How to Find Low-Competition Keywords for SEO
Targeting solid keywords is your bread and butter when it comes to search engine optimization.
But of course, you can’t just get any keyword. There is always a compromise – how much traffic can it pull compared to its competitiveness?
Below you can find a guide that can help you make the most out of your keyword research efforts.
Two disclaimers and a glossary
Finding a low-competition keyword that brings in lots of traffic is difficult. However, it is far from impossible. With enough luck and effort, you just might find that unicorn of a keyword that none of your competitors noticed.
Our second point is that some parts of this guide will use Ahrefs’s SEO toolsets as examples. This is not an endorsement; it’s simply using a very popular and long-tail powerful tool whose features other platforms of its type should share.
Here are some Ahrefs metrics we will be using throughout this article:
Quality backlinks and referring domains – refers to the DR of websites that lead to your own pages and posts. Compare popular and respected sites with high traffic like Forbes to a random blog. A link from the former will increase your site’s DR and push extra visitors to your site. Links from the latter won’t do much.
Domain Rating (DR) – Here used interchangeably with the “strength” of a website. Ahrefs defines this as a combination of the quantity and quality of backlinks (inbound links) that lead to your site. Roughly put, the higher your DR, the easier it is to rank for certain terms and to acquire more traffic.
Keyword competitiveness/Keyword difficulty (KD) – Includes (among other things) how many high DR websites use these keywords. Specifically, Ahrefs’ KD metric represents how many backlinks you need in order to rank for this keyword.
Note that some of these are Ahrefs terms we are using as examples, but the metrics and phenomena they signify are vital for SEO work.
The importance of low comp keywords
Finding low-competition keywords with strong volumes can be difficult, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Slowly building your site’s authority through easy-to-rank-for keywords means greater long-term benefits, better backlink options, and, of course, higher traffic.
Even if the keywords you want are really low-hanging fruit, you have to start somewhere. Choosing keywords that are too difficult means you won’t rank for them at all, thus gaining zero traffic and zero backlinks.
Once you get a stronger site, you can slowly push the envelope and start focusing on terms that are more difficult but also more rewarding.
Prep work – Strategizing
Searching for low-competition keywords takes up a solid chunk of time and effort. Before you dive into keyword research aspects, you need to figure out how much you actually need this (or whether you should focus on “heavier” keywords).
Check out the following list, figure out if your website (or your client’s website) has some, or a combination, of the following:
Very low domain rating (Below 25)
- Highly competitive niche (Most of your competition has DRs higher than 80)
- Limited resources (In terms of both time and money)
Simplifying things a bit, the lower your domain rating, the more time and effort you need to invest into finding easier keywords. Breaking into competitive niches is already difficult and chipping away at your niche bit by bit can be helpful. Having limited resources, for example, means you can’t really risk too much time and money with terms that have too low a chance to rank.
Of course, time is also a limited resource. Do you actually have the energy in order to find low-comp keywords? Can you do it yourself, or should you delegate? Should you perhaps switch some tasks to a trustworthy web design and development company while letting yourself and your employees focus on keyword research? Can you get some assistance and advice from third parties on how to make finding low-difficulty keywords easier?
Ok, now let’s get on with actual, direct work. Once you understand the importance of “easier” keywords, you need to get some ideas.
Sit down in front of your computer, or over a piece of paper, and put a couple of reminders at the very top. Write down what your niche is and some basic info on your target audience. This means you will never lose sight of the most important terms for you. Then, you start typing.
Let it all flow out. Get ten to twenty terms in front of you, don’t overthink things. Read it all out loud, and think again if you might have missed something. Finally, mark 10 ideas you believe are valid.
Analyze your target community
Let’s do some out-of-the-box thinking now. If you are having trouble creating ideas, or simply want to cover all of your bases thoroughly, go back to your demographics. Check out the communities that have been built around your niche for ideas.
For example, tech-focused forums, subreddits, and message boards contain a wealth of knowledge and ideas. Keep an eye on the most popular posts, see what terms they use in their headlines and questions.
Check out Facebook groups associated with popular technical websites and with a lot of members. Read Wikis from subreddits dedicated to your niche, and keep an eye on their FAQ section for keyword ideas. Track keyword hashtags on tech product announcements for extra brainstorming.
