How to find competitors’ keywords for your SEO strategy

Written by
Yevheniia Khromova
Aug 03, 2023
16 min read

Have you ever wondered how your competitors always manage to stay one step ahead? Or how they seem to have a stranglehold over the lion’s share of your industry’s online traffic? The secret to their success might be simpler than you think—keywords. Finding your competitors’ keywords and understanding their strategy could be the checkmate you need to win this SEO chess game. 

Understanding the overall SEO strategy of your competitors is crucial, but diving deep into competitor keyword searches provides even more granular insights. This process not only reveals the exact terms they’re targeting but also exposes potential gaps in your own strategy. 

In this article, we’ll explain how to use SE Ranking, Google Keyword Planner, and Bing Keyword Planner to find your competitors’ keywords. We’ll also provide you with step-by-step instructions.

Buckle up because we’re about to explore one of the most critical steps in competitor keyword research—collecting search queries.

Why competitor keywords matter

Knowledge is power, especially in SEO. Unlocking the secrets of your competitors’ keywords empowers your business with the insights it needs to rock the SERP.

Gathering search terms that your rivals target helps you:

  • Discover hidden opportunities: By identifying and analyzing the keywords your competitors are targeting, you can unveil lucrative opportunities that you may have otherwise missed in your own strategy. Your competitors’ top-performing keywords can shed light on niche areas and specific interests of your shared audience, giving you fresh ideas.
  • Optimize your content strategy: Knowing your competitors’ short and long-tail keywords helps align your content strategy accordingly. It can even inspire you to produce more relevant, high-quality content that satisfies user search intent, ultimately enhancing your search visibility and user engagement.
  • Improve website ranking: When your competitors consistently rank high in search results for specific keywords, search engines will view them as trustworthy and authoritative sources, specifically for those terms. Intelligently incorporating your competitors’ successful keywords into your strategy helps you demonstrate that your website is just as relevant and reliable as theirs. 

Please note that your goal shouldn’t be to copy their strategy. Instead, your aim should be to understand what works (and why it works), and adapt it to your unique context to gain a competitive edge.

  • Understand your market better: Your competitors’ keywords can provide insights into audience behavior, niche preferences, and the overall competitive landscape. Having all of this information at your fingertips can help you make data-driven decisions and fine-tune your marketing strategy.
  • Allocate resources efficiently: Recognizing where your competitors focus their efforts allows you to allocate your resources more efficiently. By optimizing your SEO tactics to focus on areas where you can outperform your competitors, you’ll be able to achieve the best ROI.

How to find your competitors’ keywords

Before you can start competitive keyword research, you must first know who your competitors are. 

Who are your closest rivals and how do they position themselves in search? It's time to find out.

This doesn’t just comprise businesses vying for the market share, but also those competing for visibility in Google, which is the largest and most competitive search engine. So pay attention to businesses that rank highly for keywords that are the most important to you. If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to read our complete guide on this topic. You’ll learn how to detect your competitors and optimize your SEO strategy accordingly. This will ensure that you’re keeping pace with the right players.  

If you already know who you’re competing with, focus on the sections below. You’ll learn how to find competitors’ keywords by using the best competitive analysis tools like SE Ranking’s Competitive Research, Google’s Keyword Planner, and Bing’s Keyword Planner. Since each of these tools offers a unique perspective and provides a diverse set of functionalities, we’ll describe how to use them correctly.

SE Ranking

The Competitor Keyword Checker by SE Ranking is a comprehensive instrument that unveils the keywords that any given domain ranks for, be it in organic or paid search. It shows all essential domain and keyword metrics, offering invaluable insights into the tactics used by your competitors. 

Searching for missing keywords 

Open the tool by clicking on Competitive Research in the top horizontal navigation bar.

Competitive Research

To start using the tool: 

  • Enter your address into the bar (1).
  • Choose Domain (with subdomains) or Domain only mode (2). Don’t choose URL mode, as this option does not contain the Competitors tab. 
  • Select the region to analyze (3).
  • Click Analyze (4).
Input information for competitive research

Once the analysis is complete, you’ll be immediately taken to the Overview section, which contains general information about the analyzed domain. You can get a lot of helpful domain and traffic data here, but to find competitive keywords, go to the Competitors tab. It can be found in the left-hand navigation menu under the Organic Traffic Research section.

Competitors tab in Competitive Research

This tab shows your organic competitors along with the following metrics:

  • Traffic
  • Keywords
  • Traffic cost
  • Backlinks

Since we’re looking for the keywords your online rivals target in their organic campaigns, direct your attention to the keyword table below the first graph.

Pay attention to the Missing Keywords column in the table, as it shows the number of keywords that your competitors rank for, but you do not.

Missing keywords column

Only choose relevant competitors from which to collect missing keywords. If you know little or nothing about some of the websites listed, click on them to learn more:

  • If you click on the website address, you’ll launch another competitive analysis.
  • If you click on the external link icon, you’ll be taken to that website.

Once you know which competitor is best to check, click on the number of missing keywords listed opposite their name. You’ll then be taken to the Competitors Comparison tab, where you can get a list of all competitive keywords that aren’t currently in your keyword list. 

