Selecting keywords just by looking at the best combinations of high search volume and low keyword difficulty is probably holding you back.
If you’re following this strategy, you may have discovered that:
- You can drive traffic but not conversions
- The traffic that does convert is low quality and churns
- Your overall SEO/content marketing strategy isn’t generating the ROI you hoped
This is exactly what I found when I used to be a freelance writer for various SaaS marketing agencies.
Fortunately, I’ve spent the last several years perfecting a keyword research strategy that generates more conversions from each piece of content. Specifically, it focuses on selecting bottom of the funnel (BOFU) keywords that target pain points our product/service solves. While it sounds simple enough, there’s plenty of nuance that goes into it, so I thought I’d outline the exact process I use in my agency below. In addition, I’ll illustrate it with a case study of a client I’m currently working with. Let’s jump into it.
While most people move to a tool like Ahrefs as they begin doing keyword research, I jump to my customer research notes. This is because knowing why people purchase your product over competing products and where their mindset is as they begin searching for a solution can significantly improve your topic ideation.
For example, the client I’ll discuss throughout this post, Upcoach, is a coaching platform that serves group coaches. From the customer research process, I learned that they really only sell to veteran coaches that do about $250k per year and have a team of at least three people. They also focus on improving the delivery rather than helping coaches sell more courses.
With this information, I know to stay away from these deceptively attractive topics:
- Start a coaching business
- How to generate more sales for my coaching business
- Best coaching platform for beginners
- Cheap coaching platforms
If you do a quick search in Ahrefs, you’ll see that there is volume for keywords related to the above topics and the difficulty is relatively low. However, it’s highly unlikely that any of them would ever convert as Upcoach isn’t designed for beginner coaches.
On the other hand, I know that these topics are relevant to my audience:
- Group coaching platform
- Improving NPS scores
- Improving client satisfaction
- Improving course automation/delivery
I discuss my exact customer research process at length in this post, though for now, I’ll just give you a snapshot of it.
Essentially, I interview the founder and anybody that talks directly with the customers (usually someone from CS and sales) and uncover:
- Why the product is different from the competition
- What events push people to make a purchase
- What their current situation looks like before using the product
- How it changes when they start using the product
You can see the full list of interview questions I ask here.
Once I have this information, I jump into the four core keyword frameworks I’ve developed that drive BOFU visitors.
Four Core Keyword Frameworks
I’ve found that these four keyword frameworks tend to convert the most visitors as they signal that the searcher is aware of their issue, aware of solutions, and ready to make a purchase now.
- Competitor Comparison Posts
- Competitor Alternative Posts
- “Best” List Posts
- Pricing Posts
Let’s talk about each one in detail below.
Competitor Comparison Posts
The first keyword you should be sure to write a post on is “(your brand) vs. (competitor’s brand).”
This comparison keyword is great because these searchers clearly want to purchase now as they are down to just two brands. While some brands balk at the idea of writing a post comparing themselves to the competition (usually because they don’t want to speak badly of others in the industry or because they think nobody wants to read a biased post), it’s definitely worth writing because you’re competition will probably write one if you don’t.
For example, if you take a look at the keyword “Hotjar vs. Crazyegg,” you’ll see that Hotjar owns the top spot and can therefore control the narrative of Crazyegg’s product. In this case, Hotjar did write a pretty honest comparison, though that isn’t always the case.
Therefore, be like Hotjar and write a post for the keyword, though make it as honest as possible. A great way to do this is to highlight why your tool is a better option for your ideal customer and point out reasons why it isn’t ideal for low quality customers.
For example, if it isn’t a cheap product, point out that it isn’t a great option for startups or small businesses and highlight why it’s such a great product for well funded companies and enterprises.
Now that you know why it’s important to write a post for this keyword, let’s talk about finding these keywords. (I tend to use Ahrefs for my keyword research, though you can use any keyword tool, or even just Google’s auto-complete for this process.)
Using Upcoach as an example, you’ll see that there actually aren’t any comparison keywords that include “upcoach.”
This is pretty common with startups, so instead, I’ll look back at my customer research notes and compile a list of all the alternatives most of our customers switched from. For example, we found that most Upcoach users typically switched from Kajabi or Thinkific or Teachable or Circle or Mighty Networks.
Therefore, what I would do is type in “kajabi vs,” “thinkific vs,” “teachable vs.” etc., and see what comes up.
Here’s an overview of what comes up (I’ll only workshop these three to keep it simple):
Normally, I would select the competitor most of the Upcoach customers swapped from, though it was pretty across the board. Therefore, my next question would be which competitor is the best for cohort based coaching (what Upcoach’s strength is), though again, they were all pretty even.
Therefore, given that I couldn’t choose one on intent, I selected the keywords with the highest volume and lowest difficulty. However, I want to impress on you that if there is one competitor that is significantly more similar to your brand or that most of your customers have switched from, write a comparison post on that one first.
