We’ve all heard the catchphrase extolled by SEO experts, content marketers, and search engine gurus alike: “Content is king.” Provide high-quality content, they say, and users will not only find your page ranked higher on Google’s SERP, but will be more likely to navigate to your page—and much more likely to stay there long enough to read said content and make a conversion in the process. However, while quality is an—if not the single most—important factor in your end of the content marketing equation, it’s also crucial to consider how you’re faring in Google’s search algorithm and ranking system to ensure you’re getting the visibility and the traffic you need for success.
Since the algorithm itself undergoes frequent updates and changes, one of the most effective ways to gauge your content’s SEO value is by measuring how you stack up against the competition. In other words, you’ll need to evaluate your content at its base functional level—how effectively you’re using keywords to ensure visibility—and compare yourself to competitors for those same keywords. To do it, you’ll need to perform a competitor keyword analysis.
What Is Competitor Keyword Analysis?
Simply put, competitor keyword analysis is the process of identifying the most valuable keywords that apply to your business and evaluating where you stand as compared to the competition. Then, you’ll need to isolate potential gaps—keywords your competitors rank for, which you don’t—so you can take steps to close them.
How can competitor keyword analysis help make more of an impact with your content? By identifying valuable keywords that you haven’t effectively capitalized upon and incorporating them into your content, you’ll rank higher when users search for content like yours. Perhaps even more importantly, researching competitor keywords can help you identify new opportunities—things the competition is doing well with their content that you haven’t considered.
Start by Identifying the Competition
Of course, you want your content to rank at the top of Google’s SERP for all your most important keywords, but you must make a key consideration before you begin a competitor keyword analysis. First, you’ll need to identify your competitors.
The most obvious competitors are direct market competitors—think Burger King if you’re McDonald’s, or Target if you’re Walmart. However, indirect competitors—think other quick-service chains and even grocery stores if you’re McDonald’s, or local hardware stores and clothing boutiques if you’re Walmart—that operate within the same or relevant niches can utilize some of the same keywords. Identifying any gaps can help you explore where you might improve and find new opportunities for success.
How to Get Started
Perhaps the most challenging part of competitor analysis is that it can be fairly limitless. After all, there are thousands of keywords that are relevant to your business, and evaluating them and comparing them to the competition can seem daunting to perform for even one competitor—let alone the two or three recommended by SEO experts. Fortunately, there are several tools available to help streamline the process via these simple steps:
- Find a keyword research tool. There is no need to manually perform keyword analysis when there are tools that can help you evaluate the competition and quickly narrow your field of potential keywords. SEMRush’s Advertising Research report helps you identify your biggest competitors, while the Keyword Gap tool enables you to compare keyword profiles and identify gaps. Similarly, SpyFu’s Keyword Spy and Google Ads Advisors provide you with in-depth information on the competition.
- Compare side by side. Next, identify valuable keywords—that is, keywords that are high-volume and related to your business—and compare your rankings with a competitor. With most tools, you can enter both domains, choose overlapping keywords, and sort by those that your competitor is more successful at ranking for—this tactic identifies keywords you’ve developed content for less successfully than your competition. Alternatively, sort by your competitors’ most successful keywords and identify new opportunities you don’t yet rank for at all.
- Look for keywords your competition invested in heavily. Keywords your competition has put a great deal of effort into are likely candidates for your attention. You can approach this in one of two ways:
- Identify paid competitor keywords you may have the opportunity to rank for organically.
- Identify keywords your competition has devoted time and resources to rank for (including large content projects like white papers, infographics, and e-books) and begin developing content that increases your ranking for the same.
- Determine what the competition is doing well—and what they aren’t. Chances are if your competition is performing well for a high-volume keyword, they’re doing something right. Plug natural combinations of high-volume keywords into your tool to see which competitors, which types of content, and which concepts you should consider emulating with your content. Alternatively, look at high-ranking competitor keywords from a user’s perspective—does the competition meet the needs that would lead the average user to search for these terms? If not, consider how you could fill the gaps.
Once you’ve performed your competitor keyword analysis and found the associated keyword gaps, you can begin creating content to fill them. With an eye toward quality and what your competition is doing well and insight regarding how you could do it better, your content will be more likely to impact a broader range of your target audience.