Competing for popular keywords to win search engine rankings and attract clicks from searchers is a difficult, time-intensive process.
Too often, that type of SEO is a losing proposition.
But you don’t need to give up. Instead, develop a keyword strategy that gives your brand a better chance of ranking on search engine result pages that attract your target audience. Explore keyword search volume, competition level, relevancy, etc., to find the right balance of elements, so your content earns higher rankings.
Here are five actions to develop a keyword research process that delivers better results:
1. Prioritize potential keywords based on preferred factors
Many factors come into consideration when you contemplate whether to target a keyword. Some might weigh more heavily than others based on your site’s current conditions.
First, create a spreadsheet to list all potential keywords you want to rank for. Then, add columns for evaluation factors, including search volume, difficulty, and intent to understand the competitive landscape.
Several SEO tools can help you assess difficulty. This example comes from Ahrefs. It estimates how many backlinks your site would need to rank for your proposed keyword. It ranges from easy (fewer than 10 domains publishing a backlink) to super hard (over 200 domains backlinking to your site).
TIP: If geography is important to your brand, consider evaluating keywords based on country-specific data.
A spreadsheet gives you the flexibility to sort the data to weigh one factor over another. For example, you might sort the keywords by difficulty score rather than search volume. From there, you can prioritize your targeted keywords.
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2. Consider the potential of long-tail keywords
Many content marketers ignore long-tail keywords because searchers don’t use them frequently. Ahrefs illustrates this conundrum in its Search Demand Curve chart, going from The Fat Head (small number of insanely popular search queries) to The Chunky Middle (millions of searches with decent monthly volumes) to Long Tail (billions of search queries with a small number of searchers).
That lack of interest in competing for long-tail keywords is just one of the benefits. These words also better indicate search intent, making those who click more likely to convert. You also can spend less time creating content because you’re targeting a narrower topic rather than attempting to be a comprehensive source.
3. Listen to the searchers
The People Also Ask and related search sections in search engines indicate topics related to the query. Use those results to identify alternative keywords that your search target audience might use.
In this tasty example, you can see the broad query – how to make a fettuccine sauce – becomes more specific in the People Also Ask section:
- How do you make a fettuccine sauce thicker?
- How do you make a creamy sauce for pasta?
- What is the real alfredo sauce made of?
- What is fettuccine sauce called?
In looking at these results, each searcher’s intent becomes clearer. The first topic – make fettuccine sauce thicker – likely would be an inquiry of someone who is cooking the dish. But the last – what is fettuccine sauce called – is more likely the search of someone who couldn’t remember the name Alfredo. The first listing’s keywords would be better targeted by a brand looking to help people cook.
The same process works for the related searches section. In this case, you can see searchers who are looking for cooking-related tips (how to make alfredo sauce without cream) vs. those looking for products (best alfredo sauce in a jar).
While these sections can be helpful in understanding similar alternative keywords, they also can assist when developing your content. You can use some of those related search topics as subheadings in your content.
4. Examine your competitors’ place on SERPs
Do a search for your proposed keyword and see which sites own the top rankings. If you find popular websites ranking at the top, you might think the keyword competition is too high and cross it off your list.
However, before you do, check if the content really answers the targeted keyword. If the high-ranking content answers only part of the keyword phrase, you may have an opportunity to rank by creating quality content that tackles all or almost all of it.
For example, let’s say you want to target the “best 14-inch gaming laptop” keyword. Analyzing its competition on the SERP, you see popular websites (The Verge and PC Mag) are the top rankings.
You take a closer look at their content and realize they don’t satisfyingly answer the keyword search intent. Their content is about the best gaming laptops in general, not just about the 14-inch size. It might present an opportunity for your site to rank high by publishing content narrowly focused on the 14-inch aspect of the keyword phrase intent.
5. Take note of ‘out-of-reach’ keywords
A website’s authority likely influences search ranking results in some capacity. If your site doesn’t have a high authority now, it will be difficult to compete for some keywords.
Backlinko’s research, which uses Ahrefs authority ranking, illustrates this. Ranking positions closely correlate to the site’s domain rating. At least 75% of the top 10 ranking positions came from sites with domain ratings of 50 or higher.