Therefore, I decided to select these keywords:
- Kajabi vs Teachable
- Thinkific vs Teachable
- Kajabi vs Thinkific
When we create these posts, we’ll add Upcoach into the mix. So let’s say the first keyword we chose was “Kajabi vs Teachable,” and it has the following subheadings:
- Setup Process
- Group Coaching Capabilities
In this case, I would compare Kajabi, Teachable, and Upcoach’s setup process, scalability, group coaching capabilities, integrations, and pricing. So it would essentially be a “Kajabi vs. Teachable vs. Upcoach” post, though having the “Kajabi vs. Teachable” keyword will generate a lot more traffic than if you just did “Kajabi vs. Upcoach” or “Teachable vs. Upcoach.”
Finally, I should mention that these kinds of posts should always be structured in a direct comparison style. I’ve discussed search intent at length, and if you deviate from the format of discussing the two tools in depth, your post won’t rank very well.
So go back to your customer research notes, look at what people care about most when purchasing a course and make those elements the subheadings you discuss.
For example, most people purchasing Upcoach care about group coaching capabilities, ease of use, habit tracking, and integration necessities. Therefore, those elements will probably be the subheadings for each of our posts.
Competitor Alternative Posts
The next core keyword framework is alternative posts. These posts are excellent because the searcher is already using your competitor’s product (so they are willing to pay) and dissatisfied with the deliverability. In other words, it’s a golden opportunity for you to snatch them up as a customer.
Therefore, I’ll use the same criteria I used above to select alternative keywords.
First, I’d look at which competitors most customers switched from. If there isn’t a clear answer, look at which competitors are most similar to your products. Finally, if there still isn’t a clear answer, I look at which ones have the best combination of high volume and low difficulty (though I will still ultimately write posts for every single one of these keywords):
- Kajabi alternatives
- Teachable alternatives
- Thinkific alternatives
- Circle alternatives
- Mighty Mouse alternatives
- Learndash alternatives
Now that you have the keyword, it’s essential to write a list post with multiple alternatives rather than just a comparison of your tool and the tool in the keyword. I notice this issue is particularly common when people target the singular form of the keyword (for example, “thinkific alternative” rather than “thinkific alternatives”). However, I find that in about 90% of Google searches for the singular “(competitor) alternative,” Google still prefers to show a list post.
Check out the search results for “teachable alternatives” versus “teachable alternative.” All of them are still list posts:
I know that some companies are hesitant to mention a list full of competitors on their own blog, but you won’t be able to own the keyword if you don’t do it. In my opinion, the benefits of owning a keyword with such excellent search intent far outweigh the small risk that someone on your website might learn about a competitor.
Remember, your customers are smart, and they will do their research before purchasing. So it’s up to you whether or not you want to control the narrative.
“Best” List Posts
Another great keyword to target is any sort of “best,” “software,” or “tool” posts.
However, these kinds of keywords can be a little tricky to find as not all of them are equally valuable. For example, if you’re selling a CRM, writing a post for “best small business tools” probably won’t bring as many leads as a post on “best CRM tools” or “best small business sales tools.”
As you’ll notice, I care a lot more about the intent behind the keyword than its volume and difficulty level. This is because I’ve found that these more specific keywords (even with lower volume and higher difficulty) tend to bring in a lot more conversions than broader keywords with higher volume.
Note: The only exception to this is if the keyword is perfect but has a really high difficulty level and I’m working with a very early startup/low authority website. In that case, I’d probably put that keyword on the backburner.
So let’s jump into keyword research for these kinds of posts.
First, I type the basic industry keyword into Ahrefs and hit enter. From there, I add modifiers to the “Include” filter. I typically add “software, tool, tools, platforms, platform, solutions, solution” to it. Be sure to select “Any word” so that it pulls keywords containing any of those words.
This search returned a ton of results, and I noticed that one route we could go down is modifying the keyword based on industry.
Going back to my customer research document, I noticed that most customers are either business or life coaches, though the CMO mentioned that Upcoach isn’t exclusively for those people. For example, they also have a dance coach using the platform.
Nonetheless, I thought that it would be great to start with these keywords:
- Business coaching software
- life coaching platform
Later on, I might add keywords like “dance coaching software,” though because that’s not the primary user of Upcoach, I won’t devote an entire post to it just yet.
I should also mention that if I noticed a keyword for both “business coaching software” and “business coaching platform,” I would probably only choose one of them to target (likely the one with the best high volume/low difficulty combination). This is because the search intent is more or less the same for both keywords and you’ll notice that the search results probably have the same URLs on the page (even if they are shuffled around slightly).
Similarly, you shouldn’t write two different posts for “best business coaching software” and “business coaching software,” as these also have the same search intent.
The next variations I tried were “course platforms” and “online learning platforms.”
Diving into “course platforms,” I found that the difficulty for the first several keywords is simply too high at the moment, though “online course platforms comparison” is definitely interesting. It doesn’t fit neatly into this “best” list post category, though I’ll write it down anyway.
My final search was “best course” and “best coaching” with the modifying keywords (software, tool, platform, etc.).
