how to find out what keywords your competitors are using for marketing

One of the most important factors that determines the success (and cost) of your online marketing campaign is the competition. It determines how much or what share of the traffic you get and also how much money you have to spend for getting that. As you can imagine, the higher the competition the higher the cost of marketing.

One part of competitor analysis and keyword research is the information about what keywords your competitors are using on their website. This will give you a better idea about what you are competing against. This will also allow you to determine what your marketing budget should be, and make several other decisions such as which competitor’s keywords or its variations you should use etc. etc.

So, how do you go about finding out what keywords your competitors are using?

find competitor’s website

The first place to find competitor’s keywords is your competitor’s website. Look through the page content and different pages to see what keywords they are trying to optimize for. There are several specific things you can look for in the page content…

  • What are the industry or niche keywords that are used in the pages? Look for repeating words.
  • Are there any overlaps with the keywords you are using?
  • Look for new or other keywords that you might missed.

Next step is to find webpages on the competitor’s website that drive the most traffic. This is usually not so hard, and you can make fair guess by going through the pages and looking at the content. You can now try to find the keywords for each of these webpages.

competitor’s website page source

Another good place to find the competitor’s keywords is the page source of their web site. You can access the page source of any webpage using the browser. To access the webpage source, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + U which will open the page source in a new tab or window. This shortcut should work on almost all browsers.

You can also right click anywhere on the page while it is loaded in the browser, and select the option View Page Source. This will display source in a new tab or window.

In the page source window, you are looking for specific tags that are in the head section of the page. Look for the content in the title, description, keywords tags of the page. The content of these tags will usually reveal the keywords that the competitor is using to optimize the page content.

View webpage source code in browser

The above two methods will show or give you a general idea of the keywords that the web page ranked for in the organic search. These keywords might be driving most of the organic search traffic to your competitors’ website. But organic traffic is not all of the traffic to the page, there is paid or Adwords traffic as well.

It is very unlikely that you will find the exact keywords that your competitor is using in ad networks.  Well, you would not want your competitors to know what keywords you are using either..do you? There are some tools that might give you a general idea of what your competitor is using.

find keywords with google planner tool

One such tool is the Google Keyword Planner Tool. Let’s see how you could use it in this scenario….

  1. Open the Keyword Planner Tool which is available in the Google Adwords
  2. Use the Find new keywords and get search volume data section, which is at the top.
  3. Enter the competitor’s webpage in the Your landing page field
  4. Click Get Ideas button at the bottom
Find keywords with keyword planner

This will display a list of keywords, under the tab keyword ideas. You can further sort or filter this list. These keywords may or may not be the exact keywords used by your competitor, but it gives you an idea on what keywords match the webpage and its content closely. All you are doing here is finding keywords for the website, specifically your competitor’s website.

You can use various pages or URLs from the competitor’s web site to uncover more or different keywords. It is very likely that the competitor has several different webpages each of which is optimized for different keywords. The keyword table will also provide you with other relevant information such as the monthly search data, the cost and the likely competition for the keyword on the platform etc etc.

find competitor keywords with paid tools

There are also several paid tools that are available that claim to show keywords used by your competitor or other users. I am usually wary of such tools as such data is usually not available to third party tools. All they can do is a good estimation or an educated guess for the page content and some traffic data.

At the end of the day, you can only make a guess or estimation of what the keywords for another website or webpage is unless you have access to their analytic account. You can choose to believe what other third party tools are going to guess are the keywords to the competitor’s website but it is not definite and you cannot cross-check that with anything else.

When using tools, try running them against your own website to see how accurately they find keywords for your website. That should give an idea about the accuracy of the tool. But then, I have seen tools that are sometimes accurate against one website being not so great with an another.

Also note that there is no guarantee that the keywords that work best for your competitor will also work for you. It is sometimes a good idea to optimize for variations of your competitor’s keywords rather than the exact same ones.