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How to Find Niche Keywords for SEO in 3 Steps

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How to Find Niche Keywords for SEO in 3 Steps

Niche keywords represent clear and specific topics that appeal to relatively small, often specialized parts of a given market.

In other words, these are the “sustainable” and “recycled” jackets in the overall jacket market. 

Niche keyword examples with "jacket"

Niche keywords can be an opportunity to attract highly targeted traffic in a short time since they typically refer to specific things that don’t have a lot of competition. 

In this guide, I’ll show you how to find niche keywords with Ahrefs in three steps.

Step 1. Create an initial keyword list

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Open Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, type in broad terms that point to certain markets, products, or interests (i.e., seed keywords), and hit enter. 

Inserting seed keywords

Then go to Matching terms and set the maximum volume and TP filters to something low for this industry, like 1000. 

Filtering for low-volume and low-TP keywords

Why these two filters? The volume filter will look for keywords with a limited number of searches, while the TP filter will help make sure those keywords are specific topics and not just unpopular ways of looking for popular things.

Sidenote.

Since there is no set value that defines a niche keyword, we can’t tell you the exact volume value here. It depends on the size of the market and how “niche” you want to go. For some markets, it can be 500. While for some very big markets, it may be 2000. So feel free to adjust the volume and TP filters. You can also set the minimum filter right away if you’re not interested in keywords with very low search volume or zero-volume keywords.

Step 2. Refine your list 

After step #1, you already have a very raw list of niche keywords. 

The number of keywords in the initial keyword list

But looking through the entire list manually can take a lot of time. So in this step, we’ll refine our list to make it more manageable. Here are some ideas you can use. 

Low ranking difficulty with a minimum search volume

This set of filters will allow you to find niche keywords with considerable demand and low competition. 

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  • Set KD to max 10 
  • Set volume to 100–1000 
  • Set Traffic Potential to 100–1000
  • Click “Show results”
Finding keywords with low difficulty and minimum search volume

Next, browse through the results. When you find a keyword that piques your interest, you can add it to a keyword list right inside the tool. 

Adding a keyword to a keyword list

Use cases, segments, and features 

This filter allows you to find keywords that focus on use cases, segments, and features within your seed keyword. 

For this, add modifying words such as “for,” “alternative,” or “substitute.” You can also use the Terms tab or just add your own modifiers if you know what you’re looking for. 

Sourcing modifier keywords in Terms tab
  • Set the Include filter to “Any word,” type your modifier keywords, and click “Apply”
  • Click “Show results” 
Adding modifier keywords

Next, browse through the results and add interesting keywords to your list. 

Selecting keywords to add to list

PRO TIP

You may spot some additional ideas for modifier keywords as you look through the results. You can use them in the Include filter to show only keywords matching that criteria.

Questions 

This filter can be a good way to find opportunities for informational content with the possibility of featuring your product. 

  • Switch the Matching terms report to “Questions”
Switching to Questions tab in Matching terms report

Next, browse through the results. 

Niche keyword posed as question

Feel free to combine the filters shown above. For example, you may want to look for keywords with specific features and low Keyword Difficulty (KD). 

Combining different keyword filters

And here’s one example of a niche keyword matching those filters. 

Keyword example from mixed niche filtering

Stumbling across keywords out of your wheelhouse too much? Just use the Exclude filter. 

Excluding unwanted keywords

Now, let’s go to the final step of the process. 

Step 3. Analyze the SERPs

Before you start creating content for selected keywords, it’s highly recommended to understand what searchers are specifically looking for. To do this, analyze the top-ranking pages in three aspects: 

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  1. Is there a more popular search query that points to the same thing? 
  2. What is the search intent? 
  3. How hard would it be to rank? 

The first aspect is specific to niche keywords. Remember, you’re looking through rare search queries. Some of those queries can have more popular counterparts (yet still niche), and others can be just wrong (i.e., misspellings). 

To illustrate, a better word to target than “diy soap sheets” may be “how to make soap paper”—the latter has more search volume. Keywords Explorer signalizes that through the Parent Topic column found on the right of any given keyword. 

Parent Topic feature suggests a different keyword

And it won’t make sense to target something like “nivia soap.” Obviously, it’s a misspelling. 

Not a niche keyword, just a misspelling

The second aspect, search intent, is about learning what Google recognizes as the dominating reason behind the search. In simple terms, it’s typically one of the three:

  • Learn – If most pages focus on explaining things: guides, tutorials, reviews, comparisons, etc.
  • Buy – If most pages directly offer products: product pages, product category pages, landing pages, etc. 
  • Go to a website or place – More often than not, keywords will contain the name of the product, brand, or place.

If you can match search intent and it makes sense for your website, then the keyword is probably a good choice. But make sure to also optimize your content for search intent.

If you can’t match the search intent or it doesn’t make sense for your website, it’s probably best not to target the keyword for now. 

