SEO Basics: Getting Started with Question-Based Keywords
SEO can be a gold mine for people looking to drive free traffic to their website. It can be extremely challenging since Google’s Ranking Algorithm is proprietary (we don’t know how it works) and all we can do is guess based on how Google responds to search queries. The more you read about how to get started with SEO the most confused you might get. Truth be told, SEO is hard. But there might an easier approach to getting started.
First of all, the SEO landscape is not the same as it was 15–20 years ago. Back then, Google’s algorithm was not as sophisticated as it is today and you could rank a new page in the top spots in a few days by stuffing keywords. The improved algorithm now prioritizes the user and expects authors to be relevant more than anything.
Although most guides about getting started with SEO can be confusing (and some pieces of advice can be outright conflicting), most are trying to point out the same core idea: target long-tail keywords if you are just getting started.
What are long-tail keywords?
According to Yoast, long-tail keywords are specific (usually longer) phrases targeting a very specific query. For example: let’s say your website reviews beard care products. A very generic keyword you could target is beard products. This might be a very competitive keyword and your chances of ranking on the top page might be slim at the beginning. Worry not, the long-tail will save you.
One easy way to find long-tail keywords for search is to use the Google Autocomplete. If you type in beard products, you will see the following suggestions.
There are a few things to understand here:
- beard products followed by a location (UK, Australia, India, Canada, Near me) are the type of searches commonly known as Local Searches which can be optimized for using Local SEO.
- ‘beard products for sensitive skin’ is what we call a Long-Tail Keyword
A piece of content optimized for this keyword will have a much greater chance of ranking higher than one targeting the ‘beard products’ keyword. Thanks to the size of the internet, it is easier to find your audience for a particular niche. If you choose to focus on a group of long-tail keywords, albeit each keyword will generate little traffic, together, they might just be enough to get your business going.
Search for more question keywords
Once we agree that question keywords are a good starting point for our SEO endeavor, we need to scale the search for such questions. While Google Autocomplete is a great place to start, it’s also extremely limited. We will first take a look at the Google Search Questions that get displayed on some searches.
These are all great suggestions and it’s evident that Google cares enough that if we (by some miracle) end up being the top search result for any of these, we will get a nice-looking snippet straight into the search page.
While this is the absolute goal for us, the process of getting there is just a bit more complicated. Right now we know a handful of ideas about question keywords we might want to target. But how do we pick the first one?
Let’s introduce two metrics that will help us take this decision: Keyword Difficulty and Search Volume.
Keyword Difficulty (KD) is a metric that quantifies how hard it is to rank for a specific keyword. The higher the number, the more complicated it is to get a top ranking in the search results. Each provider of keywords (Moz, Ahrefs, etc.) have a notion of a KD metric, but the relevance is only internal. If keyword A has a difficulty of 10 in Moz, we should only compare it to the difficulty for keyword B in Moz. The numbers will be different for Ahrefs, so the relevance is only relative to the other keywords in the same product.
Search Volume is a measure of the total number of searches performed through search engines (monthly averages during the last 12-months period).
Intuitively, if we have a list of possible keywords we would like to target, we will first focus on the one with the lowest Keyword Difficulty and the Search Volume.
How to use Ahrefs to generate a list of question keywords?
Thankfully, there’s an easy-to-follow process using Ahrefs that can give you this list. First, let’s head to the Ahrefs console and click on the Keyword Explorer.
Now let’s pick a keyword to get started with. For example, let’s check the possible question keywords we could target if we wanted to blog about instagram.
The overview of the keyword will give us some insight into this keyword. It comes as no surprise that the KD for this 1-word keyword is 96, which means it is very complicated to rank.
We will head straight to the list of questions suggested by Ahrefs.
While Ahrefs has plenty of data about each keyword, we will focus on Keyword Difficulty and Search Volume. Let’s filter to KD below 10 and Volume greater than 1000 average searches per month.
Et voilà! 41 keywords for us to target including:
‘Does Instagram notify when you screenshot a story?’.
Thanks for reading. I frequently use the process above to find ideas for new things to blog about (as well as for Medium). I frequently tweet about things I’m working on or writing at.