In this case study/tutorial I will walk you through a specific technique I use with SEMRush to uncover low-competition/high-potential keywords. If you want to try out this step-by-step process—one that helped me generate an extra $6,000 per month—I’ve gotten you access to a 14-day free trial of SEMRush so that you can follow along with me in this post.
I can’t really say for certain when it was that I was first introduced to SEMRush. But given the fact that I started as an affiliate marketer (promoting Amazon products) in 2012, it had to have been sometime in the past 5 years or so.
I vaguely remember landing a free trial to try out the service through one of the big internet marketers promoting the keyword research tool.
And, at that time, while I could grasp the fact that SEMRush had a lot of potential, I didn’t really know how to use it.
So, my free trial expired, and I got kicked back down to the limited version. From then on, I stopped in every once in awhile when I thought I had stumbled onto a great opportunity with a new keyword.
But honestly—and I mean no disrespect to SEMRush—there really isn’t a whole lot of power in the free version.
The results are so limited in the free version that you can’t really use SEMRush for what are—in my opinion—it’s two most important traits. And those are…
- Discovering New Content Opportunities
- Researching Your Competition
And, the reason why SEMRush is so amazing at those two things is thanks in large part to the incredible amount of keyword-based data it offers.
But because I didn’t understand how powerful the tool was at the time, I hesitated to jump on the ~$70/month basic plan that they offered (the price now is ~$100/month—which, in my opinion, is still worth the cost).
I just couldn’t justify paying that much for a service I wasn’t really sure could help me. I figured that for big marketing agencies, it made sense to pay that much for this kind of service.
And, so, I stayed away…
But then, one day, after sitting down to figure out how I could increase the profitability of one of my niche sites, I decided to come up with a content action plan that targeted a bunch of new keywords.
So, I decided to purchase the Pro version of SEMRush, gather as many keywords as I could within a month’s time, and then cancel the service at the end of the month.
However, instead of cancelling the service after a month, I was won over by how effective of a tool SEMRush can be if used properly.
And, within a couple of months of using SEMRush I had earned enough to make my $70 monthly subscription pay for itself tenfold. (And, to date, it has paid for itself close to 50x over what I have paid for it in the 6-months I have been subscribed.)
How SEMRush Has Made Me $18,999.06 Over the Last Six Months
Yes, that’s a big catchy headline. This is an internet marketing blog.
We, as marketers, over exaggerate our claims for various reasons, not least of all for the shock factor.
But there is truth to the headline above…
Obviously, I didn’t sign up for SEMRush and get rewarded with a check for ~$19K.
Rather, through using SEMRush to help me find new content ideas for my site, I stumbled onto a few keywords that have turned out to be very profitable.
In the past six months, after targeting three specific keywords with buyer’s guides on my site, those new guides have made me $18,999.06 to date (and they’re bringing in more income every day).
If you’re not sure what a buyer’s guide is, you can sign up for my free course, which discusses how to create buyer’s guides the right way, as well as how to build a profitable niche site from the ground up.
And, just last month alone, those three guides combined to make me $5,937.45.
So, how did I turn my SEMRush subscription—which costs me $70 per month (it’s $100/month now for new subscribers)—and the information it provides into an additional $5,000+ per month?
We’ll get to that answer in just a second. But before we do so, it would probably make sense to explain how I earn money in the first place (for those who are new to the blog and are unfamiliar with my monetization strategy.)
How I Make Money by Promoting Products on Amazon
I am an affiliate marketer. Essentially, that means that I promote other people’s products and I get paid a commission if someone buys one of those products based on my recommendation.
I mainly promote products on Amazon through Amazon’s Associates program.
Amazon will pay up to 8.5% commission on most products if you send a customer from your site to Amazon and that customer ends up purchasing something within 24 hours.
So, essentially, I send traffic to Amazon, and if that traffic buys anything on Amazon, I end up making money.
The way I try to accomplish this is by creating ‘niche’ sites based around a specific product or a group of tightly-related product.
