How to Do Keyword Research for a NEW Website (Full Tutorial)
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Which keywords should you target when you're just starting out?...
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. Stay tuned. [music] 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. 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.
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 Keywords Explorer. 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." 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.
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 generate backlinks. 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. 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. Much better. 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 branded queries. So let's exclude these from our keyword list by clicking on the Exclude filter.
And I'll type "planet" and apply the 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 Difficulty score. 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. 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.
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. 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.
"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 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 losing weight, 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. This brings us to the next step, which is to assess ranking difficulty.
and infer search intent from the titles. 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 up against 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 Rating metric, 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 search results. And with a little bit of link building, they can probably be outranked. 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.
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 target audience. 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.
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 show keywords 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.
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