Could the secret behind SEO success be inside lots of hard work and research? Or perhaps a bit of simple thieving from your opponents on the market?

 

INTRODUCTION

They tell you “cheaters never prosper” and that there is “no honor among thieves.” But it seems that, in order to succeed in this online world, you need to take leaves out of others’ books. Starting a blog or an online business as more and more people seem to require a great amount of “Oppo Research.”
Essentially, you’re looking into your competition. Checking what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. One of the things to define and cement early on is your SEO, and analysis of your competitors’ keywords could make that job a lot easier.
The question is – if you find your competitors are using some pretty useful keywords – can you use them too? Stealing them, basically. Is it bad form, or a good, ruthless business move?
This article will explore the point of good SEO and the nature of keywords, and the implications to consider when you research into your competitors’ optimization strategies.
 

WHAT ARE KEYWORDS?

First of all, we should probably have a look at what keywords actually are. However self-explanatory it may seem, keywords are basically the little bits of content that grab a search engine’s attention. Make them aware of your site and its content exist.
When you launch your website, you enable it to be picked up by search engines – Google, for example – and it will get a ranking. Basically, how high up in a search your site will appear. The more you use these keywords in your content, the higher your ranking will be. That results in more users seeing your content and visiting your site.
The issue arises in finding the CORRECT keywords to use. That’s what Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is. We’ll look at that more closely in the next section.
Finding the right keywords to bolster your site’s position in the Google search successfully is no easy task if you’re entering a highly competitive market. That’s why it might be considered a wise move to analyze what your immediate competition is doing for their own SEO. And why it might be tempting to steal the competitors’ keyword ideas if you like what you see.
 

WHY DOES IT MATTER TO HAVE GOOD SEO?

Good SEO is more than just how high up your website appears in a Google search. It’s an analysis of how likely your audience will think they’re going to find what they are looking for in your content.
For example, it’s no good writing a video game review without having the words “video game” in the first few lines of your content. The search engines are not going to pick it up, and in that case, your audience is going to scroll right past it.
The relevance and importance of all this are very simple. If your content is appearing on page 5 of the Google searches, the chances are the users found what they were looking for elsewhere on page 1 or 2. That doesn’t necessarily indicate your site has bad SEO, but that the competitions are BETTER than yours.
 

GETTING TO KNOW THE COMPETITOR’S KEYWORDS

These days, there’s an app or a plugin that can help you with your SEO. There are also tools available for download that can be a bit sneaky for you. Essentially, they will analyze a competitor site for the keywords for which they are ranking highly. Some of these tools will make their calculations on your site, to see where one outperforms the other.
You also get a lot of stats from these tools, just to see how many users your competitors reach using these particular keywords. From then, it’s entirely up to you how you use the information you have gained. Either take a leaf out of the competition’s book and use some of the keywords you have seen making them money. Or perhaps work your content around places where the competitors fall short, instead. Making use of their weaknesses for your gain.
 

ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF STEALING KEYWORDS

Obviously stealing, in the broadest sense of the word, is wrong. One of the earliest lessons you learn. However, using a competitor’s keywords is not stealing in the literal sense. They are words of a language – neither the physical nor intellectual property of the owner of the competitor site. You won’t be on the receiving end of a plagiarism lawsuit if you DO decide to use the same keywords as the competition.
Just Steal It
However, there are a number of ethical implications to consider, plus the risks. For one thing, there is a chance you could cause a double-KO. Injure the success of your competitor’s business alongside impeding that of your own. There are a number of bad SEO practices that ruin a business’ Google rankings. One of them is called Keyword Stuffing.
Keyword Stuffing is when you repeatedly use the same keywords in your content purely to optimize its position in a search engine search. Repeatedly doing this sets off the search engines’ alarms that you’re trying to trick their algorithm, which then has an adverse effect on the keyword(s) in question. Thereby, jeopardizing their effectiveness for all sites – not just your own.
Further ethical implications arise with regard to stealing keywords and bad SEO practice in some search engines’ terms of use. That’s why it’s important that, if you’re going to apply this manner of oppo research, be careful not to trigger their alarms.

 

CONCLUSION

In the cut-throat game of one-upmanship that SEO is, ethics are perhaps not our first consideration. We’re often in a mindset of “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs,” and in a sense, this is true of this brand of SEO research.
There will be readers who disagree, but as long as there’s nothing illegal about it, the use of a competitor’s keywords to boost one’s own success is just playing the game. All in the spirit of good, if ruthless, business.