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Keyword Research | On-page SEO | Content Marketing
The author's views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
As SEOs, we’re primed to go big on our content strategy — to do thorough keyword and competitor research, create high-quality content, do link-building outreach, and drive ad and social media traffic to our pages to get our keywords ranking as soon as possible. Because of the time, effort, and resources that go into ranking for a keyword, we think that unless thousands of people are searching for them, it’s not worth targeting at all.
But that’s where I think many SEOs are missing opportunities to bring in targeted — and revenue-generating — traffic.
If you’re in a niche where there are either too many competing products or a small addressable market — like B2B fintech or martech — targeting high search volume keywords from the get-go is an exercise in futility.
For new companies or smaller businesses with low authority sites in competitive niches, it takes months (or maybe even years) to rank for a keyword like “project management” or “online payment”. For niches with small addressable markets, there aren’t even any high search volume keywords to target.
If you’re chasing after high search volume keywords, you’re either creating content that will never be seen by your ideal audience as it stays buried in Google’s page seven, or forcing a content strategy that doesn’t address your buyer persona’s search intent. Either way, it’s SEO’s version of a black hole in space.
And when you look at it like this, you may indeed think, “Why even bother with SEO then? It’s not worth it.”
But from my perspective, SEO is worth it — with the RIGHT approach.
For cases like these — competitive niche, small addressable market, or both — I turn to my proven approach to growing targeted organic traffic and brand awareness: targeting low search volume keywords.
Why are low search volume keywords an SEO goldmine for niche industries like B2B tech?
Low search volume keywords are terms that not many people are searching for. It could be because the keywords are not relevant at all, in which case, it doesn’t make sense to target them. But it could also be because the keyword is specific (i.e. long) or niched.
If your situation falls into these categories, then you have hit an SEO goldmine.
Specific and niched keywords are exactly what accelerate your organic traffic growth and business revenue – even when you don’t have the domain authority, brand awareness, or resources of your more established competitors.
By targeting low search volume keywords, you rank faster for more intent-specific keywords, and can eventually leverage this to go after more competitive keywords. Over time, you become less dependent on Google Ads and social media ads. And as we’ve learned from recent months after having to pivot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SEO traffic continues to generate revenue even when performance marketing budgets come to a standstill.
But there’s more to your SEO strategy than just going after these keywords. You have to know which keywords are worth going for and how to create content in a manner that you get ROI for your SEO efforts as early on as possible.
Let’s now take a deep dive into this process.
How to use low search volume keywords to improve your SEO
This strategy has proven useful for many niche industries, but it particularly applies to B2B tech.
Here’s how I’d handle this:
Research low search volume keywords for your niche. Start by focusing on bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) keywords and further segment your buyer persona to not miss highly specific long-tail keywords with a high purchase or consideration intent.
Map your keywords into a content plan. This gives you an overview of your target focus keywords, streamlines your strategy, and gives you a clear action plan.
Create skyscraper content for all your BOFU keywords and then extend to middle- of-funnel (MOFU) keywords. Make it very niche and buyer persona-specific so you get as many quick wins as possible from BOFU. Once you have a solid foundation, extend your content to target MOFU keywords.
Integrate higher search volume keywords into your content strategy. Once you have a steady flow of organic traffic from your BOFU and MOFU content, start going for higher search volume keywords and update your content plan to cover your buyer persona’s holistic needs as much as possible.
Scale like HubSpot. Ultimately, you want your brand to become the thought leader in your niche. Go into detail on complicated concepts, develop and share your company’s industry-related viewpoints, expand your target audience to grow brand awareness further - and most importantly, build your content to scale.
Now let’s go through this whole process in detail, so you know how to put it into action directly.
Step 1: Research and choose the right low search volume keywords that your B2B tech audience is searching for.
Know your audience
The first step in any successful SEO content strategy is to know your audience. Bring your marketing and sales teams together and clarify your ideal buyer persona. Map out their customer journey, list their desired outcomes and pain points, and try to get as many real-world quotes possible.
For a B2B audience, make sure to segment your buyer persona further. Remember that in B2B, you’re not just marketing to one person. You’re marketing to the whole buying committee – the people who buy it, the people who use it, and the executives who decide on it. Each of these teams has their own industry-specific words and jargon – the IT guys won’t be searching the same keywords as the marketers or the CEOs.
For a concrete example from the B2B tech industry, if your product is a business budgeting and forecasting software, you’ll likely need to create content for accounting, IT, sales, and the C-suite.
I’ve found that having this customer-centric approach to content marketing helps us choose the right keywords, including low search volume keywords, that bring in targeted traffic.
Do your keyword research
Once you have your specific buyer personas, do keyword research to see what exactly your target audience is searching for. I’ve outlined below how this works with Moz, but you can follow the process on other SEO tools such as SEMrush.
