I remember the first time I started lifting weights.
After buying some suitably fresh lycra and Nikes, I began my strength-building journey by attempting 80kgs on the leg press.
My knees buckled, and the plate didn’t budge. And why would it? My muscles were yet to have the strength to lift more than my body weight, and so I began with 30kgs instead.
Slowly, I worked my way up to master 40kgs, then 60kgs, then 80kgs, and now I’m comfortably uncomfortable pressing 100kgs.
The point of this story isn’t to boast of my gluteal and quad strength.
I have a different point to make, and that point is this:
The truth about long tail keywords versus competitive keywords
Long-tail keywords are those niche search terms that are very, very specific to a particular product or service, like SEO Copywriter in Melbourne or ‘fluffy pink kimono’. These keywords generally have a lower search volume compared to similar, industry specific keywords, and are therefore easier to rank for.
Using my gym analogy again, it’s like going for the lighter weights before you start bench-pressing with the pros.
Although SEO is unlikely to result in injury, small wins are motivating and are a great place to begin your journey.
So let’s say you’ve finally conquered those small wins. You’ve climbed your way to the top of page #1 of Google for your niche search terms, but now you want more website traffic.
It’s time to start mastering those competitive keywords that have a higher search volume, and consequently, will give your website a much-required traffic boost of potential happy customers.
Let’s look at how it can be achieved.
How to conquer competitive keywords
Step one: Analyse competitiveness
When you’re using Google Keyword Planner, you’ll find three columns to pay attention to.
Average monthly searches, competition and suggested bid.
Average monthly searches, or keyword search volume, helps you understand demand for a keyword, and indicates a high amount of traffic.
On the flip side, more search volume can bring more competition, as other websites and advertisers try to target the same keyword.
But, as you can see in the example above, this isn’t the case for ‘Pink Heels’.
It has a medium search volume of 100-1k, yet is still deemed highly competitive. By looking at the suggested bid column, we can see that a lot of advertisers are targeting this keyword. That’s why it has a suggested bid of over $1, which for this keyword, is actually quite high.
This is what makes it a competitive keyword.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to rank organically for this keyword. Google Keyword Planner’s competition metric can be a great indicator of a keyword’s difficulty to rank, but it’s not always the most reliable. This is because the tool is meant to provide data for advertisers, not organic SEO results.
Another way to analyse the competitiveness of a keyword is to use MOZ’s Keyword Explorer.
In the example below for Pink Heels, we can see that particular search term has a difficulty score of 26, an organic click through rate of 69%, and a priority score of 62.
When it comes to prioritising keywords to rank for, I always refer to MOZ. This is because their data is specifically meant to benefit those seeking organic rankings, and not advertisers, making it much more appropriate for my needs.
Step two: Survey the landscape
After you’ve shortlisted a keyword to rank for, it’s time to look at those websites currently ranking for that keyword. It’s easy to find them – just Google the search term yourself!
By analysing what your competitors are doing, you’re then able to understand what elements of your own content are important to optimise.
The goal isn’t to copy what they’re doing, but to understand what work will be required to boost your own rankings.
Common elements to look at include:
- All metadata (title tags, image alt tags, H1 tags, meta descriptions, content length, keyword diversity, internal links).
- Who’s linking to them? It’s easy to find out which other websites are linking back to your competitors, which is hugely beneficial for SEO. For this activity, I recommend using Open Site Explorer, which is free to use. You simply enter a URL, and it tells you what websites are sharing the link love. Easy!
- Type of content. Have they included video? Images? Do they provide a case study, or have they drafted an extensive list of Q&As?
Step three: Create educational content
One of the best ways to rank for a competitive keyword is to publish educational material that informs your reader.
Dr Chris Moss in Melbourne has used this tactic with aplomb, with his page on nose jobs currently ranking #1 in Melbourne for the keyword ‘rhinoplasty’, and ranking #4 nationally.
Take a look at these metrics in Moz.
That’s a HUGE monthly search volume.
As you can see in the second image above, this web page doesn’t have a huge amount of back links.
And although backlinks are one of Google’s top ranking factors, it is possible to rank highly without a huge backlink portfolio, just as we can see above.
The aim is to make sure your content answers questions a reader may have, like Dr Moss does. With those answers, your aim is to overcome objections to purchasing, encourage them to stay on the page, and click-through to other parts of your website.
Not only does this web page provide examples of his work, this particular page focuses on demystifying the art and science of rhinoplasty. As a high-investment and high-risk purchase, there’s a significantly higher barrier to entry than purchasing a pair of pink heels online. Readers would be wondering, 'What could go wrong? How much will it cost? Who is performing the surgery, and how qualified are they?'
This article does a great job of addressing those barriers to book a consultation.
The article begins by explaining what rhinoplasty is, the appeal of the surgery, and focuses on the personalised service that Dr Moss offers.
There are also links to look at more before and after images. This technique hits two birds with one stone - it boosts click-throughs with internal linking, and also showcases his work with past patients.
Scrolling down past that first section, Dr Moss then answers a list of common questions to help the reader make a decision with knowledge and confidence. Each answer is hidden behind a drop-down section, which helps with userability. After all, people don’t want to be scrolling all day on a page to find answers to their questions.
This creates a three-fold effect:
- It provides users with a content-rich experience that’s informative;
- Increases the amount and diversity of keywords on the page, and;
- Increases the likelihood of acquiring a Google featured snippet, which is usually a question-based query that stands out compared to other listings.
Step four: Build your backlinks
Although it’s possible to rank for a keyword without a large list of backlinks, more high quality backlinks are always better than none.
Two quick ways to build your back link portfolio:
- Reach out to sites linking to your competitors, and ask them to link back to you. It’s easy to create a template and customise it for each recipient, and always, always be graceful.
- Subscribe to Source Bottle as an expert, and ask journalists to link back to your content when interviewed for comment.
Aiming for those coveted keywords requires considerably more effort and time than the lower hanging fruit. But with a strategic mindset, a desire to serve and assist, and high standards for content production, you too can boost your brand’s search visibility.