To illustrate, the keyword “cupcake soap” has a clear transactional intent, with only product pages in the top 10. So your best bet to rank for this keyword is likely with a page that offers soap bars in the shape of a cupcake. 

SERP indicates the search intent

PRO TIP

Sometimes, identifying dominating search intent is not that simple. Google may show mixed intent with different types of content or no dominant content format. This video guide will help you make a more informed decision in such situations.

The third aspect, estimating keyword difficulty, comes from the fact that multiple factors can constitute ranking difficulty. 

You can filter out keywords where competitors have a strong backlink profile using the KD filter (as shown in step #2). For example, we estimate that in order to rank in the top 10 for “why is antibacterial soap banned,” you’ll need backlinks from ~123 websites. That’s a hard keyword to rank for, especially for new websites. 

Keyword with low volume, high difficulty

Judging keyword difficulty through KD is enough in most cases. But if you want a more thorough assessment, look for these things: 

  • Popular brands on the SERP – Results from popular, trusted brands are something that users expect in search results. Google is aware of that. 
  • YMYL topics – Topics like health, finance, and safety will be tough, if not impossible, to rank for a website with no topical authority and content written by people with no real expertise
  • Quality of content – If you can’t add anything useful and original to the information that Google already “recommends” on the SERPs, you may have a harder time ranking. Make sure you can create helpful, reliable, and people-first content
  • See if top-ranking pages target the keyword – If no one is covering the topic directly, Google may show pages that it thinks are relevant. Those pages can come from high-authority websites, and you may have leverage against them by covering the keyword directly. 
Popular brands on SERP ranking for a keyword with low KD
Although the keyword has 0 KD, it may be hard to outrank Amazon and Etsy because they are popular (and therefore expected) brands.

Learn more: Keyword Difficulty: How to Estimate Your Chances to Rank 

Final thoughts 

If you know a website that targets a specific niche, you can use that site for keyword research too. 

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To do this, paste the website’s URL in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and adjust the filters to find what you need. 

For instance, a website like mechanicalkeyboards.com can be a gold mine for keywords in the mechanical keyboard niche—almost 5,000 keywords with a volume of 100–1000 and KD up to 10. 

Niche keyword research in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Want to learn more? Check out our other resources:

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Google On Hyphens In Domain Names

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What Google says about using hyphens in domain names

Google’s John Mueller answered a question on Reddit about why people don’t use hyphens with domains and if there was something to be concerned about that they were missing.

Domain Names With Hyphens For SEO

I’ve been working online for 25 years and I remember when using hyphens in domains was something that affiliates did for SEO when Google was still influenced by keywords in the domain, URL, and basically keywords anywhere on the webpage. It wasn’t something that everyone did, it was mainly something that was popular with some affiliate marketers.

Another reason for choosing domain names with keywords in them was that site visitors tended to convert at a higher rate because the keywords essentially prequalified the site visitor. I know from experience how useful two-keyword domains (and one word domain names) are for conversions, as long as they didn’t have hyphens in them.

A consideration that caused hyphenated domain names to fall out of favor is that they have an untrustworthy appearance and that can work against conversion rates because trustworthiness is an important factor for conversions.

Lastly, hyphenated domain names look tacky. Why go with tacky when a brandable domain is easier for building trust and conversions?

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Domain Name Question Asked On Reddit

This is the question asked on Reddit:

“Why don’t people use a lot of domains with hyphens? Is there something concerning about it? I understand when you tell it out loud people make miss hyphen in search.”

And this is Mueller’s response:

“It used to be that domain names with a lot of hyphens were considered (by users? or by SEOs assuming users would? it’s been a while) to be less serious – since they could imply that you weren’t able to get the domain name with fewer hyphens. Nowadays there are a lot of top-level-domains so it’s less of a thing.

My main recommendation is to pick something for the long run (assuming that’s what you’re aiming for), and not to be overly keyword focused (because life is too short to box yourself into a corner – make good things, course-correct over time, don’t let a domain-name limit what you do online). The web is full of awkward, keyword-focused short-lived low-effort takes made for SEO — make something truly awesome that people will ask for by name. If that takes a hyphen in the name – go for it.”

Pick A Domain Name That Can Grow

Mueller is right about picking a domain name that won’t lock your site into one topic. When a site grows in popularity the natural growth path is to expand the range of topics the site coves. But that’s hard to do when the domain is locked into one rigid keyword phrase. That’s one of the downsides of picking a “Best + keyword + reviews” domain, too. Those domains can’t grow bigger and look tacky, too.

That’s why I’ve always recommended brandable domains that are memorable and encourage trust in some way.

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Read the post on Reddit:

Are domains with hyphens bad?

Read Mueller’s response here.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Benny Marty

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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes

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Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”

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Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after Washingtonpost.com, 6 authoritative SEO websites and Google.com’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.

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Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.

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Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues

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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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