Competitor Keyword Research: 3 Ways (With Tools)

competitor keyword research

One of the most basic elements of a successful SEO strategy is competitor keyword research. The right mix of keyword research tactics can empower you to use your competitors’ own strategies against them. Here are three ways to approach keyword research and the tools that make them possible. 

If you’re wondering, “What keywords does my site rank for?” or simply wondering how to find keywords on a website you’re in the right place. This article will explore how to tell what keywords a site ranks for plus which tools can help you research competitor keywords.

Following up on our list of content marketing tools, we’re here to cover tools that can specifically show you how to search for keywords on a website (like your own), how to get competitor keywords, and where to validate and inspire ideas for fresh opportunities.

Spying for SEO: Competitor Keyword Research Tools

all keyword research tool logos

Before we dive into how to find competitor keywords, it’s important to establish what competitive keyword research is. There are several ways that you can approach keyword research. You can start with keywords that your website already ranks for, spy on competitor’s keywords, or look for fresher, niche keywords with lower competition.

Competitive keyword research is a process through which you come to understand who your competitors are and what specific keywords and pages drive traffic for them.

Competitor keywords are the queries that your competitors rank well for. They can also be weak spots in their keyword rankings that could spell easy early wins for yourself.

Researching keywords on your website is a great place to start. These are easy opportunities that are already at your fingertips, all you have to do is identify them and optimize them.

Researching competitor’s keywords is a great way to get a leg up on your competition. If you find competitor keywords and create more engaging content with them, then you’ll increase your rank while demoting the competition.

Breakout keywords can be a little tougher to find as the industry gets more competitive. But if you can find them and rank for them, you have the potential to drive new traffic and earn backlinks ahead of the pack.

Finding SEO Competitors and Landing Pages

With competitor landing pages in mind, you’re on the right track for SEO competitor research. “But, how do I find my competitors and their landing pages?” you rightly ask.

To begin researching your competition’s organic traffic, start searching the non-branded keywords and phrases most relevant or important to your business. Take note of which domains with sites like your own appear most often in the results. These are your top competitors. Your strategy will be to find these competitors’ organic keywords and steal their top-ranking positions.

Conquesting on Competitors’ Branded Keywords 

Using a competitor’s name in keywords or other words related to their brand is a smart strategy to engage users that are in the ‘solution compare’ stage of their buyer journey.

Conquesting in paid search refers to a strategy of intentionally bidding on a competitor’s branded keywords or keywords directly related to their brand on a PPC platform.

When done well, competitor keyword bidding can increase visibility, attract ‘at-risk’ searchers, and leverage remarketing lists more effectively. When done poorly it can be expensive and counterproductive.

Want to learn how to research competitor keywords? Follow these tips:

    • Target users who have visited your site before, but are now searching with more branded terms. By evaluating these users you can gain insight on the interests and intentions of those you’re certain are taking purchasing into serious consideration.
    • Target low-funnel users in the ‘solution compare’ stage of their buyer journey who are at risk of committing to a competitor.
    • When engaging in keyword research, it’s imperative that you understand the intersection between SEO and your marketing funnel, otherwise, you risk wasting time and money.
    • If you’re selling soap, for example, a competitors’ branded keyword you might use could be “Dove soap alternatives”. And you don’t have to stop there; try also: Compare, Similar to, Versus, Reviews, Competitor
    • Here’s our friend Sean Higgins discussing how his company BetterYou is outranking Fitbit on Google by using the correct keywords.

How to Find What Keywords My Site is Ranking For

keyword research tool icons

It’s essential to most organic strategies to know where your pages rank for important keywords. Knowing this empowers you to be able to identify what works, troubleshoot drops in traffic, find click-through-rate issues, and ultimately boost revenue. 

There are many tools that exist to extract keywords from a site. We’re going to discuss the top options today, what they’re best for, and how to use them. The tools we explore here are meant to make the research process easier. They can tell you what keywords your site is ranking for without having to comb through hundreds of pages to figure it out yourself.

Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, starts at $99/month

screenshot of ahrefs keyword explorer tool
Source: ahrefs

Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer is loaded with excellent features and useful data like search volume, CPC, and traffic. This tool even provides historical data like SERP overview and position history so that you can see which keywords are still popular and which aren’t.