For instance, I might consider building a website around baby products. And, on that website I would look to promote products on Amazon like strollers, car seats, cribs, cradles, etc.
And, while some other high-earning participants in the Associates program focus on creating individual product reviews, I focus on creating big buyer’s guides. These are essentially posts like, The Best Strollers for 2017, in which I would list and review 10-20 different strollers available on Amazon all in one post.
These guides, to me, offer the most potential, because the keywords associated with them typically offer more opportunities to generate traffic.
Also, to give you the best idea possible of what kind of buyer’s guides I’m looking to create, I should note that I am looking for specific types of products on Amazon to promote…
Mainly, I’m looking for products that are fairly expensive and that Amazon will offer the full 8.5% commission on. (On some product categories, Amazon caps the commission you can earn on a product—mostly products with lower margins, like consumer electronics.)
Here’s a list of all the product categories that have capped commissions (note that any category of products not on this list will generate you the full 8.5% in commission as long as you make enough sales to hit that tier):
The reason why I target more expensive products that are eligible to earn me up to 8.5% in commission, is simply because the more expensive the product and the higher commission rate it offers, the more money I can make when selling that product.
I go into greater detail into my strategy in the free course I offer, but the main gist of it is that I am looking for relatively expensive products that are popular enough to where a lot of people are searching for them each month.
So, now that you understand that I monetize my sites with big buyer’s guides that list the top products in a given product category on Amazon, we are one step closer to getting into my strategy.
But first, for the sake of transparency, there is one more point I need to cover…
My Results May Not Yield As Big of Results for You… At Least, Not As Quickly
Before I dive into my exact process for discovering the three keywords that led me to create three new buyer’s guides (which, when combined, are now earning me an extra ~$5,000+ per month) I should first explain something…
The site that I put up my three new guides on is already fairly established. It doesn’t have a 60+ Domain Rating on AHREFS, but it does carry some decent authority and it does have quite a few backlinks to it.
So, on that site, if I were to stumble onto a very low-competition keyword, create a big huge guide or piece of content on it, and throw a few backlinks at it, it wouldn’t be surprising if my new content ranked for that keyword within a couple of weeks, based mostly off of my domain’s authority (and assuming the competition for that keyword wasn’t too extreme.)
Not everyone has an established website. And, because of that, my method may not produce as fast of results for you as it did for me.
However, I do believe the method I am about to lay out can work for new sites as well… it will just take a bit longer to rank them. But, since new sites will struggle to rank well in Google for the first few months of their existence anyways, it’s definitely not a bad strategy to start out targeting low-competition keywords anyways.
In fact, that is probably the best strategy for anyone who is looking to turn a profit as quickly as possible on their new affiliate sites.
In any case, I wanted to explain that since the site that I used this strategy on already had established authority site, my results with this method were a bit easier to come by than it would be if I were using it on a brand new site.
Still, there is value here regardless of where your site’s authority currently is… My hope is that I can now prove that to you.
In any case, with that disclaimer-of-sorts out of the way, we can now move on to the method I used to find the three big keywords mentioned above.
In order to explain my method in the most clear manner, to the widest audience possible (both for owners of established websites and owners of new websites), I’m first going to explain how I found my three new profitable keywords mentioned above, and then I am going to run through the process step-by-step in a niche I don’t know anything about, in order to show you exactly how it works.
So, let’s get started…
How I Used SEMRush to Uncover Some Monster Keywords
As I mentioned much further up, my goal was to use SEMRush for a month and find as many high-potential keywords as possible. Then, once I had those keywords, my goal was be to target them with big buyer’s guides.
Or, in other words, I was trying to come up with a content action plan.
The types of keywords I was looking for were keywords that had a decent amount of search volume and that had low levels of competition.
Through the process, I discovered a ton of keywords that I felt would be a good idea to target with buyer’s guides.
But during my search, I came across three keywords that looked really good and, so, naturally I scheduled them to get created first in my content action plan.
