Competitor Keyword Analysis

Written by Fraser McCulloch. Last Updated 1st April 2022

Use competitor keyword analysis to find your competitors keywords and “steal” their traffic.

What is a competitor keyword analysis ?

Doing a competitor keyword analysis is one strategy to earn more organic traffic.

Essentially you are reverse engineering their traffic, pages, keywords and links.

Why You Need To Do an SEO Competitor Analysis

If you’re open to organic growth, a competitor analysis is an excellent strategy in addition to other strategies such as analysing the buyer’s journey.

Let’s spy on competitors organic keywords with these tools

In this guide, I’ll use 2 tools you can use to look at websites you compete against.

  • Ahrefs
  • Ubersuggest

Find Content Gaps with content gap tool

The first way to do a competitor analysis is by using the content gap tool from Ahrefs.

If you’ve never used Ahrefs before, it’s an SEO marketing tool that experts and agencies use for keyword research. SEO audits, backlink analysis, rank tracking and analysing competitor activity.

There’s a one time only $7 for a 7-day trial; you can try it, follow these instructions then cancel.

After that, you won’t get another trial; you’ll need to pay $99 a month or $178 a month.

The content gap tool will show you competitor terms that rank for in Google that you don’t rank for.

Really fast.

Very cool competitor content gap tool.

The competitive landscape

There are 3 types of competitors you need to consider.

Direct competitors

These could be the companies in the same town as you or the local companies that appear in local search or map results.

Secondary competitors

Keyword and competitor analysis tools can inform you who these secondary competitors are.

The company in position 1 in Google to your position 5 is your online competitor.

If you rank for hundreds of different topics, you could have hundreds and thousands of secondary competitors.

And they all want your traffic!

Lastly, global competitors

The internet has made trade mainly global.

90% of my online SEO training clients are based in the USA and Canada.

I compete with people doing SEO work, SEO training and keyword research on Udemy, Fiverr, elance or getting trained by SEMrush and Ahrefs from all over the world.

Sites around the globe are your competitors.

Download : Find Competitor Keywords Guide

Competitor Analysis with site explorer tool

The following tool to do a competitor keyword analysis is called the Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Enter url into Ahrefs site explorer tool to find thousands of keyword ideas

Select competing domains and click on a competitor

Select organic keywords and country

Filter by position 1 to 10

Sort by search volume

Enter these keywords into the Include box and select Any

  • How,Issue,For,With,Fix,Improve
  • Increase,Reduce,Remove,Lower,Grow
  • Service,Product,Custom,Bespoke
  • Example,Guide,Learn,Tutorial
  • Video,Calculator,Best,Top
  • Review,Comparison,vs,Versus,Alternative
  • Buy,Discount,Nearest,Offer
  • Cheap,Sale,Price,Package,Deal,Cost,Hire

Enter keywords you wish to exclude in the Exclude box

Filter by seo difficulty

In your competitive analysis, you want to identify competitor keywords with a low competition or low keyword difficulty scores.

Low competition or difficulty keywords are the ones that are easier to rank for and are the keywords you should target initially.

Analyse the SERPs

Click the SERP button to look at traffic to the top pages, the links to these pages and the number of keywords these top pages rank for.

It’s at this stage where you have to decide if you want to pursue outranking a competitor.

The ideal criteria for choosing to outrank a competitor’s page is :

  • Pick keywords with high search volume
  • Pick keywords with low competition or difficulty
  • Pick keywords where the top pages rank for 100s of other keywords
  • Pick a search intent aligned keyword; ie: at one stage in the consumer buying process
Download : Find Competitor Keywords Guide

Competitive analysis with keyword explorer tool

Next, we’ll use Ahrefs keyword explorer tool to do a competitive analysis.

Enter your url into site explorer

Select competing domains

Check competitors with a similar DR

Click that competitor and look at their competitors

Check competitors with a similar DR.

If you have to, visit their website to check that they are in a similar business or have similar content to you.

Write down a list of 10 competitor names in a text file or document.

Now we’re ready to examine your competitor activity and best keywords with Ahrefs.

  • Click content gap on the left menu
  • Put each competitor url into “Show keywords that the below targets rank for”
  • Make sure your url is in the “But the following target doesn’t rank for” box
  • Then click show keywords

Depending on the Ahrefs plan you have, a different number of competitor keywords will be shown.

I chose the $99 basic plan this month but typically use the $178 a month plan.

  • Filter KD keyword difficulty to 0
  • Check to see if any topic are relevant
  • Now filter 1 to 1
  • eg: local seo packages is interesting for me

Or you can set broader filter criteria such as 0 – 5 or 5 – 20.

You can also use the include keyword filter and the volume filter to find other opportunities.

Ps: ignore your competitors branded terms or branded queries such as their names.

Now don’t worry if the search volume is very small; we can identify if the top competing pages also rank for lots of similar keywords later.

Now Check the SERPS

  • Check traffic by looking at the traffic column
  • Look at the KW (keywords) column to see how many other keywords the top pages also rank for
  • Look at the domains column; lots of pages with zero or a low number indicate they could be outranked.
  • Look at the DR (domain authority) column; competitors with really high DR scores can be impossible to outrank if if the keyword difficulty is low.

In the example shown, I’m not sure there’s enough traffic to the top pages to justify investing my time in creating this type of content.

But let’s say I did decide to pursue ranking for this keyword and create an article about this topic.

