How To Find Low-Competition Keywords
Do you want to rank higher in the search engines?
Part of the secret is choosing the right keywords — the terms your audience are searching for — and creating content around those keywords.
But there’s a challenge:
If you choose very popular keywords that everybody is chasing, you don’t stand a chance of ranking. There’s just too much competition.
It’s easy to rank for terms that nobody is searching for. But there’s no point, obviously!
So how do you find keywords that enough people are searching for to make them worthwhile, but not so competitive that they are impossible to rank for?
And how do you find keywords that everybody else hasn’t found already?
That’s what we’re going to cover in this article, but first a few basics (skip this bit if you’re already familiar with long-tail keywords, Google Keyword Planner, and scraping Google Search Autocomplete & Related Searches and go straight to the new keyword research tools).
Long tail vs short tail keywords
A long-tail keyword is simply a longer, more specific keyword.
Long-tail keywords have several benefits over short-tail keywords:
- There is less competition for a long-tail term such as “mens black brogues size 10”, than there is for a head term like “shoes”.
- It excludes irrelevant searches. For example, if somebody is searching for “apple” do they mean the company, or the fruit (or the tree, or the record label)? If they search for “apple iphone 6”, it’s quite clear where their interest lies.
- Long tail keywords can find people who are later in the buying cycle, and more ready to buy. For example, somebody searching for “tents” is probably early in the buying cycle, just starting to research what they want. Whereas somebody who searches for “North Face Kaiju 4 person tent” already knows what they want, and is more likely to be ready to buy.
So as well as being easier to rank for, long-tail keywords are potentially more valuable to you.
And over 70% of Google searches are for long-tail keywords, so added together they have more search volume than short-tail.
But how do you find these long-tail keywords?
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
The traditional approach to keyword research was to use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You enter a few ‘seed’ keywords, and the AdWords KeyWord Planner will come up with some more suggestions for you, together with estimates of traffic volume, and an indication of how competitive (or difficult to rank for) each keyword is.
There is a problem with this approach though — it shows the same results to everybody, including your competitors.
So everybody looks for the terms with decent search volume, and not too much competition, and suddenly everybody is targeting the same keywords!
That doesn’t mean the AdWords Keyword Planner is useless, far from it. But we need a new way to find possible keywords.
We can then use the Keyword Planner data to help us choose the best keywords from the list of possibles.
And we can use these keyword ideas to seed new keyword ideas in Google Keyword Planner, and get even more keyword ideas.
Google Autocomplete and Related Searches
When you start to enter a search term into Google, it will offer some autocomplete suggestions for what you might be looking for:
These are all possible long-tail keyword ideas for you. There are tools such as Ubersuggest that will help you find all the Google suggestions from autocomplete.
However, these are only keywords that begin with the phrase you enter. It would not come up with “easy noodle recipes” for example, which might be a perfect keyword for you.
Google also has other suggestions, that don’t necesarily begin with the phrase you entered, but arerelated to it. To see these, you need to go to the bottom of the search results page, where you will see them under the heading Related Searches.
To make it easy, there are tools such as keyword.io that will scrape all the suggestions from Google related searches for you.
All of these suggestions are possible keywords for you.
But this procedure (Google KeyWord Planner, Google Search Autocomplete, and Related Searches) is pretty standard practice, and has been for a long time. You’re still going to get pretty much the same keyword ideas as everybody else.
We need some new, off-the-beaten track ways of finding keyword ideas, that are not the same as everybody else has already found using the methods above.
3 New Tools for Keyword Research
Answer the Public
Answer The Public is a really cool tool, as you’ll find out as soon as you see the home page animation.
Answer the Public takes your keyword, and prefaces it with prepositions such as ‘for’, ‘like’, ‘near’, ‘with’, ‘without’ etc. to come up with some more keyword ideas which it presents in a neat ‘wheel’, although you can also download the suggestions as a list.
There’s a whole heap of long-tail keywords for you, based on prepositions that people will commonly use in their search queries.
But what’s really cool, is it also comes up with suggestions based on questions such as ‘what’, ‘which’, ‘where’, ‘how’, ‘are’ etc.
Another whole raft of long-tail keywords for you, that match what people are likely to search for.
Since the Hummingbird update, Google has placed increasing emphasis on content that answers people’s questions.
If you can include answers to popular questions in your content, you stand a better chance of ranking. And even better, if you provide a concise, authoritative answer you may even achieve a covetedFeatured Snippet listing (position zero in the search results, above number one!)
TIP: A really good strategy for increasing your search engine rankings (and maybe even getting a featured snippet), is to pick a number of popular questions, and answer them in your content. You can do this in the form of a ‘Question & Answer’ section or maybe ‘FAQs’. Just pick half a dozen or so questions, and list them, together with a short answer.
