Which keywords should you target when you're
just starting out?
And can you actually rank for them?
In today's keyword research tutorial,
I'm going to show you how to do keyword research for a brand new website.
What's up SEOs, Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the
SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic,
research your competitors and dominate your niche.
Now, this tutorial isn't full of rainbows and butterflies.
There isn't exactly a cookie-cutter formula
that'll solve all of your keyword research woes.
If you're not willing to put in the work, or you're
not willing to pay someone to do it for you,
then don't bother watching this video.
But if you want to get results and predictably
rank for keywords that are going to drive traffic
and revenue for your business, then let's get to it.
So to make this tutorial as actionable as possible,
I want to do keyword research with you in a completely random niche.
So last week, I searched for "list of niches"
in Google, clicked on the first result,
copied the categories down, and put them into this random, "wheel spinner."
I spun the wheel,
[Dating and relationships... Dating and relationships...]
and here's our topic for the day....
Fitness and weight loss.
Alright, so the first step is to generate
keyword ideas using 2 or 3 seed keywords.
Generate keyword ideas from 2-3 seed keywords.
A seed keyword is usually a broad term related
to your niche.
Generally speaking, they'll be one or two words long.
So in our case, "fitness" and "weight loss"
would be our seeds.
Now, to drill down on the idea of seeds, let's
say we had a site on pet care.
Our seed keywords might be "pet," "pets," "dog,"
"dogs," "cat," "cats"... you get the point.
Now, in order to research keywords, you'll
need a keyword research tool.
The two tools I recommend are Keywords Everywhere
and Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.
Keywords Everywhere is great because you can
get basic keyword metrics like search volume
and CPC data for free.
So if you're just starting out, this might
be a good tool to try.
But naturally, it will come with some limitations.
Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer on the other hand
has all the bells and whistles,
a massive database of around 8 billion keywords,
and will give you numerous layers of data
that are critical for keyword analysis.
So I'll be using that tool for the rest of the tutorial.
So let's start by taking our seed keywords
and enter them in Keywords Explorer.
Now, I'll run the search.
Next, I'll go to the All keywords report in
the sidebar and you'll see a massive list
of 2.6 million keyword ideas.
Now, if you look at the keywords, you'll see
that a lot of them are irrelevant.
So we'll need to brainstorm a list of keywords
that are relevant to your seeds.
Since we're talking about fitness and weight loss,
some words that come to mind for me would be
"diet," "bodybuilding," "training," "calorie," and "dumbbells."
So let's make a note of these on our
"relevant keywords" list.
Next, look to Google autosuggest.
First, I'll type in "weight loss," and you'll see words
like "pills," "smoothies," "foods," and "programs."
So let's add these to our list too.
Now, I'll do the same for "fitness."
But it doesn't look like there's anything relevant,
so I'm actually going to run the search.
Next, I'll scroll to the bottom of the page
and look at the Related searches.
So we have "workouts" and "body."
Let's add these to our list too.
Now, if you find the autosuggestions to be
helpful, then you can get a much larger list
using the Search suggestions report in
If we go to that report with "fitness" and "weight
loss" as our seeds, then you'll see around
2,600 keywords to look through.
So "equipment," "shakes," and "meal plans," would
be good ones to add to our list.
One last place you can look is Google Correlate.
So I'll search for "weight loss" and now we
can see some more interesting words like
"fat," "abs," "burn," "whey" and "protein."
In fact, the word "abs" makes me think of other
body parts like "chest," "shoulders," and "legs."
Filter keyword ideas to find those matching your goals.
Now, that we have a list of relevant keywords
to our seeds,
let's go back to the All keywords report and filter
our list down to ones we can consider targeting.
To remove a lot of these irrelevant keywords,
let's click on the Include filter and paste in
a comma separated list of our relevant keywords.
I'll also set it to show "Any word," which
will narrow down our list to only keywords
that contain any of these words.
And we're now down to around 188,000 keywords
from 2.6 million!
And as you can see, the list looks much better.
Alright, so rather than skimming through 188,000
keywords, we're going to start adding additional
layers of filters to get even more targeted.