While your site likely can’t compete now, you might be able to in the future. If you continuously implement an SEO strategy for your website, its authority should grow and become more prominent.
Thus, take note of the keywords for which you want to rank but would find too difficult now. As your domain authority grows, revisit this list of out-of-reach keywords to assess whether they’re within reach given your higher domain authority.
Look outside the box for SEO potential
Keyword research is essential for SEO. But you don’t always have to use the most popular or most often used keywords.
By looking outside the search box for related but less-tapped potential keywords, your site will be more likely to inch itself up in the rankings and be tops for your target audience.
All tools noted in this article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to share, please add in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
How We Increased a Client’s Leads by 384% in Six Months by Focusing on One Topic Cluster [Case Study]
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Content marketing is an essential part of any SEO strategy. Without it, how are you going to attract customers looking for answers to their questions, and who are potentially in the market for your products or services?
At Tao Digital Marketing, we’ve recently generated some great results for one of our clients operating in the business financial space, The Insolvency Experts, mainly by focusing on just one “cluster topic” that was a huge money maker for them.
When looking at six month comparison stats (August 2021-January 2022 to February-July 2022), we’ve achieved the following:
Leads: 95 to 460 (384%)
Clicks: 4,503 to 23,013 (411%)
Impressions: 856,683 to 2,033,355 (137%)
Average position: 33.4 to 23.6 (increased almost 10 spots)
This was mostly achieved by absolutely hammering one topic area: company liquidation. In this case study, we’re going to explain how we did this step by step, so that hopefully you can generate similar results for your own business!
If you really break it down, the objective of all SEO consultancy work is essentially the same: increase the number of leads for a business. This was our ultimate goal.
It’s not just as simple as that, though. We all know you can’t get to number one on Google overnight. So, like other SEO geeks out there, we tracked our successes through additional factors such as clicks, impressions, and average position, to show our efforts were worthwhile.
In January this year (2022) our goals for the next six months were as follows:
Leads: Just over double from 95 to 200 (110%)
Clicks: 4,503 to 13,500 (around 200%)
Impressions: 856,683 to 1,700,000 (around 100%)
Average position: 33.4 to 25 (around eight spots)
Insolvency Experts’ audience is primarily directors of UK businesses that are going insolvent, closely followed by business owners looking for financial advice. The majority of Insolvency Expert’s cash flow comes from formal insolvency processes, such as liquidation, administration, and CVAs (Company Voluntary Agreements), so it was really important for us to push these areas.
1. Research “company liquidation” search volume and related queries
We first picked this client up in November 2020. Initially, our focus was on the basics: updating all the top level pages (such as service pages and guides) to make sure they fit the intention of the user and clearly explained the services that Insolvency Experts offer.
Researching what works well at present
One of the pages that our content team updated was their company liquidation guide. After updating, the page started to perform very well in the SERP, and ranked at position #4 for “company liquidation”. Clearly, this sort of content was working, and we wanted to hit it even more.
After pulling some research together, one of our strategists proposed the idea of a “Company Liquidation Content Hub”, as the company liquidation guide was ranking for a lot of long tail questions:
After cross referencing with the monthly search volume for these questions, she added some of these as H3s within the guide to see how they would perform. They resulted in so much more traffic that she decided they warranted their own individual guides, hence the idea for the hub. This would mean we weren’t putting all of our eggs into one basket, and that we could also internally link all of them together for users wanting to read more.
Users that are further down the marketing funnel don’t want to scroll down a huge guide to find the answer to their specific question, and we were certain that this would positively affect bounce rate. We therefore made sure that nine times out of 10, the H1 contained the question that was being answered.
In order to further target those at the bottom of the marketing funnel who want to speak to someone quickly, we placed regular “Contact Us” CTAs throughout the content so that they don’t have to scroll right to the bottom of the page to get in touch with Insolvency Experts.
Undertaking a competitor analysis
We also conducted a competitor analysis on this topic, focusing on three key players in the industry that were all ranking well for the phrase “company liquidation”. We found that the key competitors had the following:
Competitor A – 38 indexed articles on liquidation
Competitor B – 23 indexed articles on liquidation
Competitor C – 47 indexed articles on liquidation
Insolvency Experts only had six indexed articles on liquidation at the time, so it was clear we needed to be on their level – this was an obvious content gap.
