#29 | How I do KEYWORD research

About two months ago, I wrote a newsletter titled: “How To Make Sure Your Content Ranks.”

Step one was to find a viable keyword.

But I never showed you how.

So this week, it’s back to basics.

Here’s how I do keyword research…

None of this is new, or revolutionary.

It’s just bits and pieces of what I’ve picked up from others over the years.

And it’s incredibly simple.

But it works.

  • My first site (under NDA after my sale earlier this year) did nearly 700,000 organic sessions in a single month at its peak, with a total of 300 posts.
  • My second site, ApplianceFixes.com, will do 10,000 organic sessions this month with just 30 posts.
  • My wife and I’s site, StayNewEngland.com, hit about 5,000 organic sessions during high season with just 8 posts.
700,000 pageviews a month blog

It’s worth mentioning that there is also a bit of gut feel and intuition to all this.

The good news is that your intuition grows stronger the more you practice.

Keith and I have spent countless hours doing keyword research.

At this point we just know a great keyword when we see one.

Ok, here goes…

This framework is called Competitor Keyword Analysis.

The first thing you need to do is build a list of competitors in your niche that have a low DA/DR (<30).

“Domain Authority” / “Domain Rating” is a made up metric, but it gives you a sense of how authoritative a site is.

In theory, the lower the DA/DR, the higher the odds you can compete with them.

The idea is to target low DA sites that are already winning in your niche.

If they’re winning, so can you.

Finding them is easy, it just takes time.

Start Googling common key words/phrases in your niche and just go 1-by-1 down the SERPS.

Take note of any sites ranking with a DA <30.

Let’s pretend you’re starting a niche site about golf.

The first keyword that popped into my head just now was, “How to hit a driver”.

So I typed that into Google, and hit search.

As I made my way down the rankings, I came across this site:

golf niche site with low DR

A DR 10 niche golf site, doing close to 50,000 pageviews a month (probably more like 100,000 pageviews – keyword research tools tend to underestimate traffic by quite a bit).

This site should definitely get added to the list!

Once you’ve built your competitor list (5-10 sites to start), enter one of your competitors URLs into your keyword tool of choice and examine the keywords they are ranking for.

I like to filter their keywords for:

  1. volume (>200)
  2. difficulty (<35)
  3. SERP position 5 or better
using Ahrefs for keyword research

My favorite filter is #3.

Filtering for keywords your <30 DA competitor is already ranking 1-5 for means you can most likely be competitive for that keyword too.

When you find an interesting keyword, DON’T add it to your list straight away.

Keyword tools are great, but they are far from perfect.

ALWAYS Google the keyword and analyze page 1 to see if the keyword is actually worth writing for. (Go back and read my previous newsletter on how to do this if you haven’t already)

If you think you can do better, add the keyword to your list!

When you’re done, prioritize your keyword list based on projected traffic. That way you’re writing highest potential traffic posts FIRST.

And since the word/phrase made your list in the first place, you already know there is a good chance you CAN rank for it.

That’s it.

It’s not magic, just takes time and some practice.

I do keyword research in sprints.

I’ll build my list over several days and that list will last me ~2 months.

I write the content, then as I’m close to running out of keywords, I do it all over again.

For many of you, this is all old news!

But if you’re new to blogging, or have been blogging for awhile without much success – give this process a try.

It’s likely the thing you’ve been missing all along.

Alright, have a great weekend!

Talk soon.


A few additional tips:

Tip #1: This process is also GREAT for vetting a new niche BEFORE you spend many hours working on it. I would never start a site without first building a list of initial keywords. If I can’t easily make that list, why the hell would I enter that niche?!

Tip #2: When you find a great keyword, think “are there variations of this keyword that might also be good to write for”. For example, “How to hit a driver“, “How to hit an iron”, “How to hit a putter“, “How to hit a hybrid“, and so on.

Tip #3: I’m a bit neurotic, so I check all my keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s free and gives me a range of possible traffic. Just a nice secondary test. Again the number is usually off, but its just yet another data point to work off of.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to go off the rails and just dig deep into the keyword tool you’re using. I occasionally don’t follow any process, and just search a term and then a variation of the term, and down the rabbit hole I go – occasionally landing on a golden nugget.

mike keith always be publishing

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