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Advanced Keyword Research Training (2021 Better SEO Strategy)

Whether you knew it or not, you’ve been using keywords your whole life. 

And that’s because keywords are exactly what they say they are – “key words”.

When it comes to advanced keyword research, that’s no different. 

So today, let me walk you through how to find the best keyword for SEO and use it to get tons of organic traffic from Google.

We’re going to cover:

  • Why Keywords are essential to SEO.
  • What it means to “rank” for a keyword.
  • What Domain Authority is.
  • How to tell a rankable keyword from a waste of time.
  • What user intent is and how to use it to your advantage.
  • How to do some good old-fashioned keyword research.
  • The best tactics for finding low competition, high traffic keywords.
  • The tools that will make this all so much easier.
  • When, where, and how to use these keywords on your website and in your content.
Learn how to tell a rankable keyword from straight up a waste of time ?? Click to Tweet

Heads up! This page may contain affiliate links. Essentially, all that means is that (at no cost to you) I may receive a commission if you purchase something. If you want to know more about my personal practices you can read about them here.  

What Is An SEO Keyword Strategy?

All right, so let’s start at the beginning. What is an SEO keyword strategy? 

Well, since most people don’t pay any attention to their keywords, any plan at all seems to be considered a keyword strategy. ? 

But, really though, having a strategy is essential. A good strategy usually consists of: 

  • – Being aware of Domain Authority and understanding what makes a keyword “rankable”.
  • – Planning ahead so you know your keyword before you start writing. 
  • – Perceiving user intent and knowing where they are on the “buyer’s journey”. 
  • – Understanding your niche and target audience. 
  • – Keeping track of your results and learning from your analytics.
  • – Knowing how to do your f*ing research. ? 

If you can check off these boxes, you’ve got yourself a winning SEO keyword strategy. 

And if you can’t, well, that’s why you’re here! 

Why Keywords Are An Important Part Of SEO

The whole point of SEO is to optimize your content so it has the best possible chance to “rank” in Google. 

But what are you optimizing for? 

Well, first and foremost you are optimizing for your users. Google’s goal is to provide the best information as fast as possible for their users.  

Realistically, the user is all you are optimizing for. 

But how does Google decide who is providing the best information? This is where SEO steps in.

Keywords are hands down the most blatant, straightforward way to say “hey, Google, this is what I’m writing about!!”

Keywords are an essential part of SEO because they explicitly tell Google exactly what your article is about. Once they know that,  they can put it in front of the right readers (which is a win-win). 

What Makes A Good Keyword?

But how can you tell a GOOD keyword from a bad keyword? 

Well, a good keyword is something a lot of people in your niche are searching for but no one else is writing about – making it easy to rank in Google. 

Are these always easy to find? No! Otherwise they’d all be long gone. ?

Finding the perfect keyword can take a little digging but the results are SO worth it. 

In fact, using the method I’m about to teach you, I was able to get my very first article to the very first page of Google within two weeks. Without a single backlink and with a Domain Authority of 1.

First Blog Post Ranking On Page One Of Google Search Results
Screenshot of my first blog post ranking on page 1 of Google.

That is the power of keywords. 

Let’s dive in!

What Is Keyword Ranking In SEO?

For any of the newbs out there (don’t worry, we were all there once), I want to make sure we have a clear understanding of what I mean when I say ranking. 

It’s not the actual keyword that is ranking – it’s your content that is ranking for the keyword. 

For example: My article on Instagram hashtags is (at the moment) ranking 5th for the keyword “Instagram hashtags cheat sheet”. 

Right there in the search results. 

Now let’s get your article there.

The strategy I used to get my first blog post ever to the first page search results ? Click to Tweet

What is Domain Authority?

To start, let’s talk about one of the most common (and most important) metrics out there. 

Domain Authority. 

DA is a way for you and me to estimate or gauge how much Authority our website has in Google’s eyes. 

I use this metric every. single. day.

  • Every time I search something on Google.
  • Every time I find a new competitor.
  • Every time I think of a new content idea.
  • And of course – every time I do keyword research. (Which is WAY too often- I have a bit of an addiction.) 

The point is – get familiar with it. 

Now DA wasn’t actually designed by Google itself, it was designed by a company that you may have heard of called Moz. They created Domain Authority to predict how a website would rank on Google – and while it’s not foolproof it DEFINITELY makes your life a lot easier.

The scores work like this: When your website is “born” or launched, you start out with a measly DA of 1. From there, as you publish content, get backlinks, and prove to Google that you have quality content – your DA is going to go up. All the way up to 100 even, if your site gets as big as Facebook or CNN.