Answer the Public gets it’s questions from the search engines. FAQ Fox gets it’s questions from other sites, where people go to ask questions, such as Quora or Reddit. Bingo — a whole new set of questions to answer, and more potential long-tail keywords.
This tool isn’t actually new, it’s just new to me (and I must thank Elisa Gabbert for her excellent articleon the WordStream blog that actually brought all three of these tools to my attention).
It’s my new favourite tool!
KW Finder not only finds keyword suggestions, it also gives very useful information on how competitive a given keyword is (both for SEO and for PPC), and search volume data as well.
Not only that, it shows the top Google Results for each keyword, and an analysis of their domain strength, number of backlinks, Facebook Likes etc, to give you an idea of how likely you are to be able to compete with them.
If KWFinder doesn’t come up itself with the keywords you want to analyse, you can enter any keyword you’ve found into it to get a competitive analysis and see how easy or difficult it would be to rank for.
KW Finder is free to use, but you can only do so many searches a day with the free version. If you need more you need to subscribe which starts at $29 per month.
Long Tail Pro
Although the focus of this article is on new, free tools, there is one tool that’s neither new nor free, but it’s so useful it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
Long Tail Pro is possibly the single most useful tool for keyword research, and it’s now a firm favourite of mine. And although it is a paid product, it’s not expensive at $37 per month, and there is a $1 trial.
At that price you’d be silly not to try it and see what you think. You can probably get a couple of projects done for the one dollar, and then end it there if you like – you get 10 days. Although you’ll probably end up keeping it.
Long Tail Pro works with Google Keyword Planner data (you will need to create an AdWords account if you don’t already have one, but it’s free) to get search volume data and keyword suggestions, and with Majestic for backlinks and SEO data.
That’s what’s really good about Long Tail Pro — it integrates keyword research and SEO metrics all in one place, which will save you a lot of time.
You enter your seed keywords, and any additional keywords (such as the long-tail ones you may have discovered using the tools above), and Long Tail Pro will go off and find the number of people searching for each keyword, analyse the Google SERPs for each one, and give you an idea of how difficult it will be to rank for.
As well as that, it will also check the availability of the domain name for each one.
It saves hours, and is quite literally a gold mine. I recommend you take the $1 Trial and see for yourself.
What have you got to lose – the price of half a cup of coffee!
Putting it all together — a keyword research strategy for 2016
Don’t let my comments at the beginning about Google Keyword Planner put you off using it. It’s still a very useful tool, if you use it the right way.
Sure, just typing in a keyword like “home insurance” and using it to generate long-tail keyword ideas for you isn’t going to work very well, for the reasons explained earlier.
But it’s still very useful for getting search volume data, which is helpful when choosing which of the many keywords you’ve found to focus on (although you should take these estimates with a pinch of salt, they are still useful in indicating the relative search volumes of different keywords, even if the absolute estimates are a little off).
How to use AdWords Keyword Planner
If you want a detailed tutorial on how to use KeyWords Planner, you can do no better than Brian Dean’s excellent article on Backlinko. If you don’t have an AdWords account, you will need one to use the KeyWord Planner, but it’s no problem, you can just create one.
This is slightly more complicated than it used to be, because you have to actually create a live AdWords Campaign as part of the process! This puts many people off, as it looks as if you have to actually advertise in order to use the tool. You don’t — you can just setup the campaign and then pause it before it runs so you don’t have to spend a penny.
It is about 15 minutes work to setup, and it’s a bit of a pain having to create a fictitious ad campaign, but it’s worth the effort. And you might find you want to advertise on AdWords anyway — it’s a much faster and more reliable way than SEO to get traffic!
And there are a couple of little tweaks that can encourage it to spit out some useful long-tail keywords, that it may not find ordinarily.
The first one is to feed some of it’s own long-tail keyword suggestions back in to it as seed keywords. This will make it generate new keywords, that weren’t in the original suggestions.
The second one is to put a competitor’s landing page in the ‘your landing page’ field (because you presumably don’t have one yet for this keyword). Try a few of the pages that rank highly in Google for terms like the ones you are considering using.
That will make Keyword planner come up with some more keywords that you know have been successful for similar content.
The best way is to combine all 4 tools to come up with a long list of keyword suggestions, and then screen them for competitive difficulty, and reasonable search volume, using KW Finder and Keyword Planner, to end up with your final keyword list.
What you’re looking for these days, is a number of semantically-related keywords, that you can weave your content around, rather than just one keyword.
You’ll come up with so many keywords using this method, that when you’ve refined them down by making your own choices, you’re unlikely to have picked the exact same keywords as everybody else. But you should have found a good selection of long-tail keywords without too much competition, and with a reasonable search volume between them.