Are There Any High Volume, Low Competition Keywords Left?
If you’ve done SEO in a competitive industry you know how hard it can be to find topics to rank for that no one else has covered or that don’t require extensive amounts of link building.
You’re smart enough to know that the good old-fashioned “publish and pray” approach to ranking content just doesn’t work.
This is why SEO pros must leverage low competition keywords into their overall strategies so that they can get their sites to compete with the big boys.
Why Are Low Competition Keywords Important?
As SEO pros, if we are starting out with a client who is:
Has a new website.
Has little to no domain rating.
In an industry that is super competitive.
A combination of the above.
…then we are plagued to try and get results, fast.
Beyond the standard optimizations of the website, building our product or service pages, and trying to convince our clients they need a bigger budget for PPC or social promotion, we need to use our SEO expertise to make sure our clients stick around (or our bosses don’t fire us!).
While every client agrees that they understand SEO takes “six to eight” months, come month three with no sales generated they get squeamish.
And this is exactly why we need to use low competition keywords in our SEO and content marketing strategies. Low competition keywords are those that can rank with little to no link building and little to no domain authority.
Performed properly, merely publishing a blog based on a target of low competition keywords can provide (relatively) quick traffic and long-tail rankings.
Better yet, it provides us a solid foundation in which to write more competitive topics and go after more difficult, and often more volume-rich, topics.
Who Should Be Going After Low Competition Keywords vs. High Competition Keywords?
We’ve all reverse-engineered competitor websites in an effort to determine why they outrank ours.
We think, my topic is more in-depth, we have better graphics, better references, more social shares, and my blog is more-up-to-date, so why doesn’t it rank better?
More often than not this is because or competitors have a higher domain rating than us.
Sidenote: I say domain rating (DR), Ahrefs definition of the strength of a website’s backlink profile on a logarithmic scale of 0 to 100, with the latter being the strongest. Domain authority (DA) can also be used interchangeably.
Domain rating is why sites like Forbes can publish articles, do zero outreach, and generate a fraction of the backlinks as the rest of and still outrank us.
Sites with high domain rating are usually trusted resources and can publish content and rank for it while the rest of us have to work a lot harder at it.
Therefore, if you have a site you are trying to rank a blog for, chances are you’ll be going up against a media site or some very-well established juggernaut in your vertical.
This is also why you should be spending more of your time finding and developing content around high volume, low competition keywords, and topics.
Bottom line: high DR sites can go after high keyword difficulty topics and will usually rank for them; low DR sites, well, can’t.
So how do we define a high DR site?
High DR sites are measured generally, from the 0 to 100 scale, but can also be measured on the industry level which can also mean a high DR is industry-related.
For example, a site like Forbes is a general site that covers a broad range of topics and has a DR of 93. Forbes may or may not be going after keywords that you are.
In that case, you may not have to compete with general high DR sites like Forbes (you lucky dog).
If you don’t you are probably competing with other industry sites with a higher DR than yours, meaning you still have to be deliberate with your keyword research and topic creation.
Then again, there are industry sites that have huge DR.
For example, if you’re in the real estate space, there’s a good chance you’ll be going up against Realtor.com (DR90) or Zillow (DR91). In many cases, we’re up against industry sites and general sites for the same keywords/topics.
That’s OK though, we can still compete with these sites!
Where to Find High Volume, Low Competition Keywords
Now that we have an understanding of why low competition keywords are so important to so many of us, let’s take a look at three great ways I like to find high volume, low competition keywords.
Note: The definition of high volume keywords can be subjective. During your research you may find that you are targeting topics that have thousans of searches every month while other times you may be targeting those that have hundreds. Either way, keep in mind that the target keyword and topic may generate lots of long-tail traffic, which is why we will dive into using this research to piece together complete topics.
Method 1: Using Google SERPs to Reverse Engineer Results
Sometimes with keyword research, you can have a direct topic in mind to begin your research and other times you just visit competitors sites to find ideas. This first approach has to do with the former.
For example, my financial planning client Castle Wealth Management does a lot of wealth management for clients that are high net worth and thus wanted to create a blog on the topic of trusts.
So, before diving into a specific topic just because they wanted to cover it, as an SEO and content marketing agency, we push our clients to be more intentional about what we cover.
Being in the finance industry, I knew we’d be up against huge juggernauts like Forbes (DR 93), Nerd Wallet (DR 86), and Kiplinger (DR 84).
Taking to the Google SERPs and using the Ahrefs Chrome extension for its data on DR, Referring Domains, and Keywords a URL ranks for, we quickly found that generic posts on trusts such as “What is a trust?” were indeed dominated by the likes of huge brands like Bankrate.
