How to Optimize for Low-Hanging Keywords | Twelve Three Media

How to Drive Traffic with Low-Hanging Keywords

Most businesses have a “simple” goal for their online marketing: Dominate the search results for terms related to the products and services they offer.

For the majority of businesses and marketing agencies, the most common approach for achieving this goal is to develop a general keyword list, create content optimized for each keyword, and obsessively track how your website ranks.

Business owners and marketers alike know the frustration of this process. However, a simple course correction can transform your search marketing efforts and start driving higher rankings, more traffic, and more leads.

What Is a Keyword List?

The foundation of most SEO marketing is a general keyword list. Whether you develop the keyword list in-house or partner with an SEO agency, your list of keywords represents the terms you want to rank on the first page of search results for. If you are successful, the first-page rankings should drive more traffic to your website and result in more leads and sales.

Generally, keyword lists consist of the most basic terms associated with your industry and your business. An example would be “car accident lawyer.” When creating a keyword list, the best practice is to include one to two simple variations on each basic term (e.g., “car accident attorney”) as well as a location modifier for the area you serve (e.g., “Denver car accident lawyer”).

Keyword lists are important, but they have their limitations. As you can see from the example above, competition is both a blessing and a curse. Ranking on the first page for a competitive term like “car accident lawyer” is a boon for your marketing, but failing to rank or losing a top spot can hamper your visibility, traffic to your website, and leads.

Another limitation of the general keyword list is that it focuses on very high-level terms. Consumers searching the most basic keywords related to a product or service are generally not ready to buy. Therefore, ranking for high-level keywords may catch the eye and even drive traffic, but you may not see the leads you would expect from such prominent placement.

For these reasons, gauging success solely by how well your website performs according to a keyword list is generally not enough for your search marketing to succeed. It often pays to broaden your focus by integrating low-hanging keywords into your SEO strategy.

What Is a Low-Hanging Keyword?

Although the terminology differs from platform to platform, a keyword should be considered “low-hanging” if your website is within a reasonable striking distance of ranking for it on the first page of search results. For the sake of simplicity, we will say that a particular keyword is “low-hanging fruit” if your website ranks anywhere from position 11 to 30 (the second or third page of organic results displayed by search engines).

Click-through rates fall precipitously after the first page of search results. Less than 1 percent of the items on the second page of Google searches get clicks.

As such, it is always worthwhile to capitalize on relevant keywords that you can rank for relatively easily with informative content and targeted optimization. Low-hanging keywords represent an immediate opportunity to show up better for a particular search query or phrase.

How Are Low-Hanging Keywords Different from My Keyword List?

Technically, a keyword could be considered “low-hanging” whether you optimize for it as part of your keyword list or not. Remember, the term refers to how your website ranks for a given search term or phrase, not whether it is “listed” or “unlisted.”

When we talk about low-hanging keywords, however, it is important to make a few distinctions:

  • Each term on your keyword list typically consists of a few words and maybe a location
  • Low-hanging keywords are often made up of complete phrases
  • Many of the low-hanging keywords we see are classifiable as long-tail keywords

True to their name, long-tail keywords are longer than the usual items on a keyword list. They also tend to be more specific in the information the user is searching. As a result, it is often easier to discern intent and where in the sales funnel searchers are based on what they try to find online.

Long-tail keywords typically drive less traffic than high-level keywords; the specificity of the former practically guarantees less broad appeal than what you use to build a keyword list. However, the amount of qualified traffic you can drive by optimizing for long-tail keywords can result in a high rate of conversions.

Why Target Low-Hanging Keywords?

Businesses and marketers in competitive industries know how hard it is to rank on the first page for the high-level keywords that are the foundation of most SEO campaigns. And yet, many companies and agencies alike treat optimization for hugely competitive terms (ex: “Denver personal injury lawyer”) as the only option for search engine marketing.

Although ranking on the first page for competitive keywords is important, it is not the only way to boost visibility and drive traffic and leads via search. More people may search online for a “Denver personal injury lawyer,” but a substantial number of users in Denver may also search for related low-hanging keywords like “when should I hire a personal injury lawyer?”

Including low-hanging keywords in your SEO and content marketing strategy has multiple advantages.

First, these search queries and phrases support the priority keywords that you and your competitors are pursuing. If Google determines that your website offers the best information on a given keyword and supporting topics (think questions that appear in the “People Also Ask” box for certain Google searches), you are more likely to rank first for the keywords you value most.

Second, low-hanging keywords help businesses and marketers learn how potential consumers search. Unlike high-level keywords (which usually consist of a product or service term and maybe a location), a low-hanging keyword is typically a question or phrase that seeks context and clarity. This gives you the opportunity to truly optimize your content for what consumers search. If you deliver the best answer for a particular question, a customer is likely to remember you.

Third, because they are structured as questions and phrases, low-hanging keywords often represent the progression of a consumer through the “funnel” of a prospective conversion. Specific questions indicate intent, rather than somebody just getting familiar with an industry and its offerings.

Fourth, some rankings for low-hanging keywords may represent a novel search where your website is deemed an authority on an aspect of your product or service that is less familiar to consumers as a whole. Improving the content and optimization for these “fashionable” search phrases may be difficult due to a lack of historical data, but taking such a leap could pay dividends by presenting your company as an authority on an emerging aspect of your industry.

Finally, low-hanging keywords are much less competitive. They are much easier to rank on the first page for, which represents an opportunity to catch the attention of informed consumers and drive traffic to your website.

How Do I Optimize for Low-Hanging Keywords?

Another major benefit of making low-hanging keywords a core part of your SEO strategy is that the queries are directly derived from both the high-level keywords you target and the performance of your website. Paid tools like SEMRush help you track how your website ranks for target keywords. As you optimize your website and develop web content (such as pages for your products and services, blog posts, etc.), you will start to see your website ranking for additional organic search terms.

Ranking on the first page for these queries may not be a priority for your business. However, if you are on the second or third page of results for a term that aligns with or supports your keyword list, it is worth investing time and effort into boosting your rankings for low-hanging keywords. This may involve publishing new content, adjusting the meta tags on certain pages, and more.

You can also leverage free SEO tools to identify additional opportunities. For example, AnswerThePublic shows you the associated queries and phrases related to your target keywords. If you search these terms yourself, you can see how your website ranks and identify potential low-hanging keywords to drive your search engine marketing.

One caveat: It is important not to go overboard with your keyword list. A recent survey of SEO professionals by Nozzle found that anywhere from 10 to 50 keywords is a good starting point for most businesses. Developing a focused keyword list makes your marketing efforts more manageable. It will also help you hone in on relevant low-hanging keywords that will engage prospective customers, get them to your website, and hopefully earn their business.

Upping Your SEO Game with Low-Hanging Keywords

Most businesses are ambitious in their efforts to rank on the first page for competitive keywords. However, so are your competitors.

With quality content and diligent optimization, you may be able to stand out in competitive search results. However, with only so many spots on the first page, it is dangerous to rely solely on high-level keywords. Diversifying your strategy with low-hanging keywords is a smart way to pursue priority keywords while delivering answers to the specific questions your customers ask.

In today’s attention economy, the top brands know how to break through the noise and communicate effectively with customers. Your business or agency can do the same with this multifaceted approach to SEO marketing.

Do you need help improving your rankings in search results? Contact the experienced SEO marketers at Twelve Three Media today!

A version of this article was originally published in Forbes.

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