Now, generally speaking, you're going to see
three types of keywords.
The first are money terms.
And these will usually be your core business drivers.
They're generally hard to rank for because
people don't want to link to pages that target
these kinds of keywords because there's very
little value add for them and their audiences.
Next are keywords around topics that
The primary goal of creating content around these keywords
isn't about ranking or getting a ton of search traffic.
It's about creating content around these linkable topics
so you can generate as many quality links as possible.
And the goal is to build authority to these pages,
and funnel PageRank to other topically relevant pages.
Finally are low-competition keywords.
These are keywords you can rank for without
building a ton of links.
Targeting these keywords are important because
they'll help you get some search traffic faster
and slowly start the progression of natural link growth.
Now, at this stage of keyword generation, all
we're trying to do is find as many keywords
that are relevant to your business.
So for now, don't worry about keyword analysis
because we'll dive deep into that later.
So let's start off by finding low-competition keywords.
Find low-competition keywords.
Let's go back to where we left off in the
All keywords report.
Since we still have a pretty large pool of
keywords, let's narrow this down to keywords
that have at least 500 monthly searches.
Now, to find low-competition topics let's
set a Keyword Difficulty filter to a maximum
of something low-ish like 20.
Looking at the keyword list, you'll see a
couple of irrelevant ones at the top
related to "planet fitness," which are clearly
So let's exclude these from our keyword list
by clicking on the Exclude filter.
And I'll type "planet" and apply the filter.
Since our list looks pretty clean, the last thing
I'm going to do is sort the list by Parent topic.
If you're unfamiliar with Parent topic, it determines
if you can rank for your target keyword
while targeting a more general topic instead.
For example, rather than creating a post on
"what is the best diet for me"
and then another on "best diet for me,"
the Parent topic is telling us that we really only need to create one post
and we could rank for both keywords as a result.
Now, before you go off and start targeting
only parent topics,
take note that if the parent topic is different from
the query in the Keyword column,
then you should check its keyword difficulty scores too.
For example, the keyword, "whey protein for
weight loss" has a KD of 13.
But if we click on the parent topic, "whey protein,"
you'll see that it has a much higher Keyword
So what should you do?
That'll depend on what you see in your keyword
analysis, which again, we'll dive into later.
So for now, I'll quickly sift through this
list and rather than analyzing every keyword,
I'm just going to add a checkmark beside the
ones that seem like
interesting topics to create content around.
After I've gone through the first page, I'll
scroll back to the top to create a list.
Let's call this one "weight loss - low competition."
Then go through the remaining pages until you're
satisfied with the number of keyword ideas.
Get keywords with link-bait potential.
Next, let's fill our second bucket of keywords
with potentially link-bait worthy topics.
Again, the purpose of these pages is to get
quality backlinks so you can build authority
to your pages, and pass PageRank by linking
internally to your other pages.
This will help you rank your low-competition
pages, money pages, or both.
So the way we're going to discover these keywords
is by finding pages that have already generated
a ton of links, reverse engineer why they might
have had such great success,
and then take that angle but create better content
for some Skyscraper-styled link building.
So let's start by entering some seed keywords
in Keywords Explorer.
Next, I'll go to the Phrase match report to find keywords that contain our seed keywords
in the order they're written.
Now, we're actually going to do the opposite
of what we did for low-competition keywords.
We're going to set a minimum Keyword Difficulty
score to something high like 70.
And the reason why we're doing this is because
Ahrefs' Keyword Difficulty score is calculated
by taking a weighted average of the number of
referring domains pointing at the top-ranking pages.
Meaning, the higher the KD score, the more
links there are pointing at the top 10 pages.
And I can't take credit for this little hack.
This is something that Gael Breton from Authority
Hacker shared with me at a conference last year,
so thank you.
Again, I'm going to sort this keyword list
by parent topic to group our list
of potential link-bait topics together.
Now, to remove some of the ultra long-tail
keywords in this list,
I'm going to set a filter to only show keywords with
at least 100 monthly searches.
