Many competitor strategies start with the assumption that you already know a few things about your competitor – like the keywords that they are using. If that's a little too vague for you, don't worry! Here are two highly effective ways to locate your competitor keywords: They are both accurate, they only take a few minutes to use, and they are totally free…so let's get to work.
1. Review HTML Source Code for Your Closest Rivals
You know all those title, image and content tags that you use for SEO purposes? Well, your competitors are using them too, and you have access to that information…if you know where to look. The key is the HTML source code on the websites that your competitors use. Sure, that code is typically hidden away behind the scenes, but you can take a look at it whenever you want.
Start by using the right browser. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all have the capability to view the HTML code. Once at the right page, look for an option that says "view page source" or something similar. Typically right-clicking on the page is enough to bring up this command. This will then open a secondary window that shows the HTML code of the page. Since none of us are probably master coders, this is going to look like gibberish at first glance, but that's okay.
Go through the various scripting and look closely for tags. You want to find title tags and description tags especially, because they tend to include meta keywords. You can often speed the process up by just searching the HTML page for "keyword" and see what you can locate. Within these tags should be a list of keywords or at least a keyword phrase. There! You've just found what keywords your competitor chose for this particular page.
This sounds a little complex written out, but when practiced it can take less than a minute to locate the keywords used for any particular article or landing page. Use this to research both general strategy and articles from your competitors that seem to be doing particularly well. And remember, as always, that success is not entirely defined by keywords – but that they are an important part of the puzzle.
2. Use a Research Tool
Reviewing the HTML is a handy way to locate keywords for a specific article or page that you want to investigate, but it's not very good for researching an entire website (if nothing else, it takes up a lot of time). Your other option is to use a tool to research a competitor's URL. Now there are a whole lot of tools out there, some expensive, but we're going to focus on two simple and free options that will still get the job done.
The first option is the Google Keyword Planner. Yes, this SEO service can also be used to do some quick and effective competitor research! Just pretend that you are your competitor and type in their URL in the "Landing page" field. This will automatically bring up all the keywords that Google has linked to that particular site, along with information about competition levels (a "low" competitive rate should set alarm bells ringing) and suggested bids. This can prove super helpful when strategizing directly against a competitor.
The second option is the Open Site Explorer from SEOmoz. If you prefer to use Moz or just want to consult a different option, try putting a competitor URL into this tool as well. It will bring up a lot of keyword information, including a handy section called Anchor Text Distribution. This will show the 20 most popular keywords used on that URL, which should give you plenty to work with when it comes to targeting that competitor.