But don’t be fooled; it’s not size that determines your Domain Authority, but the quality and number of backlinks.

This is because when someone links to your website they are telling Google “I trust and refer this source”. So, the more credible the website, the higher the “quality” of the backlink, the more impact it has on your DA. 

If you want to learn more about backlinks and how to get them, lookie here. 

Otherwise, let me sum this up by saying that DA is just a gauge for the number and quality of backlinks to a website.

By extension, Page Authority refers to the backlinks for an individual page (instead of the whole website).

Domain authority is an accumulation of your page authority. Think of each page on your website as a building block that either credits or discredits your website – that’s why your content HAS to be quality.

So where do you find out what your DA is?

Let’s put this into action. 

There are two tools from Moz that I highly recommend (and they’re both free!).
1. Checkout the Moz Link Explorer. Here you can find out what your domain authority is, what kind of backlinks (if any) your site has, and where they are coming from.

2. Download (and trust me, I don’t download things willy-nilly) the Moz Chrome Extension. Whether you opt for manual keyword research or not, this tool makes DA super accessible and will help you weed out bad keywords at a glance.

Now let’s talk about how to use this to determine a keywords’s difficulty.

Keyword Difficulty

Asking “how to tell a keyword’s difficulty” would be like me asking you “Is your daughter older than mine?”.

Except you don’t know my daughter’s age. 

You don’t even know if I have a daughter (I don’t). 

You might not even have a daughter! So how are you going to answer that question?

Well, with a lot of questions. ?

What I’m trying (and hopefully succeeding) to say is that keyword difficulty is 100% relevant to you and your website. So, if you want to know if a keyword is going to be “easy” or “difficult” to rank for, you’re going to have to answer a few questions.

  1. What is your website’s Domain Authority?
  2. What keyword are you trying to rank for?
  3. What is the keyword’s difficulty?

Once you can answer these questions, life gets a bit easier. Or rather, keyword research does!

✔ Using the tool I mentioned above, the Moz Link Checker, you can easily find your website’s DA.

✔ I’m going to talk about how to pick a keyword in a moment, but for this example I’m going to use “Keyword Research Training”.

✔ Aaaand to figure out keyword difficulty, look below! ?

How is keyword difficulty calculated?

Calculating keyword difficulty just takes a little bit of grade school math.

To start, head over to Google and type in our example keyword “keyword research training”. 

(If you didn’t download the Moz Chrome Extension, you can use this tool to individually check websites DA and follow along)

When you arrive on the page it should look something like this:

Keyword research training with moz chrome extention 1
The grey bar under each search result tell you the DA

When your extension is set up correctly you will see a gray bar underneath every search result stating the Domain and Page Authority.

If this isn’t showing up, you’ll need to toggle the M or number at the top right of your browser and make sure you’re logged in.

keyword research training without moz chrome extention
What it looks like without the Moz chrome extension.

Now that you can see the Domain Authority for all the websites that are ranking for the keyword, you can find it’s difficulty.

The keyword difficulty is just the average DA for these top results!

If you don’t remember how to find the average, just add up the DA’s of the websites on the first page and then divide that total by the number of websites.

How To Calculate Keyword Difficulty Infographic
Pin this so you can find it later!

Congrats! Now you know how to calculate keyword difficulty. 

But how does that help you figure out if it’s “rankable”? 

Well, actually, it helps a lot!

How do you know if a keyword is competitive?

Once you know your website’s DA and the keyword’s difficulty, it’s easy to tell a rankable keyword from one that’s too competitive.

If you search for a keyword and all the websites that show up have a DA in the 90s but you have a DA of 1 – you’re not going to be able to rank for it.

Instead, the sweet spot is to stick to keywords with a difficulty 10 to 20 higher than your website’s DA. This range ensures you have a good shot at ranking, but that you aren’t setting your sights too low.

If you are just starting out, and your DA is tiny, try to target keywords with a difficulty of less than 30.

No lie, these can be tricky to come by, but if you want to rank in Google sometimes you’ve got to be a bit creative. The tactics and tools I talk about in the next section make finding these off-grid keywords a TON easier.

The best thing you can do for your site when you have no domain authority is to rank in some search results. Once you’ve ranked in one, that credibility will support your DA and help you rank for more competitive keywords.

Get crafty with your keyword research and learn the strategies that make finding the perfect keyword as easy as 1. 2. 3! ?? Click to Tweet

What is a good keyword search volume?

