Keyword Competitive Intelligence 101

  |  November 1, 2010   |  Comments

Find out who your competition is and what keywords they are using to make your marketing campaign more effective.

In my last column on keyword forensics, I pointed out how keywords can provide insight into human behavior. In this column I will share a few tips and tools that can be used to learn more about your competitors. This knowledge can provide insights into what your competition is, or is not doing. Armed with this information, you will have the means to make your Internet marketing campaigns even better.


Who Is Your Competitor?

For our purposes, a competitor is any known organization you are competing with for market share. However, you should also consider any organization that is similar to you in size, business model, etc. So don't be too narrow-minded as you put together a list of your competition. You might find some great information as you do research on other organizations that you might not be in competition with.

If you are unsure of who your competitors are, you can do research online to help. For instance, when I looked up using SpyFu I discovered a list of organic and paid competitors. This can be handy as you are putting together a list of your competition. You might know the main players but you could be missing some of the lesser known ones. To dig a little deeper, don't forget to research who is in competition with your direct competitors.

competitors paid-competitors

A Look Under the Hood

One simple way to learn more about what keywords your competition is using in their campaigns is to go to any page of their website and do a view "page source" to look at their HTML tags. This is usually found under the "view" menu tab for most browsers. What this does is let you see the html code that makes up the Web page. You are just looking for the keywords used in their title, meta keyword, and meta description tags. Putting your keywords in the meta keywords tag won't help you much with SEO but it will provide some insight in to what many websites are being optimized for.

Let's take a look at Petco's website. What you should look for is the <title>, <meta description>, and <meta keywords> tags. You can see below that Petco is optimized around the keywords "natural dog food" and "organic dog food." No surprise there; my two dogs love this place and the dog food!

Keywords That Are Not Being Used

In some cases it may not be the keywords you see, but the keywords you don't see that matter. This could represent a good opportunity for you. As you do your research on your competitors you should conduct a kind of gap analysis. Find out what keywords are not being used and add them to your keyword list. You can also use tools like the Google Keyword Tool, Keyword Discovery, Wordtracker, or WordStream to help you find words that are less competitive. Keywords that fall into this category are usually easier to rank for organically and cost less with paid search.

Keyword Competition Tools

We have already taken a look at SpyFu for identifying who your competition is, however, it provides more competitive data. Most of these tools below will provide you with a free version or a 30-day trial. But to get the real good stuff you need to upgrade to the paid version.

As you can see below, SpyFu shows display information about a domain's AdWords ad budget, average ad position, and organic SEO traffic, just to name a few. Additionally, you can identify the top "paid" keywords as well at the top "organic" keywords. This is obviously very helpful as you consider building your own paid search campaign.


ISpionage is another great tool that will provide information on an organization's PPC and SEO efforts. It helps you review your competitors' ads, their ad budgets, and the top performing keywords. You can even do a keyword search instead of a domain search. Here is a snapshot of a search on the keyword "web hosting." You can see the top advertisers as well as the top keywords.


The next tool is KeywordSpy. This is similar to the others and helps you keep track of the most profitable keywords. It can also provide insight on which ads are the most profitable as well as CPC information. You can also see from the tabs that you can look at the actual ads, PPC competitors, and organic competitors.


Other notable keyword competitive tools you should look at are Compete and Quantcast. Both of these tools go beyond finding your competition's keywords. They provide insight on your competitor's site traffic and demographic data. There are more great tools out there but these will really get you started in the right direction.

Look at Your Own Site

You may think that these tools are pretty cool. But be careful. Your competitors can use this same information to look at your site. So use these tips and tools on your own site to see what you are revealing about yourself.

As you may already know, I am an advocate of the use of keywords as a strategic tool for anything you do with your marketing efforts. This is just another case where you can learn about your competition armed with a few tips and tools.

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Ron Jones

Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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