How to Outrank the Competition Using Competitor Keywords

How to Outrank the Competition Using Competitor Keywords

Crafting a powerful content strategy involves a number of factors. But what if we told you that one of the greatest content opportunities lies outside the realm of your own business? 

It may come as a surprise, but your competition holds valuable insights that can propel your content strategy to new heights — and it all starts with exploring competitor keywords.

Even if you’re already investing in content marketing for search engine optimization (or SEO), creating quality content alone might not be enough to secure that top Google search spot. To dominate the SERPs (search engine results pages), you also need to outperform your top competitors. 

Competitor keywords are a game-changer when it comes to content creation for SEO. Since the topics your rivals are writing about are likely relevant to your target audience as well, it’s a great way to freshen up your content strategy or expand into new topics. By seeing what’s working for your competitors (and what’s not), you can add more value to your audience and make your content even stronger.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explain how to conduct competitor keyword research, and how to incorporate those keywords into your content strategy to improve content performance, boost SEO, and drive more organic traffic to your website.

What Are Competitor Keywords?

Competitor keywords refer to the specific keywords that your competitors are actively targeting through their content. Typically, these keywords are carefully selected to improve their organic search rankings and drive more potential customers to their website.

Benefits of Conducting Competitor Keyword Research

Keywords are the foundation of every successful SEO strategy. By conducting competitor keyword analysis, you can drive more organic traffic and ultimately outperform your competitors in the digital space.

Here’s how competitor keyword research can give your business an edge: 

  • Understand your audience’s search intent: The more you can zero in on exactly what your customers are searching for at each stage of the buyer's journey, the better you can align your content with their needs. 
  • Identify gaps in your competitor’s strategy: Researching competitor keywords can reveal gaps in their strategies in the form of keywords they may have overlooked or have not yet targeted. By searching for these untapped opportunities, you can fill the void and attract more organic traffic for your business.
  • Create better content: By identifying which keywords competitors are targeting, you’ll learn to create content around high-ranking topics that your audience actually wants to read. This optimizes your chances of appearing in relevant search results and positions you as a valuable resource in your industry. 
  • Target top keywords: SEO can feel like a never-ending quest to find the right keyword opportunities. By taking the time to pick out which keywords and phrases your competitors are targeting, you’ll be able to spot organic keywords with a healthy mix of search volume and competition to boost your content performance.

How to Perform Competitor Keyword Research

Here’s how to do competitor keyword research in five simple steps:

1. Identify Who Your Competitors Are 

If you don’t have a grasp of the competitive landscape and who the players are, it will be difficult to know where to start your search.

Remember, we’re talking about the digital landscape here and who you’re fighting for that top search ranking spot. This might differ from competitors in your local area.

A good place to start is with a simple Google search query with the main keywords your business is trying to target. You might be surprised by who is competing with you. 

For example, if you’re a dentist located in New York, search “dental clinics in New York” and see which other businesses pop up on the SERP. Try several variations, such as “dentists near me” or “dentists in Greenwich Village” to really zero in on the competition and understand who has the most online visibility.

2. Manual Research

Once you’ve figured out who your competition is, you can uncover which competitors have the highest organic and commercial rankings.

A quick Google search for your business’s top keywords can reveal which competitors are also targeting those words and phrases. 

We recommend spending some time on the first page of results, checking out at least the top 3-5 websites to see what your business is up against.

Start by analyzing competitor websites. Review their content and websites, including their titles and metadata, and find out their top pages and top keywords.  

Pro tip: You can also investigate their social media accounts. With social media ranking as the top channel for connecting with customers, there’s no better starting point for your competitive research. Check out your competitors’ bio, profile name, captions, and hashtags in their content to get a sense of what keywords they might be targeting. 

Take note of any keywords that appear frequently, as well as ones that you might not have considered for your own business. Keep these handy, because we’ll return to them in just a moment.

3. Utilize Keyword Research Tools

Managing SEO manually is tough. That’s why many companies use a mix of SEO tools to check their competitors’ websites

In addition to revealing which keywords your competitors are targeting, keyword analysis tools can also help you figure out which keyword opportunities you might be missing. Competitor analysis tools can reveal gaps in your competitor’s keyword strategy and uncover new keyword opportunities for your business.

Some SEO tools require an investment, but it’s well worth the money. Especially when you compare that investment to the number of hours you might have wasted manually researching each competitor.

Here are our favorite tools for competitive keyword analysis:

  • Semrush: When it comes to keyword research, Semrush’s tools are hard to beat. Their Keyword Gap Tool can compare target keywords from up to five domains, highlighting any common target keywords that your competitors are ranking for and you’re not. Their Keyword Overview tool is a great way to explore metrics like search volume or ads targeting each keyword, so you can see exactly who’s targeting what.
  • Ahrefs: One of the most trusted and well-known SEO tools on the market, Ahrefs is used by our own team at Growth Machine to conduct keyword research for our clients. Their Site Explorer tool allows you to view your competitor’s full backlink profile, as well as their website’s organic traffic information, which opens the door for even more content to explore and get inspired by.
  • SpyFu: While SpyFu originally started out as a research tool for PPC ads, it also has some great uses for SEO. All you have to do is enter your competitor’s website and you’ll immediately be presented with details like backlink information, keyword rankings, and historical performance data so you can see which keywords are worth targeting. 
  • Moz Keyword Explorer: With both free and paid SEO tools for competitor keyword research, Moz is a great option for startups and enterprise businesses. Their free Competitive Research checker provides a great overview of your top SERP competitors, and can help you identify your competitors’ top pieces of content, check competitor site metrics, and spot gaps in your competitors’ keywords

4. Gather Competitor Keywords

Based on your competitor keyword research, compile a list of the top keywords they’re targeting. You can create a list of keywords in your keyword tool directly, or in an external document like an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet.

