the report "Traffic share by domains”(Traffic share by domains). This will help you find the websites with the highest estimated organic traffic for the keywords you're looking for.

Using this method is the best course of action when:

  1. Your website is not yet ranking for many keywords
  2. You are looking for competitors on specific topics

For example, since our blog content is mostly about SEO, the above methods tend to find other SEO blogs. This is fine if we want to find gaps in our SEO content, but we recently started covering other topics like content marketing and blogging. To find competitors for these topics, we could put keywords like “content marketing”, “content strategy” and “editorial calendar” into the Keywords Explorer and check which sites are getting the most search traffic.

2. Use a content gap tool

Content gap tools find keywords that other sites rank for, but you don't. Most of the great SEO tools have one, but since you're reading the Ahrefs blog, we'll be demonstrating it with ours.

Here is the process:

  1. Enter your website into Ahrefs' Site Explorer and go to the "Content Gap" tool.
  2. Enter your competitors below, where it says “Show keywords that the below targets rank for”.
  3. Click on “Show keywords” to see the results.

Keywords our competitors rank for, but we don't.

If there are too many keywords to sift through, or if they seem largely irrelevant, play around with the number of overlaps to see keywords that are only ranked by a certain number of competitors.

If you only want to see keywords that competitors rank for in a specific area of ​​their website, enter a subdomain or subfolder instead. For example, if we were doing a competitor keyword analysis for the Ahrefs blog, we could enter competitors like Backlinko and Moz. But since we're only interested in blog content, we'd want to parse moz.com/blog instead of moz.com because all of your blog post URLs contain this prefix.

3. Finding valuable topics

It's unlikely that you will want to rank for everything that your competitors are also ranking for. Here are three things to consider when choosing your keywords.

a) Business value

Business value is a value we have created that represents the “value” of a keyword for a company. It is ultimately a decision at your own discretion. Just ask yourself how likely it is that searchers will want to buy what you are selling. The higher this probability, the higher the “business value” of the keyword.

For example, if you're selling computer parts, the “business value” of the keyword “buy 1tb hard drive” is likely to be quite high. On the other hand, it will be pretty low for “what is a computer” as the people looking for it probably don't want to build their own computer anytime soon.

At Ahrefs, we assign keywords a business score between 0-3 to keep things simple.

b) search volume

Search volume is the average number of monthly searches for a keyword. In general, the higher the search volume of a keyword, the higher the traffic potential of the topic. In the content gap report there is a column for the search volume next to the keyword.

c) Organic traffic potential

Take a look at the search volume of this keyword vs. the estimated traffic of the top-ranking page:

Although the keyword only gets 7,200 searches per month, the top page gets around 25x more organic traffic. That's because it ranks thousands of other related keywords, also known as long-tail keywords. Many of these keywords are just less popular ways to search for the same thing.

Looking at the traffic from the top-ranking pages is a much more reliable way of assessing a keyword's traffic potential than its search volume. We always recommend this review before you finally decide on a keyword.

To do that in the Content Gap Tool, just click the SERP button and check the Traffic column.

4. Assess the ranking difficulty

It's not always easy to rank for the same things as your competitors. There are many reasons why they might find it easier to rank for a keyword than you. So before you jump into a keyword, you should always assess the ranking difficulty.

The metric “Keyword Difficulty (KD)” in the Ahrefs tool is sufficient to give you a rough feel for the ranking difficulty. You can see this in the “Content Gap” report.

Nevertheless, you should not judge the ranking difficulty based on the keyword difficulty metric of a tool alone.

Here are three more things to consider:

1. Search intention

Search intent is the reason people search for a particular keyword.

  • Are you looking for information?
  • Do you want to buy something?
  • Are you looking for a specific website?

If your content is not geared towards the search intention, your chances of a good ranking are slim to none.

Google understands search intent better than anyone, so the top ranking pages are a good indicator of search intent.

For example, all results for “Accelerate Windows 10” are blog posts in list format, while “corsair k70” are product pages from e-commerce stores.

The results for “speed up windows 10” are all listings.

The results for “corsair k70” are all product pages.

