Comparison keywords are an awesome foot-in-the-door SEO targeting strategy if you’re kicking off any sort of product-based strategy.
Many decent volume, low-comp keywords just sitting there for the picking and can be targetted individually, or in bulk.
Many people won’t even consider many of them!
My latest little project has even just cracked 270 clicks a day on the comparison pages alone… within 2 months.
Not a bad little start!
As with all keywords though, there are some that are easier than others.
How do we find the keywords?
How can we best target them to make the most of the opportunity?
Who’s doing it well?
Before we get stuck in and take a look at a few options, I just want to explain a little about these comparison terms.
What are comparison keywords?
As the name suggests, they’re simply keywords that a consumer will search when they’re looking to compare products.
Two of the main comparison keyword formats you’ll see are;
Product 1 vs Product 2
Product 2 or Product 3
And then now and then, you’ll find yourself an elusive three-way comparison that could be worth targeting;
Product 1 vs Product 2 vs Product 3
But, what can we deem as a “product” when it comes to these comparisons?
These aren’t limited to products of the standard physical nature found in a store.
Which leads me into who can target these comparison keywords.
Who can leverage product comparison keywords?
Many will initially think Laptops, Tablets, Phones etc and all your other gizmos, gadgets and anything you walk into a store to buy.
But they go so much further than that.
Affiliate marketers, media companies, business owners.
There are plenty of options to jump into the comparison ring and knock out some rankings.
So let’s take a look at a few of the options.
Ecommerce / Traditional Product-based Websites
The traditional ecom / product-based websites are the default go-to for the usage of comparison terms.
Whether selling laptops or washing machines, phones or vacuums, cars or blinds, consumers are probably looking at comparing that product to something else before they buy.
Someone looking at grabbing an XPS laptop could be searching;
Albeit a smaller volume, you’ve also got the category/subcategory/type comparison keywords that fit in here, with keywords like;
These have a much-limited scope, so normally are reserved for these higher volume product-based comparison terms.
However, still worth looking into their value for you.
SAAS / Software Businesses
Many software companies get stuck with where to start their SEO strategy.
Most will tackle a content strategy, filling up their blogs with general content that fits their niche.
Which is great! But… they’re missing out on potentially closing an audience that’s a bit further along their funnel.
Users that are just doing some final comparisons before they pull the trigger on their chosen software.
Wouldn’t you want to ‘sway’ the conversation with some favourable data-points showing you as the #1 choice?
Let’s check out what people might compare one of the top mailing software with…
But guess what? Mailchimp is nowhere to be found for these keywords…
Except for one.
Klaviyo is also running the comparison back to them.
This is the only comparison they appear to be running.
Mailchimp is leaving out so much opportunity where they could be controlling some of the comparison conversations for the other comparisons too.
Looking at a new electricity provider? Or a new phone company?
What about a new internet plan?
Well, even if you’re not, there are thousands of people that are, every single month.
What about a new web hosting plan?
Looking to move house?
What about planning your next holiday?
Once you lock down a few options, you probably wanna weigh them up against each other to see where could be best for you.
Websites in travel could really be getting in on this to grab some potentially easy conversions.
Even the official tourism groups of the locations should be jumping on this, to try to swing it in their favour.
One big callout here though, be careful of sports teams, or other things that use the location name in these comparisons. Your volumes will be thrown out the window.
A quick Google search can confirm Google’s intent from the keyword, and avoid you wasting your time.
This is one of the categories where things get interesting.
A majority of the volume for sports-related comparison terms will come down to users trying to find out information about an upcoming/completed match between the teams.
However, there is one other big share of this market that is worth taking a stab at.
Consumers search these keywords to work out who could win, should they ever play against each other.
Some random American hockey team still sits at some pretty high volume;
One even includes ‘tickets’ which can show the intent here.
Correct targeting by a sports team could help them grab some of the SERP real estate for these keywords.
Correct targeting by a sports website, could even steal some keywords from the larger players.
You really start scraping the barrel here, due to the localised nature of general small businesses.
But, the keywords are still there. Hiding away, waiting for you to find them!
Never know, your business/businesses in your niche, may have some comparisons waiting for you to leverage.
Finding the keywords
How do we actually go out and find the keywords though?
There are two tools I use for this, but both involve a little pre-generation of your seed keywords.
It all starts with a list of the products you want to compare.
If you’re only looking to try find comparisons for a single product, or a single name, it’s easy!
Product name vs
You can then try to look at any variations of the name.
