15 Keyword Strategies to Grow Your Traffic

For when high-volume keywords, low competition isn’t enough

Ariel Lim
Ariel Lim
Jul 28 · 12 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Growing your website traffic is the first step in any digital marketing strategy. Without people visiting your site, you can’t sell anything. But remember, there are different channels and strategies you can use to increase your website traffic.

If you want to increase your chances of success, the best place to start is always keyword research. But if you Google this topic, 99% of the recommendations is to find high search volume and low difficulty keywords. But that may not always be the best approach for your business, industry, and situation right now.

In this post, I’ll cover briefly why keyword research is important and 15 different keyword research strategies you can use. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, use it as a starting point to prioritize which approach makes more sense for your business right now.

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

Keyword research isn’t necessarily just for SEO and growing your organic traffic. As a refresher, the three most basic metrics of keyword research are the following:

  1. Keyword — this is the query or search phrase itself.
  2. Search volume—often expressed by the number of searches per month; the higher the number, the more people are searching online.
  3. Difficulty—determines how easy/difficult it is competing for the keyword; the higher the number, the more competition for it.

While these metrics are based on search engine data, you can think of it as a representation of the people’s desires, needs, and wants. It’s a way to determine a topic’s popularity and what people care about.

If people aren’t searching for it on Google, most likely, people aren’t interested in it. And if they aren’t interested, no matter how good your content is, it won’t help you grow your traffic.

Image for post
Image for post
Google trends for coronavirus

If you were trying to write content and educate people about the coronavirus back in 2018, you weren’t likely to get much success. No one was searching for it. It’s not relevant to them. It wasn’t going to get any traffic to your website. That’s why keyword research is an important step you should not neglect, especially if you don’t want to waste your efforts.

1. Use Seed Keywords to Understand the Industry

The most often recommended step is to identify a couple of seed keywords for your industry. These core search terms are typically 1–2 words/phrases that people often use.

  • Digital marketing.
  • Cafes.
  • Anime.
  • Swimming pools.

Depending on the industry, you can also come up with a list of subtopics. For example, under digital marketing, you also have content marketing, SEO, and social media. Those are still seed terms (or head terms).

Plug these in your keyword research tool to get more ideas.

Image for post
Image for post
SEMrush Keyword Overview

In the example above, you enter the head term “digital marketing” and under it, you can see a lot of keyword variations.

Whatever tool you’re using, you’ll most likely see the basic metrics I mentioned earlier. Then, it’ll show you other ones like cost-per-click (CPC) data or SERP features.

Jot down keywords that are relevant to your business. Or, if your keyword research tool allows it, add them to a keyword list. This allows you to go back to them later.

2. Group Keywords to Create Topic Clusters

As you begin your keyword research, you’ll notice a lot of keyword variations. These are keyword phrases that are similar to each other.

Let’s say you are trying to create content for “keyword research.” That’s my seed keyword (#1). In your keyword tool, you will then see a lot of different keywords you can target in your blog post. You can then group these keywords together to create a more comprehensive post. This is known as the pillar page.

Image for post
Image for post
SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool

For example, if you’re planning to write an article on “keyword research tools,” you can group these keywords together:

  • Best keyword research tools.
  • Best SEO keyword research tools.
  • SEO keyword research tools.
  • Free keyword research tools.

Then, as you write your article, you sprinkle them all over. Instead of using your main keyword over and over, you use the other variations instead.

Or if you plan to write pillar content on “keyword research,” make sure to add “keyword research tools” as one of your subtopics.

3. Find Your Competitors and What’s Working for Them

If you want an easy way to research keywords and topics to write about, then competitive research should be one of the first strategies you implement.

The idea is simple:

  1. Find your competitors’ top keywords/pages. These are the ones that are driving them the most traffic and results (AKA positions on search engines).
  2. Create a better version.

Most keyword research tools also tell you which websites are your real SEO competitors. You do this by entering your own domain and it will look at the keywords you’re ranking for in the top 100 and then display which websites are also ranking for the same search terms.

Image for post
Image for post
SEMrush Competitive Positioning Map

The more keywords that overlap, the more likely they are your organic search competitors. Take a look at their top pages/keywords. If it’s relevant, write a better version of it.

4. Perform a Keyword Gap Analysis

Since you know who your competitors are, you can use a more advanced keyword research methodology called the content gap or keyword gap analysis. The idea behind this tactic is to find keywords your competitors are targeting and ranking for that you might have overlooked.

Image for post
Image for post
SEMrush Keyword Gap analysis

It will be almost impossible to do this without a keyword research tool.

