How to find a competitor’s keywords?

Back in 2012, one of my first tasks as an assistant to an SEO expert was to track the performance of certain keywords. My boss had a list of keywords for me. It was my job to run independent private searches on each keyword; spot our website; and track down the top 5 results in the organic rankings. Then, I had to put together a nice report with data and graphs. While this was a great learning activity for me, it certainly was painstaking all the same.

My employer was interested in metrics like:

  1. Best performing keyword
  2. Worst performing keyword
  3. Keywords for which organic ranking has improved (in comparison to last month’s metrics)
  4. Keywords for which organic ranking has dropped (in comparison to last month’s metrics)
  5. Top 5 competitors for each keyword
  6. Keyword trend for the past 12 months (graph)

Come 2018, it’s time to move over manual labour! On the day of this writing, competitor research has never been easier–there are many free, automated online competitor keyword research tools out there. Most of these tools require only a URL and/or domain, and you’ll be able to generate a report with data and graphs within no time.

Let’s take a look at different tools and techniques to find competitor’s keywords.

Use online competitor analysis/research tools

The first and foremost step to competitor keyword analysis is to know your competitors. If you haven’t already read it, check out our article on ‘How to find your online business competitors’. Next, pick a tool from this list and analyze your competitor’s keywords:


We are great fans of SpyFu – the ultimate competitor analysis tool. All you need to do is enter the URL of your competitor, and lo!You get a list of top keywords your competitor is using to attract web traffic. Easy peasy!


Like SpyFu, Serpstat requires only a domain or URL and churns out all you need for competitor keyword analysis. You can perform website analysis, keyword research, backlink analysis, rank tracking, and website audit using this free tool. The competitor graph displays your current competitors with respect to similarities in semantic structure, level of visibility and distance from the domain searched (close competitors are shorter in distance), etc. The reference domain is always on top-right. As you can see in the image below, is our closest competitor.


Serpstat has an amazing URL vs URL feature that lets you go one step further and compare the keywords used by your competitors. The image below displays the unique keywords used by our competitors.



We like tools that integrate well with our websites and keep a watch on others.This clever in-site tracking tool lets you in with the most popular keywords used by your competitors. This tool has hidden connects with several well-known competitor analysis tools; so it actually runs a meta-analysis of results from various trusted tools.

Google Keyword Planner

The most trusted free keyword planner tool you’ll ever find on the web – because it belongs to Google. To use the tool, you need to have a Google AdWords account and at least one PPC campaign with keywords. The tool also displays searches related to the keywords of your interest. Although it doesn’t compare your competitor’s keywords directly, you can get insights to the most searched keywords and also predictions about keyword performance. It is likely that your competitors are using them as well! You can play around with negative keywords and a complex set of keyword rules.


Alexa has the most comprehensive competitor keyword matrix feature. All she needs is a URL and she spews a list of competitor websites with top performing keywords. We’ve mentioned this before – Alexa is a great investment for long-term keyword research.

Set up GoogleAlerts for keywords

Set up weekly Google Alerts for some of your top keywords. Google would send a list of websites and webpages that used the keyword in that week. It is pretty similar to the job portals which send you weekly search results for the keywords you are interested in. You want to set up multiple alerts with advanced keywords.That way, you’d be familiar with the websites that compete with you for the same keywords. It is easy, free and insightful.

Manual competitor research/analysis

Earlier in the article, I mentioned about the manual steps we used to perform competitor keyword analysis. Once you have a list of websites or keywords to work with, manual competitor research is always recommended. Remember to view the search results privately (or in cognito) to avoid user bias.

When you collate the results from the automated keyword tools and your own manual keyword search, you end up with some interesting insights and decisions for your website.