Pitching the content hub to the client
We suggested this idea to the client alongside a forecasting spreadsheet created by our founder, in order to justify the resource that was needed to push the client as high as possible in the rankings for company liquidation.
This spreadsheet broke down a huge list of keywords alongside monthly search volume, average click through rate for positions 1-10 on the SERP, domain authority of competitors who are currently ranking for these keywords, and average conversion rate on the site at the moment.
This unique formula would then allow us to explain to the client that for X amount of work, we predict we can get you to position X in X timeframe, and this would result in approximately X annual revenue. After pitching this to the client alongside infographics and current performance statistics, they told us they loved our ideas and agreed to let us go ahead.
2. Plan the content after client approval
After the client gave us the go-ahead, the next step was to plan all of this work based on search volume, and therefore priority order.
It’s easy to get lost in all the data within SEO, so it was incredibly important for us to have a solid plan and timeline for these changes. Topics were going to range from How to Liquidate a Company with No Money through to Administration vs Liquidation.
How we communicate planned works to our clients
In order to orchestrate clear communication between ourselves and our clients, we create a Traffic Light Report, which is a live Google Sheets document detailing all work to be undertaken for the current and next quarter. This is split into sections for technical SEO, content, and digital PR/link building (the three pillars of SEO).
This includes justification for each change we make, as well as a link to any live changes or documents. It also details when this will be done and if the action is with us or the client. The tasks are coloured in green for live changes, yellow for action needed, orange for in progress, red for anything on hold and clear for not started.
Here’s an example of what the content section of Insolvency Expert’s traffic light report looks like for their current quarter (July-September 2022):
Scheduling the tasks
We then scheduled these topics for our various content writers to work on using our project management software, ClickUp. Within each task we placed a link to a skeleton document consisting of H1s, H2s, and H3s, as well as a title, meta description and keywords to include.
3. Write the content while implementing technical SEO
By this time it was around April 2022, and it was time for us to fully attack the content portion of our task list. Since then, we’ve written 18 pieces of content around company liquidation, and still have quite a few left to go before we consider this area of focus complete.
Analyzing as we go along
Once we covered the big topics in the first couple of months of writing, we started to use Low Fruits to find smaller queries which are estimated at around 10 or fewer monthly searches. We’ve had a lot of success targeting lower search volume phrases, as these users seem to be more focused and lower down the sales funnel, so are more likely to be better engaged and convert better. A lot of the time they are pleased that you have answered their very niche question!
The below is a screenshot from a keyword analysis. We trawled through hundreds of keywords to pull out the ones relevant to the client.
We then used Low Fruit’s Keyword Extraction and SERP Analysis tool to give us further details on a select few key terms.
These terms are shown as having a search volume of either 10, less than 10 or 0. Of course, we know that this is still hugely important to cover, and targeting these will bring in a very niche reader who is much more likely to convert due to the nature of the long-tail queries.
Finalizing the hub
Our plan is to finalize the hub this fall, and ensure that everything is internally linked. There will also be a menu change to make the addition of the hub very clear. See screenshots below for the current hub vs. how it will be presented once all content is ready (screenshot taken from their staging site in Kinsta, our hosting platform where we make design changes so that the client can approve them before they go live).
Current ‘hub’ in the menu:
How the hub will look once all content is complete:
As part of our content process within ClickUp, we have a recurring task to check a new URL in Google Search Console two weeks after upload. This allows us to see if we have the “Google Spike of Acceptance”, which is a sharp incline of impressions/traffic indicating that the content will do well, before it falls then slowly rises again.
If we don’t see this spike, we carry out multiple checks, including: Is it an orphan page? Are there any technical errors? Is it indexed? If it is not indexed, we push the URL through Index Me Now.
If the issue is just that the piece isn’t getting picked up, we will take another look at the content to see if there is something else we can do to improve it, e.g. tweak the H1 or expand the content.
