Once you’ve established the foundation of your SEO and content strategy, your branded keywords and other core terms related to your product or service will drive you a decent amount of site visitors. But, if you don’t want your traffic to plateau — or decrease — you’ll need to start going after additional keywords to expand your reach.
How do you determine what terms you should go after? According to Search Strategist Mike Shirk, you should start by putting yourself in the shoes of searchers.
“‘What would they search and what would they find useful if they landed on your website?’ is the kind of the question I pose to people a lot,” Mike says.
To build upon that, you can create topic clusters, conduct competitive research and talking to your sales team.
A topic cluster is a grouping of keywords and related pieces of content that are typically used to establish authority for a pillar page, but can be used as a general keyword strategy as long as you have strong internal linking in place.
“It’s an ecosystem of keywords that all answer smaller pieces of a larger topic,” Mike says.
Topic clusters start with a “head term,” a high-search volume keyword that can lie at the center of a larger content strategy.
To expand upon that head term and identify new keywords for your business, you need to determine what supporting content people are looking for and what questions people ask that lead them to the head term.
“We have some of these core keywords and we say ‘what keywords fall under this primary topic? What sort of tertiary terms can we explore?’” Mike says.
The best way to find those terms is to use a keyword research tool like SEMRush to identify related keywords along with their search volume and difficulty level. But if you don’t pay for a tool, you can also do some research for free by manually searching in Google.
“Use Google itself,” Mike says. “You have your primary term, and if you want to find related keywords that you think might be valuable, punch your one keyword into Google and see what it suggests for related searches.”
These suggestions appear both in the search bar itself as predictions, at the bottom of the SERP in the “searches related to [search term]” section and, for some terms, near the top of the SERP in a “People also ask” accordion section.
An often-overlooked strategy that can give you ideas for high-value terms is competitive research. This can help you identify good-fit keywords that you might not have thought of and attract prospects to your site instead of your competitors.
“The fastest way to do this is to use a tool like SEMRush, but you can also do a bunch of Googling to see what your competitors show up for,” Mike says.
Keyword research tools like SEMRush allow you to enter a competitor’s domain and see all the keywords they’re ranking for. If there are some they have that you don’t, you should start working those into your content strategy.
If you want to take a more manual approach, you can google keywords you think competitors might be ranking for and see what type of content comes up. You can also go through your competitors’ websites and look for trends in content topics and terminology.
Talk to Your Sales Team
Your sales team talks to your prospects all the time and that gives them unique insights into what kind of information those people are looking for.
“Talk to your sales team and see what they’re hearing from prospects and customers. A lot of the time you will identify trends there, and that can yield you unique and high-value keywords that potentially no one in your space is writing about yet,” says Mike
Perhaps your prospects use different terminology to talk about your solution than your company does — knowing exactly what people are searching for will help you reach the right people.
Additionally, if your sales team or your prospects are turning to other resources to answer their questions, that’s another good source of keyword ideas.
“The Google search results are so competitive and saturated these days that finding new, more niche keywords that you actually have a shot at ranking for is really important,” Mike says. “You need to find that next keyword that’s going to continue to bring that organic traffic to your site. If you fall behind and you stagnate in that regard, you’re going to quickly see your traffic drop off.”
You can’t rely on continuing to rank for the same keywords forever. Just as you’re working to outrank your competitors, they’re working to perform better than you. The best way to ensure you’re successful is to perform well for a large number of keywords of varying search volume and intent. This way if you lose traction for one term, your overall traffic won’t tank.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.