For a basic product, I’d start with
$brand$ $productName$ vs
That get’s whacked into the tools, and hopefully, you’ll find yourself some nice comparison keywords to play with.
However, for the people that are looking to find comparisons they could do, from a larger list, you need to;
- List out all your product names in Google sheets
- Add any variations to the list
- Append “vs”, “verse”, “or”, or any other extension you’d like to search for
- Copy all into a single list
This can all be done pretty quickly in Google sheets;
From here, we just need to paste the ‘C’ column somewhere, to remove the formula and avoid mishaps.
Finding comparison keywords with ahrefs
Being one of the obvious larger keyword research tools around at the moment, ahrefs offers something that many tools can’t.
Which is exactly what we need for this.
ahrefs has a ‘phrase match’ keyword research option, which will return any keywords in their database that contain the inputted seed words.
Just access their keyword explorer, paste in 10 seed keywords (their max for phrase option) and then click “phrase match”.
This will hopefully come back with plenty of the top comparisons for you to look at!
Using my XPS example, I can see that I should potentially be looking at creating comparisons for hundreds of different combinations!
If you’re working with some higher volume products, you’ll find plenty of comparison duplicates, with alternate names.
Read on for something I’ve shared below, to help analyse your list.
Finding comparison keywords with Google Suggest/Autocomplete
The other method of finding comparison keywords is to use Google’s autocomplete feature.
This will give you hot comparisons to use. Hyper dynamic keywords, that will popup well before any keyword research tool’s database will grab them.
Yeah, my example doesn’t do this justice though, as the XPS is a popular laptop!
But how about a less popular model.
If we take a look at one of Asus’ newer laptops, one I am actually hoping to buy as soon as Australia has some more stock, we can see a different story.
Look at all that magical autocomplete data!
ahrefs had nothing.
I wouldn’t expect it too either. It sometimes takes months and months before keyword tools will collect see these keywords.
Simple typing the product names into the Google search bar is a quick and dirty way of grabbing these terms.
However, I prefer to use a tool as I can grab some search volume in the process, should it be available.
Keysearch is a tool I’ve used for a couple of years, primarily because they come out with some awesome discounts now and then, and have decent enough data for it.
Type in the keyword, one at a time for autocomplete usage, and then click ‘Google suggest’.
Filter the keywords to contain your comparison phrase, in this case, it is ‘vs’.
It will then spit out the same autocomplete keywords as before, and a few more, for you to get stuck into.
Repeat the process for each of your seed keywords, and it will give you the comparison terms along with any volume or CPC data the tool has.
If you’re really not fussed about the extra data, jump into Keyword Shitter and throw in all your seed keywords at once.
Add all your comparison phrases in as positive filters and then you can go ahead and keyword shit yourself silly!
Zero search volume does not mean zero search volume
Keyword search volume is derived as an average of the previous 12 months of searches for that keyword, should tools actually have that data.
When products are released, it could take months before a tool even shows the first month of volume for it.
Any comparison you’re doing for a new product is pretty much guaranteed to have no volume.
You will also find many comparisons that will show zero volume, even though they are older.
Due to the lower volume, lower comp, nature of these keywords it could still be worth creating the comparison.
Considering how easy some of these pages are to create, even if it just helped make 3-5 conversions over a 6-12 month period, what’s that worth to you?
For some, it’ll be worth plenty.
Need proof of their value? Fine.
Here are some stats of a single, shiny comparison page;
74 total keywords showing up in GSC for this page, with the top one being almost 50 clicks, over the 6 week period.
How do these keywords look in ahrefs though?
Like absolute garbage – as expected haha.
Ahrefs didn’t even have 2/3rds of the keywords in their database!
Two keywords show a whopping 30 combined volume, yet they’ve driven a combined ~200 clicks for the month.
Rarely, will someone target a set of “zero volume” keywords because of this.
Comparison keywords are where I’d recommend that be a bit different. They’re worth the “zero” volume.
That’s because that zero search volume does not mean zero search volume.
Matching & extracting the product names from the comparisons
If you’re working in bulk, the generated keywords can sometimes be a bit of a pain as you might struggle to match up the product names.
There could be many names for a single product, and individually matching these would be painful if they’re across lots of comparisons.
Well, it was a pain for me anyway – so maybe this will help you out too!
