Conducting a competitive keyword analysis for more (quality) traffic

Written by
Andrew Zarudnyi
Reviewed by
Olena Karpova
Sep 25, 2023
12 min read

Competitive keyword analysis is a fundamental aspect of any SEO strategy. By both understanding and implementing this process, businesses can leverage their competitors’ insights, enhance their own content strategy, and ultimately secure higher quality traffic. 

We’ll take you through the comprehensive process of conducting a competitor keyword analysis and then discuss its importance and practical applications. By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge and tools you need to effectively identify, analyze, and prioritize your competitors’ keywords.

Competitive Keyword Analysis: A 3-Step Process

At its core, competitor keyword analysis offers insights into the keyword landscape of your competitors. This methodology provides you with a clearer roadmap for outranking your SERP rivals. It can be broken down into three key steps:

1. Collecting keywords: The best tools for competitor analysis allow you to see the keywords targeted by your competitors, which you can later use to expand your own list of keywords.

2. Cleaning and clustering keywords: Organize the collected keywords into meaningful groups based on shared characteristics or search intent. This will ensure that they align with your business goals.

3. Assessing keyword ranking difficulty: Determine the feasibility of ranking for chosen keywords by examining your website’s authority and the quality of its backlink profile.

Let’s take a closer look at each stage and some key things to remember when analyzing your competitors’ keywords.

What is Competitive Keyword Analysis?

Competitor keyword analysis means carefully studying the keywords that your competitors use to rank prominently in search engines. During this research process, you should:

  • Pinpoint the keywords your competitors are focusing on.
  • Evaluate how well competitors are performing in search for those keywords.
  • Figure out why they’re doing well and if it is worth competing with them.

The overarching objective here is twofold: firstly, to find opportunities to use similar keywords on your own website, and secondly, to uncover other keywords that aren’t being used much by your competitors. 

By setting out on this journey, you’ll learn a lot—like changes in the market, the inner workings of your competitors’ strategies, and how to make your SEO game plan unique.

The Importance of Competitive Keyword Analysis

Why is competitor keyword analysis such a cornerstone for SEO? Here are some of the main reasons:

  • Understanding your competitors: Diving into their keyword strategy reveals the secrets of their online success. This analysis provides a sneak peek into their content themes, SEO best practices, and areas where they might be struggling.
  • Identifying opportunities: By comparing your keyword strategy with that of your competitors’, you can find and capitalize on missed opportunities and areas for potential growth. This shifts your focus to more lucrative and less competitive keywords.
  • Planning your content: An in-depth keyword analysis is similar to having a compass for your content strategy. It shows you what your target audience is interested in, so you can create relevant content that resonates with them.
  • Improving SEO and traffic: Ultimately, by understanding what people are looking for, adapting to what your target audience wants, and homing in on the right keywords, your content stands a better chance at climbing search engine rankings. This not only boosts your online visibility but also brings in high quality visitors who are ready to engage with your brand.

So, mastering the art of competitor keyword analysis is not just about outperforming rivals but also about aligning closely with your audience’s needs. This sets the stage for steady online growth and engagement.

How Do You Analyze a Competitor’s Keywords?

Now, let’s take a closer look at the competitive keyword analysis steps we mentioned earlier. You can mix and match different tools for each step or streamline the entire process with SE Ranking.

Collecting Keywords

Understanding your competitor’s keyword strategy begins with collecting their keywords. Consider using SE Ranking’s Competitive Research tool. It is specifically designed to help you perform a competitor website analysis.

The quickest way to find unique keywords your competitors are targeting is by comparing several domains to spot keyword gaps that unveil missed keyword opportunities for your website. 

To do this, go to Organic Traffic ResearchCompetitor comparison subtab. Here, you can find out what keywords you have in common with your competitors, which ones are missing, and which ones are unique. 

How to find untapped keyword opportunities by comparing competitors in Competitive Research

Just enter up to three websites for comparison, including your own, to compare the keyword lists of these domains.

Since your goal here is to expand your list of keywords, exploring the All keywords and Common tabs is not important at the moment. This is because these tabs will only highlight semantic overlaps. Instead, look for keywords that are not targeted by your campaigns (aka keyword gaps).

At this stage, focus on the Missing tab to find keywords used by your competitors but not by you. Use filters to save yourself from the trouble of going through each keyword manually.

With the power of this data, you can gradually expand your list of keywords with queries that worked well for your competitors and use them in your own campaigns. 

Once you finish, you can repeat the process with several other competitors.

If you want to dive deeper into the many different ways to uncover your competitor’s keywords, explore our detailed article on how to find competitors’ keywords.

Cleaning and Clustering Keywords

Once you’ve amassed a treasure trove of keywords, it’s time to refine your list by removing the unnecessary ones and organizing the valuable ones. Clustering or grouping keywords is similar to categorizing them based on shared characteristics or intent. 

SE Ranking’s Keyword Grouper can assist you in this process. Pay attention to keywords that align with your business’s goals. This strategic organization not only simplifies keyword analysis but also sharpens your insights into each keyword category.

Example of sorted keyword groups in SE Ranking

By doing this, you ensure that your time and resources are laser-focused on keywords that attract the right audience to your digital doorstep.

Assessing Keyword Ranking Difficulty

Within any keyword cluster, there’s always a shining star – the top-ranking keyword. In the example illustrated below, this keyword is ‘wedding venues’.

Keyword difficulty score in Keyword Research

If you can get to page one and secure a top spot for this keyword, you’re likely to also dominate rankings for its less competitive counterparts within that cluster.

