Keyword research is the first step in any SEO campaign. If you get it wrong, you could waste valuable time and resources trying to rank for impossible keywords.
If you get it right, you set yourself up to attract heaps of traffic your competitors don’t even know about.
If you pick a keyword with a ton of search volume, but it’s very competitive, you’re going to spend a lot of time and resources to rank for it, with little traffic to show for your efforts.
However, if you find a keyword that your competitors haven’t discovered yet, you can optimize a page around it and end up ranking in days/weeks (rather than months).
The success of your SEO campaigns all starts with keyword research. And the holy grail is finding untapped keywords that allow you to rank quickly and easily.
I use a 7-step process to find untapped keywords. That’s what I’m going to walk you through today.
Let’s get to it:
Step 1. Find Your Topic
Let’s assume you want to create a piece of content, optimize it around a keyword, and rank for it in Google. Here are the top two results we need:
Social shares give your content exposure, help with ranking, and provide social proof (which makes link building easier). Backlinks tell Google that other people/sites think your content is valuable, which tells Google that it’s worth ranking. Simple as that.
To get these results, you need to find a topic that is 1) shareable and 2) linkable. Here’s how to do it:
Head over to BuzzSumo and type in a topic related to your niche:
BuzzSumo shows you all of the content related to that keyword that has gotten the most social shares. Look at each piece and see if they’ve received a good amount of shares:
If they have, you have just found a topic that’s prone to attracting social shares. If that topic doesn’t get a lot of shares, simply search for another one until you find a topic that does.
Now you need to make sure this topic is linkable. To do this, head over to Google and do a search for that same topic.
If the top ranking articles are attracting a lot of links, you’ve just found a linkable topic. Now you know that this topic is proven to get shared on social media, attract backlinks, and rank in search engines.
You’re already miles ahead of your competitors.
Move on to Step 2.
Step 2. Initial Keyword Research
This step is quick and painless. Plug keywords related to your topic into a keyword research tool (like the Google Keyword Planner).
Make sure the top keywords are getting at least 300-400 monthly searches. This range isn’t set in stone, but generally, this means you will get a fair amount of traffic for the work you put in.
Here’s an example:
(Note: If you’re using the Google Keyword Planner, don’t worry about the “Competition” column. This is paid advertising competition. Not how hard/easy it is to rank.)
If your topic is getting a fair amount of monthly searches, move on to the next step.
Step 3. Gather a Master List of Keywords To Fit Your Topic
Remember, you’re looking for untapped keywords that will be easier to rank for than the ones your competitors are targeting. This means you need to find a lot of potential keywords to analyze.
In this step, you’re going to pull together a master list of keywords to potentially optimize your content around.
First, create a spreadsheet to record keywords and their corresponding monthly searches. Then brainstorm as many possible keyword variations of your topic as you can.
Plug these into a keyword research tool and pull up their monthly search volume. If any have a fair amount of searches, add them to your spreadsheet.
Then, do a Google search for the keyword with the highest search volume, and scroll down to the “Searches related to…” section:
Grab any search terms that might apply to your content, plug them into your keyword tool, and pull up their monthly searches.
Add any that get a good amount of search volume into your spreadsheet. If you’re using the Google Keyword Planner, don’t forget to also scroll down and sift through the keyword ideas that it generates for you:
Then search for another high-volume keyword, scroll down to the “Searches related to section…” and repeat the process. Keep doing this until the only new keywords you’re finding have a very small search volume.
This is your master list.
Arrange them in order of highest monthly searches to least. Your untapped keyword is most likely hiding in the top 20-30. All you have to do is find it.
Step 4. Competitive Analysis #1 - Domain Authority and Page Authority
The next three steps involve running competitive analyses on the top 20-30 keywords in your spreadsheet.
The first metric you’re going to look at is the Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) of the top ranking results for each keyword.
First, install the MozBar Chrome/Firefox extension. Then do a search for your first keyword.
Click the ‘M’ symbol in your toolbar. This will pull up data for each search result:
Take a look at the PA and DA for each result. The higher the numbers, the harder it will be to rank above those pages (in general). The lower the numbers, the easier it will be.
Record the PA and DA for each result into your spreadsheet.
Step 5. Competitive Analysis #2 - On-Page SEO
On-page SEO tells Google what your content is about. It also tells Google how relevant your page is to the target keyword.
One of Google’s top goals is to provide the most relevant results for any given search term. So here’s where you can make a stand with your content:
If the sites currently ranking for your keyword are not well-optimized for that term, you can optimize your content better than them and immediately get a leg up. Often, this can trump Domain and Page Authority (all else being equal, like backlinks).
Remember, on-page SEO is about relevance. Let’s see if you can make your page more relevant:
Do a search for each term once more, and look at the top 10 results. How many instances of the exact-match keyword do you notice? Look in the title, URL, and description.
If you don’t see many, that’s one opportunity to optimize your content better than them.
Next, scan each article and look at the keyword distribution. Look for exact-match keywords and keyword variations in the intro, body content, and subheadings.
Are they over-optimizing and/or under-optimizing for the keyword? If so, you can optimize your content better than them.
Move on to Step 6.
Step 6. Competitive Analysis #3 - Length and Depth of Content
Next, go to each each article and look at content length. Google wants to rank long content, because in general, it contains more information and is more valuable/relevant to what people are searching for.
You also want to look at how actionable each piece of content is. Are people doing a search, going to this piece of content, and coming out of it with more knowledge? Or is it only surface level information?
Actionable content also tends to get linked to and shared more often, so if you can create content that is longer, more actionable, and provides more value than what’s currently ranking, that’s another opportunity for you to outshine the competition.
Come up with a metric and record how these two levels of competition (on-page SEO and Content Length/Depth) stack up for each keyword. I usually use a scale from 1-5.
Then move on to the final step:
Step 7. Choose the Keyword With the Best Competition-to-Search Volume Ratio
Look over your top 10-20 keywords and the data you’ve complied. Identify the ones with the least competition.
Then look at those keywords and determine which one has the best competition-to-search volume ratio. This will give you the best ROI when trying to rank for this keyword.
That’s your untapped keyword.
Simply create your content, optimize it for that keyword, build backlinks, and you're on your way to a first page ranking and targeted search engine traffic.
To Wrap It Up
I hope this article gave you some insight into keyword research, but also how to strategically navigate your SEO campaigns.
It’s much easier and faster to rank for multiple, lower competition, lower search volume keywords than one high competition keyword (despite how many monthly searches it gets).
Spend some time on the keyword research process, because it makes the rest of your SEO campaign that much easier.
Keyword research is one of the most important parts of SEO
The success of your SEO campaigns starts with keyword research
Follow these 7 steps to find untapped keywords that are much easier (and faster) to rank for
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Lead Generation Strategist at Inbound Team
Inbound Team is Georgia's Digital Marketing Agency specializing in helping businesses grow through inbound and digital marketing.Inbound Marketing Services are available for companies that want more leads and want to accelerate their growth.