Research competitor keywords

1. In a spreadsheet, write down the main topics that you want to own in search engines.

Split the topics into Brand or Strategic Topics, Pain Points, Use Cases, and Alternatives. In the first group, add the keywords that your brand should be known for, such as your USP. In the pain points group, add the main problems that your tool is solving. In the third group, add the main use cases or features of your product and what the tool is used for. In the Alternatives column, add the most known tools in your niche.  For example, if you market an HR SaaS tool, you might want to choose topics like HR tech stack, HR automation, or HR software for the strategic or use case keywords. As for pain points, you might choose topics like automatically assess candidates. Keep your list under 20 topics. If you need to add more topics, start with one group of keywords when analyzing the competitors, to keep it manageable.

2. For each topic, create a list of content competitors that rank higher than you.

Google each topic in your spreadsheet and write down the websites ranking in the first 3-5 positions. Add a new column and write down the type of competitor; is it a direct competitor, selling a similar solution? Or is it a website in a completely different niche?

3. Analyze your competitor list to see which websites appear more often. Narrow down your competitor selection to 3-4 websites.

4. In Ahrefs, go to Site Explorer and add your website’s URL.

5. In the left sidebar that appears once you click Search, go to the content gap tool and add the competitors that you shortlisted.

In the top section, add your competitors. In the lower section, under But the following target doesn’t rank for, add your own website. This will show you keywords that competitors rank for, but you don’t. Make sure to check the toggle button to include only keywords for which At least one of the targets should rank in top 10. If you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can use their trial version, which costs $7 for 7 days. If you work for an agency and do this analysis for multiple clients at once, you might want to do all the competitor identification work beforehand.

6. Export the list of keywords and add it to your initial spreadsheet from step 1, as a new sheet.

Use the Import option for this, and either create a new blank sheet and append the imported list to the sheet, or click on Create a new sheet when the import finalizes.

7. In the original sheet, add a new column for subtopics. Go through the keywords in the second sheet and start assigning them as subtopics to the main topics.

8. Go to, choose the Content Research tool and add each of your competitors in the search bar, to get their most shared articles.

You can try the product for free for 30 days. If you notice that their most shared articles cover topics that are missing from your keyword list, add these to your spreadsheet.

9. Go to and choose My Audience frequently visits the website, then add your competitors, one by one. In Audience Insights, check the Audience Details dashboards to see frequent topics they talk about.

The tool offers a number of free searches per month. The first dashboard under Audience Details shows you the frequently used words and phrases in shares and content. If you notice topics that are not yet included in your keyword list, add them to your spreadsheet.