When searching for “business budgeting and forecasting software” with the Moz Keyword Explorer, this is what comes up filtered by monthly search volume:
Screenshot: Moz keyword search results filtered by monthly search volume for “business budgeting and forecasting software”
We see that the top searches are branded searches – there are clearly companies dominating this niche. But scrolling down the list to the low search volume keywords, we see these:
Screenshot: Moz keyword search results for “business budgeting and forecasting software” – keywords with low search volume
Compare the two sets of keywords. The keywords with low search volume are terms people closer to the bottom of the sales funnel are searching for. For example, “envelope budgeting software”, “budget management software”, and “budget allocation software” are search terms by people who are already at least in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. They already know what envelope budgeting is and are now looking for a specific solution.
Even though there are only an average of 11 searches for these keywords per month, by creating content for these keywords, you give the people searching for them the information they need to purchase your product. That’s already more revenue generated than ranking for a top-of-funnel (TOFU) keyword like “budgeting”. Because your content exactly matches the search intent, you get more conversions.
To clarify the financial impact of this, let’s say for example that 50% of 11 people who land on your page per month end up purchasing your $100-per-month software:
That page alone creates $42,900 in revenue per year.
Here’s why you can’t dismiss low search volume keywords: even if only 11 people land on your page every month but 50% of them purchase your $100-per-month product, by the end of the year you’ll have a revenue of $42,900. From one single page.
Expanding into new markets
Targeting low search volume keywords is also an excellent strategy for expanding your niche products into new markets.
Let’s say you want to capture B2B businesses at the point of market entry. In this case, having a freemium product and targeting small businesses and entrepreneurs would be your best approach. You then should do keyword research for a specific buyer persona: small businesses.
Here’s what that keyword research shows:
Screenshot: Moz keyword search results for “forecasting software for small businesses”
Again, we see a lot of branded searches and TOFU keywords. So let’s scroll down the list.
Screenshot: Moz keyword search results for “forecasting software for small businesses” – keywords with low search volume
Now we see more BOFU keywords with specific search intent. Targeting keywords such as “free budgeting software” and “budget management software” and creating content that funnels to your freemium budgeting software is definitely more worthwhile than trying to compete with the Mints and the YNABs of your niche.
Step 2: Map your keywords into a content plan
Once you have a list of relevant keywords, map them into a content plan.
I recommend always doing keyword research before drafting your content plan and only creating content based on keywords with at least a search volume of 10 per month. This is also a better strategy for websites with low Domain Authority scores because there is less competition, making it easier to rank.
On another note, I wouldn’t recommend thinking of topic ideas first and then trying to find keywords for them, as often that doesn’t align with the actual target audience’s user intent. With my suggested approach (keywords first, content plan second), you learn the language your audience uses and write your content specifically for them.
After you’ve done holistic keyword research, organize them into BOFU, MOFU, and TOFU topics. The more keywords you add, the further out in time (months or years) this can go. As you plan your content, keep your buyer persona and customer journey in mind and make sure that your keywords don’t overlap and your content doesn’t cannibalize (compete against each other).
To clarify what I mean by the above acronyms:
TOFU (Top of Funnel): Potential customers who have just become aware of the problem that your company solves, for example, will be searching for TOFU topics - what is it, why does it matter, and what can they do about it?
MOFU (Middle of Funnel): Once they have a good understanding of the problem and have several ideas on how to solve it, they would then begin searching for MOFU topics, these being educational resources like how-to guides and industry case studies.
BOFU (Bottom of Funnel): Once they get to BOFU keyword searches, they are already in the consideration or decision stages, such as when they are searching for product comparisons and reviews, customer stories, and demos and trials.
Using our earlier keyword search, here’s how I would map and plan for the topics for the budgeting software company.
If you already have existing articles, write down your entire site map and match them with the focus and related keywords you listed during your keyword research. This is a great way to see where your content gaps are. Choose the focus keywords closest to the search intent that matches the article. For example, if the article most benefits the audience in the awareness stage, use a TOFU keyword. As you assign keywords to topics, also add related keywords and look into keyword clusters (keyword groups) to maximize your chances of ranking your content for multiple variations of your focus keyword.
Step 3: Create the skyscraper content that your B2B audience needs
Now that you have a content strategy in place, it’s time to create your content. This is where the usual SEO and content marketing best practices come into play.
I recommend starting with your BOFU keywords. Create content for all your BOFU keywords and cover all the content your specific buyer personas are searching for. This is the best way to get ROI from your content strategy in the shortest time possible, which allows you to put more resources into your SEO strategy and overall marketing plan.
Use the skyscraper technique
I recommend starting with the skyscraper technique because this is a proven way to outrank your competitors . Longer content ranks better, quality articles naturally attract backlinks, and a comprehensive guide that is better than any of your competitors’ paves the way for your company to be regarded as a thought leader in your industry. Always keep in mind, though, that an easily navigable UI/UX design is crucial here.
