Doing competitive research is much more about having a good process than having the right tools. Having good tools can help you get the job done faster, but knowing how to use the tools is what’s really important.
Here’s a proven keyword research process for finding keywords that are already working for your competitors. This will give you a serious shortcut in the whole testing curve. You’ll still have to do a bit of testing yourself, but you’ll know for certain that you’re starting with a base keyword list that’s working for other people already.
Step 1: Compile a Base Keyword List
Start by compiling a basic keyword list. These aren’t necessarily keywords you’ll actually bid on, but are keywords you’ll use to find all the competitors you want to spy on.
To come up with more ideas, use the Google Keyword Tool to find keywords that are related to yours. Also, try typing in your competitors’ URLs into the Google Keyword Tool to see what their base keywords are.
Make sure you get a wide range of different worded keywords. In other words, instead of “teach English” and “teach English overseas,” try to get a variety of foundation-level keywords: “Teach English,” “English Tutoring,” “Become an English Teacher,” “TEFL,” etc. Don’t just get the longtail keywords of one keyword.
Step 2: Compile a Competitor List
Go into Google and type in each of the keywords you found one by one. Copy and paste the top organic and AdWords results into a spreadsheet.
Rinse and repeat this process for each and every keyword you compiled in Step 1. By the end of this process, you should have a spreadsheet with at least 20 to 40 domains of your main competitors.
Step 3: Enter Domains Into a Keyword Research Tool
Take the domain and type it into a competitive keyword research tool like SpyFu, Keyword Spy or SEM Rush.
Step 4: Record the Keywords
Take the keywords and enter them into a separate tab in your spreadsheet.
Make sure you filter out any keywords that aren’t completely relevant for what you’re selling. Don’t just copy and paste your competitor’s keyword lists without thinking it through.
Step 5: Rinse and Repeat
Keep doing this process for every single one of the domains you recorded in the beginning. Enter all 20 to 40 of these domains into the keyword research tool and record the keywords in your spreadsheet.
Once you’re done, you should have a keyword list of several hundred entries. Remove the duplicates and you have a good starting point.
Also consider repeating the whole process with another keyword research tool to get different keywords. Different tools will generate different lists.
7 Competitive Keyword Research Tips
1. Repeat this process every 2 months.
Competitor change, as do keywords. Something that’s working this month might stop working the next. New keywords might be found that your competitors are making money on.
The best way to stay on top of the market is to repeat the keyword research process every 2 months or so.
2. Start with ROI, then go for volume.
It’s much better to start with a handful of keywords that you think will convert, than to start with a huge keyword list.
Once you’ve discovered all the keywords that your competitors are using, pick just a handful to test with first.
Pick the keywords that are most relevant to your business and the keywords that signify someone is close to buying.
3. Use Exact & Phrase Match
Using exact match and phrase match allows you to get the highest possible ROI in the beginning. Again, this allows you to target specifically the people who are in the mindset you want to target.
The goal is to make sure that you actually have a profitable group of keywords and product before you spend a lot of money. Once you know you’re profitable, you can lower your standards so you get more volume at a lower ROI.
4. Notice What People Are Not Targeting
In addition to paying attention to what your competitors are targeting, pay attention to what they’re not targeting.
Chances are basic tools like the Google Keyword Tool are going to give you a whole bunch of keywords that in reality aren’t being used by your competitors. This is a great signal that these keywords probably aren’t profitable.
5. Think Outside the Box
Don’t just use keyword tools to come up with keywords. Also use your own knowledge of the market and your customer’s mentality.
Think up all the things that people might type into the search engines if they were in the right mindset to buy your product. Check to see if they have volume. If they do, run with it.
Going outside the box is often one of the best and most profitable ways to find keywords.
6. Pay Attention to Strange Keywords
If during your keyword research you come across strange keywords or keywords that you haven’t thought of yourself, pay attention.
Often time’s this can point to a kind of keyword, mindset or sub-market that you haven’t even thought about targeting yet. It can open a whole different dimension of keywords.
7. Don’t Forget Competitor Names as Keywords
Finally, remember that brand names and competitor names are often the best keywords you can target. You can’t use trademarked names in your ads, but you’re free to bid on them.
Using the information in this report, you’ll be able to compile a comprehensive list of all the keywords your competitors are using. From that list, you can pull the best keywords for your business to come up with a killer ad campaign.