Duplicate My Google Sheet Below
It’s a bit of a behemoth… but I wouldn’t have bothered doing it if it wasn’t going to turn out that way :P
1. Paste in all your keywords & volumes
2. Scroll across to the right and paste in your product seed words, along with their associated product names & IDs
The ‘seed’ is a word/phrase within the keywords, that would align it to the specific product. So for me, ‘xps 15’ relates back to the Dell XPS 15.
3. Drag down the formulas, into any empty rows you have
The formulas will now run and match any products within your comparison keywords, to the seed list you provided.
This is a two-step process, where you’ll find that ‘model 1’ and ‘model 2’ will be broken up by either “vs”, “verse”, “or”, or “compared to” as the comparison text in the middle.
If the comparison keyword doesn’t contain one of them, the formula will break. You should be able to adjust the formula to suit your needs, and if not, just comment and I will try help you out :)
Once broken down, the formulas will categorise the two models, using the seed keyword list you provided. It will just look for the seed, inside the keyword, and then match it up with the given product.
If the keywords aren’t being matched to the products, you will need to build out your seed list to include the missing seed words. This means you’ll just need to add the alternate names for a product, until the formula can correct match them together.
Model 1 assumes that you know the exact model name before the ‘vs’ because that’s what you would have been researching.
However, model 2 tries to match two different ways.
There’s the same ‘exact’ match of the seed as Model 1, but then there is also a partial match.
If I delete the seeds for ‘xps 15’, and ‘xps 17’, you’ll see that the partial match still matches these to keywords to their correct model.
This is because the partial match formula is based on a wildcard match, and will match ‘xps 17’ inside the seed of ‘dell xps 17’.
The final column will then look for an exact matched product, and if one isn’t there it will look for a partial match.
Sometimes the partial match can go haywire though, so that’s why it’ll prioritise an exact match where possible. It’s also best if you manually check the partial matches, as you never know what it’ll match up to.
Duplicate My Google Sheet Below
Prioritising the comparisons
If you’re only working with a few comparisons, just stick to however you normally prioritise SEO stuff. Usually just by a mix of search volume & competition.
But, if you’re working in bulk you’d probably be better off running your keywords through this sheet.
Provided you’ve done the above instructions on setting up the sheet, you’ll just want to load up all your product names, with their combined search volume on the far right. Whether this is volume from one keyword, or many, it just needs to be one total volume per product.
The sheet will pull in this product volume data, and display it next to the match model names.
And this is where things get interesting.
The formula in the sheet, will look at the volumes for the two products being compared, and then optimise the ordering of the comparison to ensure the highest volume product is first in the order.
Might not be helpful to everyone, but it was something I wanted to use, so you get it too :)
In the above, even though the XPS 13 came first in the keyword, the dataset says that XPS 15 had a higher volume, thus putting it first in the calculated comparison.
You can just kill off the search volume for the products if you don’t want to use this feature.
Individual comparisons will then be prioritises by their search volume with the ‘comparison volume’ column aggregating the search volume of any comparison keywords with their associated matched comparisons.
All the duplicate comparisons will have their search volume aggregated from the unique comparison keywords that were matched to them.
Search volume for any time XPS 15 was compared to XPS 17 gets aggregated into the “Dell XPS 15 vs Dell XPS 17” comparison.
You’ll then be able to sort all your comparisons by volume, to work out what to target first.
Duplicate My Google Sheet Below
How to properly target comparison keywords
I’ll keep this bit brief, as you’ll see a few different ways to target them below. Also cant give you alllll my secrets ;)
There are two mains ways to target them though.
Dynamically and manually.
Dynamically will leverage a dataset and let you target the keywords in bulk, giving you the option to build out and optimise the content further as they grow.
Manually means you’d be writing out the content for the pages individually as you go.
Both have their own merits, but if you’re looking at targeting more than a handful of comparisons at a time, some sort of dynamic solution would be best.
No matter the strategy you’re taking, there are a couple of things that should really be included in these comparison pages.
A nice and simple table/chart showing a direct comparison of any features/specifications of the products, and then a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each product off the back of these.
At its core, that’s what you’d need at a minimum. The rest is SEO.
Good comparison examples
Who does this well?
There are soooo many examples of comparison pages – particularly in tech.
The best examples, are looking at the keywords you’re trying to target though. Nothing better than leveraging what Google already loves, for what you’re targeting.
You don’t need to be as good as the overall best, you just need to be better than your direct competitors.
Apply some of what you can learn from the overall best to your market though, and it should help you out!
These guys are definitely one of the “best in class” comparison websites… you’ve probably never heard of them though!
