Search engine optimization is often unnecessarily complicated.
Sure, to compete for the most competitive keywords, you might need to know all the tricks and nuances, but for most of us, simple strategies work very well.
In part 1 of this series, we covered an entire introduction to SEO for beginners. Check that out if you’re not already familiar with SEO basics.
Beyond the theory, we also started to dive into a simple SEO strategy you can use to build an online empire around. We’ll continue now where we left off.
The Simple SEO Strategy in 6 Steps
Here is the strategy we’re going to cover today boiled down into 6 easy steps.
- Start with a broad keyword or phrase and narrow it down to a keyword that is 3 or more words long and is related to your website or blog.
- Select a keyword phrase with about 500 to 2000 exact global searches per month (according to the Google Keyword tool).
- Research the competition for that keyword. I’ll show you how to do it manually first, but there are tools you can use to automate the process greatly.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have a keyword with low competition (more on the details of low competition later).
- Write an article that uses the exact keyword phrase in the title, meta description, URL and throughout the article.
- Make sure the article is linked to from your home page and then build links to the page from other sites by using social media, article marketing, blog guest posts, and other techniques.
The magic of this strategy comes together when you can profit from it directly. More on that towards the end of this article.
Ready to dive in? Let’s go.
Hunting for Long-tail Keywords
We were talking before about our example keyword “pie recipes” (let’s say you have a site about making pies). As of this month, 22,000 global searches were performed for that exact keyword phrase.
For our purposes, that keyword is too popular and competitive. How do I know it’s too competitive? There are ways to check (which we’ll get into shortly), but generally keywords that have some commercial appeal and volume over 5,000 searches will be very competitive. By that I mean, those keywords would be difficult for us to achieve rankings for (not impossible, just difficult).
We need to dig deeper. As we narrow down to longer-tail keywords, we’ll start to find some that aren’t very competitive at all.
Think of ways you could narrow down a search even further by adding modifiers to the original phrase.
“Christmas pie recipes,” “pecan pie recipes,” “no-bake pie recipes” or “meat pie recipes” all might be good options, we’ll have to evaluate the competition to know for sure. Even narrower keyword phrases like “easy pecan pie recipes” should be even less competitive.
As you add more words, you’ll find that keyword phrases start to have lower search volume. As you get below a couple-thousand searches or so, it’s time to start evaluating the competition.
Scoping Out the Competition
There are tools you can use to make this process easier, but in this lesson I’m going to show you the free, manual way of looking this up.
Remember the fundamental aspects of SEO from before? There are on-page factors and off-page factors that determine how a page will rank for a given keyword.
When looking at competition for a particular keyword, we’ll want to know how well each competitor has covered the on-page factors. We will also want to know how many inbound links from other sites are pointed at each competing search result.
Our goal should be to achieve first page rankings for any keywords we target. Especially when dealing with lower-volume keywords, appearing in results after the first page won’t send us much traffic.
First, a couple of competition-checking shortcuts. In Google’s keyword tool, you might have noticed there’s a column called “competition.” That column actually represents how many advertisers are paying to appear in search results for that keyword. It’s not a perfect measure of competition for appearing in natural (free) results, but it does give us some idea of which keywords to dig deeper into.
Another way to quickly (but not completely accurately) judge how competitive a keyword might be is to Google for that keyword in quotes (like “pecan pie recipes”). Then, note how many search results are returned by Google (that number appears right below the search input box).
The lower the number, the less competitive a search phrase is. Look for results with 20,000 or fewer exact search results. Check out the money word matrix as a guideline for evaluating keywords using this method.
Once you’ve narrowed down some candidate keyword phrases using these two quick techniques, it’s time to dig a little deeper.
To identify who our competitors are, first we just need to Google our keyword phrase. Go to Google.com and search for the keyword you had in mind.
First, Google for “pecan pie recipes” (without the quotes) and you’ll see who you would be competing against in the rankings for that keyword. Now, click on the first listing to visit that page. Copy the URL for that page from your browser’s address bar.
Now head over to Yahoo’s site explorer. Type in the following into the search box:
link:[page URL] -site:[domain]
For example, to investigate the first page in my results for “pecan pie recipes,” I entered:
Press enter and notice the number of results listed in the left-hand sidebar. For this particular result, Yahoo tells me there are 231 results. That means there are roughly 231 links from other sites pointed at that page.