For the sake of obscurity, we’ll call these keywords, keyword #1, keyword #2, and keyword #3. (I have to protect my assets!)
Both keyword #1 and keyword #2 had really good search volumes, and had fairly low competition ranking for them. The same was true for keyword #3, but it wasn’t quite on the scale as the first two.
But more importantly, the keyword were product-based and they met my criteria perfectly. (The criteria I laid out above.)
Essentially, the keywords I found all had the potential to earn up to 8.5% in commission if I sold them, and they were all fairly expensive products.
Just to give you an example of what kind of keywords I look for, here is just a quick list of keyword examples that would make sense for me to target if I were putting together a website around baby products (assuming the metrics were all acceptable):
best baby strollers
best car seats
Strollers, car seats, cribs, and cradles can all be fairly expensive items. And, of course, a lot of people are searching for them. So, those keywords have high potential and the products they are related to are expensive enough to where I can earn a good commission off of them if I were to sell them.
But, there is a third factor that determines whether or not a keyword is worth pursuing or not…
And, that is how competitive it is.
For instance, all of the keywords I listed above are, more than likely, fairly competitive keywords and they would take a big effort to rank for.
It should be noted, though, that if your goal is to make a large monthly income off of your affiliate site, you should be expecting to run into some competition. And, you shouldn’t be afraid to go after these big keywords.
However, my site was already fairly well-established and was already targeting most of the more obvious keywords in the niche. So, I wanted to find see if I could find some low-competition keywords that still had some big potential.
Fortunately, it wasn’t as difficult to find these types of low-competition/high-potential keywords as you might imagine…
Here’s how I did it…
If A Low-Quality Site Ranks for A High-Potential Keyword, Why Can’t You?
I kind of stumbled onto this method by accident. I discovered it when I was randomly evaluating some of the websites that were showing up in the top ten results for a specific high volume keyword that I was ranking towards the bottom of page one for.
Since all of the top results were major sites with ridiculous authority and a broad spectrum of content, I figured it was pointless to even plug them into SEMRush and see what other keywords they were ranking for.
So, rather than evaluate the top results, I went deeper into the search results for that high volume keyword and I started researching the websites that showed up on page 2, 3, 4, and beyond.
What I soon realized was that, by evaluating these lower-quality sites with SEMRush, I had stumbled onto the perfect way to find low-competition keywords.
This is because I soon discovered that if any of the results that were showing up in the deeper pages of the search results were ranking high for other more obscure keywords, then that would give me an idea that those keywords would be easier to rank for.
The reasoning is simple…
If a subpar website is ranking high on page one for a keyword, then that keyword must not be that difficult to rank for, right?
Of course, I’m not going to claim that I was the first to come up with this method. In fact, it seemed so obvious after I discovered it, that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner.
But the method did work…
I know it works, because it is exactly how I found keyword #1, keyword #2, and keyword #3 and subsequently turned them into buyer’s guides that now consistently earn me over $5,000 per month alone.
That, essentially, is the overview of my method… find low-quality sites that are ranking on page one for obscure—but high-potential—keywords, and then target that keyword yourself.
But I really want to give you something concrete to work with. So, I’ve broken the process down into a simple step-by-step process that you can follow.
It goes like this…
- To begin, search Google for one of the broader keywords in your niche.
- Rather than looking at the results on page one, go deeper into the results (pages 2, 3, 4 & beyond) and jot down any sites that look subpar.
- Plug those sites into a tool like AHREFS (premium) or Open Site Explorer (free) and see what kind of matrix they have.
- If they have an AHREFS domain rating below 40-45, or an OSE domain authority below 20-25, keep them on your list. (Remove them if they have higher numbers.)
- Then, one-by-one, plug your remaining list into SEMRush.
- SEMRush will tell you everything those websites are ranking for, so browse the full results (hit “View full report” under the Top Organic Keywords section), and make note of any keywords with moderate-to-high search volumes that that site is ranking on the first page for. These are your diamonds in the rough.