Before we move on to User Intent, it’s important to note that keywords with a high search volume are generally more difficult to rank for. Because these keywords are searched so often, they have a lot more eyes on them and are more competitive.

Just as your keyword difficulty is relative to your website’s DA, so is your ideal search volume. There is no limit – the higher the search volume the better! …as long as you can rank for it. If the keyword difficulty is too high, look for one with lower search volume – otherwise, you will get lost in a sea of competitors.

On the other end, you definitely CAN shoot too small. You need to make sure that people are actually searching for your keyword, if no one is Googling it it’s a waste of time.

Mike Pearson (creator of Stupid Simple SEO) recommends a minimum search volume based on how you monetize.

  • If you rely on ads for income, keep your search volume to a minimum of 1,000 searches per month. Otherwise, the traffic you’ll get won’t make enough money to be worth your time.
  • If you use affiliate marketing or sell something, keep your search volume above 100.

These rules aren’t set in stone, but they will help you avoid optimizing for a keyword that won’t make you any money.

So how do you know if a keyword is being searched?

Oh, look at that! It’s another chrome extension!

(Really, I am sorry. Before I was a blogger I had no chrome extensions. Now I have like 15 of them. ?? I use most of them every day!)

The chrome extension in question goes by the name of Keyword Surfer. This nifty tool will not only let you know the search volume, but it also estimates the CPC (Cost Per Click) and provides you with relevant keyword ideas!

If you have no money to put towards a keyword research tool, you’ll be able to get by with the Moz & Keyword Surfer extensions alone. I’ve got to say, that’s pretty cool!

The only two tools you need to do keyword research. Hint: they're both free! Click to Tweet

Here’s a shot of Keyword Surfer’s features in action:

Keyword Surfer Features example
Advanced Keyword Research Training (2021 Better SEO Strategy) 1

Understanding User Intent

Now comes the fun part.

You see, just because you CAN rank for a keyword, doesn’t mean you want to.

Some keywords aren’t searched for, have nothing to do with your niche, or simply ARE NOT going to make you money.

By taking the time to understand user intent, you can save yourself a lot of time.

So what is user intent? Well, it’s what a person is thinking when they are searching for something on Google.

Think about it. ?

If someone searches for “keyword research training”, we can assume that they’re looking for help with keyword research.

While the user intent for keyword research training is obvious, often user intent can be much more misleading.

For example: While doing my research for this blog post I came across the keyword “SEO strategist”. The keyword difficulty was only 19 and I thought I’d hit the jackpot!

When I read SEO strategist, I thought it would be perfect because I AM an SEO strategist and I’m teaching others how to think like an SEO strategist.

Seems to fit right? WRONG.

seo strategist example of misinterpetation of user intent
The articles all focus on job related queries for SEO strategist’s

By taking a moment to look at the search results, it was easy to see that the article I wanted to write did not match the user intent AT ALL.

People searching for “SEO strategist” didn’t want to learn SEO, they wanted to know about jobs for SEO strategists.

If I used that as my focus keyword and didn’t pay attention to user intent, I never would have been able to rank in Google.

Why?

Because people looking for SEO jobs don’t want to read about SEO training – they already know that.

The point is: What are users actually looking for when they search for your keyword?

PAY ATTENTION.

Because at the end of the day, it’s all about giving the user what they want. And you can’t do that if you haven’t even thought about it.

Types of Keywords

All right, hang in there – you’re doing great! 

One last thing before we dive into research tactics.

Niche:

What is your niche? If the answer isn’t clear as day you need to read this and clarify it. 

Knowing and understanding your niche (what they want, how they want it, when they want it) is the key to growing an audience. Click to Tweet

If you did almost everything else wrong (including your keyword research) you wouldn’t rank on google – but you would still have loyal readers.

If you can understand your audience and provide them with value – they will thank you for it. Possibly by joining your mailing list and sticking around to hear more.

Why is this important to keyword research?

Because your keyword should always be something users in your niche are searching.

Why? Because if people that aren’t in your niche come to your site you’re attracting the wrong type of traffic.

You might be thinking, but isn’t any traffic good traffic?

To which the answer is, no.

Sure, traffic is great, but you have to remember why you want traffic – and usually that’s to increase your sales or subscribers.

By using keywords that your niche wouldn’t search for, you’re missing out on new users and trading it for one-time traffic!

This is because visitors drawn in by off-topic blog posts won’t be interested in your other blog posts, and probably won’t visit your site again. Talk about a waste of time. ?

