(The Entrepreneur Ridealong) Building A Niche Animal Site From $0 to $500,000: Keyword Research
This article is a direct transcription of the video, edited for improved clarity.
What tools and techniques do you use for keyword research?
I use a ton of different tools and techniques. I would say the only tools that I consistently use would be Low Fruits and Ahrefs. Low Fruits is kind of handy for a quick look at a particular query. I don’t think it’s the best for super in-depth research. But it’s good if you just want to take a quick look at something.
For example, Low Fruits claims to use Google’s auto extraction. I do find that sometimes it doesn’t do a perfect job or go to a ton of variations, but I will use it for things like this.
Let’s say I’m exploring the concept of “do golf courses,” this can give you ideas like “use artificial grass”, “use fertilizer” or “use round up”. Then what you would do is, is select all, then extract and it’ll tell you where they’re at as far as competition using whatever metrics you measure.
With Ahrefs, there are 2 main strategies I like to use, the first is looking at low-competition sites and analyzing what they’re doing. You can keep an eye out on the lower DR sites in your niche so you can target the same terms or variations on the terms their ranking for.
On the flip side when you’re looking at high authority sites, you can analyze their articles as well to see what sort of things they’re unintentionally ranking for. If it’s ranking unintentionally then there’s a good chance that the keyword is low competition and you can go after it. You can do this with Forbes or any high-authority niche site in your space.
It’s hard to beat Google Autosuggest. It’s gonna come up with a ton of ideas so it’s great it just takes more time. Messing around with how you structure the question or the query can help bring out more auto suggestions, branching off from already ranking topics.
How do you determine which keywords are most relevant to the website’s content?
So you start with a plan and you need to have a pretty clear plan to begin with. But you do let Google tell you where to go and what parts of your plan you should emphasize and which ones you should minimize. Simply put whatever you rank for, do more of it, whatever you’re getting traffic for, do more of it.
Take a look at the keywords that you’re ranking for, that could be things that are in high positions, but also things that you’re not intending or specifically targeting that you’re on the first or second page for, especially for a newer site. This is a good indication that Google sees you as relevant to those topics even though you’re not necessarily trying to target them.
For example, if your golf site is ranking already for the query, “How to hit out of a wet sand trap”. Then you’ll want to branch out into more sand trap content and more content about golfing in wet conditions. Then there are dozens of variations on golfing and wet conditions.
Like we just saw, one of those could be, “When is it too wet to play golf?” And then you use that to expand on your keyword research. I like to have a collection of keywords or topics that I’m covering. I’m not one of those people who is going to plan out the entirety of the site and have, 1000 different topics already ready to go as soon as the site is live. I want to see 50 to 100 with the idea that there’s gonna be plenty more after that.
Are clusters an important part of your keyword research?
I don’t think clusters are necessarily the magic bullet that they’re sometimes made out to be. However, I think it depends on the query. You’ll see lower-level queries, which I think can be done better with sites that are very niche down in, and topic-specific. Whereas once you get to a high enough competitive topic, the big authority sites are gonna come in.
However, one other thing about clusters is they’re also practical from other logistics beyond the SEO standpoint. Certainly for internal linking, which I am a strong believer in. I think internal linking helps on a variety of levels from crawling, passing authority, or just having the link. Naturally covering multiple topics within the same cluster allows you to build out more internal links and it can make keyword research easier. Also, I think as you dive deeper into a cluster, you get better at understanding of what the user would want to know about.
Do you consider user intent when conducting keyword research, and how do you align content with the user’s search intent?
Again, I don’t know anything about golf. But if I’m doing the research I might think “Ok, sand traps, and obviously sand traps can be wet. What else could impact how a sand trap, how it is to get out of a sand trap?”
Maybe there are different depths, different types of sand, different levels of compactness, etc. All of these things could help me find better keyword variations and it’s a natural extension of the topic cluster. It’s going to make keyword research easier as I can hop from one variation to another. If you have someone who can produce content on how to put out of a sand trap, they can probably cover other topics about sand traps or conditions of sand traps and that sort of thing. So it makes sense from an operational perspective as well.
I do think that topical authority matters but I don’t think that it’s going to allow you to target anything you want regardless of the competition. As an example, I think you can look at the SERPs to understand if Google will value your topical authority or a more niched-down website.
For example, if we search “Do French bulldogs eat a lot?” The first five are all about domains that are specific to French bulldogs. Now, this is not necessarily the highest competition topic there is but it’s still showing that Google wants somebody who’s covering French bulldogs. So much so that their domain name is about French bulldogs.
If you compare that to something that is higher competition, like “How much are French bulldogs” or “How much do they cost” then you see Lemonade, doing pet insurance and not a dog website. There are still some dog sites, but most of those French bulldog-specific sites are not showing up for this term.
There are hundreds and thousands of examples of sites that have no topical authority ranking well so there’s a little more to it.
How do you balance high-traffic keywords with long-tail keywords when choosing to focus keywords for content creation?
So it depends on the age of the site, the authority of the site, and what you’ve already ranked for. I’ve had experiences where very low DR sites are able to rank well for what should be higher competition terms. I take my cue from Google and say, “I’m going to go for more topics like this that are higher competition and see where I end up. “
Now, before I have that information, I will typically focus on the longer tail, lower competition queries, and then I will work in some high-traffic keywords that are higher competition. But I’m doing it maybe one time out of 20. And it’s also sort of to top off a topical cluster.
