I don’t see the topic of scalping competitor keywords discussed often enough even though it is one of the best and easiest methods of keyword research. But there is a right way of doing it and a wrong way of doing it.
Whenever I do see keyword scalping discussed, most bloggers are not taking the right approach and are not applying any real methodology to continually refine their approach.
Let me show you my keyword scalping method.
What is Keyword Scalping
Keyword scalping is the term used for finding the top keywords that drive traffic to your competitor’s website and targeting those same keywords yourself.
When done right, keyword scalping can give you a list of hundreds sometimes thousands of easy to rank for keywords that you can target.
Your competitors have done all the hard work for you, they’ve shown which keywords you can rank for, often keywords you’d never of even thought of or come up with using other keyword research methods, so why not ride on the back of their hard work.
Choosing your Competitors for Keyword Scalping
Choosing the right competitors is where most bloggers go wrong and it’s probably the most important aspect to get right.
You cannot pick the top competitors, the most dominant ones in your niche and target the keywords they rank for. If you do this and try and go head-to-head with the biggest players in your niche you will lose, as they will outrank you every time.
What you need to do is find competitors that are weak relative to your site or just weak full stop.
This includes user-generated content sites forums like Reddit and Quora, sites that are old and outdated where no new articles have been added for months or years, and sites that have lots of poorly written articles or where most articles are very short (less than three or 400 words).
So get googling, search for longtail keywords in your niche and start trawling through the boondocks of the Internet.
You should quickly find a list of sites that are weak compared to yours add them to a spreadsheet and keep going until you have 30 or 40 sites on the list.
This process takes time and is ongoing, as you find one weak competitor you will start to find others as you peel back the layers of the onion. You will often need to manually check each site to ensure it is genuinely weak.
Domain Authority Score
You may think you can shortcut this process by looking at the DA scores given to you by your keyword research tool and picking sites with a DA score of less than say 10. But this won’t work, it may give you an initial shortlist but you still have to manually check them, you cannot rely on the DA scores from any of the third-party tools.
Domain authority scores can be useful as an initial indicator of the strength or weakness of a site but they are not particularly accurate.
I do use them myself but with caution knowing to take what they say with a pinch of salt. Just because a site has a high domain authority doesn’t mean you can’t beat it and conversely just because it has a low domain authority score doesn’t mean you can beat it.
Where I would give a DA score some credence is if it is a non-UGC, forum etc. type site and you think it is a weak site but it turns out to have a high DA score. Double-check your assessment, you might have missed something.
To get a view of the domain authority of a site as you’re doing your manual research you can use the free MOZ bar which is a chrome extension.
Scalping your Competitor’s Top Keywords
For this next step, we’re going to need to use a paid keyword research tool. Almost all the tools on the market are capable of showing you which keywords a website ranks for. So if you already have a paid tool, use that.
If you don’t already have access to a keyword research tool then probably the cheapest one on the market is KeyWords Everywhere. I personally use Uber Suggest because I have a lifetime license. Another popular choice, that won’t break the bank, is Mangools.
Cleaning your scalped keyword list
Now you have your list import it into a spreadsheet the next step is to go through and remove any keywords that don’t make sense for your niche.
For example, you want to remove keywords that are the domain name or related to the domain name of your competitor or let’s say your niche is about dogs and one of the sites you’ve scraped is in the broader pets niche then you would want to remove keywords that are not related to dogs e.g. cats, guinea pigs, rabbits etc.
My main tip here is to keep a list of these negative keywords e.g. those words you want to always exclude, so you can reuse them when you do this exercise again in the future.
Analysing the highest-traffic pages
Looking at things on an individual keyword basis is one thing but we are smarter than that and know that we should be looking at things at a page level and a topic level. So don’t just focus on a competitor’s individual keywords, look at which pages drive the most traffic and are there certain topics that work really well for your competitor.
Finding the easiest Keywords to rank for from your scalped list
Ok, so by now you should have a big spreadsheet with all your competitors in, the traffic-driving keywords they rank for and you’ve winnowed out any irrelevant keywords. You also have an understanding of the top pages and topics.
Now we need to narrow things down a bit (or a lot if you have 1,000s of rows of keywords).
Start by filtering the spreadsheet to only show keywords that rank in position 1-5 and sort them by competitor and then traffic volume from highest to lowest.
Now, if you don’t have a particularly large list of keywords by this stage then you could just use these as the keywords to target. But I like to take things one step further and try and identify those keywords where multiple weak sites rank for it.
This is where a tool called KeyWord Chef comes in. It’s a paid tool but it’s cheap and works on a credits basis rather than a monthly fee.
Go to the tool, upload your keywords add your list of weak competitors and the tool will show you which keywords multiple weak sites rank for (not just the weak sites you have identified but also weak sites from its built-in database). Now you can target those keywords with the highest KeyWordChef score.
Saving the key data to discover your best keyword scalping results
At the end of the whole process make sure you store in a spreadsheet your list of scalped keywords and which competitor you scalped them from.
We want this data so that we can revisit in a few month’s time which articles you are successfully ranking for so that you can see which competitors you have actually managed to outrank versus which ones you haven’t this then tells you which competitors you may be able to get further rentable keywords from.
I store this in my content workflow system which I will do a subsequent article on but this allows me to analyse all of this data in a fairly straightforward manner.
Analysing your results and refining your keyword scalping approach 3 months later
So in theory you worked out who your weakest competitors were and you worked out in theory which keywords Google would rank you for.
But does that theory stand up to reality? Which competitors did you actually manage to outrank and which keywords will google rank you for? If you know this then you can refine your approach further by retargeting those competitors you know for certain that you can outrank and targeting similar keywords knowing which topics Google will rank you for i.e what Google thinks you have topical authority for.
Three months later what you want to do is check your actual results against that data you kept earlier i.e. did you actually manage to successfully outrank those competitors.
Scalping Competitor Keywords Summary
Hopefully what you have learnt from the above is that keyword scalping can be a very powerful approach to selecting which keywords to target. But, most importantly, you have seen that applying a scientific and rigorous approach to which competitors to focus on, testing and measuring your results etc. maximises your chances of success.