Rather than scanning the keyword ideas column,
I'm going to scan the parent topic column.
And that's because we're looking for topics
to create link-worthy pieces on,
rather than keywords to target.
For example, we could create a tool that's
a "weight loss calculator."
And you'll see below are a bunch of branded
queries that we probably won't go after,
so I'll go to the next page.
Then we see a couple topics on losing weight
and losing weight fast.
Based on the SERP for this topic, a well-researched
guide with a case study might
work well to generate links.
Now, looking further, we have the parent topic
of "fitness tracker."
And based on the keyword ideas under this
parent topic, I'm guessing this has something
to do with fitness tracker reviews and comparisons.
Now, since most affiliates aren't actually
buying the products, testing them, and reporting back,
that's something I might do to gain a bit of an edge
and have plenty of link prospects to reach out to.
Now, in terms of the SEO strategy that goes
along with these link-bait style pages,
I'll link up our video on "The Middleman Method"
in the description
so you can carry this out to completion.
Finally are finding money terms.
Find money terms for your money pages.
Now, "money" terms will vary depending on the
nature of your business.
For example, an Ecommerce store might want
to rank for keywords that have transactional intent
like "buy product name."
And an affiliate site might want to rank for
queries that include words like "best," "top,"
"comparison," "vs," or "review."
So assuming our fitness and weight loss website
monetizes through affiliate commissions,
I'll go to a filterless version of the Phrase match report
and add those keywords in the Include filter.
I'll also want to set the option to "Any word"
so I can see all phrases that mention any
of these words.
And just like that, I have a massive list of keywords
that would be easy plugs for affiliate products
like "best fitness tracker," "best fitness watch," and more.
From here, you can create your own combination
of filters to target low-competition keywords,
keywords with decent search volume, or both.
Again, sift through the list, add checkmarks
to anything that interests you, and create a new list.
I'll call this list "weight loss money keywords."
At this point, you should have a ton of keyword ideas.
But not all of them will be worth going after.
So let's move on to the next step, which is
to identify search intent
Identify search intent for each keyword in your list.
for each of the keywords on your list.
Search intent basically means the reason behind
a searcher's query.
And here's a rule to follow when doing SEO.
If you can't match what searchers want, then
don't go after that keyword.
The easiest way to identify search intent
is to look at the top 10 ranking pages
for your target keyword.
Most of the time, you'll notice that all or most pages
follow the same content format and type.
For example, looking at the top 3 results
for "how to lose weight," you can tell just
by reading the titles that all of the pages
are informational blog posts.
If you have a blog and can write a guide on
then yes, you can fulfill search intent.
Whereas a query like, "fitness equipment," shows product and category pages for Ecommerce stores.
If you don't have an Ecommerce store, then
don't bother going after this query
because you won't be able to match search intent.
There's no proven trick around this and it
literally takes 10 seconds to do, so do it
for all keywords that you're interested in
going after and make a note of search intent.
Now, if you set up a list in Keywords Explorer
like I did earlier, then instead of Googling
every single keyword, you can just click on
the SERP button to see the top 10 ranking pages
and infer search intent from the titles.
Assess the ranking difficulty.
This brings us to the next step, which is
to assess ranking difficulty.
Now, SEO and ranking on Google is like a game.
Certain levels are easy to beat.
And others require you to level up before
you can beat the bigger bosses.
For example, if you couldn't see the health
bar for your opponents,
then you'd have no idea what it would take to win.
In the same way, you need to know who you're
so you'll know what it takes to outrank them.
And for that reason, you need SEO metrics
to create some sort of predictability in ranking.
The way we assess ranking difficulty is by analyzing
the SEO metrics of the top 10 ranking pages.
Now, there are 3 things you need to look at.
First are the number of referring domains,
which are unique websites linking to the page.
Second is the authority of the ranking domains.
And third is topical relevance of the top
ranking pages and websites.
Let's run through some examples here.
If we look at the SERP for "weight loss workout
for men," you'll see that there aren't a whole
lot of unique websites linking to the pages.