Let’s say I’ve written 30 general articles about sand traps and then there’s one particular keyword that’s more difficult. I might then focus on something like, “how to get out of the sand trap” or “how to avoid the sand traps” and those higher-level terms. It’s still that main topic, it’s just drilling down a little bit more.
How do you assess the search volume and competition level of keywords to ensure they are suitable for content optimization?
I hate to keep giving the same answer but a lot of it has to do with what Google is telling me in terms of traffic. Again this is gonna come from Ahrefs or search console or whatever tool you’re using. And then analytics to see what you’re getting traffic on beyond that.
Let’s do an example real quick. If I want to target, “When is it too wet to play golf?” I’m going to want to know how many people are actually targeting this topic. There are a few results with similar questions and even one that’s an exact match on a site with a DR of 0. We’re then going to take a look at the actual sites themselves and see things like, are the articles well written, do they look nice, are they nonsense, etc.
I also want to see if there is an SEO behind this and most of the time there is. Now I’m not seeing anything that’s terrifying, these are all just niche sites. There is one that’s lower quality so that’s a good indication to me that this could be a good keyword.
So how do you assess the search volume and competition level? It’s a collection of checkpoints that are a mix of experience and metrics. The metrics are usually pass/fail and once you get past the metric stage, then it comes into experience.
To give an example of this, in the SERPs for “how to lose weight” almost every page is 90 DR or above. They’re all high authority sites, many of which you’re going to recognize right away and when we compare that to our wet sand trap example, we see niche sites, low DR sites, forums, off-topic results, and people covering variations that aren’t exactly it.
We see “how to play in what condition” or “how to play better in the rain” and it’s close, but it’s not really the intent of what the person is searching. With the weight loss query, it’s all exact matches and high DR sites. This is the pass/fail metric we’re talking about and then from there, we would dig in a bit deeper.
As far as search volume, if Google Autosuggest is showing it, then there’s search volume. Now it doesn’t mean it’s high search volume, but in general, I don’t worry about search search volume too much. I think that that’s part of learning in the beginning or learning your niche. You’re gonna figure out pretty quickly how much search volume there’s going to be in these topics.
And it depends on how much search volume you’re willing to go for. Most people have a bottom page view per month that they’re looking to get. I’m happy with 500 page views a month and then plenty of those are gonna be way over 500. If I find that getting out of a wet sand trap is getting 1,500 page views a month or 10,000 page views per month, I can kind of extrapolate that into other topics. If it’s getting 10,000 per month, it’s reasonable that variations on that are going to get more.
How often do you update and refresh your keyword research to stay current with changing trends and user behavior?
I think it’s gonna depend on the niche but I have a few different ways of answering the question.
From a technique perspective of doing topic research, I think that the outcome is almost always the same. I’m always exploring tools like Low Fruits and messing around with Ahrefs but your endpoint is always the same there. You want to find more topics that are of appropriate competition level faster.
When it comes to the actual website, I think it depends on the topic. If we’re talking about changing trends and user behavior, I’m generally not chasing trends. I try to focus more on evergreen topics.
For user behavior, I think it’s gonna tie into everything I’ve talked about already where I’m letting Google tell me what people are searching for and what Google thinks my website is really about.
I will occasionally use Google Trends to take a look at something like the search volume for cars versus trucks versus golf carts etc. If my website can cover all of those topics reasonably, that’s where I would target trends but beyond that, I’m refreshing my keywords with the methods previously discussed.
Do you incorporate local SEO research for business, targeting specific geographic locations?
The short answer is not really. My foundation for most websites is display revenue so I do want US traffic. I will focus on topics that are going to be more specific to a US audience. But beyond that, rarely am I targeting specific regions.
How do you ensure that the chosen keywords align with the website’s overall strategy and target audience?
This is the same really as the content strategy. It’s having a plan and executing it for a variety of topics, small clusters, maybe some larger ones, and then letting Google tell you what they think your website is about.
As far as the target audience, I think that just comes down to understanding the niche, understanding the audience, and what they’re looking for. Some metrics like time on page can help you but with search traffic as the main metric, that problem usually solves itself. It’s hard to rank with the totally wrong intent and then therefore hard to really get the target audience wrong if that makes sense.
How do you measure the effectiveness of your keyword research and content optimization efforts? What metrics do you use to evaluate the success of chosen keywords?
Traffic. When I’m working on a site, I will have a baseline page views around 500. That number is going to vary a lot based on the cost of producing content, the revenue per 1000 page views if I’m using display ads, and what my other pages are doing. If I can easily get 1000 page views per post on most pages, then I have some baseline traffic to justify additional variations of that topic.
At the end of the day, ranking isn’t a leading metric of what I really want, it’s traffic. Ranking higher is great, but only because it gets more traffic. And at the keyword or topic level, it’s gonna be traffic per topic, per post, per page, etc., and being able to replicate that across multiple topics. Not everything is going to be a winner. But if on average I’m targeting 1000 page views per post and I’m getting 1000 page views per post, then what I’m doing is working and I want to do more of it.
Big picture would be creating a loose plan, using a variety of techniques to find topics, building out small clusters, taking a look at what Google ranks you for, and then using that to create better iterations from there. Using data and then circling back to the techniques that got you there in the first place and using those same keyword research techniques based on what you’re ranking for to just do better. So hopefully that makes sense. Let me know if you have questions.