A Guide to Competitor Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the first steps any SEO completes when optimizing a website. This research can be done in a variety of ways; gathering search volumes for client-recommended keywords, analyzing Google Search Console queries and conducting competitor keyword research. Why would you look at competitors for keyword research might you ask? In this blog post, we share why it is important to look at their keywords and tools to help you do this type of research.

What is competitor keyword research?

Competitor keyword research is reviewing the keywords other businesses are ranking highly for and using that information to create content to outrank them on the search engine results page.

How do I pick the right keywords from competitor keyword research?

When picking competitor keywords to target, select keywords relevant to your business, high in search volume and have a low keyword difficulty. You won’t necessarily go after every keyword they rank out for.

How do I select competitors for keyword research?

Your direct business competitors are a great place to start when doing keyword research. As you find some relevant keywords to target, you could review keywords of other sites that are ranking well for them.

Competitor Keyword Research Tools

There are a ton of competitor keyword research tools to choose from. Below we have highlighted some of the favorites that SEOs frequently recommend. Unforutently it is hard to find free competitor keyword research tools that provide you with the extensive information paid tools do.


Ahrefs has two options for competitor keyword research. The first is pretty traditional by simply imputing a domain into the tool. This option provides you with more than top organic keywords. It also provides you with top pages, allows you to review backlinks and so much more.

The second keyword tool from Ahrefs is their Keyword Explorer. One of Netvantage’s top organic keywords is Google Analytics search queries. When I enter this into the Keyword Explorer tool, it shares top keyword ideas, questions related to the query and more as you can see below. This tool is great for finding similar keywords to work into content and can help you expand on content.

Pros of Ahrefs

The extent of information Ahrefs provides you with is excellent for competitor research, especially with the two different types of tools.

Cons of Ahrefs

Ahrefs is not free and starts at $99 a month or has an annual option to save a little bit of money.


A well-known tool in the industry, SEMrush has expanded its offerings extensively. Like other tools, you can look at the top-ranking keywords and top pages, backlink profiles and more for a domain. One perk of SEMrush is the Keyword Gap option. For this, you enter your domain and up to 4 additional competitor domains. The tool shares target keywords your competitors are ranking out for that you are not as well as keywords you are ranking poorly for compared to your competitors.

Pros of SEMrush

Tools for competitor keyword research are rather extensive from SEMrush. It has a Backlink Gap feature like Keyword Gap when you’re ready for the next SEO steps.

Cons of SEMrush

SEMrush only provides you with the top 10 keywords for a domain for free. Otherwise, this tool can be pricey.


Ubersuggest recently added a domain option to their tool. Previously you could only search for related keyword ideas.

If you search by domain, the tool provides you with the top keywords, how the domain is ranking for said keywords and the search volume for them. Scrolling down, it also provides the top SEO pages.

Pros of Ubersuggest

The free version of Ubersuggest provides you with more information than other free tools.

Cons of Ubersuggest

The free version of this tool only allows for three searches a day. Personally, this tool has been extremely slow compared to other options.


WordStream is a free tool for competitor research that is worth mentioning. Start by simply entering a competitor’s domain into the text box.

WordStream provides you with up to 500 keywords for a domain. It allows you to see the first 25 keywords, but if you want to look beyond those or download a report, you have to provide them with your email address, which takes you to create an account. It’s a small “price” to pay for competitor keyword research. The results of your search will look as follows:

Pros of WordStream

WordStream is free and allows you to do unlimited searches a day.

Cons of WordStream

WordStream does not share how the competitor is ranking for the keywords it provides. It simply shared what the top keywords are by the search volume. So, in the example above, Netvantage may not be ranking in the top 10 for search engine optimization, therefore it isn’t beneficial for a competitor to target.


Lexie Kimball

Lexie is an Account Manager at Netvantage SEO, an online marketing company that specializes in SEO, PPC and social media. At Netvantage, Lexie assists with online marketing campaigns and social media outreach.

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