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January 18, 2018

Discovering New Opportunities Through Competitive Keyword Analysis

How To Conduct A Keyword Analysis of Your Competition

There are thousands of articles online about how to conduct an analysis of the competition’s keywords. We’re going to start with a simple, easy method you can apply to learn the basics. As you grow, you’ll want to think about hiring a staff member to handle this full time or outsourcing the work to a trusted digital marketing firm. Until then, here’s how to start the process and not feel overwhelmed.

Step 1: Brainstorm Keywords

Brainstorming is the act of allowing ideas to flow freely and openly. In our work at DFM we believe it is a better way to approach our work than “research”. Research limits you to what is tried and true. Brainstorming opens you up to things you’d never thought of by having fun and essentially allowing yourself to play with free word associations.

To brainstorm it’s important to understand that while there’s no right or wrong way to do it, there are ways that will make it more productive. We’ve broken down our favorite ways to brainstorm as an individual and a group, including the things we always and never do. Apply these to your work and watch how quickly you step away from the monotony of doing things the same way and discover pathways to new ideas.

Brainstorming Solo

The easiest way is to use a semantic web. Step away from your keyboard and pick up your favorite writing utensil and a scrap of paper. Preferably unlined. The psychology of an open space with no limitations immediately gets your brain ready to pour out ideas.  In the center of the page, write down the name of your business and circle it or draw a box around it. From there, branch off and write broad strokes of what you sell. The best way is in levels from large to small but after a while you’ll start going deeper with each thing you write, that’s fine. Eventually you’ll have a pretty significant web. Sticking with the earlier example (see part 1 of this article) your web might look something like this:

The first step of a competitive keyword analysis is to grab your pen and brainstorm.

Team Brainstorming

Brainstorming as a team requires a few moments of explanation and engagement. The team must agree that every idea makes it onto the board, no matter how insane. No comments, no eye rolls. You can use a web but it may get messy. A great method is to simply list things and then go through and use colored dots to group items. Do this on a whiteboard or newsprint on the walls with stickers and don’t set a time limit. Just go. If you find people are running out of steam quickly, have the recorder say one of the words and nothing else or ask a question about the word, “What type of sneakers?” or “What brands of apparel?” If listing, number ahead – no one likes to leave an extra space.

Step 2: Cursory Research

Once you’ve brainstormed, make a spreadsheet with the keywords and keyword phrases. Just pop them into column A and then sort them alphabetically to keep things somewhat organized. As tempted as you will be to create an individual sheet for the keyword types, it’s a waste of time at this point. Also, don’t worry about repeats. Just check off terms as you put them in column A and move on. Once alphabetized, you can delete any repeats.

Label the columns as

A Keyword/Kw phrase
B Embellished List
C We rank
D Above fold
E Competitors
F Related
G Notes

Now for the tedious part. You’ll notice many single word terms and people are either unlikely to search these or will create terms. When creating Joe’s Sporting Goods web, for example, Joe noticed that brands and apparel match well. In column B, flesh out your keywords to be more specific. The easiest way to do this is to go from large to small, just like when making your web. Our alphabetized list, for example, starts with “accessories”. Look at all of the larger categories and figure out which ones can be combined with accessories.

If you realize you left something out, feel free to add it in the embellished keywords, don’t worry about column A. Joe realized he didn’t put “biking” anywhere although he used cycling. And then he remembered “mountain biking” – add these in column B.

Once you’ve fleshed out column B — there will be many keyword phrases — open an incognito window in your browser. Put in the first search term in column B. If any page of your site shows up on the first page, fill in column C with “Yes”. If you can see it without scrolling, put a “Yes” in column C. List the competition who appear on page 1 in E.

Next, scroll to the bottom of page one and write the related searches in column F – this is a good way to find keywords that might fit your needs but you didn’t think of.

The final column is resolved for any notes you would like. At Digital Firefly Marketing we like to cross out any search terms we find but know we’d never use. While they aren’t helpful to us in optimizing, they are a good way to generate other ideas for keywords.

As you do this you’ll quickly realize the keywords you don’t need and the ones where you won’t compete. Any time you see someone like Amazon or another big box store has everything above the fold it’s generally not worth going after that keyword.

Simple spreadsheet for competitive keyword analysis.

As you discover competitive keywords, optimize your site to show up for these searches and knock competitors off the first page. When you’re ready to learn even more about developing a rich, competitive SEO strategy, contact the experts at Digital Firefly Marketing.

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