The SEO files: The curious case of the competitive keyword

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The challenge of ranking on page 1 for a competitive keyword is one that many SEO consultants love but businesses with small budgets fear. 

Some are blissfully unaware of the pitfalls of targeting a competitive keyword and spend hours and money creating content that fails to convert.

My years of smart sleuthing strategies have helped many crack the case of the competitive keyword and in this blog, I’m going to share some of my secrets.

The SEO files: The curious case of the competitive keyword

A summary of my top SEO secrets for competitive keywords:

-Look for keywords with a lower competitiveness score, usually a long tail keyword

-Find complementary topic keywords that have lower competition

-Create content that’s better than anything else available now

-Focus on activities that will build your website authority

-Don’t ignore the “smaller” SEO tasks- every SEO task can make a difference in the long run


What makes a keyword competitive? 

A keyword is competitive if the websites ranking on page 1 in search have high authority, making it difficult for a new website to outrank them. A competitive keyword is like the Beyonce of SEO: shimmering and powerful, out of reach and in a class of its own. 

An Ahrefs study found that only 5.7% of pages will rank in the top 10 search results within 1 year of publication (Ahrefs). Let that sink in for a moment! I hate to burst your bubble but ranking on page 1 can be difficult for any keyword, let alone one that is highly competitive.

Is it worth targeting competitive keywords?

Competitive keywords usually have high average monthly search volumes or have a high buying intent. They’re keywords that are popular and can lead to lots of organic traffic.

Competitive keywords with a high buying intent are those that have a higher chance of converting into a sale, which is what makes them lucrative. High buying intent keyword queries include words such as buy, price, cheapest, discount, sale. These are searched by people who are ready to buy now- they don’t need much persuasion!

If websites such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, the NY Times, the Huffington Post or any government website is ranking on page 1 for a keyword, this is a signal that it’s going to be difficult to outrank these websites due to their high authority.

To outrank the competition would require years of focused marketing and SEO strategies, a costly exercise that doesn’t guarantee success. If you do want to try targeting competitive keywords, I have some tips and advice for you.

What can a business with a small marketing budget do to improve its chances of ranking for competitive keywords?

Look for longer tail, lower competition keywords

When I’m faced with a keyword case that’s hard to crack because of high competition, I prefer to take a different approach.

Rather than targeting the high search volume, highly competitive keywords, I recommend investigating other keyword possibilities that aren’t as competitive.

Long tail keywords are usually longer keyword phrases that don’t always have high authority websites ranking for them. I refer to this as keyword gold because often you can find good search volumes without the high authority websites to worry about.

It’s true that the long tail keyword is SEO’s worst kept secret, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort and you have your detective hat on, you can find keywords that are easier to rank for and are worth using on your website. 

If the idea of spending hours in a keyword research rabbit hole sounds about as appealing as lemon juice on a paper cut, please contact me about my keyword research services!

Look for complementary keywords

If you can’t tackle a keyword head-on because of its competitiveness, look for complementary keyword opportunities.

What are some complementary topics suited to your or your client’s business? Can you find any lower competition keywords relating to these complementary topics? 

The idea is to get the right types of people onto your website. Looking for complementary topics that your audience is interested in may help to drive them to your website. Once on your website, you can guide them to the pages that you really want them to visit.

Create content that’s better than anything else available

Analyse the content currently on page 1. Look at the way the content is written. Check for things like grammar, structure, style and tone. Is there missing information that you could include in your own content? Can you write from a different perspective or angle? Add in a case study, statistics, a graph, a table? Expand on what’s already been written?

If you believe that you can create content that’s “out of this world” when compared with content ranking on page 1, then it might be worth pursuing. Your content can get traction from other traffic sources until it starts ranking in Google, such as social media or email marketing.

Focus on all the missing pieces of the SEO puzzle

You can’t solve a mystery with only one clue. You can’t crack the SEO code without working on all areas of SEO: technical, on-page and off-page.

If you’re working with a client who has an existing website, an SEO audit will help you identify the missing pieces of their SEO puzzle. It will tell you what’s missing or set up incorrectly. I offer SEO audits as a service to copywriting clients. Contact me for more information.

One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses making is not building their website authority. You need to market your business, and in turn, market your website. Every business promotional activity you engage in should be improving your business AND website authority.

Whether it’s a speaking gig, a guest blog, a podcast interview or a magazine feature, whenever your business is mentioned on the web, there should be a link back to your website.

And if you’re a business that hosts guest bloggers, runs events, has a podcast or interview series, link to the websites of those who have been your guests as a goodwill gesture.

Don’t ignore the smaller SEO details

Another mistake I see businesses making is ignoring the finer details of SEO. They assume that because their website content is optimised for the right keywords, this should be enough. 

Yet they haven’t bothered with things such as claiming their Google My Business account and regularly posting content on there. They haven’t listed their business on good quality business directories. They haven’t bothered trying to improve their website page speeds because it means finding a web developer to help them.

While some things are more important for SEO than others, you can’t ignore the seemingly smaller tasks because they all add up. No one truly knows the Google algorithm so we are only guessing what is and isn’t important (and I’ve seen this differ from industry to industry).

One final word

SEO is a long-term strategy, and if you’ve put some ideas in place for the next few years, you could end up ranking well for competitive keywords. But you need to assess who the competition is at the moment and have a strategy in place for building your website authority. Lots of marketing and backlink building, along with the right content optimised for your keywords will put you in good stead.

For more SEO tips like this one, sign up to my weekly email list and get access to SEO freebies to help you with SEO for your own business and for your clients. Click the image below!

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Nat Alleblas- SEO Sleuth: helping copywriters, marketers and web developers with their SEO needs. When she's not slaying SEO, Nat can be found with her head buried in a book or is smashing out a spin class. But not at the same time. Loves eggplant lasagna.

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