3 ways to figure out if a keyword is worth the fight (with minimal monkey business)

If you’re researching keywords to try and figure out what to write about and rank for, you want to find keywords that are in-demand, relevant, and not too competitive:

  • Relevant to your market and the information they need
  • In-demand, with a decent amount of monthly search traffic
  • Not too competitive, with some ability for you to rank for them

Relevance is easy to eyeball and check. Is the keyword relevant to your market, the information you provide, or the information or services your market is looking for? If it passes, add it to the stack. If it fails, throw it onto the garbage heap.

In-demand can be easy to check. Look at the estimated search traffic in tools like Keywords Everywhere or Google Keyword Planner. You want to follow the Goldilocks rule: not too big (high traffic volume), not too small (low traffic volume), just right.

Just right is, alas, squishy. For most people, I recommend focusing on keywords between ~250 and ~750 monthly searches. (Keywords at that search volume are, typically, easier to rank for and then optimize over time.)

But what about competitiveness? How can you assess if a keyword phrase is high competition (and, therefore, much harder to rank for) or low competition?

Here’s a cool little ‘eyeball’ test that I love:

  • Take your keyword of choice, like “Ecommerce SEO Guide”
  • Search for that keyword in Google (in quotation marks, so it’s an exact match search)
  • Look at the websites that are ranking in the top ~10 spots (page 1) for that keyword (not just the individual pages)

You want to eyeball the ranking websites (not just pages) to identify if your competitors are large (SEO Gorillas) or small (SEO Dwarf Monkeys).

  • An SEO Gorilla is an established, competitive, high-quality websites, like Wikipedia, Shopify.com, Amazon, HomeDepot.com. With scarce exceptions, you won’t have success outranking them.
  • SEO Dwarf Monkeys are small, less established, less competitive websites (like blogs that haven’t been updated in a few years). You will have success outranking them.

(In the case of “Ecommerce SEO Guide”, the top ranking sites are BigCommerce, Backlinko, Ahrefs, Shopify, and SEMRush. Way too many big gorillias for me to have a chance).

Once you’ve determined that the keyword you’re considering does hit the trifecta of awesome (relevant, in-demand, not competitive), you’re all set. Save the keyword to your list and get ready to write some content for that keyword. More on high-quality content next letter.



p.s., I’m speaking about SEO Simplified for Indies and Firms at ClientCon. The talk is October 13th at 10 am Pacific Time (that’s tomorrow). Take action now and reserve your place for my talk.

I write a high-quality, daily newsletter about marketing, growth, and lead generation for indie consultants, freelancers, and service professionals.

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