How to target and rank high for low competition keywords

How to target and rank high for low competition keywords Don’t try to optimize your website with keywords that have too much competition. As an example. If you did a Google search for the keyword “SEO” it returns a result of 351,000,000 pages! You don’t need to be a marketing genius to realize that there is a lot of competition for this keyword and that it is going to be extremely hard to rank for this term. So instead concentrate your efforts on keywords that are much more attainable and easier to rank for.


“By now you understand the importance of doing proper keyword research.”

  We just published a 5,000 word Keyword Research Targeting Guide for PPC and SEO Campaigns..  Click on the image  below to learn more.

So you probably want to know how you do this.  Well, it is important to point out that, people have different methods and tools for achieving this research. In the first instance, I believe that your primary goal is to find and optimize your website for ‘Low competition keywords’.
‘Low competition Keywords’ are those keywords that have a good monthly search volume but relatively low competition. I classify good monthly search volume as anything over 1,000 searches per month and preferably 3,000 searches. By low competition, I mean that the sites occupying that first 10 places in Google can be beaten.   
Good monthly search volume + Low competition = SEO success.
High monthly search volume + High competition = SEO failure. 
Now is it easy to find these ‘low competition keywords’? The answer is no! The internet is extremely competitive, when other SEO firms find these ‘low competition keywords’ they take advantage of them for clients. However, that is not to say that there aren’t still a lot of excellent ‘golden keywords’ still to be found.  Using long tail keyword phrase variations of competitive search terms is also a valuable strategy for getting your website to become an authority on a particular keyword topic.   You want to look for the higher volume keyword terms, ones with at least 1,000 monthly searches (step 2 goes into this further) and then you can use a tool called to find variations of the keywords you want to target. Take a look at our 7 Step process to learn more.   
Start with understanding, that the goal of proper SEO keyword research is to uncover keywords that have a good monthly search volume and relatively low competition. When I am conducting keyword research, I look at it as a process or in stages.
First, I decide upon a niche or business category that I might want to get into, this could be something like  ‘NY commercial Insurance’ or  ‘home renovation’.
Second, I use keyword research tools to ascertain the interest in the niche or category and look at the keywords and search volumes. Then I look at the bigger picture, i.e.: how competitive is the niche overall for certain keywords?
Finally, I look at the top 10 websites and ascertain what my chances of outranking them. After all, ultimately your goal is to be no. 1 on Google, or at least on the 1st page. So, in reality, the only real competition is the 10 websites that occupy the position on the first page.
Ok, let’s look at each stage in more detail.

How to find Low Competion keywords?

Step 1: Deciding What keyword Category To Get Into

Really, this is a decision that you have to make on your own. You might be really passionate about a particular business sector or subject. You’d be really surprised at what interests other people share as well. One tip is to check out Google Trends. You can see what is popular at the moment and you can also see a chart of topics popularity. Initially, it doesn’t matter what niche or category you choose because you’ll soon find out whether there is any market for it.  

Step 2: Determining if there is a market for the category

Once you have decided on the business category that you want to get into, you need to ascertain whether there is a market for it. Now, there are many different ways to do this, but the easiest way is to use the Google Keyword Planner Tool or the free wordtracker keyword tool. Use the tool to analyze monthly search volumes. As mentioned, if the monthly search volume is over 1,000 then it might be something that you want to get into. You want to get a list of keywords related to your business ready for stage 3. 

Step 3: Looking at the ‘bigger picture’ for certain keywords.

Once you have your list of keywords, you now need to have a look at the bigger picture. This will help you get an idea of the chances for ranking. This does take quite a lot of time and effort, but believe me, it is well worth it.   

*Note this information I am about to give you is the real juice of SEO keyword research.

I am assuming that from stage 2 you have a list of keywords that get over 1,000 monthly searches. Take the keyword and type it into Google and do the following: 

Step 4: General Search

Type the keyword into Google and make a note of the results. There are no hard and fast rules, use your own judgment. If the search results return over 100,000,000 pages, then the chances are that the keyword is quite competitive. Conversely, if the results are less than 1,000,000 then it is possible that the competition is not so bad. Use a general search to get a feel for the size of the competition. 

Step 5: Perform “inanchor” search ** very important**

The next step is to perform the following search into Google.
The inanchor search command shows us how many websites have the keyword as anchor text pointing back to their website. We may assume if they have the exact anchor text pointing back to their website that they have done some sort of linking building campaign for that keyword. Therefore, it is logical to assume that they are the competition.  Generally, a result of under 1,000 is good and definitely under 100,000 search results.  