So how do you do niche keyword research?

Well, if you know your niche you’ll know what they like and what sort of products or interests they might be searching for. If you don’t know:

1. Do some more market research.

2. Do some competitor keyword research (as I explain in a second).

Purchase Intent:

Almost every time you hear someone mention user intent in marketing, it’s because they’re talking about purchase intent.

Purchase intent is exactly what it sounds like: It’s when someone searches something with the intent to purchase.

You read blog posts optimized for this before – guaranteed. Common formats are: 

  • Product versus product reviews and blog posts. Ex: Rank Math Vs. Yoast SEO
  • Lists of the best of a certain type of product. Ex: The 15 Best Keyword Tools!
  • Is such n such product worth it? Ex: Is SEM Rush worth it? 

These are the articles that people are searching for right before they buy. These keywords are PRIME because you are far more likely to make a sale when the user is planning to buy something.

A metric you can use to visualize how often people are purchasing is CPC (cost per click). Luckily, Keyword Surfer displays this metric every time you search for something.

Keyword Surfer CPC
CPC is displayed to the right of the search bar with the Keyword Surer extension

As a general rule, you want to make sure that every keyword your targeting has at least a little CPC. Otherwise, you shouldn’t expect to make much money from it. ?

It can be tempting to focus ONLY on purchase intent keywords, but beware; while these are great for getting sales they are not going to:

1. Help you build your mailing list.

2. Create a connection that brings people back to your site.

3. Enthuse any of your current followers. ?

That’s why using these keywords strategically and mixing them into your content strategy is so important. This way, you can make some money recommending awesome products and your readers won’t get tired of you.

There is an awesome strategy called WHIPS by Neil Patel that I recommend you check out. He talks about creating a content funnel for readers where you take them from “window shoppers” to “sales” with different keywords.

Usually, before starting an article I like to use this system to understand where my reader is on the buyer’s journey so I can cater to that.

The basics are:

Window Shopper: Poking around the internet – they might buy, they might not, and they might not even buy from YOU. They’re “just browsing”.

Help Me: Help me means they know they’ve got an issue, but they don’t know how to solve it. For example: they know they aren’t ranking in Google and want help ranking in Google – but have never heard of keyword research. They might search something like “how to rank in google”.

Inform Me: Inform me means that they are aware there is a solution, but they don’t know where to get it yet. This article is actually a prime example of an article built for Inform Me users – they know OF keyword research but not how to actually go about it. 

Persuade Me: Persuade Me users are searching keywords like the ones we discussed a second ago. They know there is a product they want/need, but doesn’t know which one to go with. These are your product vs. product reviews and your list of top products articles. 

Show Me: Show Me articles are focused on users who are searching for things like “is _____ product worth it”. They know what they want; they just need that final confirmation or that last question answered before they buy. Obviously, since the last click gets the purchase, these are a great way to make some sales!

Journalist Keywords:

I actually heard about Journalist Keywords for the first time from Brian Dean of Backlinco!

Journalist Keywords are keywords that journalists search for while writing an article.

These are going to be things like “average website speed” or “how long does it take to get to the moon”. You know, things like statistics or quotes that they might need while writing an article.

Why are these powerful?

Well, they’re powerful because every time a journalist searches that keyword and your info pops up – they’ll include it in their article and credit you. If the article is posted anywhere online, you will get a backlink to your website! (Talk about the easiest way to build links and improve your DA – once you’ve got some data that is!)

Trending:

Trending Keywords aren’t like trending hashtags. Sadly, we can’t all view which hashtags are taking off on a nifty little list…

But we do have Google Trends.

Google Trends Example
Currently, in travel, all that shows up is covid-related queries. ??

Knowing if a keyword is “trending” is important because it gives you a huge edge on your competitors! Either you are the leader in your niche, the first to tell readers about trends, or you are learning about things months late from your competitors.

Not ideal.

Not only because you want to be the most trusted leader in your industry, but because of the AWESOME keyword opportunities. Think about it, new trends equal never before searched keywords. If you know about the trend first, you can rank with ease because there’s no competition.

By the time your hearing about it from your competitors?

Those opportunities are gone and so is that easy source of traffic.

? Hello, opportunity cost. Definitely better to spend a few minutes checking the trends every month.

My favorite way to stay up to date is my weekly email from Exploding Topics. Sometimes it lets me know about a trend in my industry, and some weeks it just helps me stay up to date on the ever-changing world around me. Either way, I’m always avid to read it. (If you don’t like newsletters, you can always just bookmark their website for trend research).

