A Beginners Guide to SEO Competitor Keyword Analysis

As a website owner, you know what words are important to you, but are there keywords that you could be missing out on?  Are there keyword variations, that you’re haven’t thought about, that are driving visits and conversions for others in your space?  Shouldn’t you be seen wherever you competition is being seen? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES!  It is important to identify your competitor’s keywords in order to create an optimal, targeted keyword list that you would like to target in your SEO campaign.

Where Do I Start?

The first step is finding out who your online competitors are.  Most companies we speak to know who their competitors are, but some are surprised to find out who their online competitors are – the sites that are competing for valuable SERP real estate on Google or Bing.  Finding these online competitors is easy, simply:

  1. Think of the 3-5 keywords that describe your website or business
  2. Do a search for those keywords in Google
  3. See what sites are ranked in the top 1-5

These sites are your top online competitors.


Now I Know Who I Am Up Against, What Do I Do Next?

The next step is to find out what keywords are important to your competitors.  Here’s how you do it:

1.  Take a look at their homepage title tag and meta keywords.  The homepage is the strongest page on their site, so they are going to optimize this page for the strongest-most overarching, descriptive keywords.  The title tag is located, in Google, in the upper left corner of the browser.

Title Tag Location



If you want a text version (to copy and paste), you can Press CTRL + U, which will show you the HTML coding of the page.  Simply look for <Title> and you will find the text version of the title tag.  While you’re there, also look for their meta keywords tag, and copy down the words your find in there.

Title Tag in HTML Coding


Meta Keywords Tag in HTML



  1. Save these keywords by adding to them to an excel worksheet
  2. Search other areas of their site. Look at their category pages, services pages, and any product pages that are similar to the pages you have on your site.  Take note of their title tags and meta keywords and add them to your excel file.
  3. To get a more extensive idea of the keywords your competitors are targeting or ranked for, use a site like SEMRush.com or Spyfu.com.














Simply drop your competitor’s URLs into their search box and it will spit out a list of all of the keywords that they have been ranked for or are targeting through PPC.  Keep in mind that these are just a scrape, so they are not all current and are the figures are not all accurate, but they give you an idea of the words that your competitors covet.

Both sites have the option to download their lists into an excel file.  After you download all of your competitor’s keywords from either of these sites, compile them all into one excel file.


I Have A List of Thousands of Keywords! AHHHH!

I know, I know – don’t worry, just filter.

Use the Find feature on Excel and delete all of the brand and site names that may appear in your competitor lists.  Filter out all of the “jobs” and “career” keywords, of course only if those keywords aren’t apart of your industry.  Filter out names of people or any real branded product terms that you don’t necessarily want to rank for.

Try to filter this list as much as you can, taking out any keywords that you know for sure don’t match your business/site or that you know you would not want to target.


Phew! Okay, the List is Manageable.  Keep Going!

Now it’s time to see where your site stands in relation to these keywords.  Granted, if you are new site with no rankings, you might not have any relevancy for any of these terms.  The goal is to see if Google sees you as relevant for any of these keywords.

Download SEOBook’s Rank Checker Firefox Add-On.  This is a quick and dirty rank checking tool that will allow you to see your Google and Bing rankings.  Its not perfect, but it will give you a sense of where you stand.  This tool is limited, we use proxies to allow us to run keyword reports for hundreds of keywords, but generally, it stops pulling data at around 150 keywords at a time, but will allow you to run more keywords in about an hour.


Wow, I Rank for Some Pretty Awesome Terms!

That’s awesome!  Section the list into keywords that are ranked in the top 20, keywords that are ranked from 20 – 100, and keywords that aren’t ranked at all.

With a little further SEO, you could easily move the needle for words in the top 20.  For Words from 20 – 100, you are not really relevant for these terms, so it might be a bit of an uphill climb, but the good news is that Google or Bing does see your site as one that related to that keyword term, so you can still target those terms.  The keywords that have no rankings are words that Google does not relate with your site at all.  Either they are too competitive and/or you don’t have any of those keywords used on your site – meaning you don’t have any relevancy for them.


Which Words Are More Important Than Others?

Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find the monthly search volume for all of your keywords, ranked and not-ranked.  Also, use your Google Analytics to see which keywords are driving the most traffic and conversions.  If you are running Adwords, see which keywords have the most impressions and conversions.

Use the simple VLookUp function in Excel to combine all of the data, matching keywords, rankings, traffic, conversions, search volume, and impressions.

By comparing all of these figures can now figure out which keywords are the most important to target, which will bring you the most benefit, and which words you need to boost relevancy for.

A competitive keyword analysis is an important part of every SEO keyword research.  Your competitors might have a stronger site or know something through their data that you don’t.  Its important to find out what they are relevant for and what is driving them traffic because if their placement in Google is working for them, it is a high possibility that it will work for you too.


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