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.”

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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


102 Responses

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

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

    Thank a lot… 🙂

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