Local:

Local Keywords often get their own keyword research guides, because there is so much you can do to optimize for location. 

Do you target a certain area? Is your niche in one specific country or region? Do you own a brick and mortar business or have an office location? Then you’ll want to spend some time on local keywords. 

Of course, these are also all about user intent. 

If someone lived in the area you are talking about, how would they search for it? Common formats are:

  • [business type/product] in [your location] Ex: Digital Nomad Coach in San Diego
  • [business type/product] [your location] Ex: Travel Agency San Diego
  • [your location] [business type/product] Ex: San Diego Travel Agent
  • Best [business type/product] in [your location] Ex: Best Digital Nomad Coach in San Diego

You want to dominate the search results for your services in your local area. If you can, target different neighborhoods in the city and different variations of the services you provide.

If you know you’re going to be using a lot of local SEO, you should check out these tactics by Ahrefs.

Longtail:

The last type or keywords are longtail keywords. Longtail keywords are literally just long keywords.

Why do you want long keywords?

Because “SEO” is going to have a way higher search volume with a much less clear user intent compared to “Keyword Research For SEO”.

Usually, the longer the keyword the smaller the search volume. So, finding longer keywords can be an easy way to find less competitive keywords.

In fact, there is a specific tool made to help you find longtail keywords. I recommend bookmarking this one for future use.

How To Do Keyword Research

Now that we know exactly what keywords are and how to tell a bad one from a good one, lets dive into some research! This is what you’ll actually be doing whenever you decide to do keyword research.

How Many Keywords Should You Target?

To start, it’s important to note how many keywords you’ll be targeting per article. 

For every post you write, it’s a good idea to start with around 5 keywords in mind. These 5 are not all created equal though!

Instead, you’ll want to have one “focus” keyword, that, surprise surprise, you focus on. As well as 2-4 “secondary” keywords that you can substitute for your focus keyword when you start to sound like a broken record. ?

The focus keyword is the only one that matters, but using secondary keywords will help clarify your topic for Google. It also is an opportunity to optimize for more than one search result (which sounds a lot like more traffic for less work to me).

You’ll want to have a different focus keyword for every single article you write, as it’s silly to compete against yourself in search results. Secondary keywords can be re-used if needed (especially if you didn’t rank for it) but it’s best to do fresh keyword research for every post.

This doesn’t mean you can’t batch your research (I aim to do keyword research every three months) but it does require some foresight.

How many keywords should you optimize your blog post for? Hint: it's not 1. ? Click to Tweet

How To Do Keyword Research Manually:

The fact is, to do keyword research you’re going to need some tools. 

If you already installed the Moz and Keyword Surfer chrome extensions you have everything you need to do keyword research manually. And yes, it is manually- all these tools do is give you the data you need, you still need to do the work and the math.

Let’s use a fresh example because I’m getting tired of keyword research training. ? Instead, we’ll say we what to write a blog post about our trip to Thailand.

To start, let’s Google “thailand trip”.

Thailand Trip Google Search Manual keyword research example
The search results for “Thailand Trip”

With our extensions we can quickly see that “Thailand trip” has a monthly search volume of 6,600 and a CPC of $4.90.

Now, when I was a noob at keyword research the first thing I would do is calculate the keyword difficulty.

Don’t be a noob like me. Don’t waste your time calculating the keyword difficulty until you’re sure this keyword passes every other test.

Instead, scroll the page and get a feel for the DA’s that are showing up. Usually, the first keyword you think of for a topic is the most common. Because of this, the search volume and average DA will usually be pretty high.

No need to calculate that.

There are a variety of brainstorming tools you can use to find long-tail keyword to speedline this process, I talk more about those below.

For now, we’ll just use Keyword Surfer.

So, you search the keyword, you know it’s unrankable, what’s next?

Well, you actually want to look at the little box to the right of the search results. Here, Keyword Surfer will provide you with similar keyword ideas and their monthly search volume.

Thailand Trip Keyword Surfer suggested keywords example
Keyword Surfer is the fastest freest way to find low volume keyword ideas.

This is so helpful because you can simply click the arrow until you start seeing keyword volumes is the range you usually can rank for.

When you’re first starting out with a DA of 1, I recommend focusing on volumes of 5000 and below. The smaller the search volume the better of the chances of a rankable keyword. 

Usually, as I go through this process I’ll right-click and open all the keywords that match the article I want to write in a new tab. Yes, I am one of those people that always has way too many tabs open on their browser. ?

