I get it.
Getting content to rank in Google isn’t easy. Nor is finding keyword phrases that are easy to rank for. You probably have heard things like:
- “Google puts your site into a penalty box. It won’t rank content on your site for six months or more.”
- “Keywords don’t matter until you’ve earned the right to go after the big keywords.”
- “Keywords don’t matter, but topics do. All you need to do is deliver a great user experience to the customer.”
SEO “gurus” will say anything to keep themselves in business. But the facts don’t always line up to what they tell you.
To prove I ain’t lying to you either, I’ll show you some snapshots of my results. Here’s a snapshot from Ahrefs of an article on my lil’ ole’ marketing blog outranking Search Engine Land for the term “SEO pricing” in three months:
For the record, “SEO pricing” right now has a search volume of 2,400 visitors a month, according to Google Search Console. If that isn’t a big keyword, I don’t know what is (especially for B2B). And that article received organic traffic less than a month after going live:
So if my first article on a brand-spankin’ new site can bring in search traffic so quick, what’s slowing your site down from getting more organic traffic?
I’d be willing to bet it’s not happening for one of three reasons:
- You (or the contractor you hired) are targeting keyword phrases that are too competitive.
- Articles are written for keyword phrases that do not have traffic potential.
- Articles are written with no keyword phrase in mind.
In today’s article, I will share a strategy I use to solve all three problems.
How to Find Better Keyword Phrases to Rank Faster
Before I dive into the strategy, let’s quickly look at how to check the potential traffic of a keyword phrase.
Keywords Everywhere is my go-to tool to analyze keyword traffic potential. There are 3 reasons why I love it:
- It pulls data from Google tools. While the numbers aren’t 100% accurate, Google’s tools will be more accurate than any other tool.
- When I do a Google search, I see the traffic volume under the search box. This helps me to spot potential keywords anytime I’m doing a Google search.
- After a search on Google, I am given a list of other relevant keywords and their search volume.
Best of all, it’s free.
Tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs are good for giving you a quick idea if a keyword phrase has traffic potential. But their numbers can be misleading. For example, my article on guest post email templates targets the phrase, “guest post email templates.”
Ahrefs shows no traffic from the US, and 50 people a month from India:
Compare this number to Keywords Everywhere, which gives an estimated search volume of 210 visitors a month:
Using Ahrefs alone, I may have concluded this keyword phrase was not worth targeting.
Data from Keywords Everywhere may also be inaccurate if a keyword term is trending. Let’s say Nike releases a new style of running shoes. The model name won’t appear in Google’s search data for several months.
To get an idea of keyword traffic potential, I do a keyword search on a social network site like Facebook, Instagram, or reddit. From there, I use the number of results to give me a rough idea of the topic’s popularity.
Keep in mind no tool will perfectly analyze the traffic potential. There are way too many variables to get exact information. The goal is to get a good enough idea what’s working and to maximize those channels.
Now you’ve learned how to estimate a keyword’s traffic potential. Now let’s look at how I turn a topic into a keyword phrase with traffic.
Step 1: Google Your Topic
For this example, I am going to write an article on George Muller’s orphanages. As I suspected, there’s no traffic for the keyword phrase. Rats!
Rather than giving up hope, I open up the first three Google search results in a new tab. I will use these pages to give me the keywords I should target.
Step 2: Analyze the Keywords of Each Article
Next, I open up a tool that analyzes keywords on a page, such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. For this example, I’ll use Ahrefs.
I go to the Site Explorer tab (1), and search for one of the pages found in Google (2). Click on Organic Results on the left sidebar (3).
You may also want to filter the results. In the above picture, I removed all keywords that are not ranking in Google in the top 20 spots (4) to remove keywords that are not relevant. Because this article is going on a new site, I also filter out results with a keyword difficulty score of 31 or more (4).
Looking at the results, I may write a broader article on George Muller if the keywords pass my inspection in the next step. I could then target these keyword phrases:
- George Muller biography – 260/month
- Who is George Muller – 110/month
- George Muller movie – 90/month
- George Muller books – 390/month
- Facts about George Muller – 90/month
- George Muller sermons – 50/month
This is what Missionary Portal did for this article on George Muller.
What if I still wanted to write only about George Muller’s orphanages? Using Ahrefs, I could filter the keyword list to include the word “orphanage.” In doing so, I could target the keywords:
- George Muller orphanage – 110/month
- missionary orphanage – 20/month
- Ashley Down orphanage – 70/month
It turns out the appearance of no potential traffic for “George Muller’s orphanage” was due to the apostrophe.
Had a content marketer wrote an article without doing this research, it’s likely the article would rank for “George Muller orphanage.” But having not gone through this process, she may have:
- Concluded George Muller’s orphanage does not bring in organic traffic and skip writing the article.
- Missed a potentially better opportunity ranking for George Muller instead of his orphanage.
- Found other keywords phrases to target if the original phrase was too competitive, such as Ashley Down orphanage.
Simply finding great keywords is not enough. While Ahrefs and SEMrush are good tools, again, their data isn’t perfect. So my next step is to do a search in Google to manually check the keyword competition.
Step 3: Do a Manual Keyword Search
After I analyze what keywords I could rank for, I want to check each keyword to see how easy it is to rank. I open up an incognito web browser because my search history will change the search results. Then, I do a search for my first keyword phrase.
If I find these types of entries in the top 10 results, I do a happy dance:
- Free web hosting domains such as “myblog.wordpress.com” or “myblog.blogspot.com.”
- Social media posts from Pinterest, Quora, Twitter, or Facebook.
- PDF files.
These pages are super easy to outrank. Pinterest has increased their organic marketing game. But because their site lacks topic relevance, it’s easy to outrank them in time.
