#1: What are good SEO conversion-first keywords your startup must target?
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#1: What are good SEO conversion-first keywords your startup must target?

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Keep in mind: SEO is a long-term strategy.

If you try to run a marathon like a 100-meter sprint, you’ll end up exhausted before the first kilometer.

That said, this analogy isn’t exactly right. SEO isn’t like a typical marathon with a route that everyone takes to the finish line. It’s more like a Mario Kart race, with shortcuts and power-ups to give you an edge over competitors.

If SEO is the Mario Kart race, then power-ups include choosing the right keywords to help you get relevant search traffic and convert them into paid users.

After all, startups with tight budgets and a lack of resources need all the power-ups and shortcuts they can get to see results from SEO as fast as they can.

But what are those good keywords? And what does a high conversion rate even mean in SEO?

What does a conversion-first SEO keyword strategy entail?

A conversion-first SEO strategy that prioritizes ranking for relevant keywords will help you see returns (in terms of revenue, customer growth, etc.) from your SEO efforts.

Determining a high conversion rate depends on your industry and what you define as a conversion. If you’re early in your SEO journey, FirstPageSage has compiled industry benchmarks on SEO conversion rates, where they define an SEO conversion as:

The generation of a marketing qualified contact/lead (MQL) (e-mail address or phone number) via one of several actions, including downloading a gated piece of content, signing up for a free trial, filling out a contact form, or calling.

They further explain that a lead becomes an MQL if they belong in the company’s target market or correspond to one of its buyer personas.

As a starting point, you can define a high conversion rate as anything above your industry standard and the average for the page type (e.g., blog post, landing page, etc.).

Based on my experience, keyword conversion rate largely depends on:

  • Search intent - Why did the person search for this term and land on your website page?
  • Keyword type - While search intent determines keyword conversion rate, some keyword types are searched more prevalently by people ready to purchase a product. For instance, a phrase like ‘mentorship platform’ is searched for by people who are actively looking for mentors or mentees, and can therefore have a high conversion rate.
  • On-page optimization, such as email popups, lead magnets and priming your content for engagement.

So, clearly understanding which types of keywords convert the best is key to a successful conversion-first keyword strategy.

⚠️ Don’t target the same keyword with different types of content

However, caution is required when producing SEO content. It may be tempting to keep creating the same content around the same keywords that have been proven to convert well in the past, but this may lead to you neglect other SEO opportunities to grow your customer acquisition process.

Creating helpful, how-to tutorials may not convert well in the short term but these allow you to build a loyal following around your content that could eventually turn into part of your customer base.

At the same time, by producing content around the same terms, you might experience keyword cannibalization issues, whereby multiple pages rank for the same queries and therefore prevent each other from climbing up the rankings.

Best practice: Only have one page/result for each target keyword, and target a bunch of secondary keywords related to the main target keyword.

The 5 keyword types that startups need to target

In a nutshell:

  1. Informational long-tail and question keywords
  2. Competitor comparison keywords
  3. Product/feature/service keywords
  4. Product listicle keywords
  5. Relevant high-volume terms

We will delve into what each of these keywords is, examples of content targeting these keyword types, and how to find relevant topics to write about without splurging on expensive SEO tools.

#1. Informational long-tail and question keywords

End-result: Audience building

Monthly search volume: Medium to high

Conversion rate potential: Low to medium

Content type: Blog posts

Especially lucrative for: Everyone

This keyword type should comprise the bulk of your blog content. These are relevant keywords that people search for in your industry when they want to know more about certain topics. While they may vary in conversion rates, the end goal of these articles is to create an audience around your brand, which includes building your newsletter list, and eventually turning them into loyal customers.

With this thing in mind, you want to optimize the content for engagement (e.g., providing high-quality valuable content, making sure that the content looks skimmable, etc.). Add email pop-ups or in-article forms to encourage subscriptions.

Ironically, content around these keywords takes the longest time to make, and nowadays, Google is becoming increasingly more adept at understanding what great content entails for readers. If done right, however, targeting these keywords can make your brand more memorable and allow you to scale word-of-mouth referrals.

If you do not have the capacity to create an FAQ center, prioritize writing SEO blog tutorials that also teach readers how to use your product. This way, you'll be able to help searchers, make them curious about your products, and potentially turn them into customers. Win-win.

Some companies also create tutorials for relevant tools used by their target personas. For example, as VEED targets video content makers, they've created tutorials on Instagram Stories and other video-sharing platforms.

How do I find topics to write about?

For this, you need to define your buyer personas and create a list of their relevant pain points that your services or products can solve.