From there, I will repeat the process of opening similar keywords in new tabs. I will glance over each one to get a feel for the user intent, ensure that there is at least some CPC value, and I’ll guesstimate the keyword difficulty. I’ll close out any tabs that don’t meet my standards.

As you do this you’ll start to be able to guess the difficulty just by scrolling through the page. Until you get there, I recommend only doing the math to find the keyword difficulty when

1.  You’ve already somewhat narrowed down your results (based on CPC, user intent, etc.)

2. Most of the keywords are in your desired range or there are two or more extreme outliers. Otherwise, you can already guess that it’s going to be too difficult.

From the keywords that survive this process, I’ll usually have anywhere from 3 to 7 solid keywords. The one that best matches what my article is about and has an attainable keyword difficulty will be my focus keyword, and the rest can are secondary.

Manually doing my keyword research for a blog post can take me anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. If I’m batching and doing my full month of keyword research, this kid easily take more a day.

This is because it’s basically a guess and test until you find your little miracle in the haystack that is Google. But don’t worry, this is far from the best way to do your keyword research. It’s just the best way to understand the fundamentals.

How To Find Low Competition Keywords With High Traffic:

When most people say “keyword research” they mean typing an article idea into a keyword tool.

Basically it’s brainstorming.

This method is alright, and it will get you what you need if you already know what you want to write about, but it takes way more time for far less useful results.

The best way to do keyword research is with a clear idea of what your niche likes and doesn't like, and an open mind about your next blog post topic. Click to Tweet

So, where can I find profitable keywords with low competition?

The easiest way to find profitable, low competition keywords, is by checking what has worked for others. After all, reinventing the wheel is exhausting. 

The two best ways I’ve found to do this are:

  • Competitor Keyword Research
  • SubReddit Keyword Research

So let’s dig in!

Competitor Keyword Research

The most efficient way to do keyword research is actually going to be by doing competitor research.

Instead of spending hours figuring out what your audience wants, what to write about, and what the hidden gem keywords are; You can just see what the competitors in your niche are ranking for.

This works because if both you and your competitor are targeting the same niche keywords and you have a similar DA, you can predict your ability to rank.

Not only can you be sure that your audience is interested in this topic, but you also have proof that this keyword is in fact rankable.

Since Google’s priority is to provide the best content possible, ranking in Google comes down to writing a better article than your competitor. 

Let’s get started! 

First things first, you’ll need to find out who the competitors in your niche are. 

If you’re passionate about your niche (and if you aren’t you should reconsider your topic), then chances are you have:

1. Read about it online.

2. Participated in forums.

3. Signed up for a mailing list (or two).

These are your competitors! As an aspiring digital nomad, I was an avid follower of Eamon & Bec, The Savvy Backpacker, and many others before I ever started my website.

If you’re clueless, search your niche. Whether it be “best travel blogs” or “best finance websites” you’ll learn a lot about the competition that’s out there.

As you look through your competitors, you’ll want to keep track of the ones with DA’s that are similar or lower than your own. I recommend bookmarking them so you can always easily find this list.

Pro Tip: every time you stumble on a new site in your niche that has a similar DA, bookmark it for when you do your keyword research! This way you will always have a fresh list of competitors to look through, ready to go. Click to Tweet

If you’re looking at me like I’m crazy because your DA is 5 and it seems impossible to find competitors with DA’s that low, you’re not alone. Starting and gaining initial traction is the hardest part but new people are breaking the first page result every day and you can too!

Your strategy is just going to look a little different.

Instead of looking for competitors with the same or lower DA, look for competitors ranking with DA’s of 30 and below.

With a DA of 1-10, Google doesn’t know what to expect from you yet. Make some great optimized content and you’re sure to up that number soon.

So you know who your competitors are, you know what their DA is, but how do you know what keywords they are ranking for?

You use a tool.

My personal favorite is Keysearch! Once you’ve made an account, log in and click on “Competitive Analysis” and then “Organic Keywords”.

keysearch how to do competitor research example
How to do competitor research using Keysearch

In the box, type in the domain name (ex: this site’s domain is hippieonholiday.com) and select “entire domain”, then hit the search button.

In this example, I’ll be using dani-the-explorer.com because I love her site! The results should look something like this:

keysearch competitor research results example
Competitor research with Keysearch results

Aaaaand instead of trying to explain all this on paper, I made a quick 2-minute video of how to do this!

How to do competitor research using Keysearch

Use Reddit

So this tactic is nearly identical to the last but requires you to know none of your competitors.

