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What is competitor keyword research? How to do it and the best tools to use

What is competitor keyword research? How to do it and the best tools to use

Did you know that competitor keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy? Learn more about what competitor research is and the best tools to help you see what your competitors are doing and how you can alter your strategy.

You know that competitor keyword research is essential to an effective SEO strategy, but what is it, how do you do it, and what tools should you use? 

We’ve put together this guide to help you become an expert in competitor keyword research. This blog will cover what competitor keyword research is, why it’s important, and how to complete it in 3 easy steps.

What are competitor keywords?

Competitor keywords are the keywords your competitors are currently targeting to improve their position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

It’s valuable to know your competitors' keywords. You can appear alongside (or even above) your competitors in the SERPs by targeting the same or similar keywords. By carrying out SEO competitive analysis, you can also see which relevant keywords your competitors are not targeting. This can allow you to focus on these keywords to gain an advantage. 

What is competitor keyword research for SEO?

Competitor keyword research (or competitor analysis) is the process of investigating which keywords your competitors are targeting or ranking for. The aim is to create content that outranks them in the search results. You can also use keyword research to discover any weaknesses in your competitors’’ SEO strategy and capitalise on these. 

Competitor analysis helps you:

  • Mirror your competitors’ successful SEO strategies 
  • Find your competitors’ weaknesses and exploit them
  • Measure your SEO performance against other companies in your industry 

If you’d like information on how to complete more general keyword research, check out our blog, ‘How to do keyword research for SEO’. 

Why is SEO competitor analysis important?

You can improve your SEO strategy by investigating your competitors’ SEO strategies and their chosen keywords. 

Identify your competitors

An effective competitor analysis can be used to determine who your key competitors are. This can reveal new competitors you may not have been aware of. 

Improve your link-building strategy

Competitor research can help you understand your competitors' link-building strategies, which you can use to improve your own. You can see which websites your competitors are linking to and use this information to improve your link profile. 

Reveal gaps in your competitors’ SEO strategies 

You can use a keyword gap analysis to reveal which keywords your competitors are targeting, but you aren’t. You can then target these keywords in future blog posts or edit your site copy to include these keywords to help improve your SEO strategy. 

How to complete competitor keyword research in 3 easy steps 

1. Create a list of your top SERP competitors

The first step of conducting a competitor keyword analysis is creating a list of your top SERP competitors. You find your SERP competitors by searching for one of your target keywords and making notes of businesses that appear on the first page of Google. 

You can also use a third-party tool to identify your competitors (see our list of the best keyword research tools below). These tools allow you to input your site domain and generate a list of your main organic competitors.

When compiling your list of SERP competitors, it’s important to be selective to ensure that you’re only including your competitors that directly compete with your business. This includes websites selling similar products or services and websites in your niche or industry serving your target audience. 

2. Use a keyword tool to identify competitor keywords, content gaps and backlink gaps

Once you’ve compiled your list of organic competitors, it’s time to use a keyword research tool to investigate them and reveal any content gaps. 

Find competitor keywords 

You can look at individual competitors to investigate what keywords their websites or specific pages rank for. It’s worth paying attention to any new keywords your competitors are targeting - you may wish to target the same keywords. You can investigate this by looking at ‘position changes’.

It can also be helpful to look at which keywords your competitors have recently stopped ranking for or have dropped in the SERPs. You might decide to capitalise on these keywords to help you overtake your competitors in the search results. 

Reveal content gaps 

Most keyword research tools have a tool (often called ‘content or keyword gap’) that you can use to reveal a list of keywords your chosen competitors are ranking for, but you are not. You can then utilise these gaps by explicitly targeting these keywords in your SEO strategy. Make sure you analyse each keyword to check that it’s relevant to your business. 

Reveal backlink gaps

Competitor keyword research can also be used to investigate your competitors’ link-building strategies and make improvements to your own strategy. If your competitors have better backlink profiles, it will be hard to outrank them in the SERPs. 

You can use a backlink gap tool to investigate which websites link to your competitors that don’t link to your site. If the sites are relevant, you might want to request a backlink to your site or reach out to them to write a guest blog post for them. 

3. Make a note of your findings and create a plan

After completing your competitor keyword research, you should have a list of your organic competitors, specific keywords you want to target, and potential sites for backlinks. Most keyword research tools will allow you to export your findings as a spreadsheet. 

Now it’s time to come up with a plan of action. Decide how you will target your chosen keywords - this might be through new blog posts, new site pages, new landing pages, or editing your existing site. 

4 best tools for keyword research and competitor analysis


This is one of the most popular keyword research and SEO tools. You can easily use it to perform a competitor SEO analysis and identify gaps in your competitors’ SEO strategy. Semrush provides you with loads of data on your organic competitors, including keywords, average organic position, search volume, search intent, and keyword difficulty. You can also use its ‘Traffic Analytics’ tool to benchmark your website traffic against competitors. 


Spyfu is another great keyword research tool. Unlike similar tools, like Semrush, SpyFu is solely dedicated to competitor analysis. You’re provided with loads of data on your competitors, including inbound links, ranking history, monthly search volume, and ad spend. SpyFu also allows you to select three domains and directly compare them with their ‘Kombat’ feature. 

Ahrefs Site Explorer 

This tool provides a complete keyword profile of your competitors - you can view ranking gains and losses, search volume, CPC, rich snippet wins, and historical keyword data. Site Explorer provides comprehensive filtering options to find and exclude specific keywords easily. You can easily export your research when you're finished. It also offers a unique feature called ‘Top Pages’ which allows you to view relevant keywords by focusing on a specific page’s topic. 

WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool

Unlike other tools, this one is completely free - all you need to provide is your email address if you want to download your keyword research. You can input your competitor’s URL and instantly receive a list of keywords they’re using. Your search can be refined by location and industry for more relevant results. The keyword data includes monthly search volume, page bid range, and competition. 

When to get outside help

If you don’t have the resources to pay for an expensive keyword research tool or the time to undertake the research, working with an experienced SEO agency could be the solution. 

At Logica Digital, we have over 15 years of experience creating successful SEO and content strategies for businesses. Contact the team today to learn more about what we do, or take advantage of our free digital marketing audit to find out how your website is performing. 

Blog written by

Kezia Humphries
Content Executive

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