Make sure to update your list frequently, as relevant keywords will change. As you narrow in on your audience’s search intent and learn more about your customers’ behavior, it’s good to revisit your list every so often and ensure that the keywords you’re targeting still align with their interests.

5. Evaluate Which Competitor Keywords You Can Use to Your Advantage

Identifying which keywords are the best to target isn’t always a simple task. 

To figure out which competitor keywords carry the most potential for your business, assess the relevance of each competitor keyword to your business, based on your target audience and content strategy. To do this, you’ll need to consider a couple of key things:

  • Relevance: Look for keywords that closely align with your products, services, or expertise. These keywords should reflect what your audience is currently searching for and match their search intent. By targeting relevant keywords, you’re more likely to attract engaged visitors who are ready to convert.
  • Organic traffic: When considering the potential of each keyword, look for keywords that have a healthy search volume. This signals that a significant number of people are searching for these terms. Don’t overlook keyword difficulty, or the competition level associated with high-volume keywords as well. More competition = more difficult to rank for.
  • Current SERPs: Take your keywords to the search engines. Examine the SERPs for each keyword, and what types of content are ranking highly for those keywords. Can your website and content compete? Or are there other opportunities where you can add value or differentiate yourself? If the current SERPs are dominated by authoritative websites or established competitors, you may want to shoot for a keyword with less intense competition.
  • Assess ranking difficulty: Remember that list of SEO tools we mentioned earlier? These tools can help you assess the competition level and ranking difficulty of each competitor keyword. At Growth Machine, we aim for a mix of keywords with varying levels of competition to increase your odds of success. Look for long-tail keywords or focus on niche topics in particular in order to ensure that your site ranks well.

Ultimately, the best competitor keywords to target are those that strike a balance between relevance, organic ranking potential, manageable competition, and alignment with your audience’s search intent. By focusing on these factors, you can drive more traffic and reach your business goals faster.

How to Use Competitor Keywords in Your Content Strategy

Now that you have a solid grasp on which competitor keywords to target, it’s time to put those keywords to work. 

Here are some ways that you can leverage competitor keywords to maximize your content’s impact.

1. Generate New Content Ideas 

Feeling like you’re stuck in a rut with your content? Discovering new keyword ideas is a great way to spark ideas for your content creation. 

As you peruse your list of competitor keywords, are there any that excite you? Keep your audience’s preferences top of mind as well and think about which topics might capture their interest. 

To really flesh out your ideas, you can even take each keyword and come up with a handful of blog topics that you’re interested in writing about. 

For example, if your competitors are targeting the keyword, “accounting software,” you might generate content ideas such as:

  • How to Select an Accounting Software for Your Business
  • X Accounting Software vs. Y Accounting Software
  • 5 Features to Look for in a Business Accounting Software

Lastly, take your competitor keyword to Google and run a quick search. Google tools like Related Searches or People Also Search For can reveal even more related topics for you to write about, so you never run out of content ideas again.

2. Craft Compelling Titles and Headlines

Titles and headlines play a critical role in attracting clicks. After all, how many times have you clicked on a piece of content simply because the title was unusual or piqued your interest in some way? 

Experiment with different variations of keywords to create compelling titles that grab attention. Don’t forget that while keyword optimization is great, readability also matters, both to your readers and search engines, so keep it snappy and tell your readers what to expect upfront.

3. Optimize On-Page SEO

One of SEO’s best kept secrets is incorporating competitor keywords into your website content to improve its performance and visibility in search rankings. You can weave them into your page headings, subheadings, body paragraphs, and even your image alt tags. 

Make sure to always incorporate keywords naturally rather than “stuffing” them in just to boost your rankings. Keywords should never interfere with the overall quality or readability of your content.

4. Improve Your Overall Content Quality

Finding competitor keywords that your competitors are ranking for is a great starting point for your own content research. 

Evaluate the quality and depth of your competitor’s blogs and strive to create even better pieces. They’ve created a list of the Top 5 Best Restaurant POS Systems? Great! You can create a list of the top 10. By doing so, you’ll be able to craft content that’s packed with value, gradually climb the search rankings, and establish your authority in your niche.

Outrank Your Competition

Remember, the key to creating standout content lies in understanding and adapting to your audience’s needs. That starts by understanding what your competition is doing and how you can do it better. 

Armed with the tools and knowledge to tap into the power of competitor keywords, you’re now ready to take action and outrank the competition.

Often, this is easier said than done, but Growth Machine can help you find the right approach and show up in more searches. We helped a fundraising software company disrupt a highly competitive category with 1,100% more traffic and over 2,200 first-page keywords. For a tech software brand, we found the perfect formula for blog post length and keyword type, resulting in 600% more weekly organic traffic. Their blog is now one of their top sales tools.

Want results like these? Get in touch with Growth Machine today to start seeing the traffic gains you need.


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