Search engine optimization, or “SEO” is the process of structuring your content and your site in a way that search engines understand and in a way that aligns with the best user experience as judged by search engines. This process details exactly how to make your blog searchable on Google with WordPress sites.
Though many new bloggers shun SEO in the beginning stages of blogging, SEO and SEO keyword research are exactly what we should start our blogs with from day one. 40% of all traffic on the internet goes through Google and Google chooses which site to guide users to for specific searches based on the sites’ and posts’ SEO.
If appealing to 40% of the traffic on the internet isn’t enough to spark your interests, then understanding the long-lasting effects of SEO should.
An Instagram post has an average “lifespan”, or period of maximum visibility for ~21 hours. A Facebook post shows up for roughly 5 hours before the original post ceases to be seen in most cases. A tweet on Twitter remains popular for about 18 minutes. On the other hand, a ranking result in Google can literally last for years thanks to SEO, and the same post can be “refreshed” several times for improved rankings.
This comparison between “digital marketing channels” clearly illustrates how the effort of understanding SEO is well worth the payoff and the best place to invest your digital marketing time, money, and energy.
In this section, we’ll get you started understanding the basics and essentials of SEO and SEO keyword research with the goal of getting your posts ranked highly in Google and generating search engine traffic as the primary source of traffic to your site.
IN THIS ARTICLE: HOW TO MAKE YOUR BLOG SEARCHABLE ON GOOGLE WORDPRESS
- Introduction to SEO: What it is, why it is the most important tool for your site
- The Elements of SEO: SEO Keywords, On Page SEO, SERP CTR, Internal Links and External Links
- Understanding SEO Keywords: What makes a good, low competition SEO keywords, and why they’re important
- Understanding User Intent: What it is, and how to research it for an SEO Keyword
- The Essential Tools for SEO: Keysearch/SEMRush, Google Analytics, and Google Search
THE TAKEAWAYS & FACTS UP FRONT
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be your #1 focus for driving traffic as 40% of internet traffic passes through Google
- Understanding SEO keywords is imperative to successful, sustainable blogging
- Research your SEO keywords before writing any content
Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO” for short, is the process of understanding how to make your blog searchable on google as a wordpress site, then optimizing your content with the right structure and appropriate words so that search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) easily understand what your content is about, categorize it accordingly, and present your posts and content as results in the search.
Good SEO consists of keyword research, on page optimization with the target keyword, technical SEO (for fast page load speed and making the posting easily scannable by search engines), and off page SEO (link building and search engine signaling).
The ultimate goal of SEO is to land on the first page of Google, as high up in the search rankings as possible. This SEO performance results in higher visibility and more traffic to your site.
INTRODUCTION TO SEO: WHY DOES SEO MATTER?
- 40% of all internet traffic goes through Google
- Ranking higher translates to significantly more traffic
- Google is where users go to solve problems
- SEO provides the ability to target intent (e.g., purchase intent) based on keywords
- SEO delivers longer traffic life compared to other social media channels
- 40% of all internet traffic goes through Google
Google is a powerhouse on the internet thanks to how it has indexed nearly every website on the internet according to topics, usefulness, and the problems those individual pieces of content solve. 40% of traffic on the internet to be exact.
Because of this massive chunk of internet traffic and users, it makes sense to prioritize SEO as your #1 channel for gaining readers.
- Ranking higher translates to significantly more traffic
Though we could simply write freely and hope to rank in Google, SEO is a tool that enables us to approach Google with a proven, strategic process to rank as high as possible.
But does ranking higher matter that much?
Yes. Yes, it does.
Most users follow the same patterns and habits on the internet, one important pattern is to choose rather quickly between the first few choices presented in any situation. In the case of search engine results, this translates to the result presented in the #1 position being clicked over the other options 30% of the time and page 1 of the search results receive 75% of the clicks for the keyword. So, despite the fact that there may be hundreds of thousands or millions of results in the search, the first 10 of those million receive 75% of all clicks.
The takeaway is SEO is worth executing to rise to the top of that pile because of how many clicks the top rankings take.
- Google is where users go to solve problems making content creation much easier
Most users go to social media with no idea of what they want, but generally desire entertainment. Their attention spans are short and it is very difficult to target that kind of intention (or lack of it) with content.
With search engines, users are aiming for something very specific. Usually a topic to be educated on a or a very specific problem to be solved and the commitment upfront to read through an entire article, as long as it is engaging and informative. This intention of the user makes it much easier for us to write something responding to that need.
Creating content that responds directly to that need becomes easier than it would be on social media and makes it easier to rank in Google and search results than it is to go “viral” on social media.
- SEO provides the ability to target intent (e.g., purchase intent) based on keywords
Because users go to Google and other search engines with a very specific intention (e.g., have a question answered, research a purchase, learn on a specific topic) it becomes much easier to write focused articles that target that single need specifically. This ability to reverse engineer intent (based on SEO keywords) makes it much easier to align our content to the needs of the user.