Further, the topic had a Keyword Difficulty (KD) of 29, the top post had 40 referring domains (RD), and the top site, a domain rating of 89. Since the goal is to generally get within the top three rankings, we decided to move on from this topic.
After a handful of searches we discovered the long-tail topic “why would you put your house in a trust?” was opportune for the picking. Below we see this exact keyword gets 200 searches per month.
Now, 200 is not really a pot of gold by any means in terms of volume, but you’ll see that sometimes you have to look beyond the primary keyword volume and keep an eye on long-tail traffic.
When researching this topic we found that a site (Darrow Wealth Management) with a similar DR (31 to our client’s 27) was ranking #1.
Further, their post on the topic only had 7 referring domains and was ranking in the top 100 for over 1,600 keywords, many of which were in the top 10. Long-tail goldmine? Perhaps…
Inside Ahrefs, you are able to take a look at all the keywords, their volume, their keyword difficulty, position, and more to get an idea of how your competition stacks up.
As you can see, Darrow Wealth Management ranks within the top 5 for a ton of searches related to “why would you put your house in a trust.”
With this knowledge in the bank, we can now take an even closer look at our primary keyword to see what kind of backlink profile we need to build if we want to rank on Page 1.
According to Ahrefs, the keyword difficulty of 3 means we’ll need links from about 4 websites to rank in the top 10 for this keyword. I’ve found this metric to not always be true as we were able to rank #2 for this search with only one backlink.
Fast forward about three months post blog production, and you’ll see our high volume, low competition strategy worked.
Check out how our client’s site now ranks for related keywords:
While the site is not in Position 1 for the target keyword, we only actively built one backlink to the page and have benefited tremendously from our strategy. The blog ranks for a ton of long-tail searches, over 500, and grew organically over the next eight months:
This is all but one strategy to find keywords and topics to write about. You can also let software do all the work for you.
Oh, and if you’re saying “well there really isn’t any competition for that at all what a joke this strategy is” just check out the high DR sites that are also going for this keyword that our strategy has beat out.
Our strategy put our client in the second spot and beat out sites like SFGate (DR90), CNN (DR92), and Pocket Sense (DR70) all with one referring domain.
Method 2: Using Keyword Software to Target Specific Topics
Another method that is really good for finding high volume, low competition keywords is by using software to help you filter through data. Using the Ahrefs Content explorer, we can utilize some great filters to find low hanging fruit content.
Start with a generic keyword search. For example, “garment bag.”
Now, you’ll see a bunch of pages in the index that mention your target keyword. In this case, there are over 14,000 pages in the index so I want to filter them out.
There are a lot of considerations and filters that can be applied, but part of the fun is playing around with the tool.
First and foremost, however, you’ll want to filter out any pages that are not ranking for anything. I’ll set the organic traffic filter to “From: 500” for starters so we only see pages that rank for over 500 keywords. You can be more aggressive or less aggressive depending on the results.
In this case, the filter leaves me with 173 pages which is pretty good considering where it started.
Because I want sites that have a low, or relatively modest domain rating, I’ll also filter sites that are above a DR30.
I do this because I will know my chances of finding a topic that a low DR site ranks for means my site can probably do the same.
This is not always the case, however. Sometimes high DR sites can be goldmines for low competition, high volume topics. But in this example, we’ll stick to low DR sites that have low competition, high traffic blogs we can steal from.
With our new filter set, we now see there are 10 pages to evaluate based on our “garment bags” topic:
Now, all we have to do is open up the organic traffic tabs on the various sites to see if we can find some keyword opportunities that fit the Holy Grail bill.
Voila! Holy Grail SEO goldmine!
The first blog has a bunch of topics and the metrics tell me it is a good option to cover.
First off, the referring domains to the site are at one, the site has almost 1,200 keywords in the index, the keywords I see showing up are all really low keyword difficulty, and the volume of the keywords collectively and of a few isolated ones are great (ex. “Garment bag carry on” 1,600 volume, KD1; “garment duffel bag” 500 volume, KD1).
I can repeat the same process of investigation on the other sites that showed up in the list and jot down the other keywords I want to hit in my blog.
This approach is great, but the other approach can often find topics even faster. And that is using competitors to find high volume, low competition Holy Grail content.
Method 3: Looking at Competitors to Find HV/LCK Keywords
One of my favorite Holy Grail SEO techniques is to mine competitors sites for keywords and blog topics.
Even sites with high DR can be goldmines for high volume, low competition keywords.
