How to Find Low Competitive Keywords for SEO
Everyone wants to rank competitive keywords, but this is rarely possible in the short term – especially if your website is new or relatively unknown.
Does that mean you shouldn't be targeting competitive keywords? No. However, it does mean that in the short term, you should be chasing keywords with less competition.
In this post, you will learn in a few simple steps how to find low-hanging keyword opportunities and how to make sure that these keywords are really low-competitive and easy to rate.
Here's how to find low-competition keywords
Follow these three steps to quickly find thousands of high volume, low competition keywords.
1. Brainstorm topics
Think about what your target audience might be looking for on Google and write down your ideas. You don't have to try to guess exact sentences here. just write down broad topics.
For example, if you sell computers and parts online, they might include:
- hard disk
Don't think about it. Just write down what comes to mind.
When you have 5-10 ideas, go to step 2.
2. Expand ideas with a keyword research tool
Connect your topic ideas to a keyword research tool like Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, then go to Phrase match Report. You will see keyword ideas including one or more of the words and phrases you entered, including monthly search volumes and others SEO Metrics.
3. Filter on keywords with low difficulty
Many keyword research tools have a level of difficulty. Ours is called Keyword Difficulty (KD) And it's a numerical representation of how difficult it will be to rank in Google's top 10 for one search query.
By doing Phrase match report, filter by keywords with a KD Rate between 0 and 10 to find keywords with low competition.
You can see above that we managed to find over 167,000 keywords from just five "seed" topics. If you want to narrow the list down, just add a minimum monthly search volume filter.
Is it really that easy to find low-competition keywords?
Yes and no.
Google uses hundreds of ranking signals so it is simply not possible for third parties to do this SEO Tool to decipher them all and calculate an "accurate" keyword difficulty metric. It's unrealistic and borderline impossible, especially when you consider that many of these "ranking factors" are mere speculations and have never been confirmed by Google.
It is also important to understand that everyone SEO The tool uses a unique formula for rating keyword difficulty. Because of this, the ratings often differ significantly from tool to tool:
At Ahrefs, our keyword difficulty calculation is simple: we take a weighted average of the number of referring domains (links to websites) pointing to the top 10 pages. That is, the top pages for high KD Keywords have many backlinks, and the top ranking pages for low KD keywords have few backlinks.
If you're using a keyword research tool other than Ahrefs, contact support and ask how keyword difficulty is calculated. You can only really use it effectively if you know how it works.
Given that backlinks are arguably the most important ranking factor, our keyword difficulty level is usually a good indicator of ranking difficulties. When a keyword has a low score KD Score in Ahrefs, it's "low competitive" in the sense that you are probably You don't have to build or earn a lot of backlinks to enter the competition.
However, you should not judge the competition based solely on this metric. There are other factors that you need to consider before choosing a keyword.
Let's go over three of the most important ones.
- Search intent
- Website authority
- High quality backlinks
Even if a keyword has a very low level of difficulty, you will struggle to rank without creating the kind of content searchers are looking for. So, when doing keyword research, it's worth looking for keywords that actually make sense for the type of content you're trying to create.
The four wide Types of keywords are:
- Informative. The seeker is looking for information on a topic.
- Navigation. The searcher is looking for a specific website.
- Commercial investigation. The searcher wants to buy a certain product or service, but has not yet decided which one to buy.
- Transaction. The seeker wants to buy something.
You can often tell which area your keyword falls into by looking for keyword modifiers in the query. If it contains words like "buy" or "cheap" it is most likely a transactional query. If it contains words like "how," "what," or "where," it is likely informational.
Here's a quick cheat sheet on the Keyword Modifier:
In the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, you can use the Include filter to find keyword ideas that fall into any of these areas.
For example, if you're looking for low-competition transactional keywords, here's what to do:
- Enter your startup keywords
- Select the Phrase Match Keyword Idea Report
- Filter with the KD Filter (KD <10)
- Add words like "Buy" and "Cheap" to the Include filter
- Toggle the Any Word switch
If you are looking for competitive information keywords for a blog, you can do the same with information modifiers. However, an even faster method is to use the ask Report showing keyword ideas formulated as questions.
Note, however, that while filtering for keyword modifiers won't work, it's by no means foolproof, as keywords with modifiers won't always match the type of search you expect.
Think of a keyword like "Best Buy Coffee Makers".
Although it includes the "Buy" transaction modifier, it is not a transaction keyword. It's a navigation because people are looking for results from Best Buy – a popular North American electronics store.
This further shows how search intent can affect keyword competition. Although this query has a Keyword Difficulty Level of 1, it is not low-competitive because it is a navigation keyword. You will never beat Best Buy no matter what you do – because they rank in all 10 positions on the first page of Google.
Domain Rating (DR) Measures a website's authority on a scale from zero to one hundred based on its backlink profile.