What is the value of targeting intent? If we wish to market a new product or service, we can identify specific keywords to gain the attention of readers that are likely to be interested in our product or service. For instance, if we are selling laptops, “best laptops for…”, “laptop comparisons for…”, and “what to look for in a laptop” are all keyphrases that will put our content directly in front of our target market.
- SEO delivers longer traffic life compared to other social media channels
Most social media posts garner traffic for less than 24 hours, peaking and dying within a single day.
On the other hand, search engine traffic takes up to 9 months to reach its peak traffic levels (or highest point in SERP results) and can remain there for 2 years easily. Also, with content refreshes, for accuracy and changing searcher intent, SEO traffic can be sustained for old posts indefinitely.
This potential for enduring traffic makes SEO a much better investment of your time, energy, and resources for driving traffic to your blog.
- Longtail SEO keywords give us the opportunity to rank easily and drive traffic with minimal
70% of search engine searches and traffic are driven by “longtail keywords” that are low competition and easy to rank for. Though these keywords don’t generally drive as much traffic, writing several pieces of content targeting longtail keywords can quickly and steadily drive traffic to your site quicker than writing for higher volume, high competition keywords, and more efficiently than writing to target social media.
- We can go back and clean up our content based on “SEO feedback”
The biggest benefit of SEO is the feedback loop and the ability to “try again.” Thanks to SEO metrics like Click Through Rate (CTR) from Google, time on page, impressions, clicks, average position, and the ability to see all of the keywords a piece of content ranks for, we can constantly tweak content to improve each metric and overall performance with the goal of experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. However, our true goal is to perfectly align our content with the needs of users in a way that Google sees. The analytic we receive from SEO allow us to do this. With this secret weapon, even content that flops at the start can be polished and pivoted to create high performing content that drives traffic.
ESSENTIAL SEO TERMS AND CONCEPTS
SEO is a seemingly complex topic but it is actually fairly simple and straight forward once you understand the major underlying concepts and terms. Before we get into how to rock your blog via SEO, let’s go through some essential terms and concepts that you need to know.
Though the following section will suffice as an introduction and we will delve further into each of these throughout the rest of the book, I highly recommend researching each term thoroughly on its own (outside of this book) to gain an in depth understanding of each concept.
Essential Concepts in SEO
- SEO Keywords
- On page optimization
- Technical SEO
- Off Page SEO
- Search CTR
- Time on Page
- Searcher intent & Relevance (to search)
- Latent Semantic Indexing
- EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)
- The Quality Rater Guide (from Google)
- Google search CTR
- The Google Algorithm and Updates
- “The Google Sandbox”
- Stepped rankings (Patent on Google Rankings)
- Search snippets + snippet worthy optimization
- Keyword Research
- Longtail keywords
- Internal Linking
- External Linking + Do Follow + No Follow
SEO keywords, or more commonly referred to as just “keywords” and even “keyphrases” are the basis of SEO and essential to any good SEO strategy. SEO keywords are the words that users search for in search engines (most commonly Google) in hopes of finding specific information to answering a question or fill a need.
Our goal with SEO is to tune our content such that we can signal to search engines what keywords our content best responds to with the ultimate goal of ranking as high as possible in the search results for a specific, targeted SEO keyword. We signal to search engines what our content is about by performing “on page optimization” of posts and pages using our selected SEO keywords (which we’ll explain below).
In order for our pages to rank as highly as possible in the Google search results, we aim to target low competition keywords and longtail keywords that we identify with good, in depth keyword research before writing any content.
On page optimization
On page optimization is the process of placing a target keyword in specific elements of our content (e.g., headers, paragraphs, image attribute tags, etc.) in order to signal to search engines what our content is about, what search terms our content responds to, what “search intents” our content responds to, and ultimately what our content should be ranked highly for.
Though the Google algorithm and the advancing machine learning and artificial intelligence behind it are usually capable of identifying the topic of our content and appropriate terms eventually, we do not want to rely on this as the process of not using on page optimization will lead to longer waits before our posts rank, ranking for fewer search terms overall, and ultimately less traffic overall.
(We provide a full-on page SEO checklist below)
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing the technical elements of your site to make the site easy to use, fast loading, and secure to access with a good user experience along the way. The elements of technical SEO include setting the site up so it can easily be crawled and indexed by search engines, securing the site with SSL encryption, improving how quickly pages load (page speed), optimizing the on sit experience for variously sized mobile devices, adding “Schema.org structured data” (for reviews and snippets in Google), and fixing duplicate content and broken link issues.
Google tracks a handful of metrics that monitor user experience (page speed, time on page, back clicks, etc.) and weighs these metrics and user actions into how highly your content ranks in the Google search results. Because of this, technical SEO is important because the elements are directly weighed into the Google algorithm (e.g., “Mobile First”, Page Speed, etc.) and indirectly (user experience and engagement judged by click through and time on page).
To maximize how highly your content ranks in Google, don’t forget the technical SEO on your site.
Off Page SEO
Off page SEO are the activities we can perform off our site that signal the authority of our site on a topic and in general and related keywords for our content. Backlink building, or the act of getting an external site link back to our site, thus identifying our site as an authority on a topic, is the most common off page SEO tactic.
