The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!
It has now been fifty-two days since I launched my new authority site.
In that time I have written 41 articles, each in excess of 500 words. Every single one of those articles has been carefully crafted to target a specific long tail keyword, in the hope that each will eventually rank on the first page of Google.
In this post I want to go into my keyword research and competition analysis strategy in detail. I will show you the exact process that I have followed to pick keywords to base articles around. If you are currently building your own authority site, you may be able to take some of my ideas and adapt them for your own strategy.
In the last post in this series I had nothing of great note to report. It was encouraging to see that the number of keywords the site was ranked for had increased from 8 to 11, and I also had a ranking on the first page. So what’s changed since?
Just like a whole host of other sites across the web, my site was hit by the recent Google algorithm updates. My site now only ranks for three keywords, and what little progress I had made in terms of rankings has been all but wiped out.
My theory is that Google was previously ranking the site in part because of the partial keyword match domain, but they have now reduced that as a ranking factor. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest — it’s an algorithm change, not a penalty.
As for traffic, there hasn’t been a single visitor to the site since September. Google is certainly aware that the site exists, but doesn’t yet deem it worthy of the first page. And as you no doubt know, if you’re not on the first page, you’re unlikely to get any traffic.
Am I worried about any of this? Not in the slightest. Whilst I feel that ranking the site without building and curating links is going to be all but impossible, I have plenty of ideas up my sleeve for when that time comes.
Finally, I am starting to run out of SEO-optimized article ideas for the site. Whilst I have lots of blog post style ideas, most of the long tail keywords that I haven’t yet written posts for are:
- Too competitive,
- Too close in terms of subject matter to existing content, and/or
- Register no searches in Google’s Keyword Tool.
So from a picky point of view, I am running out of ideas. But there are still plenty of things to write about — it might just take longer to rank them, or they may not attract as much traffic as other articles.
So that’s the latest — now let’s get onto the meat of the post!
What Can Long Tail Traffic Do For You?
I love long tail keywords — they are a wonderful source of traffic. I think that any well-established blog can generate a considerable amount of traffic by targeting long tail keywords. I know that Leaving Work Behind certainly could be receiving a lot more search traffic if I produced more posts that target specific keywords.
Take one post in particular as an example: Entry Level Writing Jobs — 5 Top Resources. When I wrote the post, I wanted it to rank for the keyword ‘entry level writing jobs’, which according to Google, attracts 390 exact match searches per month.
The post currently ranks 3rd in Google for the keyword, and received 60 referrals in September from search engines via that keyword. However, there were an additional 85 alternative searches that referred people to that post during September. Well over half the total referrals were not via the targeted keyword, but contextually relevant alternative long tail keywords.
Whilst ranking one post for a keyword with a low search volume may not seem like a worthwhile endeavor, you should consider two things:
- You have the potential to rank for multiple long tail keywords with each post
- Creating multiple articles can result in a considerable amount of traffic
Alright — so you’re either sold on the concept or you’re not. If you are, the theory is simple — find long tail keywords that you can rank for and write high-quality articles based around them. I split that process into two steps — keyword research and competition analysis.
What I love about my process is that you can follow it at absolutely no cost. Whilst I am going to recommend that you use two particular apps to make your life easier, you absolutely do not need to purchase them to make use of my strategy. Their involvement is more for convenience and efficiency, as opposed to functionality that could not otherwise be utilized.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that my process is in no way proven. So if you do decide to incorporate this strategy into your own, you do so at your own risk. I hope that in time I will be able to refer back to this as a pivotal element of a successful project, but until then, I can offer no assurances.
Before we begin, you may want to read my free guide to keyword research and competition analysis. If you are relatively new to the world of SEO (or even if not) you may find it useful, and it is obviously highly relevant to the topic at hand. Just enter your email address here and click “Sign Me Up!”:
Step 1: Keyword Research
As you will know if you read the first post in this series, the content strategy for my authority site is based upon Google autocomplete search phrases. You may want to read that post (and the other posts in this series) if you haven’t already.
When I started the site I was searching for article ideas manually by literally typing in, “[keyword] a”, “[keyword] b”, “keyword [c]“, and so on. Each search would display different potential post ideas:
This wasn’t particularly efficient, but I didn’t know of a better way. Then Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income made a suggestion in the form of an app called Keyword Researcher (thanks Pat!). It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
In a nutshell, it makes generating an enormous list of potential long tail keywords relating to your niche a piece of cake. It actually has a whole bunch of useful applications outside of creating authority sites, but it was perfect for my needs too.
With Keyword Researcher I was able to compile a list of long tail keywords in just a few minutes. I’ve demonstrated how in the video below.
There is a free trial available, but at the time of writing, the full version of Keyword Researcher will set you back $45.97. It is absolutely not a necessity, but it won’t half make your life easier (as the above video demonstrates).
Step 2: Competition Analysis
Alright, by this stage I had a whole bunch of long tail keywords — the issue then was determining which were worth writing articles for.
I started by picking keywords indiscriminately, but soon realized that I could easily write 50 articles for competitive keywords without even realizing. Although long tail keywords are generally less competitive than those with a higher search volume, there are still those that are extremely difficult to rank for.
So I would consider competition analysis, even on long tail keywords, to be extremely important. Spending a few minutes up front picking viable keywords should help achieve far more beneficial results down the line.
Although competition analysis can typically get quite tricky, I actually stuck to a pretty simple process for my authority site, which I have shared in the video below. As always, I use Market Samurai for competition analysis. Given that this particular process is relatively straightforward, you could get away without it, but I would always recommend it as an awesome SEO tool anyway.
Once you have your list of keywords and know which ones are worth targeting, the next step is of course content production. And that is exactly what I am going to cover in the next post in this series — all of the methods I use to optimize my posts.
Whilst you might not go too far wrong by simply writing and publishing your posts without much thought for optimization, I do believe that you give yourself a better chance if you take the time to prepare each post accordingly.
Until then, I’d love to get your thoughts on my keyword research and competition analysis process. Do you agree with my methods, or would you recommend an alternative approach? Let us know in the comment section!
Creative Commons image courtesy of rockmixer