4. Build links to the relevant pages and homepage
We wanted to really hone in on generating links for our company liquidation page. The page has 36 backlinks, many of which were built through link building efforts. This was largely done by working with business site publications and creating natural anchor text that would help with certain keyword rankings.
As well as building links specifically to the company liquidation page, we also built links to the main URL in order to boost overall domain authority. This was done through answering queries through platforms such as HARO and Response Source, as well as working with the client to create relevant, time-specific thought leadership pieces. Here’s an example of a HARO request we responded to, the topic being “Recession-proofing tips for small businesses”:
Although the site’s domain authority tends to fluctuate between 30-33 depending on links lost and general algorithm updates, the links to specific pages have still resulted in an increase in rankings, detailed further below.
Results compared to objectives
Although we knew that our strategy was going to work well based on our experience with our other clients, we were very pleasantly surprised by the huge positive effect our work has made, which enabled us to smash the targets we set!
Goal: Increase from 95 to 200 (110%)
Result: Increased from 95 to 460 (384%)
As a result of creating incredibly useful, lengthy content and placing regular CTAs throughout the content, we managed to almost quadruple the amount of leads coming through to the client in the space of just six months.
In the six months before our liquidation project began, our Leads Dashboard within WhatConverts shows that Insolvency Experts had five liquidation leads via phone call and 10 leads via their contact form on a liquidation-focused page.
In the six-month period since we’ve been working on the content hub, they have had 38 liquidation leads via phone call and 52 leads via contact form on a liquidation-focused page.
Result: 660% increase in phone call leads and 420% increase in contact form leads.
Previous six months:
Goal: Increase from 4,503 to 13,500 (around 200%)
Result: Increased from 4,503 to 23,013 (411%)
By creating highly relevant content that matched the user’s search intent, we managed to almost quadruple the clicks over the space of six months, doubling our original 200% goal.
The site has received 29,400 clicks overall across the past 12 months. Below, you can see the huge spike in clicks and impressions from January onwards when we really started to focus on the liquidation content.
Goal: Increase from 856,683 to 1,700,000 (around 100%)
Result: Increased from 856,683 to 2,033,355 (137%)
Again, by creating highly relevant blogs, Google started to understand the relevancy of our content, so the number of impressions hugely increased. Along with the 137% increase above, over the past 12 months (August 2021-August 2022) the site has received 485,000 impressions for the query ‘liquidation’ alone.
The main company liquidation guide that we updated had a total of 732K impressions over the past 12 months, too, with a huge spike from February onwards, when we updated the guide.
Goal: Increase from 33.4 to 25 (around 8 spots)
Result: Increased from 33.4 to 23.6 (increased 10 spots)
This increase is due to the relevancy of our content and the amount of keywords each piece ranked for. As mentioned, the main company liquidation guide has worked incredibly well, ranking for 181 keywords, 67 of which are page one (37%). It now has the number one spot for the term “company liquidation”. See below for an example of queries the page is showing up for.
The page also shows up for six featured snippets as a result of us implementing FAQ schema.
335 clicks and 93,663 impressions have come from the FAQ rich results alone.
In the six months before we updated the guide, it pulled in around 650 clicks and 227K impressions. In the six months following, it brought in around 1,180 clicks and 382K impressions. We’ve practically doubled clicks on one single guide.
As mentioned, this particular piece of content has 36 backlinks, and actually ranks ABOVE the official UK government company liquidation guide, which has a domain authority of 93 (about 60 higher than ours). Clearly, we’re meeting the searcher’s intent and giving them what they are looking for.
In the six month period before we started work on liquidation, Insolvency Experts had an average click through rate of 0.5%. Over a six month period of us working with them, this more than doubled to 1.2%.
Another success worth noting is that 3 out of 6 of our latest articles have an average page view duration of between 9 and 10 minutes! The other half are averaging around 5 to 6 minutes, which is still very good. Clearly, users are wanting in-depth information on this topic.
The “What happens to a director of a company in liquidation?” guide, which went live in May, is now the fifth most clicked page on the site. when filtered on GSC by the term “liquidation”.
Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the results we generated, and so are Insolvency Experts — the company liquidation department is now inundated with queries and they are rushed off their feet!
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