How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
Enter your competitor’s domain
Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

Go to Competitive Analysis
Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

Go to Competitive Analysis
Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
Enter your competitor’s domain
Go to the Paid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
Paste them into Keywords Explorer
Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

Export your competitor’s keywords
Paste them into Keywords Explorer
Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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