Off page SEO mostly targets improving a site’s perception as expert, authoritative, and trustworthy in the eyes of readers and Google thus hopefully improving how high the site’s content ranks in search results.
Backlinks are links from external sites back to your site and Google sees this as one site recognizing your site as an “authority” on a specific topic. This process is called passing “link juice”, or one site recognizing the authority of another via outbound links. These links can be “No Follow” or “Do Follow” with “Do Follow” links passing the most benefit of recognizing an “authority” site.
Beware that the activity of “backlink building” can be viewed as a “black hat” SEO tactic (frowned upon) by Google and can potentially have negative effects on your SEO. Beware of artificial link building tactics and where they are on the “white hat to black hat” spectrum in SEO. Never pay for links and generally avoid reciprocal linking to stay on the safe side.
When it comes to gaining backlinks, natural links are the most effective and safe and come from a handful of white hat SEO tools and tactics – Help A Reporter Out (HARO), statistics posts, infographics, and writing exemplary, shareable content. These should be your primary backlink building approaches.
Search “Click Through Rate” (CTR)
Search Click Through Rate is the percentage of users that actually click your result that shows up in Google search compared to the number of users that view that result (impressions). This rate can be calculated as:
Clicks/Impressions = CTR
The CTR in search is important because it is an excellent metric for gauging how well our content is performing in search, testing how we can optimize the elements that show up in search results (Meta description, title, structured data for review stars), and figuring out what we’re doing well.
You can find the search CTR for your site overall or for any specific post in Google Analytics.
Later, we will use the CTR metric to find content that can be quickly and easily updated to drive more traffic via search by improving CTR.
Time on Page
Time on page is the average amount of time any user spends on a specific post. The time on page metric is a great means of understanding how engaging a post is and judge whether the user experience needs to be improved on that specific post.
Searcher intent & Relevance (to search)
Searcher intent is the reason for a user’s search in Google or another search engine. Usually, most of the users searching a single term are hoping to find the same type of answer/result/solution. Searcher intentions tend to fall in the following categories
- Informational Intent: Searching for a solution to a specific problem or answering a specific question
- Purchase Intent: Either researching for a purchase or aiming to purchase at that moment
- Navigational Intent: Aiming to arrive at a specific site
Searcher intent matters to us because if we respond correctly to the intent behind a search, the user will spend more time on our site consuming our content, which is a positive sign for Google and helps us rank higher. If our content does not respond to the purpose the user had in mind then the user will leave more quickly, returning to Google to ask the same question again. Google sees this action (back clicking) which causes us to fall lower in the rankings, losing traffic.
Ultimately, responding to searcher intent within our content leads to a better user experience, better performing content, and better rankings within Google. So, always ensure your content is planned according to the searcher intent behind the keyword.
In our keyword research process (which we review in depth below) we will help you understand how to identify what the intention behind a keyword is before writing your content and how to plan that intention into your content.
Latent Semantic Indexing (in search)
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is a practice that search engines like Google use to identify what keywords, phrases, and expressions used within content correlate with specific SEO keywords and the search intent behind them.
The goal with latent semantic indexing is for search engines to be able to identify content that responds to the intention behind a search keyword even if the content doesn’t use that specific keyword within the content. The result (for writers) is the freedom to write in more natural language while search engines are still able to index the content for the correct topics and intentions.
LSI is an important development to pay attention as it is in its infancy and will continue to alter how SEO is tactically executed in the future. At the present moment, a surface level understanding of LSI is necessary as well as understanding the best tactics for finding “LSI” terms that correlate with search terms that we can use to optimize our content.
In recent Google algorithm updates, Google has expressed more of a concern about not just presenting the most relevant results, but also present the most accurate results especially in categories that it deemed important to “Your Money or Your Life” (e.g., health, financial issues, and safety). To screen for correctness and accuracy, Google now measures sites on E-A-T – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness – as sites that are recognized as exuding these three traits are expected to provide more correct, accurate, and expert information. This is Google’s way of protecting users from low quality content.
For more information read the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
The Google Algorithm and Updates
The Google Algorithm is the algorithm that powers Google’s search, dictating how sites across the internet are ranked. No single engineer knows the entire Google algorithm and most of how the algorithm works is kept secret by Google.
What you should be aware of are the Google algorithm updates. Though the Google algorithm is constantly updated, once or a twice a year a major update is made to the algorithm which dramatically shifts how sites are ranked and which sites maintain or lose their positions. Notable updates have been the Medic update, the Penguin update, the Hummingbird update, the Mobile update, and many more. I highly recommend reading on those four to get a vague idea of what major Google updates are (and the chaos they can cause if you don’t play by the rules).
With any Google update, regardless of how your site fairs out, you should continue writing good, engaging content that responds to your user’s intentions and stay aware of the updates and the changes in prioritizes that Google signals is valuable.
For instance, past updates have targeted PBNs (private blogging networks) and de-ranked sites that use them for SEO tactics, prioritized the mobile user experience as a factor in ranking, prioritized SSL as a factor in ranking, prioritized site speed as a factor in ranking, and countless other major changes that bloggers had to respond to or risk losing their Google Traffic. To be fair, all of these mentioned updates prioritized factors that made for a better user experience and were well worth responding to.