Again, the idea is that since these lower-quality websites are either young, or just not well-established in general, they will be much easier to outrank for that keyword.
Or, at least, even if you can’t outrank them right away, if they are ranking on page one as a low-quality site, then you—even with a newer site—will have an easier time ranking on page one for that keyword, than you would for some of the higher competition keywords in your niche.
I should also note that you will want to be searching for a specific type of keyword. You want a keyword that relates to buying a certain type of product that is relevant to your niche. So, for instance, the keywords we mentioned earlier are ideal:
best baby strollers
best car seats
As I mentioned above, though, these keywords will probably be a bit more competitive. However, you may get lucky and find a fairly weak site ranking for a similar term to the ones above. That’s what happened to me. The difference between the keywords I found, though, and the keywords listed above, is that the keywords I found were targeting a bit more obscure of a product.
So, rather than best baby strollers, my keyword was more along the lines of best baby mattress (as an example). Baby mattresses can still be pretty expensive and the keyword best baby mattress still has a fairly high search volume. The only difference is that the competition for best baby mattress isn’t nearly as high as it is for best baby stroller.
(For those of you interested in doing a mother-themed affiliate site, honestly, best baby mattress is a legitimate keyword I would go after. So, you can consider this keyword on me!)
Finding broader keywords like best baby mattress is possible with this strategy. But, aside from those types of keywords, and perhaps what you’ll end up finding even moreso, is that this method will reveal more keywords like this:
best baby strollers under $100
cheap baby strollers
baby stroller reviews
best car seats under $100
Sometimes, these longer-tail keywords can have surprisingly high monthly search volume estimates. And, the good news is that they aren’t nearly as competitive as the broader terms they are related to—which is why some of these lower-quality/not-well-established sites end up ranking so well for them.
So, the goal is to sit down and come up with as many of these keywords as possible: both the keywords targeting obscure products, and the long-tail keywords.
Once you have gone through this method and have created your new list of high-potential keywords that target fairly expensive Amazon products, you will want to start creating big buyer’s guides that target those keywords.
For more information on how to create these buyer’s guides, you can sign up to take my free course, where I go over the process step-by-step, among other things.
The above 6-step process is the sort of general run down of how the method works. But I want to really drill this strategy into you and so, I want to run you through the process all over again, with a completely random niche and see what I can uncover…
Let’s Try This Method Out With A Brand New Niche
Okay, so first off we need to find a niche that meets my criteria…
- The niche needs to be fairly popular
- There needs to be a decent amount of products related to that niche
- The related products need to be fairly expensive
- The products should not be capped in commission on Amazon
Off of the top of my head, I want to start off with something cooking related… so, cookware, kitchen appliances, barbecues, cutlery, etc.
Lets try out cookware…
Since I don’t know the niche, the first thing I want to do is find a really high volume, high competition keyword in this niche. So, I’m first going to head over to SEMRush and start searching for cookware-related keywords…
I’ll start by entering in the keyword cookware.
‘Cookware’ on it’s own is a bit too broad and will likely pull up a bunch of ecommerce sites if you were to search Google for it. I want to find review sites similar to mine (because if those sites are showing up in the results, then I know my review site can as well) and so I do that by searching for keywords that are a bit longer.
A great way to sort out ecommerce sites from the search results is to add ‘best’ in front of the keyword. So, in this case that would be: best cookware.
The reason adding ‘best’ in front of the product you are targeting works is because if someone is searching for best cookware, they are more than likely looking for someone’s opinion/rating/review on what the best cookware to buy is.
Google knows this and doesn’t show as many cookware ecommerce sites when the term ‘best’ is added to the keyword, because ecommerce sites would obviously be biased in their opinion on what the best cookware was.
