Using Keyword Research for Competitive Advantage

search bar results for choosing the right keywords

Your SEO strategy is a crucial part of your site’s competitive strategy, and is a key driver of your site’s traffic. With the vast majority of product purchases starting with search, SEO is a critical marketing tactic. Arguably, the foundation of a successful SEO strategy is keyword management. Alexa customers tell us that monitoring and optimizing SEO keywords is a key area of strategic focus for growth and competitiveness. This comes as no surprise. Keywords are the building blocks of search and are the window to discovering customer intent and need. The right keyword strategy can drive more qualified traffic, convert more customers and secure more leads.

Keyword Research in 2015

Marketers who perform keyword research to optimize their site content put themselves in the best position to attract the right audience and remain top of mind. Finding and leveraging the right keywords for your site is an ever-important task, because Google and other search engine’s algorithms have become increasingly sophisticated and better at detecting deceptive keyword stuffing and “black hat” SEO tricks. Websites who simply target certain keywords and repeat them endlessly throughout their site will not be rewarded with a high search ranking. Your site could even be penalized since Google no longer performs a simple one to one match between a search term and the keywords on your site, trying instead to interpret the meaning and context of your site content. Search intent and semantic search are increasingly becoming the standard for search engine algorithms, but it all starts with finding the right keywords to start the conversation. Keeping in mind how search engines index their results will help marketers approach their content and keyword research efforts holistically.

Generate Ideas: Start With the Customer

As you start to research keywords, it is critical to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself “What would they search for if they were looking for my content?” For example, if you are a women’s retailer and the weather’s getting warmer, your customers may be looking for “spring dresses”. Bringing it back to the customer, you can start to build your list by thinking through what is really important to them when they are looking for “spring dresses”. Do they care about:

  • Color: black spring dresses
  • Pattern: plaid spring dresses
  • Size/ Fit: plus size spring dresses, girls spring dresses
  • Price: spring dress sale
  • Trend: 2015 spring dress trends

From here, a variety of available tools can help you expand your initial keyword list. One of the easiest tools to use is Google autocomplete. For example, here’s what pops up when I search for “spring dresses”. The search terms that auto-populate below show what real people are searching for to fulfill a need. As you can see, the top results relate to trends and size/fit. 

google autocomplete list for spring dresses

What’s great is that Google’s autocomplete also provides insight into what questions your customers are trying to find answers to, not just what specific products or services they’re searching for. For instance, check out this larger list of autocomplete results for “spring dresses”.

google autocomplete list for spring dresses and wedding attire

Your customers are also searching for “spring dresses for wedding guest”. Here you have the opportunity to fill the information gap with a great piece of content for your blog on trending attire for weddings in the spring. Maybe you even develop a full guide titled “Wedding Attire for Every Season”. Now you not only position yourself as the retailer of choice, but as a resource for all your customers’ styling needs – major brand loyalty points.

Google’s Related Search, which appears at the very bottom of the page, can also give you keyword ideas. This is a great way to form your long tail keyword strategy, where you can often gain a presence with less competition.

google related search results for spring dresses

Once you’ve generated a strong list of relevant keywords, the next step is to understand how popular they are. In other words, which sites are you really competing against for mindshare and traffic? Will you be able to rank for the keywords on your list or is the market too saturated and competitive?

Find the Whitespace: Check Out the Competition

Alexa’s keyword difficulty tool can help answer this question. For example, over 50% of the searches for “spring dresses” sent organic traffic to Forever21, Nordstrom and Macy’s. This list may match your known competitors or it may bring to light new sites that you didn’t realize you were competing against. For instance, you may find that “spring dresses” also sends traffic to Glamour Magazine and Zappos, two sites that may not have been on your radar. This analysis can help you understand the relative difficulty of ranking on the first few pages for any given keyword. In this example, the sites receiving organic traffic from “spring dresses” are large and well-established brands, which means if you are new to the web you may have a harder time ranking for this term and your SEO effort could be better spent targeting less competitive keywords. 

alexa keyword tool displaying organic keyword traffic

Ideally, you want to make sure you balance out highly competitive search terms with search terms out on the long-tail. Alexa’s Keyword Research tool can help you maintain this balance by suggesting new keywords that may not have been on your radar. Within the tool, you can look up either your site or a competitor’s site and under the tab “Opportunities,” Alexa will give you a list of new keyword ideas. These keywords are ranked based on relative competitiveness and popularity. A keyword with a low competition but high popularity could be worth exploring and possibly adding to your target keyword list. But as always, assess keywords based on how well it fits within your overall content objectives and relevance to your target customer.