If you aren’t enough of an expert in the field to know what your potential customers want to read, you can do the following:

  • Go through industry blogs and make a list of topics that may be relevant to your buyer personas.
  • Do competitive keyword research using an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Ubersuggest.
  • Ask your current or potential customers what they want to read about that’s relevant to what you offer.
  • Do a 5WH brainstorming session to think about what questions people might have regarding a certain topic. For instance, for the term ‘remote work’, people could have questions on what remote working is, how it can benefit companies, why people work remotely, and so on.

Keyword examples:

‘Remote work management’

‘How to prepare for an interview’

‘Mentorship questions’

‘Great email newsletters’

In a long-form blog post, you can target several related keywords at once, especially when they are questions around the same topic.

Content examples:

#2. Product comparison keywords

End-result: Get MQLs

Monthly search volume: Typically low

Conversion rate potential: High

Content type: Landing pages or blog posts

Especially lucrative for: Product-based businesses (i.e., SaaS, eCommerce, etc.)

Whether in the form of landing pages or in-depth review articles, competitor comparison keywords may not garner a lot of search traffic, but their conversion rates tend to be high.

Think of keywords like ‘(Product name) review’, ‘product 1 vs your product’, or ‘product alternatives’. I tend to prioritize this type of content for early-stage businesses that want to see returns from their SEO efforts as early as they can. If you don’t have time to design product comparison landing pages, articles will do.

To increase the chances of conversion, include some content within the page around your product or service as a viable alternative to what they are looking for.

⚠️ NOTE: If you use a tool like Ahrefs, these long-tail terms may seem as if they do not to garner a lot of monthly search volume, but these estimations are not accurate.

Why?

People search similar long-tail terms in different ways, and your content can rank for branded keywords (e.g., 'VEED pricing) searched by people looking for product alternatives. Ahrefs and other search volume tools except for Search Console do not take these factors into account.

How do I find topics to write about?

Make a list of the big players in your niche.

If you don’t know who they are, search for the type of product that you have on Google (e.g., ‘online video editors’) and read through product listicles. Create content around the most popular and fastest-growing ones.

With high-quality content and a bit of luck, you should rank for branded keywords. For example, this Hotjar article ranks for keywords related to FullStory.

Don’t bother doing comparison articles for less popular competitors. The search volume won’t justify the amount of work done.

Keyword examples:

‘(Product) review’

‘(Product) alternative(s)’

‘(Product B) vs. (Product A)’

Content examples:

#3. Product/feature/service-based keywords

End-result: Get MQLs

Monthly search volume: Depends on the industry

Conversion rate potential: Medium to high

Content type: Landing pages and blog posts

Especially lucrative for: Professional services, SaaS and online tools

These are keywords that revolve around a product or a service that people search for. Taking advantage of these keywords has made behemoths out of startups.

According to Ahrefs’ estimations, Canva receives around 14.5 million monthly visits through its product landing pages alone, and the real traffic may be around 3x this amount or more:

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Sabba Keynejad, co-founder of VEED, also stated that VEED used product landing pages to grow their customer base quickly on a shoestring budget:

Over the space of 4 months, these (product) pages went from 0 hits to over 20,000 collectively. I would recommend getting them started asap as you will benefit from the traffic later. It will take about 3-5 months for effects to fully kick in.

Delegate an hour or two per day to creating these landing pages.

How do I find topics to write about?

Look inwards. No, seriously.

Make a list of your product features based on what people search for. This means that if you gave your social media scheduler some fancy name, you’ll have to bite the bullet and create landing pages that target the generic keywords that people enter on Google when looking for a social media scheduling tool.

If you offer professional services and looking to get local clients through SEO, make sure to create landing pages targeting locally-based queries, such as 'Wellness studio in Shoreditch'. Alongside working on your local SEO through setting up a map listing and getting reviews, you'd be surprised by how much search traffic you could get through ranked content.

At the same time, you can also review close competitors and see how they’ve named their features. If they are SEO-savvy, there is a chance that they are targeting the same keywords as you.

Finally, make sure that you also make a list of various synonyms and target them with separate landing pages. In the screenshot above, notice how Canva has landing pages that target similar keywords, namely color palette generator and color wheel.

Even if they are closely related, they are still two distinct phrases that warrant separate landing pages.

Some companies also target ‘... template’ keywords through a downloadable asset. Always make sure to gate these behind an email subscription form to get email subscribers.

