Lesson 5: Easy Keyword Opportunities
Up to now, we’ve focused on researching your competitors’ keywords and content to develop your own winning SEO strategy.
In this lesson, we’re going to do something entirely different—find awesome keywords you can rank for that your competitors may not even have thought of.
So let’s get started...
Step 1: Get a HUGE list of keyword ideas
Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer tool is your best source for finding keywords.
This tool runs on a database of about 4.3 BILLION keywords and is updated with fresh keywords every month. That’s something no other tool can match.
And getting started is incredibly simple. Just type a few "seed" keywords related to your niche into the tool and navigate to the "Keyword Ideas" > "All" report. For this lesson, we’ll use two general keywords, “backpack,” and “backpacks.”
For these two terms, Keywords Explorer generated well over 300,000 keyword ideas for me. Best of all, all these terms are highly relevant, most of them containing the original search term.
- Enter one or two seed keywords into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool.
- Open the “Keyword Ideas” report, and review the keyword ideas for your target keyword.
The next step will be to pare down that huge list to find some keyword opportunities you could potentially rank for in only a month or two.
Step 2: Determine the traffic potential of the best keywords
With such a huge list to sort through, you need some metrics to help you find your best keyword opportunities.
Each Keyword Ideas report includes two metrics by default: keyword difficulty (which we'll discuss in Step 3) and search volume.
Search volume is a powerful metric that shows you how many times people search for a given keyword per month in the country you selected in your settings.
And since a high search volume could indicate that the keyword can boost your traffic, it’s a good place to start narrowing your list. So scroll through the report and identify the terms you like that have a good search volume.
But don’t get too excited about them yet...
Not all high-volume keywords actually result in traffic.
Google constantly tests new features in their search results pages. Their goal, of course, is to make search easy for users, so they like to include a lot of "SERP features" in search results.
To show you what we mean, let’s search for "donald trump age."
Instead of organic search results topping the page, you see information cards that could easily answer a user’s question without having to click on anything.
Sure, "donald trump age" has a raw search volume of almost 102K searches per month, but with those knowledge cards topping the results, the actual traffic potential of this keyword is relatively low—only 14%, or 15k clicks on the search results.
Here’s another example…
In our Keyword Ideas report, “jansport backpacks” has a gray icon beside it. If we hover over that icon, we see a list of 4 SERP features that appear on Page 1 of Google for this keyword.
This gives you an idea of the type of features you’ll be competing with if you choose this keyword—in this case, shopping results, ads, sitelinks, and images.
And yes, this information is accurate. Here’s the screenshot from Google that shows these features.
Notice that all these features take up room on the SERPs, which means people have to scroll to see organic search results—and as we discussed above, depending on their search intent, they may not actually click on any of the results.
So what are we saying here?
Google’s search features may be great for users, but they effectively steal traffic from websites that rank on Google’s first page for that keyword.
And that’s why we decided to develop the Clicks metric.
It tells you how many people actually click on a SERP result for the keyword you’re exploring. By using it in combination with the volume metric, you can make more accurate predictions of the traffic you’ll get, which helps you plan your SEO budget.
To get the number of Clicks, you’ll need to click the "Get metrics" button for the keywords you’ve chosen in the report. Not only will you see the most current metrics for clicks, you’ll also see a color-coded icon with the most recent keyword difficulty score. But we’ll talk more about that in Step 3.
So let’s look at how the search volume and clicks metrics can help you find your top keyword ideas.
Start by reviewing each keyword’s search volume to pre-filter your list of keyword ideas. Then, once you’ve chosen a few medium- to high-volume keywords, check the number of clicks they get. If the keyword gets a high percentage of clicks, it could be a good keyword to pursue. But if it doesn’t, it probably isn’t worth your time.
You need to be sure your target keyword not only has a good search volume but also a high percentage of clicks.
- In the list of keyword ideas you generated in Step 1, find some high-volume terms that look like good opportunities.
- Click “Get metrics” for those keywords and check the “Clicks” metric to be sure they’re worth optimizing for.
- Create a list of the keywords that have a good search volume and a high percentage of clicks.