And as we’ve seen in the Castle Wealth Management example, you can beat out sites with high DR with a well-written low competition keyword target.
For example, let’s stick to our finance example. This is an extremely competitive industry with competition in niche sites, industry sites, and general news sites like CNN.
I’ll visit one of the most popular financial advice sites, NerdWallet, to see if I can’t find some high volume topics to cover.
I bring the site into Ahrefs Site Explorer to dissect it. Inside this tool, we can sort topics by the Top pages – pages that the software tells me ranks for a ton of keywords – as well as set a filter for Keyword Difficulty.
In this case, I set the KD filter to 10 (although you could probably go a lot lower to see what you find).
Take a look at the filtered settings to see if there are contextually relevant topics that you think your audience would enjoy.
For example, let’s say I run a general financial advice site, right off the bat I see “how to fill out a money order” and “best time to buy a tv” as some potential targets.
To investigate further, I open the Organic Keyword report for each and look at the Volume and Keyword Difficulty of the results.
The Position is also worth noting as well as this shows that solid rankings here can likely be duplicated with a similar blog.
Looking at these two side by side, we see that the “Best time to buy a TV” topic has a slightly higher keyword difficulty. Most of the keywords sit around 8 while the “How to fill out a money order” sits around 6.
Further, there seems to be a lot more keyword volume for the money order primary keyword – 23,000 versus 11,000.
Ultimately you may decide to cover both topics but if you were to choose one over the other, you’d want to go with the easier of the two.
Digging a little further still, you’ll want to see how many backlinks you may need for each. You’ll need about 7 and 9 links, for the money order and TV blogs, respectively.
Putting Your Keyword Competition Data Together to Create Complete Topics
I’ll be the first to admit that good keyword research is only the beginning. You’ll still need to implement it properly if you want the research to help drive traffic.
Here are some more tips on bringing the grail home.
Keyword Research Still Needs to Be Complemented with Great Writing
Yes, good keyword research does not mean you can get away with writing crappy blogs. This may be an obvious point, but let’s get that out of the way. Here are some resources to help you with that:
Beyond good writing, one tip I have for you is to be exhaustive with a topic. Being exhaustive with a topic is part research and part logic and I find often involves a lot of keyword rich sub-topics.
For example, let’s take a look at our keyword data for the aforementioned “garment bags” research:
From here, we know we have keyword data and volume but that alone doesn’t make the blog come to life.
What we want to do is then use some logic to determine what would make good talking points in our post while also being intentional about the keyword opportunities. So, let’s say you decide on a general post of “15 Best Garment Bags of 2019” as your topic.
You can then use this keyword data to break down some good sub-topics that obviously have some volume behind them.
Note: For the sub-topic portion I don’t always focus on topics with low keyword difficulty. This can be helpful to do but if a sub-topic is appropriate for your post, don’t be afraid to cover it if you find it is a competitive keyword.
Perhaps in this post, I’ll have my writer cover the following as sub-topics:
Best roll up garment bags
Best carry on garment bags
Best garment bags with wheels
Garment bag carry on rules
When to get a tri fold garment bag
In this case, my keyword research is dictating my sub-topics, making it a win for the overall topic but also for the implementation of my keyword research.
Also, check out Google SERPs for even more ideas that Google is telling you people are also interested in within the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections in the SERPs.
The Quest for Holy Grail SEO Never Ends
The ability to drive traffic to sites that are high volume and low competition is very real. It is a great strategy for startups, new websites, sites with little to no domain rating, and sites that just want to build more traffic.
The research is actually quite simple and with a little practice can be implemented in just a few minutes. While we never rule out link building as a deliverable, it is nice to show gains in traffic without having to spend a bunch of time and resources building links.
Give Holy Grail SEO a try for yourself and I promise, done right, it will work wonders for your content marketing strategy.
Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.
Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.
Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.
The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.
“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.
Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”
Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.
Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly.Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”
He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.
For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.
About The Author
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.
About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.
A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.
A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.
I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.
I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.
We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem
Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.
But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.
We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.
So we started talking.
I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!
Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.
Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.
And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!
We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.
It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.
I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.
In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.
I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.
Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community
I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.
Here is what they had to say:
“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.
I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)
Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.
I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”
“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!
I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.
I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.
And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”
“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.
It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.
What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.
Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”
“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.
While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.
We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.
Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”
Kim Krause Berg:
“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.
I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.
In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”
“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.
Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.
Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.
We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.
We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’
The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.
There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.
It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”
“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.
I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.
Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.
Keep being a force for good in our community.
Together we will make a difference.
This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.
***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued. CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***