Back to the results for cookware in SEMRush…
So, after scrolling briefly through the Phrase Match Keywords results for the term cookware on SEMRush (after you enter cookware into the search bar, scroll down to the Phrase Match Keywords section and hit “View full report) I find that the term best cookware is high up on the list.
In fact, the term best cookware generates 8,100 search results per month, which is fairly high. Now we need to actually search google for best cookware and see what comes up.
Here are the top 10 results I get along with their AHREFS domain rating:
- goodhousekeeping.com (68)
- consumerreports.org (72)
- bestproducts.com (57)
- thesweethome.com (57)
- thesweethome.com (again)
- bestreviews.com (57)
- surlatable.com (63)
- mamanatural.com (53)
- hubnames.com (57)
- amazon.com (87)
As you can see, that’s a fairly authoritative list. We’re not just going to be able to create a guide called Best Cookware of 2017 and get it to rank quickly with a newer site. Even with an established site in this niche, it would be tough to crack the top 10 results for best cookware without a sizable effort (although, it is doable.)
So, now we are going to move on and see if there are any competitors ranking on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and beyond pages for best cookware that stand out as being not-well-established or even low-quality websites.
Rather than go through each page of the results and list every domain that may or may not match what I’m looking for, I’m just going to go through and jot down all of the ones that will undoubtedly work for this method and I’ll skip over the high authority sites that show up later in the search results.
What I’m looking for here is a site whose name I don’t recognize. If I see a domain that doesn’t appear to be a major site, I will check it in AHREFS and if it is below a certain domain authority (I’ll go ultra-conservative and weed out any domains with an authority over 40) I can add that to my list of sites to plugin to SEMRush once it is all said and done.
So, below I will list a few competitors (I’ll keep their domain names private simply to avoid outing a fellow niche-site builder) that I found deeper in the search results for the term best cookware. I’m also listing what position they’re showing up at for the keyword term best cookware along with their AHREFS domain authority:
#21 Competitor #1 (40)
#22 Competitor #2 (37)
#24 Competitor #3 (36)
Obviously, these are either newer sites, not-yet-well-established sites, or just low quality sites in general.
You can look deeper into the sites you find and check and see what kind of content they are producing, but the backlink profiles of the sites you find will give you the best idea on how difficult they would be to outrank (assuming they are not using hidden PBNs—which they very well could be.)
Again, we are going to look at these newer or lower-quality sites to try and find out if they are ranking well for any high-volume keywords that match our criteria for promoting products on Amazon.
So, I’ll just head over to SEMRush and start entering in the domains listed above. Then I will go into the Top Organic Keywords section and hit “View Full Report” to see all of the keywords the site is ranking for.
You can also sort by position, to see all of the keywords they are ranking for in the top 10 and then go through and find the higher volume keywords from there. Or you can do the reverse and search by volume and go through the list until you see a keyword ranking in the top 10.
Below is a list of keywords that jump out to me that each domain is ranking well for, along with the position each domain ranks for the keyword and the estimated monthly search volume the keyword brings in:
#1 ceramic coated cookware (720)
#5 cookware reviews (2,900)
#4 rachel ray cookware reviews (1,300)
#5 emeril cookware (3,600)
#5 ceramic cookware (14,800)
#9 ceramic knives (6,600)
#3 best nonstick pan (3,600)
#5 best stainless steel cookware (3,600)
#2 best nonstick cookware (2,900)
#2 best ceramic cookware (2,400)
#10 best stainless steel cookware (3,600)
#8 best nonstick cookware (2,900)
#8 best non stick cookware (1,600)
For the sake of getting this done quickly, I didn’t spend a ton of time coming up with these keywords. In fact, I probably would have spent a lot more time looking through Competitor #2 because they seemed to be ranking well for a lot of solid keyword terms.
However, even with just some quick research you see that these domains—all of which have an AHREFS domain rating of 40 or below—are ranking on the first page for some really nice keywords.