An exception to this rule is branded keywords, such as a company name or product line. People who search for branded keywords are often looking for the company’s website, Wikipedia page, or social media accounts. In this case, finding social media links will be harder to outrank.
Three other page types that are easy to outrank include:
- Broad content sites, such as Medium, Stack Exchange, and Wikipedia.
- Articles 5 years old or older.
- Content that does not target the exact keyword phrase.
Wikipedia takes more time to outrank because people cite it as a relevant source. But it still can be done and isn’t as hard as you might think.
People tend to prefer what’s new over what’s timeless (AKA, shiny object syndrome). As a result, click-through rates decrease as content ages for too long. I do not have data aside from personal experience and studying what improves organic click-through rates. But I’ve found this is another easy opportunity to outrank the competition.
Finally, if I notice the exact term is not included in the search result, I know this is another easy keyword to target. When we did our study on SEO pricing, there were two reasons I was confident we could outrank big SEO sites like Search Engine Land.
First, many of the top 10 sites were not targeting the exact keyword phrase “SEO Pricing.” At the time, some of the search titles I was competing against were:
- How much does SEO cost? – Search Engine Land
- How Much Should You Spend on SEO Services? | Search Engine Watch
- How Much Does SEO Cost? – RankPay
The topic of how much SEO costs is similar to SEO pricing. But the phrase is not exactly the same as “SEO Pricing.”
While it may sound like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, try this easy experiment. Start by Googling [SEO pricing] in an incognito tab. Then Google [how much does SEO cost?]. Were the results the same? Why or why not? Understanding the answer to this question will help you learn how to do SEO better, and why I outrank Search Engine Land for SEO pricing.
Back to the original topic. Second, I saw some of the information was old. Moz’s SEO survey was excellent. But Google stamped the date as Jan 3, 2012. Search Engine Watch is also date stamped Dec 27, 2013. This showed me that after picking up a few links naturally, our article should rank in no time. And in four months, we outranked Search Engine Land’s article.
I’ve used this strategy many times to turn no keywords into rich keyword phrases. And there are five ways I use this approach while doing content marketing.
5 Ways to Use This Strategy to Find Better Keywords
Now you’ve learned my strategy, how else can you use it?
Here are five ways you can use this strategy:
- Turning thought leadership articles into something scalable.
- Turning highly competitive keywords into easy to rank phrases when working on a new website.
- Taking low traffic keywords into high traffic keywords.
- Turning customer interviews into keywords.
- Finding a cluster of keywords to target with one article.
When it comes to traffic, every blog needs to decide on what channels are best. SEO is often the least expensive way to get ongoing traffic. But what do you do if you are writing a thought leadership article that has no keywords?
News reporting sites like the New York Times focus on true thought leadership articles to improve their brand as a reputable paper. Because of their site’s authority, they don’t need to focus on certain keywords to get organic traffic. This article ranks for 166 US keywords without trying:
That’s great for the New York Times. But smaller authority sites won’t randomly rank for keywords whenever you hit publish. So if you want to improve your search traffic, you need to learn how to turn no keywords into a keyword phrase.
Even if your site is as authoritative as NYT, targeting specific keywords often brings in more organic traffic anyway.
And if I’m working on a newer site, it’s critical to find easy to rank keywords.
Let’s go back to the SEO pricing article I wrote. What if I targeted “search engine marketing costs” instead of SEO pricing? Chances are, I would not rank above Search Engine Land for that phrase.
According to Keywords Everywhere, that phrase has a search volume of 70/month. “SEO pricing” has a monthly search volume of 2,400/month. Higher traffic + less competition = more customers from organic traffic.
I also use this approach whenever I do customer interviews, whether for decreasing acquisition costs or for a new product launch. The key here is to listen for the phrases your customers use to describe your product.
Let’s say a customer described your service as a “video filtering service.” That exact keyword phrase would not show any organic traffic. Using this strategy, here are some keywords that do bring in traffic:
- Edited movies – 2,400/month
- Movie filtering – 1,900/month
- Filtered movies – 108/month
- Streaming filter – 1,600/month
- Remove profanity from movies – 90/month
Finally, you can use this strategy to target a group of keywords for one article. As you go through the keywords of each article, you may find many related keywords. If you use those phrases as sub-headers (H2s), this will help you get more organic traffic from more keywords.
Take a look at Missionary Portal’s stat page. The primary keyword phrase they’re targeting is “missions statistics,” which has a search volume of 210/month. Looking at the sub-headings, they are also targeting:
- World Missions Statistics – 40/month
- How many missionaries are there in the world? – 90/month
- Unreached People Group Statistics – 10/month
- 10/40 Window Statistics – 30/month
- 10/40 Window Facts – 30/month
- Missionary Facts – 70/month
There may be other keywords if you look at other phrases in bold. Rather than targeting one phrase at 210/month, they are now targeting at least six phrases that total searches 480/month.
Typically the primary keyword phrase will bring in the most organic traffic. Even if the secondary keywords bring in half the traffic of a primary keyword phrase, in theory, the stat page will bring in 64.3% more organic traffic. Not too shabby for an extra five minutes of work!
There’s a lot of bad advice on the web. If your startup is struggling to get organic traffic, don’t listen to the hype that it takes several months to rank content. Skilled SEO practitioners can rank your site fast. And if Google views your site as authoritative, it will be that much easier to rank for more keywords if you do the right research.
Every page you want to bring in organic traffic should target a keyword phrase. If the page doesn’t have a keyword phrase, look for similar articles that bring in organic traffic to find out what they are doing.
SEO still takes a lot of work and expertise. But keyword research can be as simple as 1) Googling a topic 2) Analyzing the keywords of a competing page and 3) Doing a check of the search results by hand.Growth Ramp helps startups hire professional contract marketers and agencies to grow their business faster. Learn more and request a free quote here.