What is the takeaway on Google Algorithm Updates?
You will never understand the entire Google algorithm, but paying attention to Google Algorithm updates will help you adapt and survive in the blogging industry. Ultimately, focus on delivering a good user experience, deliver higher quality than competitors, and continue writing content and you will perform well in the long run.
“The Google Sandbox”
In an effort to ensure that only expert, authoritative, and trustworthy sites (E-A-T) are ranked in Google, Google (unofficially) applies a “sandbox period” to all new websites. Not much is “officially” known about this sandbox period except that it usually lasts for a period of roughly 8 months and during that period it is extremely difficult for a new site to rank in Google search. After this period, with good SEO, the traffic should pour in.
Though the first 8 months of your blog’s existence may not see traffic you should still apply good SEO practices (SEO keyword research and optimization) from Day 1.
Stepped rankings (Patent on Google Rankings)
“Stepped rankings” is an unofficial concept that has frequently been observed in SEO wherein Google gradually ranks a specific post for keywords, testing them against search results positions and adapting the searches that the content shows up in gradually. As a result, it can take 9 months or more to achieve peak traffic for most posts.
You can read more about this in US Patent: US6285999B1 (https://patents.google.com/patent/US6285999B1/en)
Search snippets + snippet worthy optimization
A search snippet is a short excerpt of content that sometimes appears as a preview in SERP results. These search snippets generally contain eye catching imagery or formatting which make the click through rates much higher than normal results.
To rank for search snippets, content requires structured formatting, both technical (schema data formatting) and general formatting (short answers that are structured for brief or bulleted answers).
Common Google snippets are FAQs, product previews, and answer excerpts to question queries in searches.
SEO Keyword Research
SEO Keyword research is the process of identifying and vetting low competition keywords with high volume that can be used for writing content that meets your site’s purpose or researching to identify SEO keywords of strategic importance.
Additionally, full SEO keyword research can include identifying the search intent behind a search term, latent semantic indexing phrases and opportunities, benchmarking against competitor content, and framing content for a specific SEO keyword based on searcher intent and competition.
Longtail keywords are keywords that fall in the “long tail” of the search demand curve and generally receive fewer searchers but benefit from being much lower competition than higher volume keywords and having much clearer search intent at first glance compare to broad keywords (Wines vs. Red California wines).
Longtail keywords also tend to be longer length, generally 4 words or longer, making them more niche specific and allowing us to better understand searcher intent.
In the end, Longtail Keywords make much better targets for writing content that performs well as there is generally clear intention that we can respond to and lower competition, making them a mutual beneficial option to write on (for our site and our readers).
Internal linking is the process of linking from a specific blog post on your site to another blog post or page that is still on your site. Internal linking is a great tool for keeping readers on your site longer by guiding them to a post responding to their next likely question.
External Linking + Do Follow + No Follow
External linking is the act of linking from a post on your site to anywhere else on the internet. These links can be marked as rel= “nofollow”.
If a link is marked with the rel= “nofollow”, the tag signals to Google and other search engines not to crawl the link or associate the site with your site. As a result, “nofollow” links pass little or no “link juice” and do not recognize the linked site as an authority page.
If there is no rel=”nofollow” tag, the link is likely “Do Follow” passing link juice and recognizing the external site as an authority.
Domain Authority and Page Authority
“Domain Authority” is a metric provided by the SEO company Moz in an attempt to quantify how much authority a specific site or page has in Google and, all other elements being equal, how likely one page is to rank against another page, with higher DA or PA representing higher authority.
The Alexa ranking is Amazon’s approach to ranking sites by “engagement levels” over the past 90 days. Alex rankings can be found by searching a sites URL at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/
HOW WRITING EXHAUSTIVE AND ENGAGING ARTICLES HELPS SEO
Writing exhaustive and engaging content keeps users on your site longer and is more likely to answer all of the searcher’s questions (or as many as possible) in one visit. Both of these actions add up to improved SEO performance, higher rankings in Google and more traffic from Google.
Exhaustive content not only answers the user’s first question but also answers logical follow on questions and guides them to the next logical piece of content, whether on your website or elsewhere. Whenever a user clicks a Google search result, Google tracks how long users stay on the clicked website and how long until the user returns to Google for the same query or a different query. If a user takes longer to return to Google and ask another question, or doesn’t return to Google because their question was full answered along with the logical follow on questions, Google recognizes your site as an authority on the keyword (and topic) that responds appropriately to searcher intent, and pushes you higher in the rankings.
Ultimately, writing exhaustive content better serves the user and improves your content’s performance in Google search results.
Engaging content serves the same purpose, of keeping the user on your site longer, sending positive signals to Google (that users find your content useful) and improving your post’s performance in the Google rankings. Making content engaging serves to improve exhaustive content by not only making the content informative but also structuring it such that it keeps the user’s attention.
