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The Value of Competitive Research For SEO and Online Marketing

Knowing your competition empowers you to create effective content that earns traffic and conversions. Read below as we work through the value of competitive research and why you should research your competitors.

The Steps to Conducting Competitive Research

When it comes to search and SEO, you’re not competing against the algorithm, you’re competing against the value that competitors provide with their content. This value can be defined through content depth, original research, and the target topic.

A piece of content is only as valuable as users find it to be. Thin, vague, and irrelevant content won’t bring users to your site. And if by some chance it does, you’ll find that you aren’t providing a good user experience, which will hurt your rankings and customer perception of your brand.

You can look to competing leaders in your industry to learn how to reach users with valuable content that helps you reach your goals, whatever they may be.

Below are the steps we take when conducting competitive research:

Identify the Topic

Look at search results to better understand the competition and what’s relevant for the keyword topic at hand.

Do a simple search and look at the type of content that ranks for that search. This helps you identify topics that allow you to compete for that keyword.

Identify Competitors for That Topic

Once you’ve nailed down the topics your target user is seeking out, find the top competitors for those searches. You can find your top competitors by running a Google search of the keyword topic you want to target and seeing the top-ranking sites. You can also search your product or service category and see who pops up in the results.

Understand the Type of Content That’s Ranking

Content is not one-size-fits-all for every topic or industry. When doing competitive research, you must understand the type of content that’s ranking and how it’s laid out: video, images, lists, infographics.
How top competing brands present their content shows which asset types users find most valuable. Once you have that information, you can create content that your target users most easily and most often consume.

Understand Why It’s Ranking

After you’ve identified the topic, the competitors, and the asset type, learn why that content is ranking. What about that content appeals to your target audience? Below are factors that influence content rankings:

  • Topic
  • Length of article
  • Asset type
  • Structure of article
  • Questions being answered

All these factors contribute to a valuable user experience and competitive content. Evaluate these components within your competitors’ content, and shape your content accordingly.

Identify External Data Points

The content itself isn’t the only driver of rankings and traffic. Look at the external factors that contribute to content value: social shares, inbound links, and the keywords the article is ranking for. All of this can be done within SEMrush.

Identify Keyword Diversity

Top-ranking content is a product of a diverse keyword set. Instead of using the same keywords over and over again, valuable content will use diverse keywords that are relevant to a variety of specific searches around your keyword topic.

You can identify keyword diversity –– or LSI keywords –– through SEMrush. Thorough keyword research ensures you’re engaging with the largest pool of users searching your keywords and keywords related to your topic.

One thing to note: it’s better to search within Google from a nonwork computer because it’s less likely those search results will be based on search history within your business.

Creation of Content Utilizing the Data

Defining Article Structure

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to create your content. One of our favorite hacks is to look at all the high-ranking articles for the topic you’ve chosen. Within those articles, you’ll find headings and subheadings the authors use to organize information.

Determine which headings provide the most value and help to your user. Pull those headings into one article, then craft your content according to that outline. Structuring your content to match user intent is the ultimate ranking factor.

You’ve created an excellent article. Does it match the needs, wants, and intent of the user you’re trying to target?

Monitoring and Revision

The final step in competitive research is the maintenance of your content. Monitor keyword diversity. As trends change, edit and update your targeted keywords. This will keep your content fresh and accessible to users searching for keywords and phrases related to your content.

Revise as the need arises to keep your content fresh, accurate, and relevant.


Competitive research gives you insight into how your products, services, and content stack up against your competitors. Knowing your competition and understanding how to conduct competitive research empowers you to make the most of your online presence and earn the traffic that helps you reach your goals.