Step 6: Perform “intitle” search 

The next step is to perform the following search into Google:   intitle: “keyword”
This result will reveal how many websites have the keyword in the title tag. It is generally accepted by most SEO professionals that the title tag is extremely important for SEO, as it is one of the first things that the search engines look for. This command can help give us an approx figure of the number of websites competing for this keyword. Granted, some websites may have put these keywords in their title tag by accident, but the majority have put it there for a reason; i.e., they want to rank for a particular keyword. No hard and fast rules about the numbers, obviously the lower the better. 

Step 7: Perform “intitle” and “inanchor” search 

Now you want to perform both the inanchor and intitle search term. Input the following into Google
intitle:”keyword” inanchor:”keyword”
This will give you an approximate result of serious SEO competition. Smart SEO marketers will have the keyword in the title tag and will be building backlinks using the keyword as the anchor text. Therefore, I think this helps to give us a fairly good idea of the competition. Remember the lower the search results from this command the better. Results of less than 1,000 may indicate to us that we can beat them with a relatively small amount of backlink building. The higher the number the more competition.  

Step 8:Analyzing the top 10 websites for your keyword

That concludes stage 3. Hopefully by now you have chosen a keyword that has a good monthly search volume and relatively low link building competition. However, we can’t stop there. You now must analyze the top 10 websites on page 1 of Google. So far we have only compared the number of competitors, not at the strength of the competitors. It is my opinion that you only need to try and beat the first 10 websites. After all, your goal is to rank number 1 or at least get on the 1st page for the keyword. So we now need to analyze the strength of these top 10 competitors.  

Step 9: Type keyword into Google 

The first step is simple, type your keyword into Google and make a note of the top 10 results.

Step 10: Take each site and have a look at its backlinks.

The second stage is to have a look at the backlinks that each site in the top 10 results shows. Now, as I have mentioned before, I believe that it is impossible to get an exact result on the number of backlinks that a site has pointing to it, however we can still get an idea.
Try going to Moz Open Site Explorer or One Utility. Enter the domain name and have a look at the number of backlinks the site has pointing to it. The more back links means the more backlink building competition for you.

Step 11: – Have a look at the age of the domains.

Most SEO pro’s believes that older sites are more trusted by Google. Do a quick search to ascertain the age of the domain.

Step 12: Have a look at the onpage optimization of each site.

For each site go to the homepage and then right click “view source.” This will allow you to see the source code. Check to see if you can find the following:
A. Keyword at the beginning of title tag.
B. Keyword in the keyword tag
C. Keyword in the description tag
D. Keyword in the h1 tags.
E. Keyword sprinkled throughout the page.  
An absence of these might indicate that the site isn’t properly SEO optimized and could mean that you could take advantage of this. Check out On-Page SEO checklist guide. It is my opinion that it is ‘off-page’ factors, i.e., the number of backlinks that a site has pointing to it that is the most crucial! 

Step 13:Analyze if any sites have your keyword in the url.

The search engines put some weight on keyword rich domain names. If one of the sites in the top 10 results has the exact keyword you want to rank for as the domain name, then it may be harder for you to beat it.  

Step 14: Check the Page Rank of the domains.

Page rank, is not used publicly so much anymore as in the form of a Page Rank toolbar, is a way of Google showing us how important it thinks a web page is.   Google took away the toolbar so you use can a tool from Moz that shows page and domain authority. Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). 
You want to have a look at the overall domain authority of the top 10 websites. Now it is quite possible to outrank a site with a higher page rank than yourself, however it is useful to help build an overall picture of the domains strength.    

Step 14: Check for prominence of social shares

Social signals are becoming more of a ranking factor to determine the popularity of a page.   You can use tools like NinjaOutreach or Buzzsumo, to search for content that about a particular keyword phrase or topic to see what articles resonate the most with target audiences.  This useful because it can show what is trending and what is shared the most across all social networks.
Perform all 7 of these steps and you should be able to get a good feel of your likelihood of getting your site on the 1st page of the top 10 websites. This is a lot of information to take in, especially if you are just starting out in SEO.     

Step 15: Check, Update and Test what Content works the Best 

You should examine your content to ensure it provides the best, most complete answers to satisfy a query, whether you are trying to rank for an informational page or selling a product/service.  Also, you should always be testing what is the best calls to action, images, and user experience for a particular page. Check out some of our landing page optimization services.  You can use heatmap analytics software like Crazy egg or Hotjar to figure where users are clicking or leaving your page to improve your conversions. 