You can even see what a keyword’s peak performance looked like. Some of the best features of Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer include…

  • Automatic detection of what keyword your site is ranking for
  • A database of over 7 billion keywords
  • The ability to see the ‘parent topic’ for your target keywords

Bonus Tip: Curious about page performance? Use the ‘top pages’ report to see keywords grouped by pages. The report reveals pages on your website ordered by the amount of traffic they bring.

Google Search Console, Free

Screenshot of google search console dashboard

As far as free tools go, Google Search Console is fantastic. In addition to reports that measure traffic and SERP performance and the ability to directly fix issues, you can see exactly which queries bring users to your site. A few unique benefits of the Google Search Console are:

  • The option to receive alerts when Google identifies a problem on your site. Google tells you exactly which URLs are affected.
  • Analytics on-site impressions, clicks, and position on Google Search
  • It’s very simple and easy to use

Bonus Tip: Use the URL inspection tool to understand how Google search sees your pages. Understanding how Google sees you and what it’s looking for is priceless knowledge.

AccuRanker, starts at $109/month (for 1,000 keywords)

Screenshot of Accuranker dashboard
Source: AccuRanker

Accuranker boasts that it is the world’s most accurate and fastest keyword rank tracker. It’s specifically a paid keyword position checker with an intuitive interface that shows you where you rank on Google (as well as Yandex and Bing).

You’ll get instant updates on keywords, insights on SERP features that drive traffic to your site, and a whole lot more. Accuranker’s unique benefits include…

  • Unlimited domains and users
  • Impact measurement for your SEO strategy via tag cloud and landing page features
  • Integration with 3rd party systems like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, etc.

Bonus Tip: Although a full subscription to AccuRanker’s excellent tools isn’t free, it does have a couple of free and easy-to-use tools; SERP Checker and Google Grump. The SERP Checker lets you see SERP results for any keyword and you can narrow down the results by language and location to know what works best wherever you target. Google Grump highlights ranking fluctuations.

How to Find Competitors Keywords

competitor keyword research tool logos

If you research competitor keywords, you can reap many benefits. You’re likely to expand the number of keywords that you rank for around topics that are relevant to your business and drive revenue. 

If done well, you’ll have the potential to compete for rankings in the same places as your competitors and discover the root cause of your poor rankings for certain keywords.

In order to discover what keywords your competitors’ sites and pages rank for you’ll need some tools. Without any, it’s impossible to comb through every competing site and page, pull keywords, and create detailed analytics on the data by yourself.

But remember, SEO competitor research tools don’t do all the work for you. You’ll still need to do some preliminary work to create a list of your competitors and some keywords.

BuzzSumo, starts at $99/month

Screenshot of Buzzsumo dashboard
Source: Buzzsumo

BuzzSumo is a great tool for competitive analysis or as a competitor finding tool. While not as big as Moz or SEMrush, BuzzSumo still sits among these bigger names as a fierce competitor.

Want to know what keywords competitors are using? Discover your competitors’ keywords and compare them with yours or another site. Although BuzzSumo doesn’t offer as much keyword-specific data, it’s the perfect resource for the initial research stages of competitor keyword research. A few of BuzzSumo’s greatest strengths include…

  • Keyword seasonality data
  • Cost-based data to inform your PPC keyword strategy
  • Use the domain comparison tool to see a comparison of shares by content type, shares by content length, and more

Bonus Tip: Identify potential competitors you might not have known exist using BuzzSumo’s full insights. These insights combine keywords with content, questions, and influencer data.

SEMrush, starts at $99.95/month

Screenshot of SEMRush
Source: Semrush

SEMrush is among the top competitor research tools. It’s simple to use and allows you to identify competitor keywords with ease. SEMrush offers a multitude of tools in their package. In fact, they offer six different tools for keyword research alone.

Using these, you can carry out a competitor search and find meaningful ways to boost your keyword game. SEMrush’s most powerful benefits are:

  • Comparisons of your keywords with competitors to spot weak areas
  • An easy-to-use database of over 20 billion keywords
  • CPC value, competition, difficulty, volume, and more for each keyword

Bonus Tip: Use ‘Organic Traffic Insights’ to explore lists of keywords that are not provided by Google analytics and evaluate your site’s organic search performance.

