How to Find Your Competitors Keywords And Outrank Them
- By Kim Ängalid
- December 10, 2018
There's a lot of competition on the SERPs these days.
With only 10 spots on the first page of Google (and, let's be real, only five or fewer above the fold), picking a winning keyword can be the difference between months of sustained traffic and, well...months of not that.
Sometimes it's best to get out of the red ocean and go after the keywords your competitors aren't fighting for, especially if you're a newer site.
If you're interested in learning how to find those keywords, keep reading.
Competitive Keyword Analysis Tools
There's no shortage of keyword research tools. But keyword research tools that tell you what another site is ranking for? Those are rarer...and most of them are stuck behind an (expensive) paywall.
Fortunately, many of these tools offer free 14-day trials, so you have options even if you're not ready to invest in a full-fledged SEO tool yet.
1. Wincher - Okay, we're biased, but hear us out. Wincher lets you track hundreds of keywords per site for much cheaper than some of the other options on this list once your free trial runs out.
2. Ahrefs - A powerful all-in-one SEO suite, Ahrefs can do more than just tell you which keywords your competitors rank for—it can perform technical site audits, keyword research, and even content research. But it's one of the most expensive options on this list.
3. SimilarWeb - An all-in-one competitor research tool, SimilarWeb allows you to spy on more than just the keywords your competition ranks for—you can also look at their PPC spending and how their traffic breaks down by source and even geographic region.
4. MonitorBacklinks - Backlinks are a huge factor in determining a site’s potential to rank. Much like you can use Wincher to track keywords, you can use MonitorBacklinks to track the velocity and number of backlinks your competition attracts.
5. Moz - A well-regarded blog that publishes high-quality tools, Moz is an all-in-one SEO mainstay that does everything from keyword research, rank tracking, backlink research, and site audits.
6. SEMRush - Another all-in-one SEO tool, SEMRush is the tool of choice for many digital marketers. Like Ahrefs, it’s on the pricier side of things, but the utility they offer is worth the dollar bills.
7. SpyFu - Created with the sole purpose of spying on competitors, SpyFu tells you everything about your competitor’s keywords, including which are vulnerable (because they’re fluctuation around position 10).
8. WordStream - WordStream’s keyword tool tells you which keywords a given site ranks for. It also offers smart recommendations for your own site, in case you want to go after some of those search terms.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, and there’s a tool out there for nearly every task you could have in the SEO and content marketing world.
A Sample Keyword Analysis
For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to use Ahrefs and Wincher to spy on our competitor’s keywords.
From there, we’re going to use some keyword research tools to find some low-competition keywords to target that our competitors haven’t quite attacked yet.
1. Identify your competitors
This should be fairly easy since you know which other sites or companies you’re competing with. But in case you aren’t, Ahrefs will tell us.
Fire up Ahrefs and type in your website’s name into the search bar. I’m going to use Evernote for this example.
Then, on the sidebar, click “Competing Domains.”
You’ll get a list of 5 domains whose keywords overlap with you.
To the left of the domains, you’ll see the intersection graph. This shows how many keywords are unique to your domain, unique to the competitor’s domain, and which ones you’re competing for. This is how Ahrefs ranks the competing domains.
Evernote and Zapier share 5% of their keywords.
This means, if we’re Evernote and we’re trying to edge Zapier out on the SERPs, we should focus on that 5% of keywords.
...but how do we find them, exactly?
2. Find the top keywords [Ahrefs]
Let’s see which keywords Evernote and Zapier compete for. In Ahrefs, click on the blue number beneath “Common keywords.”
Scroll to the bottom of this page. Under the free plan, Ahrefs shows you the top 3 keywords.
...these aren’t particularly useful keywords. The keyword difficulty is extremely high and they’re brand mentions of other products anyway. Optimizing for them won’t lead to any meaningful increase in traffic because the searcher’s intent is likely to look for those products.
Instead, let’s fiddle with the way Ahrefs is sorting the data. Click the “KD” to sort for the keywords with the lowest difficulty.
These keywords are better. They’re on the long tail, but they’re easy to create content around and rank for. But the traffic is, for the most part, middling.
...but still, there’s got to be a better way to find lots of keywords on the cheap, no?
There is, but we have to do a bit of legwork to get there.
At the top of the screen in Ahrefs, change the URL from your site to your competitor’s URL. Again, I’m going to use Zapier here.
Then, on the sidebar, click “Organic keywords.”
Now, similar to what we just saw, you have a list of your competitor’s keywords.
The difference? Ahrefs shows you the top 20 results instead of the top 3.
Now you can play with the filters.
You should start with the “Volume,” “KD (keyword difficulty),” “Traffic,” and, if you’re competing against a smaller site, “Position” filters.
(Note that Ahrefs won’t show you any keywords past position 20 with the free plan.)
This is what I get when I filter by traffic:
Some of these keywords don’t make sense for me to target—they’re brand mentions. I can tell Ahrefs to ignore them.
Now I press enter/return on my keyboard and the list refreshes. Voilà.
From here, I can extract any keywords that would be promising.
Normally I'd worry about potential keyword cannibalization issues at this point, but our next step has that covered...
3. Track the top keywords [Wincher]
Here’s where the magic happens.
Sign up for a Wincher account. When prompted, enter your website.
Wincher will suggest some keywords for you to track. Accept those.
You should get to a Dashboard that looks something like this:
Before we do anything else, scroll to the bottom of this view. You’ll see the keywords you accepted when you set up your account.
You’ll also see a spot to enter new keywords:
You can add keywords one by one or click the “Bulk Import” option and add them all at once.
Once you’ve added them, the list of keywords below will refresh.
Great! Now let’s add some competitors to track against. Click on the “Competitors” tab.
On the new view, type in the URL of the competitor you want to compare against. Then click “Add.”
Wincher will refresh the Competitors tab and you’ll see a graph that displays the keywords you’ve entered. They’re color-coded by how close they are to the top of page 1 so you can, at a glance, see how you’re doing compared to the competition.
At a glance, we can see that Zapier is doing slightly better than Evernote for two of the eight keywords we’re tracking.
If we scroll down, Wincher actually tells us what those keywords are, as well as their exact position in the SERPs:
If we add a couple of other sites, we’ll see this table gets even richer.
Now you have a powerful combo at your disposal.
- Use Ahrefs to find keywords you’re fighting your competitors for.
- Then, during your day-to-day work, you can use Wincher to track how well you’re performing for each of these individual keywords.
Ready to get started? Check out the benefits Wincher has to offer.
Competitor analysis a big topic and the number of tools out there can be overwhelming. Throw keywords in there and it can get to be too much.
But now you can find all those keywords with a simple, repeatable process. Use Ahrefs (or a similar tool) to find keywords, and then use Wincher to track them.
If you have a second, leave a comment or ask a question. I’d love to know what you thought of this post.