How Your Competitors Keywords Can Help You Choose Your Own

Keywords live in every aspect of digital marketing; websites, ads, social media, blog posts. Your keywords are an extension of your business and your brand and you’ve probably poured over the research of which keywords suit you best.

But competitor analysis is key to truly find the best keywords to target. What your competition is doing matters. Your competitors likely influenced other aspects of your business in some way, so why haven’t you checked their keywords?

What they are ranking for can help you determine the keywords you should be focusing on, as well. Let’s dive into this a bit further and see how you can use competitor data to discover new keywords.

Finding Niche Keywords Using Competitor Data

One of the biggest benefits of knowing and understanding your competitor keywords is knowing what they are targeting so you can work away from that and find your niche.

That’s not to say you don’t want to compete on any of their keywords, but it can help you find a sweet spot they aren’t targeting that might actually be useful to your customers or a keyword that is easier to rank for.

For example, let’s say you are a travel agency that specializes in New York travel. You take the time to do a search on your competitor’s keywords and they are targeting all the major locations: Time Square, Broadway, Wall Street, 42nd Street, West Village.

Then, you notice they aren’t targeting locations of smaller neighborhoods that may not be as well known to a tourist, but that they would still want to visit; East Village, Turtle Bay, Meatpacking District, Hell’s Kitchen.

Because their focus is on the “bigger” places that come across everyone’s mind, they might be fighting an uphill battle with every other agency looking to get clients to book a trip to 42nd Street. Here’s where you can capitalize on the smaller neighborhoods, the smaller keywords that still have search results and find your niche keywords there.

You might even find that those keywords inspire a new positioning of your company; Now you are the New York travel agency for those who want to see “real New York,” not just the tourist traps.

This might be a pretty top of the line example, but drill it down for whatever your industry is. You don’t want to go for keywords with too low of a monthly search because you just won’t be driving the kind of traffic you’d like to. You do want to aim for keywords with low to medium competition, but that is driving 1k to 10k in monthly searches.

Trust me, they do exist, but remember to think like a consumer in how they search; if someone is looking for a hotel, per say, “where to stay in meatpacking district” is more likely to be searched than just “meatpacking district”.

No one thinks to ask questions by just stating a word or two, so get into the minds of how a person would speak or write and take time to search for those keywords. 

Bidding Against Competitor Keywords On Ads

So what if you want to actually bid against and essentially “steal” a competitor’s keywords? You need to first figure out which keywords are worth bidding on and which you should leave alone. The only true way to do this is with testing.

To do this, once you pull a list of competitor keywords you need to test ads around them. Investing 15-20% of your paid budget to test ads is worth the expense if it’ll allow you to hone in on keywords that are going to reap rewards.

Once you identify a few keywords to test against, run these test ads for at least 90 days. Just running them for a month won’t be enough to see any true results or trajectory. Ninety-days will give you 3 months to compare against, and to see if results are consistent, increasing, or decreasing over the time frame.

Check your reports; which keywords are you paying the most for? Which ones are giving a return and which are not? Chances are just by taking the time to test, you’ve got more data than your competitors who are probably not tracking their keywords nearly as in depth.

So this is the opportunity to strike. Take those keywords that perform the best and pour more budget into them, work hard on your copy and visuals and eventually, you can push the competitors down the list and rank higher than them.

Using Competitor Keywords to Influence Social Content

Looking at competitor keywords doesn’t just help you when it comes to ads, but social media as well. After all, your content is driven by keywords. They might be called “hashtags”, or “tags” if on YouTube, but they are all the same thing; keywords. And that’s how you need to think about them when choosing which hashtags are tied in with your content.

There are plenty of tools that take a look at competitor hashtags. VidIQ or TubeBuddy are two great plugins that can give you the YouTube video tags of any video and give you an idea how they are ranking on each.

Twitonomy is a way to analyze a competitor’s account, and not only see their most used and most effective hashtags, but also how active they are and what topics they cover most.

Once you identify what hashtags and keywords are common on social, you can decide which may be worth going after as well as be inspired by new content ideas for your own channels.

Maybe you have a different spin on a particular topic or piece of advice and can put out not just content but keyword rich posts about it that revolve around similar keywords to your competitor.

Or maybe you want to follow up on the keywords you are trying to steal in ads and use them organically in social content so that you can better rank overall for them and really set yourself up for success. Looking to social content as a means for furthering keywords and tags is essential.

The Best Tools for Finding Competitor Keywords

Now that you know how competitor’s keywords can help, you should also know how to find those keywords. These are some of the best tools to help you find competitor keywords.

BuzzSumo: At first you might think, “but BuzzSumo doesn’t provide keywords!” Correct, but it does provide content that is performing the best around a particular topic. You can take that blog post or website URL that is ranking well and plug it into a keyword tool that can read through and spit out the keywords that are being used the most in the comment. This is incredibly helpful to figure out what keywords your competitors are using in their actual website content.

Adword’s Auction Insights: This tool is one you should be definitely using if you are already running Adwords campaigns. When you open your active campaign and click the auction insights tab, you can get useful information like impression share, quality score, and see how often your ads are displayed alongside a competitor, among other stats.

AuthorityLabs: Tracking your main competitors is critical to a successful SEO campaign. Add their domains and the same sets of keywords as your own domain. Since one keyword only counts as one keyword no matter how many domains you track it for in a given locale, there’s no reason not to keep an eye on the competition. Once you’ve added competitors into the system, you can group and sync your domains with theirs and get a side by side comparison of your rankings and theirs.

About Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward is a Corporate Speaker for SEMrush, an EPIC all-in-one tool designed to make life simpler for digital marketers. Ashley is passionate about helping businesses and individuals gain longterm ROI through teaching content marketing and social media tactics. With over 6 years in the digital marketing industry, Ashley brings first hand experience and case studies to inspire marketers around the world to better their strategies using the SEMrush platform and unique marketing tactics. She regularly speaks at workshops and conferences like Pubcon, RetailGlobal, SMS, and more. Ashley is also a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.

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