Keyword competition is basically a digital popularity contest: The most popular keywords or phrases are those that garner the most interest, meaning they're searched by web users at the highest rates. The higher the search volume, the higher the competition. And with Google serving up results for an estimated 5.6 billion searches per day, it’s no wonder that trying to rank for high-competition keywords can be incredibly challenging.
That said, it's not unwarranted for your SEO-based content marketing team to design a content-driven SEO strategy to rank for some of the most competitive keywords relevant to your industry. After all, Backlinko research shows that snagging the top spot in a Google search will net you nearly one-third of all click-throughs. And even if your site doesn’t take the top spot but places above the fold, you still have a chance: Statistics compiled by Zero Limit Web indicate the first five results attract about two-thirds of all traffic.
The point is that it can make sense to aim for the stars when it comes to your ambitious SEO content marketing goals. You just have to understand how to use SEO effectively if you want to rank highly for the most competitive words that are relevant to your business or industry. You also have to face the fact that you'll encounter upsides and downsides when targeting hypercompetitive keywords.
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Difficult keywords are difficult for a reason: People use them all the time. Think “pet food” or “car repairs.” Sometimes, words can move suddenly from being uncompetitive to competitive, as happened during the pandemic. In March and April 2020, “buy face masks” swelled and then dipped. For the purposes of this article, however, we will stick to talking about ranking for consistently competitive keywords rather than flash-in-the-pan search terms.
What are the advantages of having organic SEO power over a difficult keyword? The most important upshot is that you’ll get a high volume of traffic. If you’re doing everything else right with your SEO-based content marketing initiatives, you should see greater conversions and, ultimately, more revenue. In other words, you will work hard to achieve success and then reap the rewards of all that work.
But that's also where the disadvantages come into play. It takes quite a bit of effort to achieve top ranking for a hypercompetitive keyword. When you do, you have to maintain your dominance because you can be sure other competitors would love to unseat you. Therefore, you need to stay focused on this task.
Achieving the outcome you want will not happen overnight. In the meantime, you’ll want to work on grabbing quick wins for longer-tailed, less-searched words that aren’t as competitive. They’ll tide you over SEO-wise while you wait to see what happens with the highly competitive keywords you’ve identified.
Ready to get started? Below are four methods designed to move you up the ranks for hard-to-earn keywords.
The more relevant backlinks you can drive to your site or page, the more you’ll be able to show Google that you belong at the top of organic search results. Wondering how to get good backlinks for SEO? Ideally, your backlinks should use anchor text that reflects the exact keywords you’re targeting in one way or another.
The fastest way to make this happen is to push out content created by you on a well-known, high-ranking publication that allows backlinks. For instance, maybe you publish a study or research project. Use outreach like thought leadership articles and media releases to generate awareness of it. You might even get lucky and discover that others are linking back to your site after posting your data or conclusions.
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After choosing which competitive and noncompetitive keywords you want to target (learn more about how to create an SEO keyword list here), concentrate on optimizing your site pages. This includes updating your page titles, content, H1 tags, meta descriptions, and all other text with those keywords and keyword variations.
Remember that search engines use the copy you write (among more than 200 other factors!) to understand your page intent. Without clear information, the search engine algorithm won’t be able to rank you effectively for any keywords. Just be very cautious not to “keyword stuff.” Not only is this practice outdated, but it can also hamper your efforts.
Backlinks aren’t the only type of links that will help you increase your site visibility for a hypercompetitive keyword. Internal page-to-page links can give you momentum, too. For instance, use your targeted keyword or phrase as an anchor text on one page. Then, link it to a different page on the same topic.
Again, this process helps paint a sense of context for search engine crawlers. With that being said, be smart about your linking practices. Ensure that your links are authoritative and worthwhile for human visitors and not simply “pointers” for bots.
Is your site in need of an upgrade? Do certain pages take several seconds to load? Is it filled with redirects and 404 messages? Make it a priority to improve all these technical elements; otherwise, you can’t hope to rank highly for keywords — especially difficult ones.
Of course, it can be hard to figure out how to improve your site to improve your SEO. One surefire starting point is to conduct a website audit. A comprehensive audit won’t take too long and will provide you with tons of insider details about your site’s overall health. After you receive the diagnosis, you can make any changes, such as to your metadata, coding, content, or site organization.
No matter your company size, attempting to rank for a hypercompetitive keyword (or several) isn’t a fool’s errand. However, it’s an objective that you might want to undertake with a little help from a company specializing in effective SEO and content marketing services.
I'm the director of SEO and analytics for Intero Digital's Content & PR Division. I enjoy sports, traveling, the Lake of the Ozarks, spending time with family and friends, and whatever else life throws my way.