Instead of typing in your competitor’s domain name, you’ll type in Reddit’s domain (ex:reddit.com).

What’s cool about this is that if a random reddit thread is ranking for something in the search results, you have a good chance of outranking it.

Yes, Reddit has a higher DA than you. But, since Google ranks based on the best content available, as long as you can create a better resource you can outrank.

And I have faith you can create a more helpful piece of content than a forum thread. You could also do this with any other forum site!

The Best Keyword Research Tools

We have already mentioned an abundance of tools, but I just wanted to make this easy to find. 

Semrush:

Straight up, if you want the best keyword research tool on the market, get SemRush. This one is not only extremely highly reviewed, but it also does what literally all these tools do from one dashboard.

PLUS it works as a social media scheduler (so you can replace your whole suite of tools). Basically, I love these guys.

This premium product does come at a premium price however, so it is not for every budding business. Instead, it’s more for business owners who are ready to reinvest profits. 

KeySearch:

If you find that that is not you, that’s okay! That’s when I recommend KeySearch (ya know, the tool we used to do competitor research).

Keysearch will 10x the speed of your keyword research for the low price of 12$ a month (at least it’s low compared to any of the other tools with its features).

Check out all the features using their free trial, and make sure to use the code KSDISC if you decide to sign up so you can get it for $12 instead of $17 a month.

Free Tools I Use :

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ubbersuggest – this tool used to be free, but is now 30$ a month for the basic plan. KeySearch definitely outranks. 
  • LSI Graph – very similar to Longtail Pro, but it will attempt to find synonyms for your keyword. 

How To Implement & Use SEO Keywords

Woot woot! We’re done with the hard part. 

Now we actually have to use the keywords we’ve found. (Surprisingly, I’ve found that keeping a list of keywords that you never actually use does NOT, in fact, help you rank on Google.) ?

How do you target keywords?

Targeting keywords is simply a matter of placing them correctly throughout your content.

We already know we need both a focus and a couple of secondary keywords – but are we “targeting” all of them?

Well, yes and no.

You could say we are targeting the secondary keywords since we know they are rankable and we are using them in our content. But, since there is no specific way to place these keywords – I don’t know if you can call it “targeting”.

Your focus keyword, however, is going to be very targeted and very intentional. 

Here’s how to use it! ?

Where Should Keywords Be Used?

So where do we place our focus keyword? Everywhere! (JK, but also not ?)

For example, in this article, my focus keyword is “Advanced Keyword Research”. My secondary keywords are:

1. keyword research training

2. best keywords for SEO

3. keyword research niche

4. SEO keyword strategy

5. keyword research for blogs

If you want, you can go ahead and CTRL + F on your keyboard and a search box should pop up! You can type in my focus keyword and see where I use it throughout the article.

While I joke about placing your keywords everywhere, precaution is necessary because there is such a thing as overdoing it. It’s actually called “keyword stuffing” and it’s a big no-no according to Google.

Instead, as you go about placing your keywords, make sure it sounds natural and not like a robot wrote it. Yes, you want your article optimized, but if your article is the same 3 words repeated in different ways Google’s going to notice and mark you as a spammer. 

Anyway, without further ado I present to you: Where to put your keywords. ?

The Permalink 

The permalink is your URL. Usually, you’ll want it to be your focus keyword or a combo of your focus and one secondary – either way, keep it short and simple. You want your URL to be easy to type in if someone ever wanted to, and it’ll be far more shareable. You can edit this using an SEO plugin (I recommend RankMath).

The Title

A few things to note here.

1. The “Title” you put on your blog post almost always shows up as an “H1 tag”, and therefore, you will often see your title referred to as an H1 tag by SEO experts.

There are, however, certain themes and other sorts of code that can change this setting and change which text input shows up as your H1 tag.

So how do you tell if your title is actually your H1 tag? Simple.

See what text is showing up on the tab in your browser.

H1 Tag shows up in browser tab example
Your browser tab will match whatever text is your H1 tag

If it’s your title, golden. If it’s not – figure out where that text is input and edit your H1 tag with your keyword there.

2. Second, your title isn’t just about your keyword. In fact, it’s usually the same thing that shows up in search results. I usually try to mix both my focus and a secondary keyword in, but readability and CTR come first.

CTR Headline in search results example
How your Title (usually you H1 tag) shows up in search results

The Intro

Try to use your focus keyword within the first 200 words. 

The Meta Description

Your meta description is the “sneak peak” of your article that shows up in the search results. You can edit it with the RankMath SEO plugin. 

