21 Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis Tips for 2022
Thorough keyword research and competitor analysis serve as the foundation for exceptional content. In this article, digital marketing experts provide their insight for crafting an excellent research strategy in 2022.
“Just Google it” might be the most common and most important phrase on earth nowadays. Whether people are looking for Jeopardy answers, tour dates, or cell phones, the search almost always happens online. And while the customer is just concerned with finding what they are looking for, you and your business are on the other side of the table, waiting to be found.
And making sure they find your business is where keyword research and competitor analysis play a critical role. Search engines have become even more competitive in the last decade, and may in fact have the biggest impact on marketing strategy, potential business revenue, and success. That’s why we’ve pulled together a number of our experts in SEO, keyword research, content development, web development, digital marketing, and competitive analysis, all to provide you with some of the biggest tips and trends of 2022 and beyond. Here they share just a few of their recommendations for how you can put your business on solid footing when it comes to making SEO improvements, the analysis tools that they recommend, and how you can optimize your content strategy, web pages, and digital marketing across multiple channels.
Sizing Up Your SEO Competition
With any kind of digital marketing project, you have to start with the basics; who is our competition, and what are they up to? When it comes to search engine optimization and digital marketing efforts, competitor analysis is one of the key places to get started. There may be no better way to find out what works and what doesn’t than to learn from others through competitive analysis, as many of our experts agreed.
“First do proper competitor analysis, in which you can easily check which keywords your competitor is targeting and how much traffic they are getting against these keywords —including backlinks and content.” —Joe Smith, SEO Expert at Market Media Connect
Your initial keyword research can go as deep as you want it to … and it should. Not only are your local competitors worth searching for, but so are major companies and related businesses in big cities across the continent.
“Run through the SEMrush tool with your top 5 competitors in your local area. Then look at the top 5 ranking websites in your niche in other major cities in Canada and the USA (if you are in North America). Your objective is to find the most relevant search phrases (keywords) that are bringing in the most traffic, and then utilize them in your SEO plan.” —Ashif (Ace) Rashid, Founder, CEO & SEO Expert at Ace SEO Consulting
Finding out what works for your competition is not only a first (and seemingly obvious) step; it’s also remarkably eye-opening for most businesses and entrepreneurs. That’s because you often find search terms and categories that may not have ever occurred to you in terms of your business and your potential customers.
“Oftentimes, your competitors may have identified lists of keywords that you hadn’t thought of. If you have a well-established competitor in your industry that is dominating in search results, don’t lose hope! With time, dedication to publishing keyword-rich content, and attention to long-tail keywords, you can gain relevant traffic for queries that your competitors aren’t ranking for.” —Erin DeLong, President and Partner at Front Porch Solutions
While it may seem to apply more to brick-and-mortar retail and service establishments, every business that is looking to improve their SEO performance and drive more traffic can benefit from paying close attention to their in-market competition.
“When completing your competitor keyword analysis, be sure to look for in-market competitors. This means that they should be ranking for similar keywords, but also that they should be offering a similar product or service. When you find competitors through your keyword analysis that are extremely similar, you will get a more accurate idea of which keywords would make sense for your site.” —Travis Bliffen, CEO of Stellar SEO
Don’t get caught up only looking at your local or regional competitors, though. Utilizing a broader search can help you identify all sorts of valuable keywords and optimization opportunities and reveal types of content that were not originally part of your digital marketing strategy or SEO process.
“Business owners tend to focus on their real-life competitors. However, on the internet, your competitors are likely to be different because you have to compete with business directories, online articles, and more for the clicks. You should start the competitor analysis process first by curating the list of competitors via digital media.” —Justin Tsan Ting Chan, Senior Business Developer at Coding Bull
Another key point—be sure to evaluate your competitive analysis with an eye on the similarities you have with other businesses. In other words, look for firms and organizations that are a lot like yours in size and scope while also looking at search engine rankings, search volume, and more.
“When you are choosing competitors to track, opt for the businesses that are similar in size and organizational structure. When you are able to outperform your same-size competitors in rankings, you will be more able to tackle businesses that are more established or have bigger marketing budgets.” —Anastasiya Goers, Agency Co-Owner at S&V Web Design and Marketing
And your competitive analysis may also help you refine your business goals, and maybe even identify new goals and opportunities you hadn’t yet considered.
“Use your competitor research as an exercise to build benchmarks, and also to reverse engineer and understand your competitors’ strategies for success. For instance, how much traffic, backlinks, and keywords are your relevant competitors achieving? Use these as benchmarks to understand what goals you should be shooting for.” —Daniel Sarao, Owner of Macaw Digital Marketing
Hear From Industry Experts
Read the latest tips, research, best practices, and insights from our community of expert B2B service providers.
Know Your Target Audience
No matter how long you’ve been in business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you already know your customers and their preferences. And that can extend to your marketing efforts, too. Even with the most extensive market research for previous efforts and campaigns, though, it’s always a good idea to review and revise what you know about prospective customers and target audiences. Any new insights can only help you refine your content strategy, social media and content marketing efforts, landing page development, and overall marketing strategy.
“Start with a brainstorming exercise to generate a list of keywords that are relevant to the solutions your business provides and how consumers search for them. If you can, also interview current clients or customers to find out how they think and talk about the problems they face. Once you have your list, fire up a Google search. Make note of what Google recommends as far as what people also searched for, and document any that seem relevant.” —Michael Miller, President at Good Ideas Marketing
Customer and client interviews came up in our experts’ recommendations a few times and for good reason. There may be no better way to understand what customers are looking for, what they like, and what they need than to talk directly to them.