You can make your content engaging by making the formatting user friendly (short paragraphs broken up by headers and graphics), balancing text with media (adding images and video), by using emotion inducing and engaging language (i.e., emotion inducing keywords), and structuring the flow of your content in a way that is conducive to digesting easily and keeping the reader’s attention (captivating introduction, body, conclusion, hooking the reader’s attention, foreshadowing, etc.).
Good content should be both exhaustive and engaging because keeping the reader entertained and, on your site, serves your audience, improves the engagement metrics that matter to Google, and builds rapport with your readers in the long term.
SEO KEYWORDS AND LOW COMPETITION KEYWORDS: WHAT THEY ARE AND WHY THEY MATTER
“SEO keywords” or “SEO keyphrases” are the heart of SEO. As we reviewed earlier, keywords are those words or phrases that users search for in Google or any other search engine in hopes of finding the content that responds to their need.
Because users aim to find content based on their keywords, as bloggers aiming to have our content found through Google, we design our content to respond to these keywords and the intentions behind these keywords.
Now, just writing about an SEO keyword isn’t enough to rank alone. Many keywords, that get tons of searches and drive mounds of traffic, are known and targeted by many websites aiming to garner that traffic. As a result, there are too many good content options available for those keywords making the keywords “high competition”. As bloggers generally working with minimal resources and limited time and energy it is more worth our time to target lower competition SEO keywords that aren’t targeted by many writers, or that aren’t written on well enough for the content authoritative. By aiming for low competition keywords, our content ranks more easily in Google (with less marketing and fewer backlinks) and more quickly. Via good keyword research we find these low competition keywords and gain SEO traffic in the easiest way possible.
Low competition keywords. These will be the bread and butter of our SEO success.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT MAKES A GOOD, LOW COMPETITION SEO KEYWORDS
Targeting low competition SEO keywords is the quickest way to blogging success no matter how big, how small, or how established your blog is. By strategically picking low competition keywords – keywords that are either not well addressed in existing content or are only written on by sites with less authority than our sites have – is the path to having your content rank higher and more quickly.
Additionally, low competition SEO keywords require significantly less effort to rank highly.
High competition keywords generally requiring a very well optimized post that responds thoroughly to the searcher intent with 2500+ words and several backlinks. Beyond the resources, time, and energy it takes to produce competitive content, it can take up to 8 months for your content to move up the ranks in Google and receive the maximum monthly traffic it will receive.
Low competition keywords that I frequently write on generally require no back links and can rank highly (on page one of Google) in less than a day if your site is recognized as an authority site on the topic.
In the end, identify low competition keywords to drive your content are the quickest, lowest effort option for significant SEO traffic.
So, let’s review the criteria for a good, low competition keyword.
WHAT MAKES AN SEO KEYWORD LOW COMPETITION?
- Few results for the keyword in SERP
- Few high authority sites ranking on page 1 of the search results
- Page 1 results in Google lack on-page optimization for the keyword
Few results for the keyword in SERP
Absolutely under 1,000,000, under 500,000 is doable, and under 100,000 results in SERP is ideal
The number of results that show up in Google (also known as SERP or “Search Engine Results Pages”) when the keyword is searched serves as the ultimate metric for how crowded the pool of writing is on a specific keyword. Of all the criteria that determine a low competition keyword, the number of results in SERP is the #1 determiner of how easy it will be to rank for a keyword.
Most SEO tools rate the difficulty of a keyword by how authoritative the competing page 1 results are based on DA or by how well on page optimization is for the page 1 results, but none of these “difficulty ratings” by SEO tools accounts for the number of results in SERP.
In my time blogging, I have found the number of results in SERP to be the primary determiner of how quickly and easily my well written content will rank for a keyword. If the keyword has less than 100,000 results in SERP then my posts will generally rise to page one within a single day. If the topic for the post is something my site is recognized by Google on as authority (because I have several related pieces of content ranking on page 1) my content will usually rank on page 1 within an hour.
By contrast, if a keyword is rated as “easy” by SEO tools (e.g., Keysearch, SEMRush) but has more than 1,000,000 results in the keyword search, rising to page 1 generally takes one month or more.
The bottom line: Prioritize the number of results on Google SERP as the single most important factor for identifying low competition keywords, then confirm that on-page optimization and the DA/PA of page 1 SERP results in Google still make the keyword viable as a low competition keyword.
Criteria: Aim for SEO keyword’s with less than 100,000 results in SERP. If you are having trouble finding such keywords, flex to 500,000 maximum results in SERP for best results
Few high authority sites ranking on page 1 of the search results – based on Moz’s “DA” and “PA”
A site’s “authority” is commonly measured by Moz’s “Domain Authority” (DA) and “Page Authority” (PA) and is how recognized the site is as a solid source of information by other websites, recognized by the number of backlinks it has, and the number of backlinks it has from high authority sites.
If the “DA” of a site on page 1 of the Google search results is lower, it will be easier to overtake that search result’s position. If the DA is higher, it will be more difficult, requiring more backlinks to your specific post and lots of time before overtaking the result in the rankings, if at all possible.
To ensure that you are not aiming for a keyword whose search results are already dominated by high authority players, ensure that there are at least two results in the SERP results with lower DA than yours and few (less than five) links to the articles. If your blog is new with a low DA, aim for having two results on page 1 with DA numbers under 20.