The Headers

Just as you want to include the focus keyword in your title, you’ll also want to include it in at least one of your headers. Incorporate it into one of your subheaders as well if you have them. 

The Content

Honestly, I am the worst at this one. ? I forget about it often.

What you want to do is sprinkle your focus and secondary keywords throughout your content as it comes naturally. (This is part of why knowing your keywords before you write is so important.)

It’s recommended your keyword makes up between .5-1% of your content. If you use an SEO plugin, it will check to ensure you don’t accidentally end up keyword stuffing.

The Photo Text

This is by far, the most underutilized place to use your keywords – but it has great value! Not only are there three different areas to place your keyword (the alt text, the description, and the caption), but your photos are able to rank in Google by themselves.

This can be an incredible source of traffic and backlinks – which is why your photo text should not “just” be your keyword.

Yes, you want to include your keyword if possible – but your alt text and description (like your content) must sound natural. That means it’s not all about your keyword, it’s actually all about that specific photo.

The best way to fill in your photo text is by filling in the blank: This is a picture of ________.

FAQ

How do I improve my SEO keyword ranking?

Spent a bunch of time on an article and it’s not ranking? Don’t worry, you can still change it. If you know it has great quality information that beats your competitors – then you know it’s only the way it’s optimized that needs to be improved. Make sure they keyword is rankable using our nifty checklist, and if it is – start looking into off-page SEO.

What is the fastest way to rank a keyword?

Sadly, there is no “fastest way”. How long it will take to rank is simply unpredictable. The best way to ensure you rank as fast as possible is to create great content and optimize it correctly – if you do that then it’s only a matter of time.

What is the easiest way to find keywords?

The easiest way to find keywords is from you competitors, hands down. Find a group of competitors who have similar DA’s and see what keywords they are ranking for. Then, you’ve got a list of keywords you can bet you can rank for.

How many keywords is too many?

Surprisingly, you can’t really have too many keywords. As long as you are properly optimizing your focus keyword, you can have as many secondary keywords as you want! Just make sure your aren’t keyword stuffing or it will hurt more than it helps.

Is SEO just keywords?

There is a ton more to SEO than keywords. Keywords are one of the key components of “on-page SEO”, but there is a large portion of SEO that isn’t so straight-forward known as “off-page SEO”. If you want to read up on it I recommend this guide from Backlinko.

What are LSI keywords?

LSI stands for “Latent Semantic Indexing”, which essentially means “synonym” keywords. A lot of people stand by LSI keywords because they think using synonyms that google correlate with your focus keyword will help you rank. Google has debunked and said that they do not use LSI keywords, so I don’t put much time into these.

What is a good keyword difficulty?

Keyword difficulty is relative to your website. Best practice is to aim for a difficulty that has a difficulty score 10-20 higher than your website’s DA. If you have a DA of less than 10, than stick to keywords with a difficulty of 30 or less.

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Summary Checklist

What We Learned:

  1. What makes a Keyword important to SEO.
  2. What Domain Authority is and what your website’s DA is (Check with Moz).
  3. How to calculate Keyword Difficulty and do manual keyword research. 
  4. What user intent is and how to use it to your advantage.
  5. The different types of Keywords. 
  6. How many keywords to use (1 focus and 2-4 secondary).
  7. How to find low competition keywords with high traffic using competitor research (using Keysearch). 
  8. About the best keyword research tools (#1 being SemRush).
  9. What makes up a “good” keyword and where to place it. ?

The Keyword:

  1. You haven’t used it before.
  2. It’s something your niche would search for.
  3. Has a CPC value (if you want to make money).
  4. Has a minimum search volume of 100 (or 1k if you only monetize with ads). Use KeywordSurfer to check this.
  5. Has a keyword difficulty 10-20 higher than your DA (Check with Keysearch).

Is Placed In:

  1. Your URL/Permalink 
  2. Your Title/H1 Tag
  3. The First 200 Words
  4. Your Meta Description
  5. A Header
  6. A Subheader
  7. Your Photo Text (This is a photo of _____)
  8. .5-1% Keyword Content Density (Use the RankMath SEO Plugin)

Make sure to download the checklist (no email required) so you don’t forget what you’ve learned!

If you read this whole thing, I dub thee a keyword expert.

If you learned something new today, your welcome to buy me a coffee (lord knows I can’t afford my addiction. ?)

Otherwise, make sure to drop your new-found knowledge in the comments! Hearing from you is what motivates me to write. ❤️️

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Until next time! Your pal, Cassidy ?

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