To appear in the first place in the results, we will likely have to attract more (or higher quality) links to our page on pecan pie recipes. 231 links is a lot of links. Not impossibly by any means, but maybe more than we would want to tackle.
This is just the first result. We will want to continue down the list of results and see how competitive each of the first 5 or 10 results are. In this case, the next four results each have between 3 and 29 links.
The real wildcard in this process is link quality. The number of links is important, but so is the quality of links. 1 really high-value link could be more important than 100 low-value links. This investigation of competition isn’t perfect, but it will point us in the right direction.
We also need to be aware of on-page factors for our competition. The most important factors here are the html title, URL and meta description.
If few of the top results have the keyword “pecan pie recipes” exactly within each of those three places, they will be easier to beat. That is, assuming we put the keywords exactly in those places. If you aren’t sure what I mean by html title, URL and meta description, make sure you get a better understanding before employing this strategy fully.
Tools to Speed Up Your Process
There are several tools that can automate some or all of this process. The two that I use are (not affiliate links) Traffic Travis (free) and Micro Niche Finder (not free). Both of those will do all of this research at the click of a button, and return a graphic or number that represents how competitive a keyword will be. They can save you TONS of time.
What to Do With Your Competitive Knowledge
The goal of this research is to find keywords that you can rank for with relatively little work. Ideally, you would find keywords relevant to your site that have lots of searches per month with no competition.
In that case, you would just have to write an article that includes your keywords in the html title, URL, meta description and throughout your content, and you might even appear on page 1 of the search results with no extra backlinks.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find such keywords, so you’ll probably find keywords with either moderate search volume and moderate competition or low search volume and low competition.
What defines “low” or “moderate” competition? That really depends on your specific topic. In our “pecan pie recipes,” example, I would say that keyword had moderate competition. If you narrowed things down instead to “easy pecan pie recipes,” you would find that keyword had very low competition.
Sorry for all the technique so far, but this is essential to the strategy.
Writing an Article
To rank in search results for a particular keyword phrase, you’re going to want to create a page or article dedicated to that keyword.
The article or page should be relevant to the keyword being searched on. A visitor who comes to this page from a search listing should feel like they found what they were looking for. This is important because the search engines will penalize you if visitors don’t spend much time on your site.
Beyond relevance, we also want to be sure to include our keywords in a few specific places when writing this article. Ideally, you would want your exact keyword phrase to be included in the title of the page, the URL (web address), the meta description, meta keywords and throughout the body of the article in a natural way.
That basically covers the most important on-page factors. Sure, there are other things you could tweak, but this should get you started.
With your article published, it’s time to move on to off-page factors. Again, the most important determinant of where your site or page ranks for a particular keyword is the quantity and quality of links from other sites pointed back at your page.
Link building is the most difficult and time-consuming part of SEO. In our case, since we’ve specifically chosen a low-competition keyword, it shouldn’t be too hard though. Basically, our goal is to get as many links as it takes to land us on page 1 of Google’s search results for our keyword.
How many links will it take? That depends on how relevant our page is, how relevant our site is, how important Google thinks our site is, and how relevant and popular our competitors are.
Since there’s no way to know specifically, our approach should be to start building links to our page over time, and then monitor the search results. When we end up on page 1, we can stop manually building links.
To get links to your site, you can choose to employ lots of different techniques. You can submit your page to directories, you can use article marketing, social media, write guest posts for other blogs or make your content so good that people will naturally want to link to it.
The possibilities are endless, and I’ll let you research link-building techniques for more ideas.
What to Do With Your Competitive Knowledge
Here’s where the real value of this simple SEO strategy comes in.
There are virtually limitless keywords out there that have low competition. There are probably plenty of them related to your topic.
The question is, how much does it cost you to rank for one of those keywords? Once you’ve answered that, then ask yourself, how much money could I earn with the traffic that comes from those keywords?
Once you’ve found a combination of ranking cost and search traffic revenue that yields a profit for your site, you can start building an empire based on this simple SEO strategy.
The specifics really depend on you, your site, your topic, the competition and your revenue model.
In any case, try going through the process I’ve outlined at least once to get a feel for how you can attract visitors using SEO. Then decide if you can monetize those visitors effectively enough to employ this strategy on a bigger scale.
Questions? I’m sure you have some. This isn’t the easiest thing to explain, so I’m happy to discuss in the comments. Thanks for reading and waiting patiently for Part 2.