The Surprising Truth About Your Competitors’ SEO Strategy

I’m working on a competitor keyword research project for an SEO certification course I’m taking. 

I’m actually taking two SEO courses simultaneously because I like to get a wide variety of perspectives. 

The first course is a high-level “this is how to approach Google; everything will be fine” perspective.

The second course is “here’s how to push the buttons to get the results you want” type of course.

Both courses are good but I’d be lost if I didn’t have them both because the research project for the theory course is heavy on the button-pushing and could benefit from a couple tech tutorial videos.

What I Discovered While Doing SEO Competitor Analysis

To do the project, I read the top-rated textbook (the actual college textbook) on the topic I’m doing the research on. On page 18, the book lists the biggest players in this market. Hurray, competitors!

I grabbed the names of the four top competitors and ran them through my keywords tool. Result? A list of 11k words.

(In an interesting instance of the 80/20 rule… 80% of the words came from the top competitor. The other 20% were evenly divided among the other three competitors. I noticed it because it’s uncanny how the Pareto principle shows up all over the place.)

Now I’m not a spreadsheet pro, so from here it was hours of carefully looking at words to remove duplicates and instances of words I don’t need. 

Afterwards, I realized there’s a much faster way to remove duplicates. In Google Sheets, go to Data > Remove Duplicates. 

I wish I could get those lost hours back but hopefully I can save you a few minutes from my mistake.

After removing duplicates, I ran the remaining 6K words through the keywords tool again and discovered this crazy result… only 1K of the original 11K had ANY search volume.

That’s right. I set my parameters to “greater than 0” almost as a joke but I was shocked at the result.

These are big companies with huge marketing budgets and 90% of their content marketing is getting zero search.

I know there are many good reasons to create content that have nothing to do with generating traffic but I’m a direct response marketer at heart. I always want to create things that people are interested in reading.


Just for fun, get your competitor’s keywords and run them through an analyzer. It only takes a minute. (Not the six hours it took me the first time!)

Compare the topics to what you normally write about. Do you see anything surprising you want to add to your list of topics to write about? 

Is there anything you can stop writing about now that you know what the real search volume is? A bit of research can save you hours of creating content no one will ever read.

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