Using Competitors for Advanced Keyword Research
by Spencer Haws
Here are our goals with this lesson:
- Find a few good competitors
- Find 3-5 extremely profitable keywords
- Increase the volume of keywords we’re finding
- Look at our competitors to find keywords with better odds of success
Why finding competitors is critical…
If you remember the last lesson, we chatted a bit about why seeing a few good competitors in your market is a good thing. Basically, if you see competitors doing well in your market, it’s a REALLY good sign that you can do well, too.
However, having a lineup of competitors you can research provides you with a lot more than just confidence.
By researching competitors, you can also get all of this awesome stuff:
- Amazing, obscure keywords
- A list of the most profitable keywords on websites that already exist in your market
- Lists of your competitor’s competitors, which gives you even more sites to look at
- Examples of content strategies that have been proven to work
Link opportunities you may not have known about
In other words, most of the time, researching your competitors will tell you EXACTLY what you should be doing.
If you have a list of just 3-5 competitors in your market—sites that are doing exactly what you want to be doing—it’s basically like having an instruction manual.
All you need is the right research tools (more on this below).
Let’s talk about how to find them…
First, what kind of competitors should I look for?
There are three types of competitors: large, medium and small. Here’s what that means:
- Large competitor: A site that is both bigger and more authoritative than you can expect your site to be in about a year. So, if you think your site will have 100 articles and a domain authority (DA) of 40 in a year’s time, a large competitor would have more than 100 articles and have a DA in the 50s or above.
- Medium competitor. A medium competitor will be similar in both size and authority to your site (in about a year’s time).
- Small competitors. These are sites that will have less content and authority than your site in a year’s time. So, if we’re still using the example above, small competitors would have fewer than 100 articles and a DA below 30.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, but you get the idea.
When you’re looking for competitors, you need at least one big one, at least one small one, and several medium competitors. Why? Well, mostly because you’ll be using them for different things.
Your medium competitors will be most useful by far, since you can basically copy most of what they’re doing. If they are the same size and authority of your site, you can be relatively sure that if you employ the same strategies, you can capture some of that same market. I typically keep a list of around 5 medium-sized competitors.
Your small competitors are going to be used to get you started. These guys are going to have low authority, so any keywords they’re actually ranking for will be very low competition.
Finally, your large competitors will be kept in your back pocket for later. After you gain some authority, you’ll want to transition to the keywords, content strategies and business plans your largest competitors are using.
So how do you find them?
Finding competitors using Google
One of the simplest ways to find competitors is just to use Google.
I like to type in an obvious keyword that someone in my market would probably be trying to rank for. As an example, if I wanted to start a hunting site, I might Google “best hunting rifle.”
Then, I’d use Mozbar to check the DA of all the sites listed on the first and second pages. I’d organize the sites by DA and put them into small, medium and large categories.
I’d then filter them out by the quality of site and keep the best-looking ones.
My sites usually end up being around DA35 in a year’s time, so I spend the most time gathering sites with 50-200 pages of content with a DA between 30 and 45. These are the medium competitors, and they’re most important. But I also find at least one big one (usually around 2-3) and at least one small one.
However, it’s not the most efficient way to find competitors…
Finding competitors using SEM Rush
My favorite way to find competitors is to use SEM Rush.
As long as you have one, good, medium-sized competitor, SEM Rush will automatically generate a bunch of competitors for you. You’ll also be able to see which have the most traffic—plus a bunch of other cool stuff.
Most of the time, you’ll have at least one competitor in mind when you go into a market. But if you don’t, just use the method above to snag one.
- Go to SEMRush.com.
- Plug your competitor’s URL into the search box
- Click “Overview” in the left sidebar
- Scroll to the bottom of the page
- Control + Click on “Competitors in Organic Search”
- Control + Click on “Competition Graph” (same section, small print, bottom of the box)
This should give you a MASSIVE list of competitors. It should also help you visualize which competitors are the most relevant and have the most traffic.
Ok, ok, great. But how do you USE your competitors?
The best way to use your competitors, by far, is for keyword research.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just plug your competitors into a tool and see EVERY SINGLE KEYWORD they were ranking for?
And that’s exactly why I love SEM Rush.
- Plug your competitor into SEM Rush
- Click “Positions” in the left sidebar
And that’s it!
You’ll be able to see literally every keyword they are ranking for. And this is SUPER useful.
Why? Because you can see exactly how much traffic each keyword is bringing in.
When you combine this with Long Tail Pro, this is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Honestly, it cuts your risk in HALF.
We wrote a whole blog post about this here (it includes a tutorial video), and it goes into much greater detail, but in general, these are the types of keywords you should be watching out for:
- Keywords that are ranking in the top 5 for that also look good in Long Tail Pro
- Keywords that are ranking on the second page for that still bring in lots of traffic
That’s it for this lesson!
Remember, there’s a much more detailed version of this material in the blog post mentioned above.
Tools mentioned in this lesson