Lots SEO Professionals believe that Google uses some type of website authority metric in its ranking algorithm, but Google's John Mueller has publicly stated that it does not on numerous occasions.
We don't use any domain authority at all in our algorithms.
– 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) February 24, 2020
Either way, you will find that some of the seemingly low competition keywords are low keywords KD Scores, all top sites come from very high DR Websites.
A typical example are "black sandals":
Despite a keyword difficulty level of only 1, the average domain rating for the first page of results is 86 and the lowest DR we see is 76.
Does this prove that website authority is a ranking factor?
Not necessarily. It's questionable if that is more about brand equity as a website authority. Big brands likely dominate that SERP because this is where most people want to shop.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do about it when you have a "weaker" website and brand. You will likely struggle to rank for keywords that seem to be related to brand equity.
That brings us to an important point:
The difficulty of the ranking is relative.
If you are Target, "black sandals" is a low competition keyword because you have the authority and brand equity to rank. If you're a small mom and pop shoe store, "black sandals" are a highly competitive keyword as you are not on the same playing field as the big brands that dominate it SERP.
Does that mean it is impossible for less authoritative and well-known brands to outperform the big guns? No. It just gets tougher, so be sure to keep this in mind when looking for low-competition keywords.
High quality backlinks
Keyword difficulty takes into account the number of backlinks pointing to the top ranking pages, but not their quality. There are many things you need to consider in assessing the quality of a link, including:
- relevance the linking website and page
- authority the linking website and page
- Link placement on the website
- Anchor text of the link
- Follow against nofollow status
It's nearly impossible to consider all of these and more when creating a keyword difficulty level. Hence, let's keep things simple and consistent by just looking at the average number of referring domains (links to websites) pointing to the top 10 pages.
Because of this, it is always worth checking the top pages' backlink profiles manually as the amount doesn't stop there.
To illustrate this, let's look at the number of domains referring to the top ranking pages for two keywords with the same low value KD Scores:
At first glance, it might seem easier to rank for the second keyword because the page you're competing with has fewer links. But What really matters is the quality of the links.
For the page with 14 RDs, 94% of the backlinks are followedMost come from relevant and authoritative pages and websites. They also mostly have relevant anchors.
For the page with 92 RDs, 96% of the backlinks are not followedMost come from pages on coupon code sites with little authority. They also mostly naked Url Anchor.
Nofollow advises Google that links shouldn't affect ranking, but may ignore this advice. Find out more here.
In fact, there are probably only two "okay" backlinks pointing to the 92 RDs page. While most of the links pointing to the page with only 14 RDs are relevant and of high quality.
FinallyIf everything else is the same, it would probably be easier to beat the RD 92 side than the RD 14 side. So in spite of the same KD Score: "Best cold brew coffee" is arguably a less competitive keyword than "best beginner fly fishing combo".
Should You Avoid Highly Competitive Keywords?
Many people stick to low competition keywords because they don't believe they can rank for anything else. While this may be true in the short term, highly competitive keywords can present opportunities for a number of reasons.
Remember, Ahrefs' Keyword Difficulty Level is based on backlinks. This means that, on average, the top pages are for high KD Keywords have a lot of backlinks.
In other words, Highly competitive keywords are often good topics for Link bait– Content specially designed to attract links.
To find these topics, do the opposite of what you did before. Instead of filtering on low-score keywords KD Scores, filters for keywords with high KD Scores.
For example, if you had a website about résumés, you would:
- Go to the Keywords Explorer
- Enter a relevant "Start" keyword (e.g. "CV").
- Go to ask report
- Filter on keywords with high scores KD Score (e.g. 50+)
If you check that out SERP While looking at any of these keywords, you should find that many of the top ranking pages have a lot of backlinks.
In this case, if you've created the best resume writing guide on the web, the people who link to these existing pages have great link prospects. All they have to do is reach out to them with a compelling reason to link to you.
Get enough quality backlinks to your page and the chances are that you can rank up – even if you lack authority and brand equity.
Either way, targeting highly competitive keywords has two other benefits (even if you don't rank):
- You can increase the authority of the website. Brand equity and authority don't appear out of nowhere. They are primarily a byproduct of links.
- You can pass this authorization on to important pages. Use high authority linkbait internal links to improve relevant pages that target keywords with less competition.
We like to call this second benefit The Middleman Technique.
This is a clever way to build authority on boring sites that are difficult to link to.
Recommended literature: A simple one SEO Strategy (The Middleman Method)
Keyword competition is relative. Since no keyword difficulty level takes into account everything that affects competition, you should always manually review the highest ranking pages before creating any content.
If you don't, you might end up chasing keywords that aren't really under-competitive. While there is nothing wrong with that, such keywords should be medium or long-term goals, not short-term goals.
Any questions? Ping me on Twitter.