In fact, this one here has zero links, yet
ranks pretty high.
Not bad on that front.
Next is to look at the authority of the ranking domains.
And we can do this by using the DR or Domain
which represents the overall strength of a website's backlink profile.
Looking through the results, you'll see these
two with low-ish Domain Ratings at 34
which have managed to rank pretty high in the organic
And with a little bit of link building, they can probably
Finally, we'll look at the relevance of the
top ranking pages
as well as their domains as a whole.
Just by looking at the domain names, you can
tell that all of them are related to health and fitness.
So overall, the top pages come from relevant domains.
Now, when we're looking at topical relevance
of the page,
we're focusing on a bit of the on-page SEO part.
And oftentimes, the title will give us enough context
on whether they've optimized for your target keyword.
Generally speaking, people tend to use their
primary keyword in the title
or a modified version of it.
And it looks like only results number 3 and
4 are doing that, which also happen to be
from the lower authority domain.
So as a new or developing website, this might
be an opportunity to leverage specificity
and generate more clicks by speaking to the
So in my opinion, it wouldn't be too difficult
to rank in the top 5 for this keyword
if a) you have a topically relevant domain,
b) you can get some quality backlinks to your page from different websites,
and c) your page is targeted specifically at men.
The last layer to look at here is the Traffic column.
Looking at the topically relevant pages for
our target keyword, you'll see that this page
gets around 2,000 monthly search visits from
the US alone.
Use these numbers to make informed decisions
on whether ranking your page will be worth
your time, money, and effort.
In my opinion, this one is worth the perceived effort.
Now, if we were to do this for another one
of our so-called low-competition topics
like "weight loss workouts for women," then we'll
come up with a slightly different analysis.
For the most part, they seem to have double-digit referring domains,
they all come from highly authoritative websites,
and topical relevance of the pages are quite high.
For example, you'll see that the first two
results from self.com and shape.com don't
have mention of "women's".
But these two websites create content that's
mostly targeted at women.
And these two articles are no different.
The next result from Livestrong is clearly
about workouts for women.
Then the one from bodybuilding.com doesn't
appear to be targeted at a specific gender,
but when you look at the content, you'll see
that the writer wrote it for women, by saying,
"But for some reason when we women decide
it's time to lose fat," blah blah blah.
So all things considered, this may not be
as "easy" of a keyword to rank for considering
the current competition in the top 10.
But looking at the global traffic potential,
you might think that getting somewhere in
the ballpark range of 10,000 monthly search
visits would be well worth the work.
This is why it's important you analyze every
single topic before you start creating content.
If you're going to spend hours writing a new
piece or spend hundreds or thousands of dollars
for production, then it's important to know
what you're getting yourself into.
Now, after you've qualified your target keywords
and you're ready to start writing,
there's one last piece to keyword research that
I highly recommend.
And that's to extract subtopics based on the
keyword rankings from the top 5 relevant pages.
By looking at the keyword rankings for the
top pages, you can essentially get "clues"
of related subtopics you should include in your post.
So using the example of "weight loss workouts
for women," I'll click through on the keywords
number to see this page's organic rankings.
To keep things relevant, I'll set a filter to only
that rank in positions 1 through 5.
Now, it's important to note that this step
isn't about stuffing keywords in your post.
Instead, use it to form an angle for your
post, and extract subtopics that you should
cover throughout your content.
For example, you'll see that people searching
for this are likely beginners,
they want a routine for the gym,
and an interesting angle to take might be to create it as a one-week workout plan.
Take all of these points, create an outline,
and you'll have a data-driven way to create your content.
As you can see, keyword research isn't rocket science, but it's a process.
And there is a ton of different ways to do it.
So I highly recommend digging through some
of our other keyword research tutorials
on topics like long-tail keywords and mapping
keywords to your sales funnel.
And before we wrap this up, make sure to like,
share, and subscribe for more actionable SEO
and marketing tutorials like this one.
And if you have any questions on keyword research,
leave one in the comments below and I'd
be happy to help.
So keep grinding away, and I'll see you in
the next tutorial.