In the example above, the SEMRush Keyword Gap tool shows you various keywords that are missing in your own website, or search terms where you’re weak compared to your competitors.

You’ll see that our website (indicated by the first column and color-coded blue) isn’t performing well for the French Press topic. And because it’s a relevant search term, creating new blog posts around it or improving the existing ones should be high on our priorities list.

5. Use Existing Data to Grow Your Traffic

This keyword research method is often overlooked by a lot of marketers.

Leverage existing data so you can rank higher and get more traffic.

You can do this by diving in Google Search Console. You can find each page on your website, what keywords they are ranking for, including relevant metrics such as impressions, clicks, and most importantly, its position on Google.

Image for post
Image for post
Google Search Console Data. Image provided by the author

Depending on the data, you might notice a particular page might be ranking for unexpected keywords. You can, then, use these to create a more targeted blog post around it. Combine this with other research methodologies on this page and you have the ingredients of a high performing blog post.

Another use case is to isolate which keywords or queries each page on your site is ranking for and optimize for it.

  • Look at keywords that rank in positions 15 and below.
  • If they make sense, add them to that page’s title, meta description, headings, and body.
  • Create new sections if needed.
  • Update your existing copy to incorporate them naturally.

Doing these will improve your rankings for that keyword. This will result in more traffic over time. Do this once every quarter and you’ll see your traffic continuing to grow.

6. Combine the High Volume, Low Difficulty Keywords Approach With Others

This is the holy grail of keyword research: the high volume, low difficulty keywords approach. As the name implies, you filter keywords that have a high monthly search volume that isn’t that difficult to rank high for.

You can combine this with other types of keyword research. For example, combining #1 and #2 with this strategy gives you a couple of ideas to write content for.

Image for post
Image for post
SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool with filters

If you’re a coffee shop owner and you sell coffee beans, you might not have thought about ranking for “coffee distributors” or “coffee catering.”

But if you do these things, it makes sense to create a page about it. Both have a high search volume (over 1,000 per month) and are easy to rank for.

Plus, it also falls under the next keyword research method…

7. Prioritize High Commercial Intent Keywords

Whenever people like you search for something on Google, there is a specific purpose for those searches. These are called search intent.

A high commercial intent is a search that has a high likelihood of leading to purchasing a product or service. Oftentimes, these are long-tail keywords (see #8).

Take the example below. When someone searches for “coffee house near me,” that person is most likely looking to buy a coffee. Now.

Image for post
Image for post
Google SERP for high commercial intent keywords

That’s why the search results include a map with coffee shops in a particular location, and the top results are Yelp pages with a list of the best coffee shops.

This keyword research method is a great way to acquire more qualified traffic fast. The more relevant you can make your page to match that intent, the more likely they are to convert.

8. Focus on Long-Tail Keywords

This method is also a standard in every keyword research guide. Long-tail keywords are highly specific, often low volume. Here’s how it looks like on a graph.

Image for post
Image for post
Search Demand Curve by Ahrefs

Remember, long-tail keywords are not associated with word count alone.

“You can’t (and shouldn’t try to) determine keyword popularity by looking at the number of words in a query. Short search queries can be ‘long-tail’ keywords, and long queries can be ‘head’ keywords.”

Tim Soulo

The key to finding long-tail keywords is its high specificity.

Image for post
Image for post
Keyword Magic Tool: coffee catering

For example, after digging into the report and applying filters, I could create specific pages optimized for the following keywords:

  • Coffee catering (the city that you serve) — Create a separate page for each city you’re operating in. If you’re a local business, including the city name in your landing page and adding your address makes it more relevant to users.
  • Coffee shop catering equipment — If you sell equipment specific for this, create a page to match the intent behind this. Most likely, this is a coffee shop owner who is looking to enter that market.
  • Coffee catering for weddings — since this is specific for weddings, you’d want to create a page targeting this industry. So your page might include how your coffee bar setup looks in a wedding setting.

Focusing on long-tail keywords helps you get quick wins for your website. You get qualified traffic and high chances of conversion.

9. Use User-Generated Content and Communities

If you don’t have the budget for SEO tools, then you can use this keyword research method instead.

Search for groups and communities that are related to your industry. Quora and Reddit are the top choices. But depending on your industry, you can find Facebook or LinkedIn groups. You can also look into Slack, WhatsApp, or Telegram groups. Look at polls or surveys.

The idea is to find common problems, questions, and other issues that your product or service can solve. If a lot of people are asking the question or there are a lot of answers or engagement around the topic, that’s a good sign that there is a demand for it.

