Saturday, 10 December 2016

Keyword Research Competitor Analysis Tips and Tricks

In this article we will look at a few tips and tricks related to keyword research competitor analysis.

I'm going to assume that your target page isn't as high up in the SERPs as you would like, and that you have done some basic strategic keyword research to figure out which keyword phrases you should be targeting (depending on whether you have picked a Value or Volume keyword selection strategy.)

The reason the selection strategy matters is because the first technique is entirely keyword driven.

Search Competitor Analysis

Before anything else, you need to know who is in the Top 10 for your target keyword phrase.

The easiest way to do this is to go to your search engine of choice, and type in your search phrase as a query. Here are some important key points:

  • make sure you conduct the search in an "anonymous" browser session (also called InPrivate);
  • set the right geographic context by using the correct location-based engine URL (i.e. etc.);
  • start with a narrow match (i.e. put the keywords "in quotes").

Once you have your list of direct search engine result page competitors, open each target link in a new window, and copy and paste the URL to a notepad or spreadsheet. Do as many as you see fit, across a wide spectrum of URLs (if a lot of them come from so-called "content farms" be wary), but make sure you have at least 10 unique domains / sub-domains.

Keyword Density

Once you've figured out who the competition is, use a tool like SEO Tools Keyword Density Checker to make a list of the one, two and three word keyword phrases, and rank them according to their relative density.

Why does this matter?

Keyword density is one of those measures that used to have recommended hard and fast rules about what the number should be. In the early days, keyword stuffing, a technique that consisted of repeating the target keyword phrase as often as possible in an article got results.

These days, however, search engines "recognise keyword stuffing as a disingenuous tactic" at best (source: Enge et al (2010) The Art of SEO, US:O'Reilly, p. 211) and "can actually get your pages devalued via search engine penalties" at worst (ibid).

Using the tool is easy: just plug in the page that you have identified as being in competition with your own, and then pick out the keywords and their relative densities from the resulting list. Now you know two things:

  • the best keywords;
  • the densities that are currently working.

Of course, the more pages you analyse, the better your keyword density research will be, and since the results are always relative to your own performance, you should also conduct the same exercise on one of your own pages.

Strategic Keyword Competitor Analysis

Another tactic you can use to expose keyword phrases that your competitors are targeting is to copy and paste the URL into the AdWords Keyword Planner tool.

In the same way that the SEO Tools utility above picks out keyword phrases, the Keyword Planner will analyse the content of the page, and pick up keywords from the Google and AdWords' keyword databases.

The result is a list that can be used to create content to rival that which is being put out by the competition, lifted from their own text. Incidentally, the technique can also be used as a cross check for your own content (to make sure Google is picking up the right keyword phrases) or s a way to pick out keywords to target with an AdWords campaign.

The Keyword Coach Keyword Research Tutorials are a good place to start if you need some tips on how to analyse the resulting lists of keyword and search data, or just search the blog for "long tail keywords".

Processing lists of keywords to find those that match your strategy is a useful skill to learn, and the Keyword Planner results are a great (free) data source to start with.

Finally, the SEMRush tool is great for giving you an overview of your competition, and the keywords that they are targeting. What's great is that it works well for sub-domains as well as domains. However the tool performs but less well for pages on a domain.

Maintaining a list of keywords that are preferred by the competition is a good way to add keyword research and keyword marketing to your ongoing competitive advantage, just assign some time in your keyword research strategy and process to apply these techniques and stay ahead of the pack!