Of the list, it looks like targeting the following keywords first with big buyer’s guides would be a good idea:
best nonstick pan
best stainless steel cookware
These, on first glance appear perfect for creating buyer’s guides around. But just to be sure, you should head over to Amazon.com and search for the products related to those keywords and see what kind of price range they have.
For instance, if I search for ceramic cookware on Amazon I pull up a ton of different options ranging in price from ~$35 all the way up to ~$200. Typically, I look for products that have more expensive options in them, but honestly, the volume is high enough on this keyword to where the lower cost of ceramic cookware isn’t as big of a deal.
Also, there’s so many different options for ceramic cookware listed on Amazon that you could easily create a huge buyer’s guide around it. (I prefer bigger buyer’s guides—which means more products listed in it—simply because that means more options and more content for my visitors.)
And, if you did have a Best Ceramic Cookware buyer’s guide and you sold a $200 set of cookware (at an 8.5% commission), you would earn close to $20!
More than likely, though, your average sale on cookware would be something closer to the middle of the price range… so let’s say about ~$85 per sale.
That’s still about ~$7 in commission per sale. That’s not ideal, but it’s also not too bad either. Especially when you consider the math on the potential traffic available for the term ceramic cookware…
My guess is that if you ranked in the top five results for the term ceramic cookware, with its estimated monthly search volume of 14,800, and factoring in all of the other long tail keywords associated with it, you would probably get at least a few hundred unique views per day (a fairly conservative estimate if you ranked in the top five for that keyword) to that post.
Just crunching some quick numbers… on average, I send about 3,000 unique visitors to Amazon each day across all my sites. Of those 3,000 unique visitors I send Amazon each day, I sell about 200 products per day. That’s a conversion rate of about 6.5%.
So, let’s stay conservative again and say your Best Ceramic Cookware buyer’s guide converted at a rate of 5%…
If your buyer’s guide on ceramic cookware was ranking in the top five for the keyword ceramic cookware and was generating 300 unique visitors per day (a very low estimate I’m guessing), and assuming you’d have a conversion rate of ~5%, that’s still approximately 15 orders per day.
And, at an average of ~$7 per order, that would be $105 per day! Or, over $3,000 per month!
That’s enough to get some people contemplating quitting their regular job! And it would all be from one post. There are still a handful of other solid keywords out there that you could go after as well.
And, the truth is, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible in the cooking niche. We started off with the term best cookware to find these lower-competition keywords. And, from that alone we came up with a handful of keywords to target with buyer’s guides.
But what about terms like…
best slow cooker
best coffee makers
Using the same method described in this post, imagine if you used it on each of those keywords above (or even on a host of other big cooking-related keywords) and found another 3-5 low-competition-high-potential keywords from each of them, too.
After it was all said and done, you’d easily have a list of 20 or so different keywords (if not more) you could target with buyer’s guides.
And, if you created buyer’s guides for each of those keywords and worked to build some backlinks to each of them, I have no doubt that within six months or so you’d have a solid earning site.
Give This Method A Try and Let Me Know What You Think!
Again, I’m not going to pretend like I was the first to use this method to uncover low-competition/high-potential keywords. And, like I mentioned earlier, the strategy seems so simple I’m a bit mad that I didn’t figure it out earlier.
But the method laid out above does work! It’s exactly how I found the three keywords that are now making me well over $5,000 extra per month.
Of course, as I also mentioned, the scenario in which it worked for me may be a bit different for you. I used the method on an already well-established site and I was able to ride that site’s existing domain authority to land on the first page fairly quickly.
However, that shouldn’t detract you from trying this method if you have a brand new site. In fact, if you do have a new Amazon-based niche site, this might be the best keyword strategy to start out with, simply because it doesn’t require as big of an effort in acquiring backlinks to rank for highly competitive keywords.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed this strategy! And, if you want to give it a go, you can signup for a free 14-day trial of SEMRush and try it out for yourself!
Also, I’d love to know what you think about this method in the comments. Whether you love it, hate it, or even if you have questions on it to help you clarify your understanding of it… Just let me know below!