Image for post
Image for post
Image provided by the author

The best part I like about this method is it removes one hurdle for marketers—coming up with topics or ideas to write about. Since people are asking for it, there’s a demand for it.

10. Find Common Themes From Comments

Another (free) area where you can get ideas for your blog posts is in your comments. Of course, this would depend on whether you have an engaged audience where people are leaving comments and asking questions.

This goes without saying that you can also do this research using your competitors’ website comments.

  • What is the topic?
  • Are people asking follow-up questions?
  • Do they react positively or negatively?
  • Are they sharing feedback?

Take note of these and see if a pattern emerges. If people keep asking for specific scenarios, you can either update the post to cover them or create a new blog post that covers each situation.

11. Conduct Customer Interviews and Surveys

This method is also underrated and often overlooked: ask your customers.

You can do this via phone calls, Zoom calls, face-to-face, email, or other survey tools. Depending on the nature of your business, you can use this method for research.

  1. Show people a photo of your product.
  2. Ask them what they would type into a search engine if they were looking for it.
  3. Discover new attributes, concepts, and synonyms you haven’t considered before.
  4. Expand your keyword research by including all new terms.
  5. Prioritize newly discovered queries by importance, relevance, and volume.
  6. Include top priority items in your copy, or define new landing pages if appropriate.

This strategy is a combination of a lot of methods mentioned here. But it bears more importance because it came from customers and actual people.

12. Take Advantage of Social Media

You can also use social media to research keywords or topics to write about. Just like the community/forums method, you find topics that resonate well and create content that’s similar, but better than what’s out there.

That’s how BuzzSumo first started.

Image for post
Image for post
Buzzsumo’s homepage

You simply enter a keyword or topic and it will show you the most shared content on different social media platforms.

Image for post
Image for post
BuzzSumo search

13. Use Wikipedia

Wikipedia is also a great place to do keyword research. Because anyone can contribute to a page, the topics are almost always comprehensive. By glancing at the table of contents alone, you can see what other people might expect when they want to read about gardening.

Image for post
Image for post
Gardening page on Wikipedia

Take it to another level by looking at the “See also” and “References” section. For example, gardening is too broad a topic. So, you might decide to focus on houseplants instead (which you’ll find in the “see also” section).

By using the related topics and navigating just within Wikipedia, you can get a lot of ideas for your blog posts and what you should cover.

14. Try Visualization

Another keyword research method is to use visualization to help you find ideas that you may have overlooked.

Image for post
Image for post

Oftentimes, looking at things from another perspective helps.

There are various tools out there. The most often recommended tool is Answer the Public. After typing in a keyword, it will show you a mind map that looks something like this.

Image for post
Image for post
Sample search using Answer the Public

As you can see, these mind maps are great prompts for keywords or topics you might have overlooked.

15. Anticipate Topics Using Trends

Sometimes, you’ll get no data or few results in search volumes when you use keyword research tools. And that’s okay. Remember, these tools are only extrapolating data from various sources. So, they are not 100% accurate.

What this means is sometimes, there are topics that people are already talking about, but shows you no data in your keyword research tool. That’s where trends and forecasts come in.

Get inspiration from Google Trends or Exploding Topics. These tools show you the popularity of these keywords over time.

Image for post
Image for post
Sample exploding topic on explodingtopics.com

Since people are talking about it right now, it’s a good idea to be part of that conversation if it’s relevant to your business. If you are a gardener or sell gardening tools and plants, creating a post or two about air purifying plants has got to be something you should do right now.

Over to You

These are just some keyword research methodologies you can experiment with today. Combine multiple methods to get the best results. If you end up having too many keywords to choose from, prioritize by search intent.

What do you think? Which of these keyword research methods have you used? What’s the one method that brought you the biggest returns?

Better Marketing

Helping you market more ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Sign up for The Better Marketing Brief

By Better Marketing

Our map to the marketing world. An occasional newsletter highlighting the best stories, tips, and tools to become a better marketer.  Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Thanks to Niklas Göke

Ariel Lim

Written by

Ariel Lim

Marketer, freelancer, husband | The Startup, Better Marketing, The Ascent, PGSG | Find out how I grew my organic traffic by 110% in 5 mo: https://bit.ly/3fpilkW

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Ariel Lim

Written by

Ariel Lim

Marketer, freelancer, husband | The Startup, Better Marketing, The Ascent, PGSG | Find out how I grew my organic traffic by 110% in 5 mo: https://bit.ly/3fpilkW

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface.

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox.

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic.

Get the Medium app