To find out the DA of results in SERP, download the free Moz toolbar plugin for chrome and follow the instructions to enable the Moz data that shows DA, PA, and number of links under each SERP result
Page 1 results in Google lack on-page optimization for the keyword: The posts/pages in Google results lack the keywords in the URL, headers, paragraphs, meta description, or title.
Finally, check that the current page 1 SERP results are under-optimized for the targeted keyword. A piece of content with good on page optimization will have the keyword in all of the following sections.
- Meta description
- H2 or H3 header
- Once in the paragraph text of first 100 words, and 2 other times in the remainder of the text
If a result is missing optimization for the keyword in two or more of those areas, it stands a good chance of being overtaken by a well written, well optimized post that appropriately addresses searcher intent.
To check for on page optimization, you can review each page 1 SERP result manually but, this is time consuming. Instead, I recommend using an SEO tool instead that displays a keyword’s competition difficulty rating and displays how well the page 1 results are optimized on page. For this, I highly recommend Keysearch as it is the easiest to use, user friendly, and is inexpensive enough for new bloggers to afford. As your blog matures and income increases, consider SEMRush for its keyword search volume filtering features.
CRITERIA FOR A LOW COMPETITION, VIABLE SEO KEYWORD
- The number of results in a Google search for the keyword are Ideally under 100,000 SERP results, and absolutely under 500,000 SERP results for a new topic
- Search Volume is ideally 500 searches per month minimum or 100 searches per month minimum for an extremely low competition keyword or a high value keyword (ad optimized, buyer intent, etc.)
- The page 1 results in Google have at least two results with a lower domain authority (DA) number than yours and few/no backlinks to the article – signifying they will be easily overtaken. If you have a new site, aim for two results to have a DA under 20
- The results in Google search are poorly optimized for the keyword, checked via SEO research tool or manually as follows:
- Lacks keyword in URL
- Lacks keyword in title
- Lacks keyword in meta description
- Keyword is not in any headers
- Keyword does not appear in the first 100 words of the post or does not appear three times in text
- Some of the content in the Google page 1 results is misaligned to the searcher intent
- Note: Use the Google searches “Allintitle” and “AllinURL” to assess on page optimization without any SEO tools
If you’re checking manually, save yourself some trouble and use the “ctrl+F” on page search function
UNDERSTANDING SEARCHER INTENT: WHAT IT IS, AND HOW TO RESEARCH IT FOR AN SEO KEYWORD
What is Searcher Intent
Searcher intent is one of the most important and trending elements in SEO today, and it shows no chance of going away.
For every single search made via Google, initiated by searching a keyphrase the users entering that search has an intention; generally, to answer a question, to solve a problem, or to find information on a specific topic. That intention behind the search tends to be similar and shared between most searchers of that specific search.
These days, Google heavily weighs searcher intent, and how well a piece of content responds to it, in which piece of content is ranked highest in the Google search results.
For instance, if we did not look at the Google results, the search keyphrase “sushi rice” could have several possible searcher intents behind it. The searcher could be looking for a history of sushi rice, a definition of sushi rice, a place to purchase sushi rice online, pictures of sushi rice, or an explanation of what sushi rice is among hundreds of other potential options.
However, Google makes it a point to analyze the behavior of users as they click through search results and either return to Google or stay on the post for the SERP result longer, in an effort to identify the most common searcher intent and align most of the search results in Google to that keyword.
As a result of this, if we search “sushi rice” in Google, all 10 of the page 1 results are recipes on how to make sushi rice.
This reveals that the intention of most users searching the term “sushi rice” is to find a recipe so that they can make sushi rice.
This also reveals the easiest way to identify searcher intent for a target keyword – searching the keyword in Google and analyzing results.
Step 1: Identify an SEO Keyword’s Searcher Intent by Searching the Keyword in Google and Analyzing the Results, but answer the next question too.
When we are in the process of planning and framing our content and posts, we should always determine the searcher intent, as well as the content components (sub-topics, headlines, FAQs), that we will need to fully address search intent for a keyword.
To identify the search intent behind a keyword, simply go to Google, search the keyword, and read through the titles and meta descriptions of the page one results as we did with our sushi rice example. Then, ask yourself, “what do all of these results have in common?”, and then analyze the commonalities to discover the searcher intent.
In the case of searching for “sushi rice”, all of the results on page one were clearly recipes so the searcher’s intention was to learn how to cook sushi rice. Responding appropriately to the intention to learn how to cook sushi rice, a good article would not only teach the user how to make sushi rice (via a recipe) but anticipate the needs that follow knowing a recipe and guiding the user through whatever is necessary to make the best sushi rice possible.
By adding this extra information, aligned with the searcher intent but going beyond it, we deliver more value that the reader needs, keeping the reader on our page longer, which is a signal to Google that our content is authoritative and what the reader needs – leading to higher rankings in Google.
Once You’ve analyzed the intent behind a keyword, use the intention of the understanding to take the content a step further to fully respond to intention.