Remember, there is little point in using a keyword unless you are posting the type of content that matches the search intent. For example, if you run a computer blog, it makes little sense to use a keyword like “corsair k70” because the searcher is in buy mode. You can't live up to this intention without a product page, and there won't be that on a blog.

Recommended Article:What is a search intention? A Complete Beginner's Guide

2. Website Authority

Google's John Mueller has publicly stated that they don't use any type of website authority metric in their ranking algorithms.

We don't use domain authority. We generally try to have our metrics as granular as possible, sometimes that's not so easy, in which case we look at things a bit broader (eg, we've talked about this in regards to some of the older quality updates).

- 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) April 16, 2019

We do not use domain authority. In general, we try to make our metrics as granular as possible. Sometimes that's not that easy, in which case we take a broader look at it (e.g. we talked about this in relation to some of the older quality updates).

However, industry experts are divided on this issue - some believe Google is not being completely honest. The reason for this is certainly easy to see, as the search results for some keywords are almost exclusively dominated by well-known brands.

At Ahrefs, we have a metric called Domain Rating (DR) which represents a website's authority based on the strength of its backlink profile. This does not count towards our KD score, but as a general rule, it can be difficult to rank when the top results for a keyword are from websites with DR scores much higher than yours.

You can see the DR of all top ranking pages in the “SERP Overview”.

You can view your website's DR in Site Explorer or by using our free website authority checker.

Recommended Article:How to increase website authority (domain rating)

3. High quality links from other websites

Backlinks are a well-known ranking factor.

The Keyword Difficulty (KD) takes into account the quantity of links to the top ranking pages, but not their quality. So it's worth checking the backlink profiles of the top ranking pages before targeting a keyword. You will often find that while a page has many sites linking to it, many are of poor quality - in which case it might be easier to top the page than you initially thought.

For example, look at the first two results for “best home printer”, which have a KD of 60:

At first glance, it looks like a pretty hard keyword to “crack” because the top ranking page has links from many websites. However, when we check the backlinks in Ahrefs' explorer, most of them are low quality and nofollowed.

If you can meet the search intent and your website is authoritative enough, you probably won't need as many high quality links to outperform this page in the ranking.

Even if a keyword seems difficult to rank, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be targeting it. You just have to be realistic and break the keywords into long, medium and short term goals.

How to conduct a keyword competition analysis at the page level

Conducting a keyword competition analysis at the page level (rather than the domain level) can help you find gaps in existing content. These are places where your page doesn't cover something that searchers may want to know. Filling these gaps can help you:

For example, if we look at the top results for the keyword “guest blogging”, most of them have a definition.

Unfortunately, we didn't take that into account in our guide on guest blogging. Unless we fill that “void”, we are unlikely to rank high for our main target keyword. And we certainly won't rank for long tails like “What is guest blogging” because our post doesn't answer the question.

But before you can fill in gaps in existing content, you need to find them ... and you can do that using much the same approach as above. The difference is that you are doing the analysis at the page level instead.

So the first step is to find competing pages in one of two ways:

  1. Search Google for your target keyword. The best ranking sites are your competitors.
  2. Use the “Traffic share by pages” report in the Keywords ExplorerEnter a few keywords, then click on “by pages” in the “Traffic share” section in the left menu.

From there, enter some competing URLs into the Content Gap tool and make sure the mode is set to “URL”. Remove your website from the bottom and leave this field blank (you will usually get better results this way).

Many of the keywords that are shown are likely other ways of looking for the same thing. Don't worry about it. Just look for keywords that represent subtopics that you know you've neglected in your content.

You do not need to assess the ranking difficulty for these subtopics; just add new sections to your existing page to fill in the gaps.

Conclusion

It is not a bad idea to repeat the keyword competition analysis process from time to time. It's a great way to find topics that you might have overlooked.

Alternatively, if you know your competitors, you can set up keyword notifications to keep track of new keywords that they are ranking for - and that they may be targeting. Set up a new keyword alert at Ahrefs Alerts. Enter a competitor, select a country, enter the search volume and the frequency of the alert, and you're good to go.

Monitoring new keyword rankings for one of our competitors at Ahrefs Alerts.

Do you still have questions? Write to me on Twitter.