The Missing tab will be selected automatically.

Missing keywords in Competitor Comparison

Use convenient filters to sort keywords according to the parameters you need.

Filters in Competitive Comparison

Click the Export button to save the list of missing keywords on your computer for further analysis.

Export missing keywords from Competitive Research

The Competitors Comparison tab allows you to add up to two websites for comparison. To add a website, enter its address and click the Show Results button.

Adding websites for comparison

Follow the steps described above to find the missing keywords and add them to your list once you are certain that you have performed enough research.

Searching for a specific competitor’s keywords

If you already have a specific competitor in mind whose keywords you would like to identify, the process is a little different. Start by selecting Competitive Research from the top navigation menu, and then enter the competitor’s website instead of your own. Launch analysis. Now, go to the Keywords report within the Organic Traffic Research section in the left-hand navigation menu.

Keywords tab in Competitive research

This section will show you several critical metrics, such as: 

  • The number of organic keywords
  • Estimated organic traffic
  • Estimated traffic cost
  • The number of backlinks

The table below contains all the keywords that the analyzed website ranks for that SE Ranking has successfully identified. This is what you should focus on. It includes various data, including keyword difficulty, search volume, search intent, SERP features triggered by keywords, and more. Here, you’ll find everything you for further keyword analysis.

Competitors' keywords

Next, shift your attention to the Pages tab. This is where you can find competitor pages with the most incoming organic traffic. The table showcases:

  • URL
  • Traffic share
  • Total traffic
  • Total traffic cost
  • Total keywords
Pages tab in Competitive research

For a deeper analysis, go to the last column and click on the total number of keywords opposite the URL of your interest. SE Ranking will analyze that URL and provide a list of keywords for that page.

Keywords URL ranks for

You can also use this tool to see what keywords your competitors are betting on in their paid campaigns.

Searching for the keywords your competitors are bidding on

To research your competitors paid strategies in Google Ads, go to the Paid Traffic Research tab located in the left-hand navigation menu. Choose the Competitors tab.

Paid competitors tab in Competitive research

By using the same mechanics as for organic keyword collection, you can:

  • Choose a relevant competitor in paid search.
  • Click on the number of missing keywords to get a list.
  • Apply filters to select the most suitable keywords.
  • Export a list of keywords.
  • Compare up to two different websites with the target one.

Google Keyword Planner

Another great tool for generating a list of competitor keywords is Google Keyword Planner. 

It is a powerful tool offered by Google that lets users find competitors’ keywords for free so they can use them in Google Ads campaigns. 

Log into your Google Ads account or create one to start using the tool. Then, choose Keyword Planner from the Tools and Settings section in the top navigation menu.

Google Keyword Planner

Once you’re in Google Keyword Planner, click on Discover new keywords option.

Discover keywords in Google Keyword Planner

Go to the Start with a website section and enter your competitor’s website. Choose the relevant language and region and decide whether you want to explore the entire site or just the specified URL. It’s recommended to research the whole site for a more comprehensive analysis.

From here, click the Get results button.

Add website to find keywords with GKP

Once the data collection is complete, you’ll see a table with all keywords that the target website uses in its campaigns.

List of keywords in Google Keyword Planner

You can modify columns in the table to see more keyword metrics.

Modify columns in Google Keyword Planner

It is also possible either to filter keywords according to specific criteria or export the table.

Export and filter keywords in Google Keyword Planner

Keep in mind that Google Keyword Planner still has the following drawbacks despite its robustness: 

  • Designed primarily for advertisers: It tends to lean heavily towards paid search data. 
  • Broad keyword suggestions: It may not always provide the niche, long-tail keywords that could be relevant to your strategy. 
  • Groups search volume values for similar keywords: This could lead to challenges in understanding the true search demand for each keyword variant.
  • No competitor comparison feature: This makes it difficult to identify missing keywords.

But despite these shortcomings, Google Keyword Planner remains an indispensable part of any SEO specialist’s toolkit. 

Bing Keyword Planner

Another handy tool for SEO competitor keyword research is Bing Keyword Planner.

Bing Keyword Planner, developed by Microsoft’s Advertising platform, helps you find competitor keywords and uncover their tactics. It works similarly to Google Keyword Planner but with data pulled strictly from Bing’s search engine.

To access Bing Keyword Planner, you’ll first need to log in or create an account in the Microsoft Advertising platform. To finalize account creation, you must create your first campaign. Keep in mind that you will not be charged until your ads become active. You will also have to upgrade to Expert mode to gain access to Keyword Planner.

Once you’re in, look for the Tools in the top menu. From there, select Keyword Planner.

Open Bing Keyword Planner

In the Keyword Planner dashboard, you’ll see a section titled “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category.” Click on it to expand and fill out the form. 

Bing asks you to specify one of the following:

  • Product or service
  • Landing page
  • Product category

Choose the Landing page option and input your competitor’s address in the box. You can either scan the entire site or a specific page. To get a comprehensive overview of your competitor’s strategy, scan the entire site.