Continuing with our “sushi rice” search example, at minimum we will need to deliver a well optimized sushi rice recipe to appropriately satisfy user intent.
But we can ask ourselves, what else will our reader need?
The reader may need to know how to prep her tools, how to choose a rice cooker, what rice is the best to use and where to buy it, tips for beginners making rice, and perhaps ideas of what to do with leftover rice.
In the Google results, we can use the “People also ask” section as a source FAQs and additional topics to write about in the post that align with the searcher intent.
We can also look at the page one search results section “Searches related to sushi rice” (at the bottom of the page) to see the other topics that people commonly search before or after searching “sushi rice”. This helps us identify other potential sections of content we can include in our article to make it more robust and respond fully to the searcher’s intent.
Now that we’ve taken plenty of information from the page one of Google results to analyze the intent behind a search, we can click into each of the page one results to get an idea of the content sections that we’ll need to cover in order to fully address searcher intent above and beyond the existing search results.
Step 2: Frame Your Articles Based on the Top 10 SERPs to address the basics of search intent for the keyword (aka Content Benchmarking)
Addressing searcher intent in our content goes beyond simply writing on the same general topic as the other results or creating the same type of post (e.g., recipe, listicle, how to, informative article, etc.). We must also ensure the sub-topics within the overall topic driving the searcher intent are addressed.
In the case of the “sushi rice” example, each of the page one results are sushi rice recipes, but clicking through the top 10 results shows sections on ingredients, tips for varying the outcome of the rice, explanations of what sushi rice is, recommendations for the best types of sushi rice, step by step tutorials, videos, nutrition breakdowns, and more. All of these elements are potentially required to answer all of the user’s questions driving the search about “sushi rice”.
By clicking through and reviewing the section headers of the sushi rice recipes we learn that the best performing results (that we assume address search intent well because the result is on page 1 of the Google SERPs) explain what sushi rice is, the best ingredients to use, straight forward recipes in different formats (text and video), health information, and more. We should take away from this that any good post responding to this keyword should have most of these sections to be competitive and have all to be over the top.
What does this look like in action?
First, after lightly reviewing searcher intent by scanning page one of the Google results, write out an outline of your potential article on the keyword including all sections and topics to cover based on your own knowledge and experience.
Then, click through all of the results on page one of that Google search scanning the headlines of each section. Write down any topics or subtopics that you may have missed and add them to your outline.
Done. You now have an outline for an article that fully addresses searcher intent and is setting you up to rank easily and quickly for low competition keywords.
This practice is called “content benchmarking”, specifically for search intent – as you benchmark your content against the existing, ranking content and improve it accordingly
An important note on “content benchmarking”, maintaining your integrity as a writer, and avoiding plagiarism:
I prefer to write outlines for my posts, including content sections and FAQs, before benchmarking my content against existing posts.
First, this helps me maintain my own style of writing and flow throughout my content before adulterating my own ideas with the ideas from other content.
Second, this helps me maintain my own integrity in writing – we should use existing content as a guide to understanding searcher intent, but under no conditions should we copy or plagiarize, out of respect for our fellow bloggers and out of respect for our own content.
By putting our ideas on paper first and then making them more robust by comparing them to the thoughts of others, we improve our own ideas (and content) instead of stealing and copying the efforts of others.
TIPS FOR GOING OVER THE TOP WITH “SEARCHER INTENT” IN SEO
Be honest with yourself about whether you can write good content for the target keyword based in searcher intent
Before you even start writing the article, be honest with yourself and ask “can I write an article that is significantly better than the existing content”?
At times, we may record a keyword thinking the content will address one topic, but the searcher intent is actually something very different than what we had in mind. For instance, with the search phrase “sushi rice” that we discussed, if we were ready to write a dissertation on the evolution of sushi rice, but all users want is a simple recipe, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “am I capable of writing for the actual searcher intent?” If the answer is no, it’s ok, just push the keyword aside and move on to a keyword that you can write stellar content on, in line with the searcher’s intent.
How to Go Further with Searcher Intent: Answer the next question and related questions.
As you write your article based on the outline you created from brainstorming and benchmarking, ask yourself, “what questions will the reader have next?” and aim to respond to them in your article. Good content answers the user’s question. Great content answers all of the user’s questions.
You may add this extra information in the article you’re writing, or you may make a follow-on article that you funnel the reader to. In any case, answering the next question creates a better user experience which leads to higher rankings in Google.
THE ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR SEO: KEYSEARCH/SEMRUSH, GOOGLE ANALYTICS, AND GOOGLE SEARCH
Good SEO is based off of solid data that allows us to analyze what topics are the best to write on (based on competition and search volume), analyze how we can improve our existing content (such as CTR and impressions by making content more robust and well formatted), and analyze the competition (by clicking through to see who is on top and what value they’re delivering).
To get this data and plan/adjust accordingly there are three essential tools you will need.
- A good SEO keyword tool: I recommend Keysearch to start and SEMRush to step things up
- Google Analytics: + Google Search Console: Free and the most powerful analytics data tool available
- Google Search + Free Moz Toolbar Chrome Plugin: The most transparent view into the competition for any keyword
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TOOLS YOU NEED TO SUCCEED AT SEO IN BLOGGING
In blogging, good tools help us accelerate our progress by presenting the data we need in a more digestible way, helping us work more efficiently and more quickly. The tools that follow are the essential tools for blogging success.