“Begin by asking your customers how they found your business online. What terms do they use? What they have to say may surprise you. From there you can use a keyword research tool to help gather other relevant terms. These tools can also, most of the time, help you determine what your competition ranks for, as well as gap analysis and what types of content you may need to add.” —Sarah Perry, Senior Marketing Director at Third Angle
One of the biggest impact areas for SEO and digital content is using language that matches what customers, audiences, and clients use. And to find that out, customer testimonials, case studies, and interviews or surveys can be incredibly valuable.
“Keyword research tools are a must, but also pay close attention to what your customers actually say. If you or the marketer you’ve hired hasn’t used the language your customers use, you might miss something.” —Nate Gervenak, Co-Owner of Site Flight
Just like any other form of marketing, your SEO efforts, right down to the specific keywords you choose to use, require a solid grasp of your market, your competition, and your customers. And there’s never too much you can know as customer preferences and trends continue to ebb and flow.
Recommended SEO Strategy and Analysis Tools
While there are countless services and tools available nowadays to help businesses and marketers perform keyword research and competitive analysis, some of the biggest and most reliable names in the game were the names our experts kept coming back to.
“In order for us to find relevant keywords, our company relies on platforms like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer Report, Ahrefs Content Gap Analysis, SEMrush, Google Search Console, and Google Business Profile insights. These programs help us identify keywords that are trending, keywords that competitors are using, and keywords that customers are using but that we might not have been aware of.” —Patrick Kurowski, CEO/Founder at MarketKeep
Time and again, Ahrefs came up as one of several tools that our experts recommended, precisely because they have extensive experience using it AND because the Ahrefs utilities consistently produce results.
“Ahrefs keyword explorer is a great tool, as it provides an insight of monthly search volumes on each keyword. That allows us to know the potential value of organic traffic in the industry. It also proposes relevant keywords for a complete scope of organic traffic.” —Brianna Denny, Co-Founder of Mythicode Digital Marketing
“I use Ahrefs for competitor and SERP analysis. It gives me an overview of who the authority is and the backlinks their websites already have. Along with that, we can also measure the SERP fluctuation happening in the past 6 months to get an idea about whether we are going to pop up in the top 10 search results or not.” —Daniel Gray, SEO Lead at Market Media Connect Inc.
Ahrefs wasn’t the only available tool that our experts strongly recommended, though. The more information you can gather, the better performance you can extract from your efforts. And several utilities and processes are available to help make this process more effective.
“In the SEO realm, it’s important to pay particular attention to keywords that competitors rank for, as well as their backlinks. Competitor research tools such as SpyFu are helpful in providing this information. If we spot low-hanging fruit that will pay dividends within the next 6 months or so, we’re quick to incorporate these keywords into our campaign.” —Asad Kausar, CEO at Dabaran Inc.
If you’re just getting started, though, you don’t need to immediately jump beyond Google. As the biggest player in the game, Google has the tools and resources available to help kickstart your efforts.
“Start with Google—specifically Google Suggest—as you type in your search word. Then take a look at Google’s related searches for additional ideas. Tools like Frase.io, keywordTool.io, SEMRush, and MOZ are helpful through this process.” —Melih Oztalay, CEO at SmartFinds Marketing
Again, if you’re just getting started or your budget is small, there are easy ways to get started and have an impact right away. These include reviewing what you already have and the keywords you want to rank for in order to find new opportunities.
“Depending on where the client is in their content marketing strategy, I start by looking for opportunities around existing keywords related to the client’s business category, the products, the personas they target, and educational sources related to the business category.” —Kelsey Shannon, Director of Paid Media at Bridges | A Revenue Growth Agency
“The best way to do keyword research is by using Google Search Console to determine which keywords you already rank for. Not only will you get the most accurate number of search queries for your keywords but you can improve the keywords you are already ranking for.” —Jeffrey Miles, Owner of Jeff Social Marketing
From there, move on to checking out how your competition ranks against those keywords you have already identified.
“My recommendation when conducting an online competitor analysis is to first select the keywords you want to target with your website. Then, use a tool like SEMrush to see if competitors are ranking for that keyword. Many clients are surprised that the competitors who are ranking well on Google aren’t the ones they expected to find.” —Jed Bradshaw, SEO Expert at Atomic Idea
Further, many of the marketing and web experts we spoke to reminded marketers and business owners not to limit themselves to just one tool.
“Don’t pigeonhole yourself by only using just one SEO tool to generate keyword ideas for your business content. Different tools will make different recommendations for short and long-tail keywords as well as content suggestions.” —Colton De Vos, Marketing Specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions
Know the Reason Why
We spoke to a number of our partners who made sure to ask the most important question upfront—Why are we undertaking this effort?
“The reason or scope behind doing keyword research needs to be clear. Is the research intended at looking up new keywords for a new page, to improve the performance of an existing page, or is it intended to fill in content gaps? Answering this question will provide more clarity into the type of keywords that will have an impact.” —Diana Vasile, Head of SEO at inSegment
So before you explore questions like “who is our target audience” or “who is our competition,” understanding what your goals are is perhaps the most important key factor to keep in mind.
“Start your research with a solid understanding of your business goals for the campaign. After determining if the target is demand generation or lead generation, then break down your keywords targets by customer intent (Information, Transactional, Navigational).” —Alonzo Foreman, SVP of Marketing Operations at OppGen Marketing
Market Growth Opportunities Await
While this is just a sampling of the copious amounts of information and advice available when it comes to keyword research and competitor analysis in the SEO, PPC, and digital advertising realm, there is a ton of information here to help you get started. In order to find the best partner to help you track key metrics, identify new opportunities, and create quality content, we can pair you with the right experts for your needs and your budget.