Then it’s time to validate your findings and set your priorities by checking the Keyword difficulty score.
Step 3: Determine the ranking difficulty
Once you ensure the traffic potential of a keyword by looking at the number of clicks it generates, the last step is to determine how difficult it would be to rank on the front page of Google for that keyword.
To do that, we rely on a metric called Keyword difficulty, or KD.
As you may already know, Google relies heavily on the number of backlinks a page has when determining whether it should rank at the top of SERPs. When compiling the KD score, Ahrefs scans the total number of backlinks the Top10 ranking results have and translates its findings into a score from 1 to 100 to show you how hard it will be to compete with (and outrank) those pages.
Obviously, the more backlinks the Top10 pages have, the more difficult it will be to compete with them. So we give you this information as both a number and a color code.
For example, a KD of 1 to 10 (color-coded green, for “go”) will likely be very easy to rank for, while a KD of 80 to 100 (color-coded red, for “stop”) will be incredibly hard to rank for. You’ll need to build hundreds of links to be able to rank on Page 1 of search engines for a keyword in that range.
The chart below shows you why. As you can see, the KD scale is exponential. As the KD score rises, you need significantly more referring domains to rank.
We’ve estimated that top-ranking pages for the keyword "content marketing" have backlinks from approximately 455 websites. As a result, this is a super challenging keyword to rank for, which is why it has a keyword difficulty score of 84.
A page’s raw number of backlinks is a very strong Google ranking factor, but there are at least 200+ smaller factors, all of which can influence ranking.
As a result, our keyword difficulty score (which is based purely on backlinks) is a good starting point for determining the real ranking difficulty of a keyword. Just keep in mind that it doesn't reflect the whole picture.
So now let’s see how the KD metric can help you refine your list of potential keywords.
When reviewing the keyword ideas in our report, I liked the terms:
- Hiking backpack - 15K volume, 12K clicks
- Leather backpack - 12K volume, 11.5K clicks
- Waterproof backpack - 11K volume, 12K clicks
Notice how high the clicks are compared to the search volume. This tells us these keywords could result in traffic if we can push our page to the top of search engines.
But to know how hard that will be, we need to know each term’s KD.
For that, look at your Keyword Ideas report. When you updated the metrics to see the Clicks, the KD score was also updated. Notice in this screenshot that all three of the terms I selected have a dark green color. And each of their scores is less than 10.
The third term, “waterproof backpack,” has a KD of 3, which is extremely low. Let’s look at the SERP overview for that term to understand why.
In this report, you can see all the top-ranking pages for a keyword at a glance. It’s the “Domains” column that impacts the KD score.
This column tells us how many referring domains each page has, and as you can see, most have only a few domains linking to them. As a result, you won’t need a lot of backlinks to compete with these pages and rank well for this keyword.
All three of the terms I selected above are great opportunities. They all have a high search volume and clicks, and they all have a low KD. But since “waterproof backpack” has a higher percentage of clicks and a lower KD, it should probably be a higher priority than the other two terms.
Your goal is to prioritize your list of keyword opportunities by reviewing their KD score. The keywords that can give you good traffic and are easy to rank for are you best opportunities.
- Review the keyword difficulty score for each of the keywords you’ve chosen.
- Prioritize your list, putting the terms with the lowest KD at the top of your list.
Now, it’s only a matter of working down the list. The keywords at the top of your list will likely be the easiest pages to rank for, but you’ll need to do the work to create high-quality pages and build relevant links to them.
A Good Place to Start
In this lesson, we only scratch the surface of the advanced keyword research you can perform with the Keywords Explorer tool. There are many other features and metrics that we didn't cover… but we’ll explain everything in future lessons.
We’ll also give you some ideas on how to create high-value pages for the keywords you choose—so you can rank higher and get more search traffic to your site.
In the meantime, add “Clicks” to the search metrics you review when picking your best keyword opportunities. And create a list of the easy keywords that you can possibly rank for in just a few months.
If you want to learn more about Ahrefs' Keyword difficulty score and how to apply it in your keyword research, please read this article on our blog: How To Use Ahrefs “Keyword Difficulty” Score To Find The Juiciest Keywords To Rank For .