To further investigate the competitive keyword landscape, you can also view paid keyword stats and PPC information to discern what sites are most actively pushing ads. This is another indicator of how difficult it will be to rank for your keywords, and also informs how much you may expect to spend on popular keywords of interest.

alexa keyword tool showing paid keyword competition

Putting it into Action

After you’ve honed in on a targeted list of keywords, it is time to put all of your hard work into action. Focus on a few of your top keywords and start to create site content that highlights those terms in way that is relevant to your customers and answers their questions. Keyword research and creating content that gets discovered takes time and effort, but if done right and with the customer in mind, it will pay off.

What are your strategies for keyword research? Let us know in the comments below!

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer is Marketing Manager at Alexa. With a knack for syntax and passion for building connections, she drives daily content strategy to bring you the latest and greatest happenings within Alexa and the wide world of web analytics and marketing.
Jennifer Johnson
  • often in making a post on the blog, I never thought of keywords.
    This information is very useful
    thank you

  • Diwakar Sharma

    This information is very useful
    thank you So much 🙂

  • This is very crucial information for seo purposes

  • great information. very helpful

  • Gates S.

    Will surely give it a try. This one is really coming in handy Jennifer.

  • great information. very helpful

  • Excellent information,,,,thanks for sharing

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  • I’m new to all this so this is really helpful 🙂

  • Very useful information, Really helpful.

  • Thanks for the amazing article… 🙂 Luv it…

  • So well may i try it later

  • Thanks for sharing nice article.

  • Thanks for sharing nice article.

  • Cool… I’ll give it a try!


    We are how to find keywords it www dechuntrade con

  • Good article i read with enjoy , very best useful information

  • Thank you for the tips !

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  • Alif Muhijah

    thank you for the info

  • Kristina Hughes

    This is one of the most ideal guide for the digital marketers.The first and most important thing is to choose the right keywords in web content what people search on search engines is the tough work nowadays. If you select your targeted keywords what people search on search engine than you win half battle of marketing..

  • thank you very much for this nice tips

  • Thank you very much alexa

  • keyword

  • Rahman Maulana

    Your Tips are very useful for a newbie like me.. Thanks

  • how can i use key words for book download site?

  • english version will be made, this is very helpfull

  • This is an awesome guide for a beginner. I believe, keyword research is the most important task one have to perform before clicking the publish button. Otherwise entire effort of writing the article may go in vain.
    Thanks for sharing such a useful info.

  • thx for information

  • Keyword!Keyword!Keyword!
    how I can choose the right one ?

  • I have relied on Google Experts to chose the better keywords and optimize the advertising campaign,but sadly I have found that their (experts) are in need of more training some didn’t know what they’re talking about as a result we have wasted thousands of dollars .

  • Hello,

    Thank you for sharing useful information.Keyword analysis is important part in SEO. The first and most important thing is to choose the right keywords in the page content is what people search for on search engines is a difficult task now.

  • ya, you are right best keywords are the key success of every business….thanks for this awesome article

  • Thanks my friend @Jennifer.

  • This seems like a very interesting topic. I’ve read it completely. I must share this to my friends! I think this site can do better job in future. Great job!

  • I am doing my best in on page Seo and putting selected keywords in article but still I am not able to bring traffic on my blog.

  • Good article Jenn. I literally have 100’s of floppy disk saved with keywords from the Overture days. At the time it was the only keyword research tool around until Wordtracker made the scene. It is strange to plug a disk in and not see anything social media related on any of them. For the last 4 or 5 years I have just been using the system you have above. The fact that Google has keyword suggestions when typing, and also at the bottom of the page says it all. People are searching out those keyword phrases. There was a time (90s,, early 2000s) when you needed a keyword tool before search suggestions came about. Overture was it.

    • Wonderful. Just one more thing we won’t have to use our brains for. They are getting more useless every day as we are digitally mutating our neural cells. (Got this from BIFO) Pretty soon we won’t have to think at all. And Obama’s Brain Initiative Project at NIMH has resulted in the import from China to the tune of 1/2 Million $ monkeys in cages to torture with tiny tiny brain implant chips to control their emotions. They of course, want to do this to us. The PR is to help Alzheimers etc as that is always their excuse to sell it to us. We will all be like Winston. “Winston why aren’t you participating in the exercises this morning?”1984 is almost here and what escapes it is covered by Brave New World. But then there is Ayn Rand’s Anthem.So glad I’m 81.

  • Rainer Wieding

    Thanks for this useful information

  • does Alexa give ranking position as well for keyword reports? An example would be SEM Rush, they give positions where it found your keyword and how it ranked, does this apply to the Alexa Subscription as well?

  • Jennifer, this is very helpful, thanks a lot!

  • Thanks Jennifer, this was quite informative blog for my website and got few insights to implement.

  • Nice thx so much!

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  • Siddharth

    does this keyword stratergy lead you way in to seo up ranking and website marketing lead

  • salman

    Thanks for this useful information,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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  • Thanks Jen, I’ll give it a try

  • Thanks for this useful information