Hopefully, by now you can see the importance of it.  So before you do any search engine optimization make sure that you perform proper keyword research.  Visit our blog for more information.  

brainDo you know your real keywords?
Your keywords are NOT what you think! Get to know 7 ways Google rewrites search queries behind the scenes to produce better search results, and which implications the query refinement process has for SEO.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2011, but it is updated regularly to reflect the latest SEO “best practices” understanding of long-tail keyword optimization.     

                                  Check out our “Best Practices” Guide for On Page Optimization below.   arrow


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  • Puja Ag 20

    This article was very informative. Thanks!

    • Thanks for checking it out!

  • santosh kumnar

    It is very helpful for a SEO beginner. Thank u……

    • You are most welcome.

  • Deb

    Lots of good step-by-step info.  Appreciate the effort and time it took to compile this.  Thanks.

  • Brian

    Great info!!!  I really appreciate it!   Any helpful information you can point me to in regard to link building for low comp words?   

    I have many keywords around 1,000 exact phrase monthly search volume, with low competition.  I ranked 1st page the first day, however, not sure how much link building I need to do to get to number 1 position.  Websites at the top have page rank 1.

    I’m all about doing as little work as possible.  Do you think something as little as 10 backlinks would be sufficient?  About how long will it take to be number 1?

    • Hi Brian,  

      Thanks for reading our blog post. Some sectors and categories are harder to rank for. So without seeing your niche I would not be able to answer that exactly.   I don’t think there is “an exact number of back-links” needed to rank number 1 for a search.  You can use tools like SEOMOZ Pro to analyze keywords phrases and how hard it is to rank for them.  This will analyze how many links the top competitors have linking back to them with that keyword hyperlink anchor text.   Thanks for visiting I hope this is helpful. 

      • Brian

        Thanks for the reply Vania!  I actually have Market Samurai, which has told me these certain keywords will be easy to rank, however I’m not sure how patient to be.  Only started a week ago, however the competition is super weak….

        • Hi Brian, SEO and link building is an on-going process.  You may start ranking within a month, but it may take you about three to six months to really see results in terms of increased traffic and increased requests for your services and/or products.

  • This is one of the best articles ever written regarding building SEO strategy for conquering those low competition keywords. And in practice that is the most likely strategy that works- everybody is now going for that approach, but this article points out the best way in which we can do that.

    • Thanks for the comment and compliment!

  • Fabulous post (or must I say “Vabulous” ?!) ! Now I know what “Low competitive keyword” means! And I also realize that it’s not that easy to do good SEO! Thanks again!

    • Vania B

      Yes, SEO is an ongoing process, especially when things change so much like they have recently, with social and google’s algorithm changes. Thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed and found the post useful

  • Great, can u suggest me some keywords which I can target in which I can rank easily as well as it has a good payout?

    • You can start by looking at google Adwords to see which key phrases you can use that are low to medium competition, then look at your competitors and see what phrases they use to rank high.

  • Excellent article. You said that is hard to find such keywords. I will have to disagree with you. This always depends of what niche your website is. Another parameter is that you will have to check around the product with creativity. In my case i found low competition with 135000 searches 8 keywords. Everything is how you will think.

  • Slammer

    There is the one about using keywords the way a drunk uses a lamppost – for support rather than illumination. And then there is the one about the woman who happens upon a man on his hands and knees under a lamppost outside a tunnel. What is he doing? Looking for his keys. Is that where he lost them? No, he lost them inside the tunnel. Why isn’t he looking there? It’s dark in there; it’s light under the lamppost.

    • This is the weirdest comment we’ve received. I agree with you that keywords are only part of SEO work, writing engaging content is harder, and the key to writing good content is to show how your business is unique.
      Thanks for your comment.


  • Sandeepchauhan450

    nice  written and this will help me as i am fresher in SEO 

  • I’ve been building links for a while but it seems difficult to rank for low competition keywords. I’m thinking about hiring a professional to get the job done right.

  • Google AdWords is also an excellent resource that will tell you competitive strength as well as global and monthly search volumes.

  • Great post thanks

  • Zach B

    I am blown away! Bravo! This is probably the best seo article I have ever read!

