You’ve learned the basics of do-it-yourself SEO, written content for five of your keywords, and published those blog posts to generate sweet, sweet traffic for your website. You check the search results after a few days… and panic sets in.
Your competitors are already on page one, but your content hasn’t shown up. Hundreds of companies are fighting over the same keywords and you’re buried on page 7. How do you get a leg up on your competitors?
That’s where learning how to find low-competition SEO keywords comes in. You can’t just target any old keyword for traffic and leads–they need to have the right search intent for your goals, have enough volume to be significant, but have a low enough competitive level. You also need to give SEO time to work.
So how do you find them? Let’s dive in…
First, What Are Low-Competition SEO Keywords?
Low-competition SEO keywords refer to keywords that have medium to low search volume but are easier to rank for. Targeting them means you’re up against fewer SEO competitors and have a better chance of ranking well on page 1.
Low-competition keywords are the pathway to generating tangible results from SEO without needing to start at the bottom of the ladder. Writing content for keywords with 1,000 monthly search volume (MSV) or more is difficult to rank for quickly, but targeting keywords with 10 MSV means it’ll take forever to see traction.
The secret is starting your SEO journey by targeting keywords somewhere in between. Knowing the difference between head keywords and long-tail keywords is a critical step to rankable content.
Head Keywords vs Long-Tail Keywords
The second step is understanding the difference between head terms and long-tail terms. Head keywords are large MSV terms, usually one or two words long, and general in nature.
They’re usually used by people looking for basic information about a topic. Examples include:
- Red shoes
- Live music
- Take out
People entering these terms into Google are seeking general answers and aren’t yet committed to any brand they come across. They want to see what’s out there first. Head terms are difficult to rank for because Google awards them to websites with authority, popularity, and SEO-friendly website structure.
Long-tail keywords are three words or longer, lower MSV, and much more specific. These keywords are used when people are looking for a known brand, need an answer to a specific question, or otherwise want to buy something. Real-world examples include:
- When did the king of England die
- Best site for used car prices
- Women’s white athletic shoes
- How to fix a broken zipper on a backpack
Each of these phrases indicates search intent. People who enter these phrases in Google are usually committed to getting a result, and a personally satisfying result at that.
Long-tail keywords should comprise 80% of the content that you write on your site, especially when starting out. They make for easy headline writing, are simple to identify, and can bring you traffic much faster.
SEO Keyword Research Tools
Before you start looking for low-competition, long-tail keywords, you need to select at least one keyword research tool. Here are a few of the most popular tools to consider:
- Ahrefs. The Ahrefs Keywords Explorer is our personal go-to tool for keyword research.
- SEMrush. This SEO platform is one of the most comprehensive and offers incredible detail on the keywords you research.
- Google Keyword Planner. Perhaps the most well-known free keyword research tool, Keyword Planner is absolutely worth trying. As long as you have a Google Ads account, you can log into Keyword Planner and look for keyword opportunities. Note that you won’t be able to get much useful data unless you’re running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
- Moz. Founded by Rand Fishkin, Moz remains one of the most popular SEO keyword research tools. Once you’re logged into the dashboard, simply plug in your keyword ideas. You’ll get a list of terms based on your query and their average MSV.
- Ubersuggest. This tool has great functionality with free and paid options.
- Keyword Surfer. This Chrome plugin displays the estimated monthly search volume for any term entered into Google. It’s a fast and simple way to quickly build out your editorial calendar based on long-tail keywords.
- Bulk Keyword Generator. This keyword research tool first asks for your industry, then gives you keyword recommendations based on what people are looking for. It’s a helpful way to generate SEO potential out of what’s otherwise just noise on the internet.
Choose Keywords with Significant Volume but Low Keyword Difficulty
Now that you know the basics of how to find low-competition keywords, it’s time to actually pick them. Here are several recommendations on how to do that:
- Decide on a keyword volume limit (for now). There are always more keywords to target out there, but low-competition keywords inherently mean lower volume. Choose an MSV you’ll stay below for now, like 780. Then add keywords at this MSV or lower to your editorial calendar.
- Use your keyword research tools to the max. Keyword research platforms track keyword difficulty for a reason. Looking at this metric–not just MSV–gives you a clear idea of how simple or challenging it is to rank for a keyword.
- Pick keywords you can easily write content about. Low-competition keywords are crucial to rank for, but not at the expense of bad content. Think about the topics you could write about effortlessly and target those for the first few blog posts you publish. You’ll generate content marketing momentum and also signal to Google that your site is trustworthy and authoritative.
Look at Your Competitors’ Keywords
Another method to use is researching your competitors’ keywords. “But wait a minute, isn’t this blog post about low-competition keywords?” you may ask. That’s correct, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find inspiration from your competitors.
First, learn how to conduct an SEO competitor analysis. These are businesses in your niche that sell the same services or products you do. Once you have details on their content targets, it’s easy to surpass their content marketing strategy.