A good SEO keyword tool: Keysearch or SEMRush
Though you could perform the same analysis manually, a good SEO keyword research tool will save you hours of analysis by presenting easy to read difficulty ratings for a keyword, suggesting related keywords, providing monthly search volumes, presenting the number of results in search for a target keyword, and even showing how well the top 10 have optimized on page SEO for your target keyword. If you aim to make your blog a business, you need to purchase an SEO keyword research tool to save time and accelerate your content creation process and the growth of your blog.
I highly recommend Keysearch and SEMRush, depending on where you are at in the blog maturity cycle.
Keysearch: A Fantastic Budget Option and Beginner Friendly SEO Keyword Research Tool
Keysearch is a fantastic tool that is insanely cheap as far as SEO keyword research tools go – only $10 a month. Outside of a good theme for your site, this should be your first investment if you intend to run lean.
For beginners, Keysearch is perfect as its keyword data presentation is great for getting you acclimated to understanding SEO. The color-coded presentation of the top 10 results for your target keyword and how well each is optimized is 50% of what you need to assess a keyword’s suitability as a low competition keyword, and makes the selection process easy.
SEMRush: The Perfect Tool for Identifying Low Competition Keywords and Great “Advanced Blogger” Tool
The primary determining factor in how easy a keyword is to rank for, and how quickly good content will rank is the number of results in search. SEMRush rush makes it insanely easy to filter keyword searches within the tool by the number of SERP results while suggesting keywords along the way. Simply search your base keyword, set your filters accordingly for the number of results in SERP, and sift through the results to find extremely low competition keywords. This comes in addition to a number of power features (which I honestly rarely use)
Once you have a handle on SEO, I highly recommend stepping up from Keysearch to SEMRush to make it even easier to find ultra-low competition keywords.
Warning: DO NOT use Google AdWords as your SEO keyword tool. If you do, you are impinging your performance from the beginning using this tool because of the following reasons.
- Search volumes aren’t accurate enough to plan on any single keyword
- There are no difficulty levels provided for keywords
- This tool was designed for ad buyers, not content creators, and the data is structured/edited accordingly
The worst mistake I made as a beginner blogger was attempting to use Google AdWords as my SEO keyword research tool. Once I purchased a true SEO keyword research tool (Keysearch at $10 per month) I immediately saw my content perform better in search engines as the data I was using for decisions was far better in Keysearch. DO NOT USE GOOGLE ADWORDS AS AN SEO KEYWORD RESEARCH TOOL!!!
Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Free and the most powerful analytics data tools available for blogging and SEO
Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools for SEO. This data analytics tool is completely free and provided by Google. To use Google Analytics, all you have to do is setup your Google Analytics account, and embed a short script into the header (or footer) of your website and Google Analytics begins tracking data from your site (pages visited, time on page, entry and exit pages, etc.).
The Google Search Console platform exports key data from Google’s search activities related to your site (e.g., associated keywords, impressions, clicks, etc.).
After setting up and connecting both your Google Analytics you will have a powerful set of data from within your and from outside of your site to analyze.
Whereas a good keyword research tool (like Keysearch or SEMRush) can help you analyze keywords and design good content going in, Google Analytics and Google Search Console are excellent tools for analyzing in hindsight. This data about how your content is performing helps you figure out what is going right, what is going wrong, and how to adapt your content for the best possible path forward.
For most successful blogs and niches, it is very much possible to write 300 pieces of content and use the Google Analytics/Search Console data to console refresh content and grow traffic and audiences to a single, very successful, high paying blog.
Google Search + the Moz Toolbar Plugin for Chrome Browser
The most transparent view into the competition for any keyword
Plain old Google search. This search engine that sees 40% of the internet’s traffic is a powerful tool on its own for keyword brainstorming and research, competitor analysis for specific keywords, and understanding searcher intent. Though there are some powerful tools out there for SEO research, simply using Google is my favorite for all three of these.
My favorite uses of Google for SEO:
- Quickly checking the number of results in a keyword search
- Using Google autosuggest and the “alphabet soup method” to brainstorm keywords during keyword research while identifying what users are actually searching in Google
- Identifying FAQs for a keyword search
- Analyzing Google snippets and using of structured data for specific queries
- Understanding searcher intent based on the titles and meta descriptions of competitors
- Clicking though page one competitor content to benchmark my on-content outlines against what works
- Using the “Searches related to…” feature to identify closely related
- Using the Moz toolbar results data (added to Google searches) to assess the authoritativeness of the top 10 search results for a keyword and assess competitiveness
- Analyzing competitor Meta Descriptions and Titles to improve Click Through Rate of my own pages
ACTION ITEMS FOR THIS ARTICLE
- Understand the Elements of SEO: SEO Keywords, On Page SEO, SERP CTR, Internal Links and External Links
- Understand the criteria for a good, low competition SEO keyword
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