Keyword examples:

'Yoga studio Manhattan'

‘Color palette generator’

‘Meme generator’

‘Video editor’

‘YouTube cutter’

‘Text transcription’

‘CV maker’

Note: Feature-based keywords include what the actual features are and what they do. For example, a text transcription app could target terms like ‘text transcription’ or even ‘transcribe text’.

Content examples:

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#4. Product listicle keywords

End-result: Get MQLs

Monthly search volume: Medium to high

Conversion rate potential: Medium

Content type: Blog posts

Especially lucrative for: Products, SaaS and online tools

These are keywords searched for by those looking for tools in a certain category. They do not convert as well as competitor comparison but garner more search traffic — often enough to compensate for the lower conversion rates.

In the SaaS industry, these keywords tend to be dominated by Product Hunt, Capterra, and G2 with subpar landing pages that either don’t provide enough useful information or don’t have relevant products. For example, this landing page ranks on the first page for ‘workforce management software’. Meh.

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Cut through the noise by providing long-form content that addresses your buyer persona directly (e.g., including a section of your content about managers if they’re your target audience) and their pains. Make sure that the top pick is always your product 😉.

Note: This type of keywords can overlap with keyword type #2. If that is the case, go through the top 15 results, check whether feature landing pages or listicle articles rank better, and choose the winning format.

Unless you’re a service provider targeting a buyer persona that searches for many different types of product (e.g. an SEO agency targeting keywords searched by content marketers), there will only be a handful of topics that you can tackle for this keyword type.

VEED, Canva, and other editing platforms hold the notable exception of being able to compete across multiple product categories at once.

For instance, as a video editor, VEED can target ‘subtitle editor’ and ‘video cropper’ and still get relevant traffic. Canva can compete as both a ‘CV maker’ and a ‘logo maker’.

How do I find topics to write about?

Figure out what generic product category you’re in and write a product listicle based on that. Look for other product categories you can also realistically compete in. Verify that people search for these keywords on Google.

Keyword examples:

‘Call center scheduling software’

‘Mentorship platform’

‘Instagram scheduling tool’

‘LinkedIn Stories scheduler’

‘CV maker’

‘Static web hosting’

Content examples:

#5. Relevant high-volume terms

End-result: Audience building

Monthly search volume: Medium to high

Conversion rate potential: Low to medium

Content type: Landing pages and blog posts

Especially lucrative for: Everyone

I define these as keywords that have more than 8,000 searches per month, or whatever number you think is reasonably high in your niche.

⚠️ IMPORTANT: Now, many of you who use Ahrefs tend to skip targeting these keywords because of their high keyword difficulty ratings. Do not do that!

If you go back to Sabba’s article, you’ll realize that one of the main things that drove VEED’s rapid growth is by placing bets by creating content around these high-volume and high-difficulty keywords. While Ahrefs’ KD system is extremely useful, Google has different ways of assessing which pages should rank on the first page.

Plus, even if you rank on the second page, you will still get traffic with these keywords because they get so much search volume. And if Google finds that your content is more useful and valuable than the other pages, you may even be able to climb up the rankings with no backlinks!

There’s also a note to be made on relevance. If you create content around topics that are not very relevant to your niche, your chances of ranking or getting traffic that converts are slim.

I also wouldn’t target single keywords (e.g., ‘run’, ‘hike’, etc.). For instance, while doing keyword research for NoHQ, I realized that one of our articles was ranking in the top 20 results for the keyword ‘co-located’, which according to Search Console, was being searched by thousands of people! I got excited, until I noticed that most of the top-ranking search results were filled with dictionary entries around the term. Not very relevant for us.

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Target terms with two words or more. The more specific and long-tail the terms are, the higher the conversion rate typically is.

How do I find topics to write about?

This normally falls in the realm of competitive keyword research, which you can use Ubersuggest for. Using this tool, go through your most SEO-savvy competitors or other domains that post relevant content in your niche and identify the high-volume terms they’re ranking for.

If you really want to be scrappy and can’t afford to splurge $30 per month, with a bit of elbow grease and some guesswork, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner or Keywords Everywhere to find these keywords.

Make a list of generic, preferably long-tail, terms that you think a lot of people search for in your industry, then validate the search volumes with the tools mentioned above.

Keyword examples:

Progress report’ (searched 14,000 times per month)

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‘Interview questions’ (searched 524,000 times per month)

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Content examples:

This article singlehandedly provides Muse more than half a million search visits per month.

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This one gets more than 191K searches!

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Thank you for reading! If you found this article useful, please don’t forget to subscribe to get more insights on how to use SEO to grow your startup without breaking the bank 💙.

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