Another idea is checking out reviews on Amazon and eBay, or Craigslist and AliExpress. Quora can give you some long-tail question keyword ideas as well.
This strategy is great not only for low-competition keywords, but keyword research in general. In fact, it’s a godsend for ultra-specific niches. No matter how much you know about a specific niche, there is a hobbyist out there who teaches an advanced course on it.
Use tools to filter things out
Now, the above brainstorming and idea gathering steps can either last for a very long time, or not at all, depending on where your website is at, how specific your niche is, and just plain old luck. However, once you finally have a solid set of keywords, we strongly suggest you use some term explorer tools to cover your basics.
As we’ve mentioned above, we are using Ahrefs as our example for term explorers. However, most term explorers work similarly. You put some keyword ideas into an appropriate field, and the tool will analyze their difficulty or competitiveness, how much traffic you can expect, as well as (most importantly) similar, slightly modified keywords with their own metrics.
Most likely, the tool you’re using has some type of keyword difficulty or competitiveness filter. Set it something low, like 25 out of 100 (using Ahrefs as an example).
Once you have done this, go at it. Check the data you have been given. Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty metric represents a (rough) estimate of how many backlinks or referring domains you need in order to rank for that keyword.
If you’re not happy with your results, experiment a little. Modify your terms, test out long tail keywords, see what pops up. Changing your keywords by adding words like “best” might help you out. Perhaps changing a keyword into a question will yield better results.
For example – let’s say you want to rank for “best mattresses”, but the competition is just too strong. Maybe try “best latex mattress”, or “queen size mattress”. Going plural might do the trick as well.
Check out what your competition is doing
Another neat trick you can try is checking what your competition is doing. Using Ahrefs as an example again, you can use it to get some ideas on the terms your competitors are using.
Find a topic one of your competitors already dealt with. Scan the article with Ahrefs, check out its organic keywords through this tool. This gives you a strong idea of which terms your competitors are ranking for, their difficulty levels, and how much volume they pick up.
You can do this without specialized software, though it’s a bit harder. Scan your competitions’ content, and try to get an idea of which keywords they might have used. Look at their meta descriptions, their headlines, the terms they use in their H tags
Of course, an important caveat here is how much authority these sites have. If websites have a Domain Rating that’s too strong (75 or higher) then, sadly, it doesn’t really matter what they do.
Especially keep an eye on competitors who have recently been very close to you in terms of DR and traffic and who suddenly rose through the ranks. They must be doing something right, and you can learn from them.
For example, maybe they found the right balance when it comes to keyword difficulty. Perhaps you aimed too low (15 keyword difficulty) and missed out on those with stronger volumes, or too high (50 and up) and did not rank at all. Your competition, on the other hand, is getting great results with keywords of an average difficulty of 30.
Of course, you need to eliminate other factors (unrelated to finding low comp keywords). Maybe your competition has lower loading speeds, or uses a different article format.
Highly competitive keywords – a closing note
Let’s imagine your site is young, with a low DR. It’s been up for less than six months, and its DR is barely above 25. It stands to reason that it should focus on easier keywords. That doesn’t mean you should ignore stronger terms with greater competition altogether.
Here’s the thing – this guide is supposed to help you strengthen your website so you (or your clients) can, later on, rank for heavier keywords. Peppering your blogs with an average to hard term from time to time is pretty useful. Namely, covering a difficult term from time to time means:
- You’re not restricting your content
- You are already prepared
- You might just get lucky
A difficult, competitive term might just be necessary if you want your website to provide accurate and relevant information. You can avoid a specific topic only so much until it just seems strange you aren’t covering something vital.
Furthermore, you do this all with the hope of your website getting stronger. By having a strong keyword already in place, it can help you snowball further.
And there you have it folks – a guide on getting the best low-competition keywords for your website. Of course, every situation is different.
As mentioned above, maybe you’re going to need five minutes of brainstorming to get solid ideas. On the other hand, digging deep and trying to find the right terms might take up the majority of your time.
Maybe you’ll spend a couple of weeks adding low-comp keywords, or maybe it’s going to take months. It’s all up to your situation, your hard work, and lady luck.
Thomas Wilsom is a digital marketing specialist and freelance writer. Passionate about marketing, technology and business in general. In his free time, he writes about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.