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How To Do Competitive Keyword Analysis For SEO

If you saw our last post on How to Do Keyword Research For SEO, you should now have a good understanding of selecting keywords for your website. However, not all keywords are equal and while there are dozens of variables in selecting the right keyword, here are different SEO experts who share how they personally perform competitive keyword analysis to determine if their keywords are worth pursuing.

Honestly, I rely on Long Tail Pro for competition analysis. It helps me find the right keywords and then check how competitive the keywords are based on several variables and strength of my competition. I also like to see what websites are in the top 10 for my main keywords… I visit their websites to see what they look like, what strategies they are using, etc. And then I run their websites through Majestic SEO to see if they have any juicy backlinks that I can get too. Hope this helps! – Ryan at Ballatine Digital

When we analyze competitor traffic, my first steps usually consist of using Google to see who’s ranking for the terms we *want* to be ranking for. I’ll pick what seem to be the top 3 or so competitors, and run them through Open Site Explorer to get an idea of what their link profile looks like. By analyzing the anchor text of their incoming links and what keywords they’re optimizing their titles/headers for, we can usually get a good idea of what we need to do to compete. – Collin at Click Optimize

The SERPs (search engine results pages) can tell you a heck of a lot about a keyword’s difficulty simply with the results that appear. Just Google it. Seriously. You can get an instant 10,000 foot view of the competition. Do your competitors show up on the first page? Go ahead and dig in a little. We are fans of tools such as the SEOMoz Toolbar which shows us link metrics, a large proponent for ranking, for all the sites for that keyword. Compare that to your site’s link metrics and voila! There you have a good ballpark for whether or not you can rank anytime soon with the status quo. – Nicole at TopSpot Internet Marketing

Start from the beginning and actually do a Google search for your keyword (if you’re using Chrome or FireFox start an incognito session, we do this so you get no personalization) and look who the top results are. Do you see a lot of big name websites? If so, start refining or going long tail, you’re not going to find quick wins if Wikipedia or Amazon are dominating page one. That’s the quick tip, but if you want more a one more tip, forget about misspellings, typos and plurals. – PJ of Third Circle Theory & Secret Entourage Academy

The primary characteristic that we use to determine the difficulty of “Keyword X” is the ratio of Title Competition to Search Competition. Title Competition refers to the number of webpages globally that use “Keyword X” in its title tag, implying that these pages have at least been marginally optimized for the keyword, while Search Competition refers to the amount of webpages that simply mention “Keyword X” on the page. The result is the percentage of webpages using “Keyword X” that are optimized specifically for “Keyword X”, an excellent indication of keyword difficulty. – Nathan at Highly Relevant LLC

Google Alerts is great for stalking your competition, but sometimes the results can be overwhelming. To find out in more detail what your competition is doing, place competitor CEOs, CIOs, Presidents & vocal VPs in Google alerts to find out where they are being interviewed and showing up. That helps us see the effort they are putting out as well as provokes clients to start making more time for interviews/Q&As/Guest Posts. – Adam at SEER Interactive

I’ve found that running an aggressive PPC campaign for a short time can give you a lot of data about which keywords people convert on. From there, I’d search for those top converting keywords and observe the competitions’ backlink profiles. I’d make notes of any high-converting keywords without a lot of competition and set my sights on those keywords. – Zane at Fahrenheit Marketing

The vast majority of websites do not mask their html code, so you can see how their pages are coded. To find the top competitors within your geographic area, simply do a search using Google (or other search engines) to identify the top three or four pages that are identified. Go to each page, look at the code by typing “Control U”, and look at the following. Title, description. Then open up the page, and utilizing a tool like Word Counter, find the number of times your target key phrase appears. That becomes your target. – Chris at Intelligent Marketing Solutions

I love using Competitors Research, a free tool from SEMRush. On the surface, it’s pretty basic: type in your competitor’s domain, click “organic research” and you can analyze all of the organic keywords they are ranking for. This tool also shows you the corresponding URL for the ranked keyword, so you are able to view your competitor’s page, which might be helpful in analyzing why it’s ranking so high. What I actually really find helpful is that you can then copy this URL into Open Site Explorer and view the external domains linking to this page. This can give you great insight when it comes to your outreach efforts – if someone linked to their competitor, they will likely link to you! Gathering this information will give you the competitive advantage – you know what they’re doing, so you can top it! – Katie at WebpageFX