Second, look at their most recent blog headlines. Do they have a lot of how-to and question-based content? If so, they’re probably working hard on SEO themselves. To remove all doubt, implement the 10-minute SEO test to know how much your competitors are investing in SEO.
Third, plug their headlines (or any that look like keywords) into your keyword research tool of choice. If you get any results back, voila–you’ve found relevant keyword targets. If the keywords are in your ideal MSV range, add them to your own calendar. Now you can write content that’s 10 times better than theirs to steal their most important rankings.
You can repeat this process with as many competitors or keywords as you need to get consistent traffic. It’s unlikely that you’ll outrank more than a handful of your competitors’ blog posts within a few months, but as long as you publish great content consistently, your content will be landing top rankings in no time.
Balance Search Intent with Keyword Selection
The sixth factor of success in finding low-competition keywords is balancing search intent with keyword selection. It’s the process of researching keywords that match the services or products you provide with the problems people need answers to.
Search intent is the reason behind any given search query. It’s about looking beyond the words in a query to understand why someone is looking for what they’re looking for. It’s easier to discern search intent with long-tail keywords because they offer more information.
Many businesses overlook long-tail keyword opportunities because they’re so focused on trying to win a percentage of traffic from head keywords. Or they’re concerned about whether or not SEO is still worth it for businesses in 2022 and end up putting in zero effort.
Long-tail keywords are an opportunity for you to create content that others think is a waste of time, when in reality it’s the opposite. So, what are the best ways to strike the balance with keywords that hold incredible search intent? Here are three tips:
- Research long-tail keywords that make perfect headlines. It’s pleasantly surprising how many keywords are out there that work flawlessly for blogs. Look through blog comments, forums, and your own customers’ feedback for common questions. These topics will convert better than most head terms that exist.
- Notice the details in keywords. A keyword like “best bicycle” clearly has commercial intent, meaning the person is looking for a bicycle to compare or buy. It’s not bad, but a keyword like “best mountain bike for kids” is much more specific, lower volume, and is more likely to convert. The more skilled you become at long-tail keyword research, the faster you can produce content that makes your website authoritative.
- Test a variety of keywords and topics. A mistake both digital marketers and business owners make is thinking one type of content will bring them the right prospects. There are actually four kinds of search intent, though, and you should use as many as are relevant to your business. The four types are navigational, transactional, commercial, and informational. Most businesses only target informational keywords, i.e. terms that answer questions or provide knowledge. In order to dominate low-competition opportunities, you need a strong list of transactional and commercial keywords. People use these phrases when they’re ready to buy, and you want them to find your business at the right time.
Write Some Blog Posts on Topics or Keywords With Zero Search Volume
It sounds counterproductive at first, but creating content with zero search volume is actually a smart low-competition keyword strategy. Allow us to explain.
Google reports that about 85% of queries have been searched for previously but the other 15% are brand new every day (Search Engine Land). Why is this notable? It means almost one in five search queries entered in Google has the potential to take off within the next 12 months.
This gives you the opportunity to write valuable content about thousands of terms that no one else is capitalizing on. So, the real question is: where do you find keywords with zero volume? There are at least three ways:
- Pay close attention during normal keyword research. Whenever you’re looking for long-tail keywords, you’re bound to find terms that don’t have MSV yet. If it’s a question or problem that your business solves, include it on your editorial calendar anyways. Your audience will find it valuable.
- Review forums and comments on well-known websites. Industry sites are where target audiences go to discuss the future and pose questions. Observe what kind of questions people are asking, then write content on it to start attracting a percentage of that audience to your website instead.
- Produce content based on personal expertise. Sometimes there’s no MSV for a keyword and you don’t see it in keyword research tools, but it’s an important topic. As a business owner, you know more about your niche than almost everyone else does. Write a few blog posts to answer burning questions or needs, and you may be surprised by the interest and traffic you generate.
The Bottom Line
SEO is already complex, and it can feel intimidating getting into the details like low-competition keywords. Even if you enjoy writing or content marketing, up until now SEO may have felt like learning a new language. In many ways, it is.
The right low-competition SEO keyword strategy is the difference between struggling for months to generate traffic and gaining traction quickly. Here’s a recap of the seven points we covered in this blog post:
- Know what low-competition keywords are first. Low-competition keywords are terms that have lower MSV or are easier to rank for–or both.
- Understand the difference between head and long-tail keywords. Head terms have a lot of search volume; long-tail terms have lower volume.
- Use a good keyword research tool. You don’t need to use a paid tool, but you do need a keyword research platform that provides accurate search volume and search intent data.
- Include keyword difficulty in your research. Smart keyword research includes MSV as well as how many other websites are trying to rank for the same term.
- Research your competitors’ keywords. Checking out your competitors’ blogs can provide keyword opportunities you may have never considered before.
- Remember search intent in your planning. Knowing why people are looking for answers online is just as important as understanding which answers to provide.
- Write some content with zero search volume. Not all great content ideas exist as an SEO keyword. Plan some blog posts that meet the needs of your specific audience, which is a great way to differentiate your business.
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