Before you begin writing or even setting up your layout, do a thorough competitor analysis and look at the top SERPs. Analyze these and find out how to create better content. If you’re writing content for “budgeting and forecasting software comparison”, for example, aim to have the most comprehensive guide. Give all the essential details – features, benefits, price points – and organize your content for easy skimming.
Don’t forget CTAs
A hugely important element that is often overlooked is to optimize your calls-to-action (CTAs). With BOFU topics, you aim to generate revenue, so your CTAs must be optimized for conversion. For B2B tech, revenue-generating CTAs include links to service pages and product landing pages, as well as buttons to book a demo or download a lead magnet. If you want your content to make money for your business, you need CTAs.
Keep things entertaining
The other important element is to entertain your reader (yes, Boring 2 Boring content needs to end!): add interactive content such as quizzes that help your reader decide based on their personal needs or an interactive comparison table. Create infographics, summary tables, and content upgrades if necessary. Use a storytelling framework to keep your audience engaged and direct response copywriting techniques to guide them down the funnel.
Develop your content plan
Once you’ve covered most of your BOFU keywords, start creating content for your MOFU keywords. Revamp your industry pages, add case studies, and create detailed guides for all your products and their use cases.
Depending on your niche and available resources, here’s a rough timeline you can follow:
Month 1 – Website SEO audit, buyer persona development, keyword research, and content mapping
Months 2-3 – Writing content with BOFU keywords
Months 4-6 – Writing content with MOFU keywords
The more resources you’re able to put into your SEO content strategy, the faster you can grow your organic traffic and company revenue. But keep in mind that quality is always better than quantity. Don’t just churn out a bunch of content that users won’t find useful or relevant. Instead, create as much good content as possible and spend more time promoting these through email, social media, and other channels.
Step 4: Integrate higher search volume keywords once you gain SEO momentum
Once you start ranking for many BOFU and MOFU keywords, getting consistent organic traffic, and acquiring a targeted and engaged user base, you can start going after high search volume keywords.
This is where TOFU content comes into play. Our budgeting software company, for example, can now start targeting “sales forecasting” and “financial planning”. You can create articles that don’t necessarily have a purchase intent but are still helpful to your target audience – for example, a comprehensive overview of financial planning and management, a budget plan template for businesses of all sizes, and a step-by-step guide on how to find a financial advisor.
Users who land on these articles are not likely to purchase anything right away. But with lead magnets that appeal to potential customers in the awareness and interest phases, you’re able to bring in more leads into their marketing automation funnel and nurture these relationships. As customers interact more with your brand and get lots of value over time, they are more likely to eventually buy from you and even tell their friends about it.
Step 5: Scale like HubSpot
Ultimately, your SEO content goal is for your website and your brand to become the thought leader in your niche - to be your ideal audience’s go-to platform for everything they need.
For example, our budgeting software company would produce thoughtful and valuable content on everything related to business finance and related topics. You can also develop content on the psychology of wealth and prosperity, successful CEOs’ mindset and habits, and an innovative wealth management framework. You can do deep-dives on complicated concepts, share results from their own research, and even start writing about personal finance.
A prime example is HubSpot: they became a content marketing powerhouse by scaling smartly. By creating SEO content based on thought leadership, they evolved with their audience and even pushed the limits of their industry.
Their revenue of USD 674.9M for 2019 (up 32% compared to 2018) is a clear indicator of the impact good content has on business growth. And let’s not forget, all marketers know their thought leadership strategy has permeated our brains and hearts so strongly that we now ask ourselves, “If HubSpot hasn’t written about it, does it even exist?”
Once you reach that point of trust, authority, and brand awareness, your content platform becomes your most important marketing and business development channel, which in financial terms means a huge revenue driver and a holistic boost to business performance.
Low search volume keywords are not just worth it, they’re essential
When you’re tasked to grow a company website with low domain authority, little organic traffic, and zero backlinks, it’s overwhelming to develop an SEO content strategy that gives ROI early. You look at the high search volume keywords and wonder, how can I ever compete with these content giants?
The secret? Don’t.
Start small and dominate the low search volume keywords. Don’t dismiss these keywords just because only ten people are searching for them. The adage is true: the riches are in the niches.
About Adriana Stein —
Originally from the US and now living in Germany, I am a Digital Marketing Consultant who develops holistic online marketing strategies for B2B and B2C companies across English and German-speaking markets. By acting as an external strategic partner to Senior Level Marketers, my go-to marketing strategies are for businesses looking to expand into new markets, increase sales, and sustainably grow their business. My specialty lies in creating holistic marketing strategies that incorporate various techniques like native-speaker level SEO, LinkedIn content marketing, and marketing automation. Using my knowledge of both English and German-speaking markets, I’m able to successfully expand your brand into new markets! I help you sustainably scale your business with the right marketing strategy.