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How to Find the Right Website Keywords to Smash the Competition

8 min read |  Posted Feb 23, 2016

  1. Get into Your Competitors Head (or Website)

No we’re not asking you to intimidate anybody, trust us, we don’t want to be accomplices in that. We mean you should think the way your competitors think by doing a competitor analysis, and don’t think you can just do it once. You should be conducting these often, because you never know when and how it can change your SEO. We know what you’re thinking, “But you haven’t even told me what one of those is yet!”, we’re about to get into that. 

A Competitor Analysis is a comprehensive report or study on what keywords your competitors are targeting or ranking for. 

Because after all, you can’t compete if you don’t even know what keyword you’re looking for. This analysis can be done in multiple ways, and we’ll cover three, each with varying degrees of difficulty and thoroughness for the average business owner.

Just Use Google

Thoroughness: 1/5  

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Simple and a good place to start, Google can give you a simple understanding of what keywords your competitors are ranking for. Simply search a keyword and see where you or your competitors rank. Told you it was easy, but it’s also tedious and who knows what keywords you can miss while researching for keywords this way. This is why it’s not ranking very high in thoroughness, but it can be a good place to start.

Use a Keyword Research Tool

Thoroughness: 4/5  

Level of Difficulty: Easy-Medium

If you read the prior section and thought, ‘there has got to be a way to make this better’, you’re absolutely correct. Marketing and SEO professionals recommend using a keyword research tool. A couple popular keyword research tools are Ahrefs, SemRush, and SpyFu. These are all great options but do require a paid account. If you’re looking for a free one, we recommend trying Wordstream.. These tools show more in depth information on the keywords, such as how difficult it is to rank for them, how much traffic they get each month, and how well you or your competition is ranking for those keywords. The common limiting factors with tools like these is they can have a steep learning curve (especially if you’re brand new to keyword research), provide incomplete data, or be expensive, especially for small or startup businesses.

The Tech-Savvy Way

Thoroughness: 3/5  

Level of Difficulty: Hard

All the reward without spending a dime, except for your time. If you want to be a total technical show off, you can gather a list of keywords from your competitors website manually. Here’s a short step-by-step for those up for the challenge:

  1. Open chrome to your competitors website.
  2. Right click and choose “page source”, it should be near the bottom of the options.
  3. Now that you can view the source code of the website, press CTRL + F
  4. Lastly Enter:  “<title>”, or  “meta name=”description”” or “meta name=”keywords”” to see what keywords the website is targeting.

While this can be quite thurough on gathering those precious keywords, this won’t work on all websites and you won’t know if the keywords you found are any good.

The Comprehensive Approach

Thoroughness: 5/5

Level of Difficulty: Medium-Hard

If you’re looking for a truly comprehensive approach you need to combine all three of the previous methods. By doing some research on your own, using a keyword research tool and manually finding them on your competitors websites you are able to aggregate your data and pull more patterns. 

BUT WAIT, there’s a catch. Regardless of how many keywords you found and how you compare to the competition, it’s only when you actually understand WHO is using these keywords you’ll know which ones to focus on. That’s where point #2 comes in.

  1.  Know Who You’re Selling To

 Keep your friends close and your enemies closer right? Sure thing, but if you solely focus on beating your competitors, you’re forgetting about the people you actually care about, your customers. Creating a “Buyer Persona” can be incredibly helpful in this. (Hubspot has an entire “Make My Persona” tool if you’ve never created one before.) 

So what should go into your buyer persona? Good things to include are demographics of the people who would enjoy or have a need for your product or service. Make a couple in depth buyer personas for the types of people that you most often work with/for, even interview your current customers to find out how they found you, and what terms they use. This persona gives you a common goal throughout your teams, to all service this person and can help you choose keywords that this person would search for. If you’d like to learn more in depth about Buyer Persona’s, check out Hubspot’s Post.

  1.  You’ve Got Some Keywords, but Are They Good Ones?

You don’t need to target a billion keywords to rank on Google, you just need a couple good ones. We can hear you again “That’s the point of this whole article”, yes we know but now we’ll go into a little more depth. 

The reason you only need to target a few good keywords is because you’ll end up ranking for similar ones automatically. If you target a quality keyword and it ends up ranking high on that keyword search, Google can identify that people find your content useful, entertaining and/or educational and boost it to people with similar queries. That is why finding good quality keywords is so important.

So how do you know if your keywords are any good? The simplest way is to determine if you can rank for that keyword. Unfortunately SEO isn’t just “here’s some words that other people are doing well for, so now I’ll do well for them”. SEO is complex and a lot plays into ranking, part of which is Keyword Difficulty vs Search Volume. 

Search Volume is simple, how many people are searching that keyword per month. The important part of this comes when comparing it to keyword difficulty. If a keyword gets a good amount of searches, is relevant to your niche and has a difficulty that you can compete with, then you know that it’s definitely a contender.

Keyword Difficulty is exactly what it sounds like. It determines if you are able to rank for that keyword. Things like the amount of people trying to rank for a given keyword or the credibility of your website can change everything. Using a keyword research tool can help identify the difficulty, and even tell you how many backlinks the top ranking pages have. This prevents you from investing in keywords that are overly populated by very credible websites and falling to the third page of google, aka where no one bothers to look. In fact numerous studies have shown that most consumers only look at the first three search engine results. So in most cases, ranking high for a more niche or long tail keyword will bring you more results than ranking 436th on an “important” or high search volume but high difficulty keyword.

  1. Choose the Right Long Tail Keywords

Speaking of long tail keywords, choosing the right ones can also help you outrank your competitors. A long-tail keyword at its core is a more specific and niche keyword, often longer than a “basic” one. The people searching with long tail keywords are ready to make a decision. They’ve most-likely been looking through other less specific searches and have now modified their search to find exactly what they want.

For example:

“Marketing services” vs “Small business content marketing services in Colorado Springs”

Or

“Combat Boots” vs “Size 9 Womens black combat boots”

One of these searchers is dipping their toes in the water of what they want and the other has done enough research to know exactly what they want. When you target buyers who are ready, cash in hand, needing a product or service, you can make your life a lot easier. Know better than to neglect these opportunities.

  1. A Couple More Secrets

We’ve covered a couple concepts in depth, but there’s a couple more things you should keep in mind when choosing keywords:

  • You do not need to misspell some keywords to allot for searchers misspelling. Search engines are incredibly smart programs, and know what people are searching for even when they misspell their query.
  • Don’t just focus on keywords your business would search itself with, pretend you don’t know your business exists.
  • Ask your current or recurring customers what they searched for when they were looking for your service, if you find a constant, target that as a keyword.
  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing (putting your keywords in more than they need to be to try and rank) Google disfavors this and can tell when it’s done.

We hope this helped you learn more about how to find the right keywords for your business. If you’d rather leave SEO to the professionals, we’re here for you!