  • Definitely going to implement these points…Thanks

  • Veeru Bolem

     This is best of the best article regarding seo for beginners. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • mcklaw

    Hi Vania,

       A very very usefull article. How do you treat keywords with whitespaces for inanchor and intitle step? Do you replace whitespaces with %20?

    Thanks in advance!

  • arvind101

    Tremendous article..exactly what I was searching for since almost a year..thank you very much to the author.

  • La Tanya Brooks

    Well put together, thought out and organized. It gave me answers to my questions, which is something I look for when reading an article of this magnitude. Hats off to you

  • Andrew Broadbent

    Thanks to all of you guys for reading our blog and visiting Vab Media’s website. This post continues to be one of our most useful and popular seo articles.

  • central texas considerations

    I love this article. Easy to understand and straight to the point.

    • Andrew Broadbent

      Thanks Central Texas Considerations we try to help business’s and explain marketing in layman”s terms.

  • This is indeed a great article with precise explanation on keyword consider for SEO.

  • Mama Carmody

    Thanks so much for this information. I have been blogging for over a year and know that keywords are essential but really didn’t understand this very well. You put this is really clear terms so now I’m beginning to understand how to use this better. Thanks so much!

  • Ferb Huynh

    Love this tutorial, it’s amazing and help a lot.

  • Upper Mission Homes

    how will use “inanchor”and “intitle” searches.

  • Jemile

    excellent article many thanks for posting …Jemile

  • Dhiraj Das

    Great article, thanks for nice detailed explanation. This is the best policy to start with low competition keywords and slowly move ahead

  • Jean

    Best article about keyword research. Thanks for sharing.

  • D Jones

    Stage two step three… You’re doing this in Google search or Google keyword tool?

    • felipipi

      Google Search

  • Megan H

    Great article and truly covered everything.

    • Thanks Megan for commenting and feedback!

  • Just one addition. When analyzing the competition another good sign is if there’s a niche site ranking in the top 10, specially if it’s brand new

  • inderjeet singh

    very nice really . i read very usefull stuff and now i will apply this stuff for my website.

  • Amazing article. This article is a quick seo tutorial in one page. An eye opener for someone like me who has just started with blogging. I have several websites running but never got a hold on seo. And i do not see any worth in outsourcing seo work to an agency or freelancer for your personal blog. This is the main reason why I am now trying out my luck in seo.

  • kate

    This is an excellent article and i am taking tips from this article. I have used different tools but this article gave me some simple steps to follow. Please share more articles on SEO. Many Thanks

  • I echo others comments, this is a well researched, detailed article that definitely helps. Thanks for taking the time add such great content.

    • Thanks for the props

  • Spook SEO

    This is exactly what we all need to do for the site to get the best useable traffic that return high ROI and the method you have chosen is really good for these things if you are a beginner in the competition and want to be at the top of not only in the search ranking but also in the high sales too. The best post you have written delivering the information we require for the SEO of our site.

  • aminur

    It is the best seo article.I love this article .It is very easy success.

  • Atiqur Rahman

    Awesome explanations!! Made it look so easy but actually it is not..Keyword Research is a tough job..but it really looks easy after reading this Article.

  • paruls86

    Thanks a lot…. This finally makes sense!!!!

  • Darshini MP

    This is seriously the best article on keyword research. Luvd it… :*

    • Thanks hope you get some good use out of it 😉

  • Classic tutorial!

    Permission to reproduce it on my blog, please.

    • Go for it. We just ask you link back to us.

  • Daniel

    Fantastic post on targeting low comp Keywords, Vania.
    You put together a very in-depth set of procedures that can give people a very solid indication of what they are up against, when targeting certain Keywords..
    The problem that does arise is that, various Keyword / SEO tools can paint a different picture altogether, of how difficult a keyword is…..depending on how and where they are sourcing their data….
    I chose a keyword recently that was very rank-able in one tool, that then turns out to be hugely competitive according to another tool.
    So, just dong the “raw Google Searches” then making comparisons, can help to verify which tools / data are accurate…..

  • Thanks for this tutorial. This information will be very helpful to me in the days ahead.

  • Hanna Sles

    thank you for the article! Can I ask you a question? Step 1
    Type keyword into Googleand 2 – google gives different search results – “any time”, “past hour”, “past 24 hours” etc. Which results should be taken into cosideration?

  • and one more question: inanchor:”keyword” and intitle:“keyword”. Should there be a space after “inanchor:” and “intitle:”. In step 3 you put a space, in step 4 there is no space. What is the right variant? Google results depend much on the space.