Next, ensure all other settings work for you before clicking the Get suggestions button.

Add website to Bing Keyword Planner

When the analysis is complete, you will find the keywords clustered in Ad group suggestions by default. However, you also have the option to view the table with individual keywords by switching the mode to Keyword suggestions.

Groups or keywords in Bing Keyword Planner

The table with keywords reveals basic metrics like:

  • Average monthly searches
  • Competition
  • Suggested bid
  • Ad impression share

You can also sort keywords by relevance or export them for further research.

Export and sort keywords in Bing Keyword Planner

Keep in mind that the Bing Keyword Planner also has its limitations. It was developed with Microsoft Ads users in mind, which means that it tends to favor data relevant to paid search campaigns. It also has a pretty basic list of metrics for analysis and doesn’t offer any competitor comparison feature. Even so, Bing Keyword Planner is a valuable asset, especially when used in tandem with other keyword research tools.

Find keywords competitors are using in their content

The competitive keyword strategy puzzle is impossible to complete without searching for and using the keywords your rivals use in their content. By auditing their content, collecting and analyzing their keywords, you can create more targeted, effective texts that not only resonate with your audience but are relevant to search engines.

One useful tool for uncovering these valuable keywords is SE Ranking’s SERP Tool. It analyzes the SERPs for specific keywords, providing detailed insights into the keywords used by your competitors and their strategies. To use this tool, you need to have a clear understanding of your target keywords.

Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

To access the tool, hover over the More button in the top navigation menu and choose SERP Analyzer.

Open SERP Analyzer

Click on the New Audit button.

Start new SERP audit

Then, take the following steps:

  • Choose the country and the depth of analysis. You can also configure the language of the search.
  • Add primary keywords. You have the option to add secondary search queries.
  • Name the report.
  • Select a group from the list or create your own for your project.
  • Include domains you want the tool to consider. Exclude domains you want the tool to ignore.
  • Click on the Start analysis button.
Input information into SERP Analyzer

Once the tool has generated a report, select it from the list to access the SERP report, displaying the top-ranking pages for the analyzed keyword. The number of websites shown depends on the chosen depth of analysis. To refine the results, you can toggle off any irrelevant competitors. 

Next, go to the Competitive Comparison section. It can be found in the left-hand menu. Select the Terms tab.

Terms in SERP Analyzer

This section shows the terms that top-ranking websites use on their pages. Now, the tool displays the top 3 websites by default, but you can still add other websites by clicking Add competitors (1).

You can also review keywords in two different modes (2):

  • A common term list combines keywords from all the pages into one list.
  • A separate term list shows keywords from different pages as separate lists. 

Just like other SE Ranking tools, SERP Analyzer is user-friendly and offers:

  • Columns to add more metrics to the range (3).
  • Filters to find keywords according to your parameters (4).
  • Exporting options to continue your research (5).
Features in SERP Analyzer

Find the keywords your competitors use for link-building

Keywords used in backlinks, also called anchor texts, play a significant role in shaping your site’s SEO strength, as they reveal your competitor’s link-building strategies and the key queries they target.

You can use this information to craft a more informed and competitive link-building strategy of your own, ultimately building a more robust backlink profile that propels your website’s rankings.

If you’re not sure how to see competitors’ keywords in anchor texts, you can always use SE Ranking’s Backlink Analyzer. This powerful tool reveals tons of information about your competitors, including their backlinks, referring domains, anchor texts used, your competitors top pages in terms of backlink count, and many other vital metrics for SEO.

Identify terms your competitors use in anchor texts and expand your keyword list!

To activate the tool, hover over the More button in the top navigation menu. Then go to Backlinks and click on Backlink Checker.

Open Backlink Checker

Enter your competitor’s URL and launch the search. If you are unsure about your competitors, refer to our guide on how to identify them.

In the Overview section of the Backlink Checker, you’ll find valuable data on the analyzed website’s backlink profile. For anchor texts, click on the Anchor Texts section in the left-hand navigation menu.

Anchor Texts tab in Backlink Checker

On the first screen, you’ll see:

  • Top referring domain anchors: These are the anchor texts used most often by domains linking to the analyzed website. Focus on this report as it shows anchor texts from unique external domains.
  • Top backlink anchors: These are the anchor texts most often used in the backlinks linking to the analyzed website.
Top domain and backlink anchor texts

The table below shows all the anchor texts detected on the analyzed website. Each term comes with essential metrics for comprehensive analysis. You can also: 

  • Sort anchor texts by word count (1).
  • Use filters to find anchor texts based on your unique parameters (2).
  • Add columns to your table to see more information (3).
  • Export the anchor text list for further analysis (4).
Anchor texts table and features


The case is clear. Understanding the opportunities hidden in your competitors’ keywords is no longer a luxury but a necessity. It allows you to optimize your content strategy, make informed decisions, and outperform your rivals. Now that you know how to check competitors’ keywords and have the tools needed to collect them, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice.

Remember that every keyword discovered, every insight gained, and every adjustment made is a step forward that can help your business shine in the online world.

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