So you’ve decided to choose a competitors keyword to outrank, what now ?

Now you need to understand what the user wants after entering that search query into Google before you can create your content.

Download : Find Competitor Keywords Guide

Find popular content with Ahrefs content explorer tool

Next, we’ll use Ahrefs Content Explorer tool to find popular and relevant keywords in our industry.

This tool analyses a database of over 1.1 billion web pages on the internet and discovers over 1.8 million new pages every day.

That’s insane access to competitor keyword data.

So let’s analyse our global competitors best pages, keywords and search traffic.

Select Ahrefs content explorer

Enter a seed keyword about your business or industry. For me eg: “seo” or “marketing”

Choose a title from the drop-down menu and hit return

Under the all languages select English

Sort by relevance – choose organic traffic

Select + add filter and enter a domain rating range eg: 0-60

0 to 10 points above your domain rating ps: mine is 50, so I entered 60.

Select + add filter and enter 0 to 10 referring domains

The content explorer tool will now return all competing pages that match the criteria you chose.

There could be millions of competing sites and pages.

Scroll through the list of pages and look at the page titles.

Ask yourself if you could write about a subject like that or haven’t covered such as topic on your website.

Ask yourself if you could write about a subject like that or haven’t covered such as topic on your website.

Now you know how I researched this article!

Now you need to check there is traffic in your country for these competing pages.

Click the arrow next to the url and then right click the overview text

Click the organic search tab

Look at each country and check the traffic levels.

If you believe there’s enough traffic that’s worth your while investing in content creation, then …

Click the number under organic keywords

Select the number next to your country flag

Click SERPS to see traffic to top pages

Now it’s time to create content to outrank your competitor.

Use the exact same process I’ve outlined above to study link intent and create your content. 

And now, the 4th tool to do a competitor keyword analysis is Ubersuggest.

Download : Find Competitor Keywords Guide

Competitor Analysis with Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a valuable tool to identify the top pages and keywords of competitors who rank for the same keywords as you.

However, I believe Ahrefs, a paid-for tool, will provide you with a competitive advantage when researching the competitive landscape.

I’ve outlined the strengths and weaknesses of both Ahrefs and Ubersuggest here.

Google Ubersuggest, Enter your domain, select your country and hit search

Click keywords

Click arrow next to a keyword

Look at the top urls in the Google SERP column

Right click the arrow next to the url of one of the top pages and select Copy Link Address

Open up Ubersuggest in another browser tab, paste url and hit search

Click on top pages

Look at seo title of the first page that has a number next to Est Visits ie: the page earns traffic from Google.

Do you currently have a page about this topic ?

Select Yes or No

If yes

Ignore the topic and look at the next SEO title

Do you currently have a page about this topic ?

Select Yes or No If no, ignore and move down the list.

If yes, ask yourself, Do you want to write about this topic?

Select Yes or No If no, ignore this topic and move down the list of pages.

If yes, then follow the process outlined above.

If you can’t find any topics on this competitor’s website that you haven’t written about, don’t want to write about, or the pages don’t earn any traffic, you need to find another competitor.

Go back to your browser tab, where you analyse your top keywords.

Select another competitor that ranks above you.

Follow the steps above.

Once you’ve chosen the competitor topic to target, then you can start the process of outlining and creating content.

Follow the content outline guide mentioned earlier.

So that’s the 4th way to do an SEO keyword analysis of your competitors using Ubersuggest. 

Download : Find Competitor Keywords Guide

Keyword Cluster or Topic Hub

Topic clusters are a group of pages created around a theme or topic and use the main page to link to and from. 

For example, look at my content hub based around the topic of “keywords.”

I’ll use furniture as a topic.

  • Go to Ahrefs
  • Enter seed keyword
  • Select country
  • Hit search

Select phrase match

Look at the “by terms” or “by parent” topic options to reveal ideas for a topic clutter or topic hub.

Look at the “by parent” topic options to reveal other ideas for a topic clutter or topic hub.

Then you would choose from the list of keywords or parent topic tab the other pages that should be included in your cluster or hub.

A furniture store’s cluster or hub might include

  • Paint
  • Room
  • Wood
  • Living
  • White
  • Bathroom
  • Wooden
  • Covers
  • Modern
Download : Find Competitor Keywords Guide

Analyse your competitors paid keywords

Put a competitor URL into Ahrefs site explorer tool to see their key metrics.

Clicked the number next to the PPC link.

You can see all the keywords they are bidding on and the cost per click they are being charged.

You can even see their ad copy.

Backlink Gap Analysis

You can use a tool like Ahrefs to analyse the link profile and link growth of competitors.

  • Who links to them ?
  • Why do websites link to them?

Links are a major factor in your competitors higher rankings and traffic

Look at this diagram showing the relationship between referring domains (unique links) and organic traffic.

Other tools you could use

There are, of course, other keyword research and competitor analysis tools in the market.

  • SpyFu
  • LongTailPro
  • KeywordSpy
  • SEMRush
  • Wordstream’s Free Keyword Tool
  • Moz

I’m not an expert with these tools, but your competitor keywords can be analysed with these tools.


These are my best competitor keyword analysis strategies.

If the idea of stealing your competitors’ keywords unsettles you, reframe that thought with this.

“My goal is to provide the user with the best, most useful content for the search they made; if that means I outrank someone else, so be it.”