  • Muzzamel

    Very Very Good article i worried about for selecting keyword so after read this article i relax so much..thanks for nice posting

  • hotu sef

    good job

  • Very Good Article.. much appreciated for your help!

  • pwadsworth87 .

    I’m loving this article so far but it has given me a very important question to ask. Google has changed a lot and SEO appears to be different today. For instance: In step for where you have put “Smart SEO marketers will have the keyword in the title tag and will be building backlinks using the keyword as the anchor text”. I believe that website linking should be more natural now including page title links and actual URL’s?

    • Andrew Broadbent

      Pwadsworth87 thank you for checking out this article. We wrote this article a few years ago and yes Google is always changing. I agree that using exact match anchor text is not recommended all the time. It is to try get a variety of links. So we think it is also good to have company named branded anchor text links as well. ” Vab Media SEO Agency”

  • WOW it’s great and awesome, I have learned the best guide for my blog. I saved this page and shared on twitter. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • This is one of the best SEO articles I’ve ever read, and believe me, I’ve read a lot. The details and the manner in witch the first steps of SEO are explained are excellent

  • alan2102

    How have google’s algo updates over the last 3 years affected what you advise here?

    • Hi Alan,

      Yes Google has changed a lot things with the algorithm updates like Penguin, Panda and the Hummingbird. I wrote this post originally back in 2011 so I would say that with Google”s introduction to the Knowledge Graph, they are getting a lot better at trying to understand context of what is the searcher really looking for when they type in a phrase not just trying to match words from a page. I will update this post soon.

  • mitch maki

    Great stuff! I did everything you mentioned and I had one question. Most of the top 10 results are videos from youtube, twitter page of music videos. Nothing on the top 10 is related to the site I’m building. So my question is should I count them as competition? Thank you!

    • Yes with Google’s universal search results algorithm, depending on the nature and context of the search phrase, Google will show videos, images and and now even Tweets from Twitter. So everything is considered competition if you are wanting to rank for a certain phrase.

  • Webmaster Pranav

    Feeling top of the world.,,,,,

    Thanks for writing such a great article. Now i am very much confident on How to choose appropriate keywords for my website…Thanks again…


  • Great article. Please, I want to repost this article on our site.

  • This is one of the best SEO articles I’ve ever read.Thanks Alot 😀

  • Very Very Very Nice Article I Must Say..First Time I Read Any Article Till The End.I Feel Learned….

  • Mums EnterpriseEvent

    do you guys offer all this as a service?

    • Yes, Lindsey, we do. Feel free to contact me via our contact form and let us know what industry you are in and include your website. Thank you!

    • Yes we do

  • I am so impressed with this!

  • The Keyword Planner is the last resort for looking at long-tail keywords for SEO.

    • Hi Didik, thanks for reading our blog post, What tools or methods do you like to use ?

  • Ridwan, If you want to out source to India you will get what you pay for.

  • satish shethi

    Excellent, i have never seen such a article anywhere till now. Thank you Sir. Thanks a million. God bless you. Love you.

  • Sajid Ali

    Hmm well said

  • JainyNetwork

    Great blog nice

  • This seo tip may have been about 5 years old already yet it is still useful.

  • Great stuff..old but gold..

  • Meri Chant Saheli

    This is really very informative and i have learned so many new things today …

    Thank a lot… 🙂

  • This is a best article for beginner not me

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  • Long tail keywords with low competition are recommended to gain higher ranking in search engine. Thank for the well explained article

  • Ivan RL

    Hi there,

    Just curious how much of this pertains to 2012?


  • Best SEO Article, I don’t like those SEO articles with the purpose to sell their keyword tools

  • Asif Awan

    awsome dear. alot of information for newbies. i am one of them. bundle of thanks

  • Om Thoke

    Yep very well explained… I found another easy way of finding low competition gold mines – simply Google the keyword in double quotes and filter out those keywords which have under 1000 results in double quotes and over 1000 monthly search volumes, and just build around 8-10 backlinks for each of them – I’ve been publishing such good ones for the community as keyword idea of the day on

  • you have good command in SEO our article showed your spirit. i am a new and have passion to get SEO command, do you have a layout to learn SEO techniques?

  • This is a great post. I was looking for practical steps to take and seeing what I was missing from the SEO big picture of low competition keywords.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  • Exactly, One of the easy understandable and practical to target the competitors and follow. Very useful and best seo article for me and hope to everyone. Simple excellent. Thank you so much.

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