Tech, Sports, Food, even dating apps!
423k out of their total 493k keywords are rankings for URLs with “-vs-” in them.
That’s their comparison pages.
They’re absolutely killing it.
They are definitely one of the “prettier” comparison websites floating around and give some great breakdowns of the individual features of each device.
Can you even guess what they compare? Yeah, cameras, and they’re killing it too.
Not as high as they used to sit, but they’ve managed to keep themselves pretty stable over the last couple of years.
They’re just keeping it simple though.
Overall summary, key specs of both, and then the side-by-side features comparison.
These guys do a lot more than comparisons, but they’ve got some great comparison pages here!
Simple summaries, with some awesome side-by-side comparisons of specs and features.
Not much text, but they’re covering that on their reviews side. These are just their pure reviews.
They’re ranking well with them too!
Webhosting is a tough niche to crack. There are some prime commissions available for those that do though!
Bit of a slap from the May update it seems though!
These guys have cracked one of the largest web hosting comparisons they can – Godaddy.
They’ve covered so much here, but as you’ll see, it’s just a giant comparison table!
A lot of work goes into the data powering this page, but at its core, it’s just that – data.
Why wouldn’t you target comparison keywords?
There are a few reasons I know of, of why people might not target these keywords. All completely understandable, and up to you if you see them as blockers.
But hey, you never know until you give things a go sometimes!
You don’t like free traffic from brand jacking
Has anyone… ever… turned down highly targeted free traffic before?
Probably, but I wouldn’t be. I’d be milking that traffic as much as possible!
Comparison keywords are great for when people are looking for those comparisons, but, there’s something that I haven’t mentioned yet.
These pages will also rank for non-comparison terms.
Imagine being a brand new email platform, creating a comparison of you vs MailChimp, but then ranking for keywords like “MailChimp features”, “What is MailChimp used for” or even “MailChimp cost”.
This is known as brand jacking, and it’s a great way to get your brand in front of a highly targeted user-base!
You probably won’t be able to jump out the gate with such a known brand, but there are definitely some competitor terms you could get in there with, stealing yourself some nice SERP space.
Brand jacking is also a perfect segway into the next reason…
Probably one of the biggest is the fear of being sued. If you’re outright comparing yourself to your competitors, and it’s favourable for you, they’re obviously not going to like it.
They’re especially not going to like it if you’re ranking at the top of Google for keywords including their brand name, or worse, their brand name by itself.
I have pretty much no clue about this side of things, so anything I say about this stuff is further from advice that it could possibly ever be, but what I know is you must avoid anything slanderous.
Stick to what you know. Talk yourself up, but don’t slander or negatively talk about the competitors.
Let your numbers & features do the talking.
Users will often prefer third-party, unbiased reviews.
If you’re not third-party and you’re just comparing yourself to competitors, consumers may not take to that favourably.
However, it’s still worth jumping in there with your say. Something is better than nothing!
Lower volume markets
The volume is so low, it might not be worth the effort for some.
Yeah, this is completely reasonable.
But, you never know until you try!
At least dig in, see what you can find, and give it a shot. Do a test run with a few, see how they perform, and go from there.
Following on from lower volume markets, if you’re a brand new SAAS and no one knows your name, you won’t benefit from these comparison terms like others will.
Why? No ones searching your brand, so no ones searching for comparisons.
As you grow, they will though.
And if someone comes across you, they might want to see how you’re the better option anyway, so I’d say it’s still worth getting in early here.
You might even just rank for the competitors brand names without anyone searching the comparison anyway ;)
What’s stopping you?
Don’t see the value?
Can’t find any comparisons you’d want to target?
I’d love to hear if there are any reasons holding you back.
Hit up the comments with any comparison feedback, especially if you’re successfully targeting them already!
8 Replies to “Product Comparison Keywords: A foot-in-the-door SEO strategy”
Very useful content. Really loved it
Sam, this is brilliant.
The data you get from these sites are mind blowing. You need to pull all the Google search console data into big query.. slice and dice for even more data.
What you see from the keyword researching tools is way different with actual data :)
Thanks for the write-up.
Glad you enjoyed it Suresh!
If you are a brand new company xyz, it’s best to put your product in three units comparison. For eg.
mailchimp vs convertkit vs xyz.
Awesome trick that I completely missed!
Plenty of opportunities here to build out pieces of content for each comparison available.
Thanks for your input.
Great content. Will definitely work on it.