Understanding the competitive landscape is important for any ecommerce site and so I use the SEOMoz API in Google Docs to automatically pull real time competitor statistics such as count of external links, count of links, mozrank (SEOMoz’s link metric that shows a webpage’s popularity), subdomain mozrank, http status code, page authority, and domain authority. I then link that Google Doc spreadsheet to a private Google Site as an embedded chart. This quick and easy KPI dashboard lets me see at a glance how our site is tracking relative to the competition, and I can tailor the URLs to track specific landing pages. The automated process lets me focus my time on driving positive changes instead of spending it trying to compile all the data. – Jennifer at Tops Products

SEOmoz has my favorite keyword difficulty data so I always start there. I think though, that you need to keep a close eye on how keywords are trending and take advantage of tools such as UberSuggest and even Google Trends. Having foresight in the world of keywords can be your most valuable tool. Research the patterns of the industry and make an educated prediction on the way the keywords will transform over time. – Jeff at Anvil Media

When measuring Keyword Difficulty, it’s always best to see what your competition is ranking for as well. Sometimes though, it’s best to stop and put yourself in the shoes of your customers. When they are searching for your services, what exactly are they putting into search engines to find you. Maybe it’s not exact keywords like “seo services” but rather “what is seo”. The term “What is SEO” gets ten times the searches compared to “seo services”. Armed with that knowledge, start putting content out there that will arm your customers with knowledge. Many companies are scared if they give the consumers too much knowledge then they will try to do it themselves. Thinking like that will hurt your company in the long-run. Consumers want to increase their knowledge before they go into the market to look for service providers. By getting customers on to your sight by providing the resources they are looking for, you will have a greater chance of converting leads into deals. So rather than focusing on specific keywords and how to outrank your competitors, start focusing on the consumer and what they are searching for. – Elliot at Matmon Internet Inc

No keyword is too difficult, it’s just a question of how difficult. Use the Google Adwords keyword tool to find out *exact* monthly traffic in your country. Now assume that at position one you’ll get about 40-45% of that number. Is it worth spending 6, 12, 24, or even 36 months fighting out for that traffic? The nature of generating backlinks is becoming more tightly controlled. While in the past you could pull a backlink profile and just try to generate links on the pages where your competition was, now you have to go deeper. How are they generating their own links? Is it purely online press releases, or do they pick up links be engaging with the online community? Knowing this will help you gauge how difficult it will be to outrank them. Don’t always go for the highest volume keyword. Sure, a keyword generating 100,000+ searches per month would be great, but that also means that it is very competitive and likely not as targeted as you want. A more specific keyword phrase with 1/10th of the volume could still be a better target because it will convert better. – Steven at List Here

Visit some of the landing pages of the top ranked competitors and take note of their content strategy as it relates to the search intent of the query. For example: a high ranking informational landing pages will be rich in content and may have supporting content in the form of images and video. A high ranking transactional landing pages will generally be well optimized with detailed product descriptions, supporting images, and user reviews/ratings/comments. In addition, take note of how the keyword strategy is aligned for important on-site ranking factors like the Title, URL, H-tags, Navigational Links, Image Alt text, and Body of text. – Jared at Blue Fountain Media

The first step when analyzing the competition and the difficulty of a keyword/market is to look at the search engine results page and determine what type of results are being displayed Are there local business listings? Images? News? Video? If you want to rank for a keyword you first need to determine what type of content you should be producing. If the keyword brings back local business listings you will want to focus your time on building out your Google+ page and local listings but if you see the results prominently display images you will want to make sure you have images that can be optimized for that keyword. While doing keyword research I make a note on every keyword on what type of results are displayed for that keyword. That way when I start to optimize the site I know where I can get some quick wins. – Dustin at Konnected Interactive

First, I’ll check out the domain authority of the competitors. The higher the authority, the more difficult it will be to compete. I’ll perform a link analysis to learn how many links a competitor has for a keyword. Next I’ll check out the diversity of the sources of the links as well as the authority of the domains which the backlinks are generated from. Backlinks from different domains is better than backlinks from one domain, diversity is important. The more diverse the backlinks of the competitor the more challenging it will be to compete for that keyword. Next I’ll perform a content analysis. I’ll review things such as how much content the competitors have around the keywords. I’ll see if those pages are indexed in the search engines. I’ll review how the keywords are placed and make a judgment of the quality of the content. This is subjective but an important step in the analysis. – Leslie at Next Day Flyers

Broken Link building is the act of finding broken links on a page, and requesting they be fixed to point to your own/clients website. This not only helps you out as you get a relevant link but also the webmaster who now has a new resource instead of a link that does not work. My favourite method is to scan a competitor’s site with the link intelligence tool of your choice (I use Open Site Explorer) for dead pages being linked to. This can be an easy way to feed off your competitor’s laziness and a quick win for you. – Andrew at Box UK