But when you’re assessing how difficult it will be to rank for a keyword on a specific SERP, be sure to consider the authority and backlink profiles of competitor websites.

a) Website Authority

In the grand arena of the internet, a website wears its authority like a badge of honor. It speaks to a website’s credibility and relevance, especially when it comes to specific search queries. Competing for keyword dominance can become an uphill battle if your website’s authority falls short compared to your competitors. 

In SE Ranking, a website’s authority is measured by its Domain Trust score. This score gives you an idea of how likely a website is to rank well on search results by factoring in its referring domains and backlink history.

You can find your competitors’ Domain Trust scores in SE Ranking through several methods:

  1. Enter a search query into the Keyword Research tool and go to Organic Results.
Analyzing the Domain Trust score in Keyword Research
  1. Use the SERP Analyzer tool to audit a keyword SERP, click on the “+ Add metric” button, and analyze the results. Make sure only the Domain Trust metric is active.
Analyzing the Domain Trust score in SERP Analyzer
  1. In the SERP Analyzer, go to Competitive Comparison, then to the On-Page Metrics tab, and scroll down to the Domain Trust part of the table. 
Comparing the Domain Trust scores of several websites in SERP Analyzer

While the Keyword Research tool provides a quick overview of a website’s core metrics, the SERP Analyzer lets you dive much deeper into data on websites.

But if your competitors’ domain authority scores seem to be too high, don’t see it as a reason to give up. Instead, view it as a challenge to shore up your website’s expertise on the topic. You can circle back to these keywords later. Meanwhile, zeroing in on less competitive subtopics within that keyword cluster can be a smart move.

b) High-Quality Links from Other Websites

Backlinks are critical to your ranking success. Even if you have a huge number of websites linking back to your site, not all of them will be top notch. 

Before targeting a specific keyword, it’s crucial to examine the backlink profiles of the pages that rank highly for that keyword in the SERPs.

Analyzing Backlinks and Referring Domains in Keyword Research tool

Pro tip: Even if a web page has many links pointing to it, its strength might be compromised if many of those links aren’t good or are marked as nofollow. So, moving such a page down from its top position might be easier than you think. When working with keywords, always be realistic. Organize your keywords based on when your goal timelines and plan ahead wisely.

Using Competitor Keywords to Your Advantage

Once you’ve analyzed your competitors’ keywords, it’s essential to take strategic advantage of this information. This means taking a comprehensive approach by prioritizing topics based on their business value, search volume, and user intent. It also means planning your content with your target audience and SEO in mind.

Prioritizing Topics

Giving priority to certain topics not only helps in organizing your approach but also ensures that you focus on what truly matters for your business. Here are three key factors to consider:

a) By business value

The business value of a keyword is its potential to funnel revenue to your website or online platform. In simpler terms, you need to understand how interested your target audience, or ideal customer profile (ICP), is in that topic.

For example, if you’re in the business of selling computer parts, the keyword “buy 2TB hard drive” would undoubtedly carry high business value since the people who search it up are likely contemplating a purchase. On the other hand, a term like “what is a laptop” probably indicates that the searcher is in one of the initial stages of the buying cycle or not looking to buy at all. This would give it a lower business value.

Pro tip: To streamline the process and make it more actionable, consider assigning a numeric business value ranging from 0 to 3 to each keyword. In this case, a score of 0 would signify that the keyword has negligible business value, while 3 would mean that the keyword can significantly benefit your business.

b) By search volume

Search volume is a metric that shows how often a keyword is searched for in a month, on average. Generally, a higher search volume suggests more potential traffic to your content. 

Nonetheless, higher search volume often means stiffer competition, so you need to weigh the pros and cons.

Search volume data in Keyword Research tool

Tools like SE Ranking’s Keyword Research can help you get reliable and precise data on keyword search volumes. They can offer a clear picture of how much traffic a keyword could potentially channel to your site.

c) By search intent

Understanding the intent behind a query is paramount because it allows you to tailor your content to directly address what users are seeking. This positions your content better in the digital landscape. 

SE Ranking’s SERP Checker can be instrumental in this regard. It lets you assess the types of pages that rank for particular keywords, helping you understand user intent and refine your content strategy accordingly.

Viewing types of pages in SERP Analyzer

You can find data on a keyword’s search intent in SE Ranking’s Keyword Research tool.

Search intent in Keyword Research tool

Additionally, enter a competitors’ domain into the Competitive Research tool and scroll down on the Overview page until you find the Keywords by Intent block. Here, you can learn more about the specific keywords they use to satisfy different search intents. Just click on the number of keywords in each group.

Keywords by intent in SE Ranking

Furthermore, you can even analyze popular competitor web pages under the Organic Traffic ResearchPages section in terms of their keyword distribution by search intent.

Keywords by Intent in Competitive Research

Leveraging Analysis Insights to Build a Content Plan

After carefully prioritizing topics, the next critical step is to create a content plan. 

This planning process requires a clearcut strategy, including decisions about the kind of content to create, how often to publish it, and the most effective platforms for its distribution and promotion. 

Additionally, it’s essential to be mindful of keyword cannibalization, which occurs when multiple pieces of content target the same keyword, potentially undermining your SEO efforts. Integrating SEO forecasting can also play a pivotal role, enabling you to predict and prepare for future trends and shifts in search behavior.

The overarching goal of this specific effort is to consistently produce content that addresses the specific needs and questions of your target audience. You want to gently guide them towards your company’s offering.


To recap, by analyzing and understanding the most-promising keywords your competitors are targeting on their websites, you can improve the performance of your own website in search. 

This, in turn, will help you reach the right people, move up in search rankings, and attract more visitors who are interested in what you’re selling. So, study what others are doing well, and use those tricks to make your site stand out.

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