ROI Based Keyword Research

Daniel Cuttridge

If you’re in any way involved with Search Engine Optimization, you will be familiar with the topic of Keyword Research.

And there are more than a few million search results talking about the topic.

It’s a big topic.

Some articles cover the basics, others cover advanced methods. However in my own experience, and my experience talking with others, one of the big issues in SEO today is poor keyword targeting.

In this article, I want to introduce you to a different way of doing keyword research. Of course, you’ll need to already understand the basics, so this isn’t a beginners article. However, you will benefit from reading this even if you are more advanced. I promise.

A Common Scenario

For all of the information about keyword research, we continue to get it wrong.

A common scenario in this industry:

  • Research your keywords
  • Order an article
  • Publish it on your site
  • Promote it/build links/whatever
  • Wait for it to make money

Except it never makes money.

People will say, “I don’t get it, my site is great and my content is better than my competitors but I can’t get onto Page 1, Position 1, *insert place here*.

I’ve heard a million reasons for why people think this is the case. I’ve sold hundreds of audits to help people discover why that is.

The one thing people never think of is their keyword targeting, and before you decide what to target, you do keyword research.

I asked my group what they’re doing, and while there is no wrong answer, I do think there is opportunity being left on the table. (I used to be in the same boat).

Both of these guys are doing things they should be, but I’m hoping that I can give them some extra steps. I always say I love giving people more work to do 💕

Competitiveness & Difficulty

After you have dealt with things like intent, query meaning and so on you will need to assess whether or not you have a chance of ranking the keyword.

There are lots of tools on the market to help you do this, and these metrics such as Keyword Difficulty (Ahrefs) are the cornerstone of a lot of peoples processes.

There are also methods such as KGR or “Keyword Golden Ratio” that allows you to calculate your own ‘KD’.

Assessing Competitiveness & Difficulty with any third-party metric is always going to be error prone and prone to flaws. For example, KGR is reliant on Google Operators which are well known to be problematic. If you’ve ever used KD for a significant amount of time you’ll notice that it’s very hit and miss.

F&*k your metrics!

So how can we change this? How can we start to get better results from our keyword targeting?

Signs Of Successful Keyword Targeting

One of the first things we need to do is start scoring and rating success.

Every site will vary, this is because of the characteristics that are unique to each website. But a good approach is to target keywords of a similar level.

A smaller, newer site should target keywords that have less competition. A larger, more established site can go for “mid-range keywords”.

Either way, you should be able to establish a rough idea of where you’re indexing.

Track your keywords before your content indexes to get an idea of how your targeting is working out for you.

Up in the 80s and 90s? Not so good. In the 20s and 30s, you’re going to find it easier to rank quickly.

If you’re indexing outside the top 100 or in the higher ends of the 1–100 scale then this is a good sign that your keyword targeting isn’t as good as it should be.

Once you actually start doing this, your reaction to the KD and KGR fanboys be like:

An ROI Based Approach

You might have already heard me talk about ROI Based Keyword Research. In my last Medium post, I mentioned it was a key part of my success.

This all started last year, running multiple affiliate sites and focusing on getting results within a strict budget.

I knew that I wanted to stop wasting money on articles and links that were targeted to keywords that ended up not ranking, despite the tools telling me I should be able to “easily”.

I got sick of KD, KGR and other metrics like it. I wanted to make an ROI on every single article I produced.

I decided it was time to test out some things, so I started comparing different metrics against one another, as well as completely new metrics that I had created myself.

I tested this for two months, over $1,000 worth of articles were created and my data was conclusive.

I tested A LOT of metrics.

The best results I had got came from Manual Analysis. I also implemented other systems such as Traffic Estimators. This allowed me to take a list of 200 keywords and filter them down to sure winners.

So at this point, the system looked a bit like this:

Seed Research > Filter By Intent, Query Meaning etc etc > Manual Analysis > Traffic Estimate > Keywords To Target.

Manual Analysis

These are the three most important things to analyze, according to my own opinion.

If you haven’t already been doing manual analysis, I want to walk you through the basics. Even if you are already doing it, there’s a good chance different peoples analysis varies from person to person.

Step 1: Assess Top 10' DR

Domain Rating (DR) is another Ahrefs metric. It has actually correlated very strongly with rankings over the years in various studies. So the first step is to take the DR of the top 10 and ‘Average’ it. Is this much higher than your own?

Step 2: Assess Top 10' Relevance

There are a few ways to establish relevance, but by far the easiest will be if the keyword is in the title of the ranking page. You can also look at the URL and even the article heading/h1 if you want to be really stringent.

Step 3: Assess Top 10' Number of RDs

The final step that I consider to be vital is assessing the volume of RDs (Referring Domains). If you crunch the average here it’ll give you a good idea of what number you might have to match. Is that too many links for you to compete with? This is the quintessence of ROI based keyword research. Don’t compete where you can’t compete.

With these three steps, you should use a basic scoring system. 1 point for each positive and 0 points added if a negative is found. While this is useful, I also like to use an IF THEN for the DR and Relevance…

IF DR = High.. THEN check Relevance.

This can work out well rather than simply throwing out the keyword because the average DR is higher than your own. You can outrank high DR easily if you have a relevance advantage.

Traffic Estimate

After assessing the competitiveness of a SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page) you should have a good idea of whether your goal of ranking for that keyword is realistic.

You should also have a rough idea of where you can expect to rank. E.g. Position 10, Position 8 or Position 1.

Is it worth it though?

Another common issue is not really considering whether there is enough Search Volume to make an ROI. Especially in the “lower positions”.

Average Click-Through Rate By Position:

It’s really useful to know these figures and to save myself the time I developed a useful Google Sheets file to help me do it.

You can make a copy of the sheet here >

You will need to manually input your keyword data, your estimated position and then the sheet will do the rest.

Your Next Steps

If you’re anything like me and you’re sick of spending money that doesn’t result in tangible results e.g. a Return on Investment then I can’t recommend this approach enough.

Utilize the tips and steps I’ve outlined, make a copy of my Traffic Estimator Sheet. And remember that while ROI Based Keyword Research will take longer, it’s a quality over quantity approach that will allow you to scale your sites faster and enable you to hire someone to take care of this for you anyway.

If that’s the only real downside what’s not to love?

If you enjoyed this article, please remember to give it a share.

Thanks for reading.

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Daniel Cuttridge

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SEO Nerd. Learn more @

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