SpyFu, starts at $33/month

Screenshot of SpyFu Dashboard
Source: SpyFu

One of the best keyword spy tools available for ad copy is SpyFu. Their keyword research tool will blow you away. Start with a keyword to receive a wealth of information on that query, including CPC data (and more provided by Google), difficulty, similar keywords, questions, and more.

A few of the benefits of using SpyFu include:

  • SpyFu Backlink Checker shows you backlink types, pages that link to your competitors, and an abundance of backlink opportunities
  • A list of top AdWords buy recommendations, competitors who bought them, and impressions per month
  • Insight into the most successful advertisers and their best ads for a keyword

Bonus Tip: New to SEO and keyword research? SpyFu has you covered. They’ve got resources to help you understand what each and every piece of data shown in the Backlink Checker results is, as well as the keyword results.

How to Find New Keywords For Your Site


While it’s important to know what keywords you and your competitors are already ranking for, it’s also helpful to look for fresh opportunities to incorporate new keywords for your site.

When it comes to keywords, diversity is crucial. If you want to stand out in a crowded market, you’ve got to target some keywords that are different from your competitors.

To target keywords that aren’t yet being scoped by competitors, do a bit more work and research; it will worth it in the end. There are excellent tools out there to help you find new keywords, track the results, and decide what works.

Google Trends, Free

A Google Trends graph illustrating a spike in U.S. searches for the topic of recipes in tandem with shelter-in-place

Google Trends shows a query’s relative popularity and highlights breakout terms and trends. When you type in a term, Google Trends will show you all kinds of data including interest over time, by region, and more. You can also filter the results using categories, time, web search, and location, and compare one term with another.

Here are some tips for using Google Trends to find fresh queries:

  • Look under the ‘related queries’ heading to find new keywords
  • Trends help you identify seasonal keywords, avoid keyword unicorns, and capitalize on what’s going on right now.
  • Repeat searches by the same person in a short time frame are removed in order to paint the most accurate picture possible.

Bonus Tip: Data from Google Trends can be used to plan your content calendar. You can see what topics are popular at the same time from year to year or even month to month and use that information to guide your content.

Google Autocomplete, Free

Screenshot of google autocomple

Previously known as Google Suggest, Google Autocomplete has become a core feature of Google search.
You’ve seen it before – Google has a robust algorithm that offers query suggestions that match what has already been entered. Typically 3-5 recommended keywords or phrases (sometimes up to 10) will appear underneath the search box.

  • Fast and convenient results are shown for any given query
  • Several suggestions related to one query will populate at once
  • Google’s algorithm auto-populates the suggestions, which ensures their usefulness and accuracy

Social Media Trends, Free

Twitter trending

Social media isn’t just one of the most popular pastimes of our era, it can also be a free competitor keyword research tool for brainstorming new keyword ideas. Trending tags on social media, specifically Twitter, or highly engaged topics on Quora, are a creative source for keyword and content ideas.

Although the data isn’t broken down the way it is on Google Trends, social media algorithms don’t lie. They know what’s trending in the trenches and can indicate how users which topics resonate most with various audiences.

  • These trending tags are virtually guaranteed to resonate with many people
  • Keywords found here will be relevant and new, likely drawing new traffic
  • You can check global trends, country-specific trends, and (if you have a budget) consider using ‘promoted trends’ on Twitter

Bonus Tip: Post content on social media that uses trending tags as keywords and watch that content explode! Or at least be shared around more than it would have otherwise.

Explore SEO Content Tips & Strategies From Augurian

At the end of the day, keywords and keyword research matter. A lot. Organic search is about being agile and analyzing what does – and doesn’t – work. Understanding how keywords on your own pages rank is a basic and core skill for any SEO, in-house, or at an agency.

Now that you have the tools to know how to tell what keywords a site ranks for, perform competitor keyword research, and find new keywords to integrate into your content, it’s vital to write those keywords into relevant, engaging, and well-written content.

If you follow our advice, your SEO strategy will move in the right direction.

Explore more SEO tips and content marketing advice or reach out to an Augur to learn more about how Augurian partners with teams to drive digital marketing success.

Explore Our Latest Digital Marketing Tips