I found that most of the keywords showed the searcher was probably a newbie course creator “best platform to sell online course.” So in the end, I only decided to add these keywords to my list:
- Best online coaching platform
- Best life coaching software
- Best course platforms (high KD, but I’ll add it anyway)
I found that most of the keywords showed the searcher was probably a newbie course creator (such as “best platform to sell online course”). So in the end, I only decided to add these keywords to my list:
- Best online coaching platform
- Best life coaching software
- Best course platforms (high KD, but I’ll add it anyway)
Overall, I feel that these list posts don’t necessarily attract people who have pain points around deliverability. So sure, I think they are still relevant, but I’d prefer to see more keywords around “group” or “cohort” given that this is our platform’s speciality.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of volume around those keywords.
In fact, “group coaching software” was really the only one that makes sense to target (because the others are mostly iterations of that keyword), and it turns out that it has such a low difficulty that our homepage already ranks first for it. (Posts tend to have more ranking power than individual pages, though the homepage is a little unique because it tends to have so many more links than a typical landing page.)
As long as our homepage continues to rank first for that keyword, I probably won’t write a post on it as the homepage is already doing a great job of converting visitors. However, I will continue to watch that keyword, and if another competitor writes a list post and steals it, I’ll definitely write a post too.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find any list post intent keywords around “cohorts” (though there are some keywords like “cohort based courses” which we’ll get into during the pain point keywords section).
Another option you can take is looking for list-based keywords for some of the major features in your software. For example, I also chose these two keywords:
- crm for coaches
- coaching assessment tools
You can see the final list of keywords I came up with for this framework here, though I don’t love them as they don’t really show the searcher has a pain point around group coaching or improving engagement.
In fact, “CRM for coaches” is probably my favorite keyword as it is at least a little more advanced than the other generic keywords like “best online coaching platform,” and we happen to offer a CRM that’s much better than most platforms’ CRMs.
Lately, I’ve found that most of the pricing related keywords aren’t excellent, and it proved true with Upcoach. There isn’t anything regarding pricing for “course” and “coaching” related keywords, so I decided to move on.
While there is some volume around “Kajabi pricing” and similar keywords, I find that these are too difficult to rank for as the brand itself usually owns the keyword. In addition, if you have a higher priced product, you may not necessarily want to attract people that are concerned with pricing.
Therefore, I don’t have any pricing keywords for Upcoach.
Uncovering Pain Point Keywords
While the four core keyword frameworks make it pretty easy to generate keywords, pain point related keywords can be just as effective at driving conversions.
However, they require a deep understanding of your ideal customer.
Therefore, let’s dive into how to find them and then create a compelling post around them.
Identifying Your Customers and Why They Buy
One of the most common issues I see with content marketing strategies is that they often target a generic persona rather than a specific pain point that your product/service solves.
For example, Upcoach is often used by life and business coaches. So at first glance, you might think that any of these keywords would be acceptable:
- Sell business courses online
- Grow an online coaching business
- Video course hosting platform
However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize that those topics would not bring the right customer to Upcoach. This is because what makes it an excellent product is:
- How it improves engagement with the audience with habit tracking, accountability, and more
- A workflow that previously required multiple platforms (Trello + Thinkific + Google Docs) is now integrated into one easy to read platform
You can read more about the customer research process I did to uncover this here.
As a result, most of the coaches using and loving Upcoach typically have pain points around deliverability. In other words, they want to help people change their lives, but the platform they are using makes it difficult to do so. In fact, the comment that these coaches dread hearing from their students is, “This course wasn’t what I expected.”
Armed with this information, it’s easy to see that the kinds of keywords we should be targeting focus around:
- Group coaching/cohort based courses
- Improving student engagement
- Improving NPS score and client satisfaction
- Improving course completion rates
- All communication in one platform
- Improving overall experience and deliverability of a course
- Improving automation/reducing administrative work
Finding Keywords To Match The Pain Points
To find keywords around these terms, I’ll just Google the term (say “improving course completion rates”), take the top URL, put it into Ahrefs, and then look up the keywords it ranks for.
As you can see, this post generates virtually no traffic, so the keyword wouldn’t be “improving course completion rates.” However, it did give me some keyword ideas. For example, I could use the keyword “online course completion rates.”
I could write a post that provides data on the average course completion rates and then the average completion rates on Upcoach.
The rest of the post could discuss how to increase your completion rate (with or without Upcoach) and sprinkle in some features unique to Upcoach that help improve completion rates.
Unfortunately, I had particularly bad luck with this company as most of the pain points listed above did not have corresponding keywords with search volume.
Therefore, I will still write case study posts regarding how we improve NPS scores, engagement rates, and reduce administrative work, (this is why people buy from us after all), though it might not have a corresponding keyword.
I considered using a different company as an example, though these issues (not being able to find a keyword that corresponds to the pain point) does occasionally occur, so I thought it would be useful for you to see how I handle these scenarios.
Competitor Analysis For More Keywords
My next tactic is to look at your competitor’s keywords, as you might be able to find some that are also relevant to your audience.
I did this with Kajabi, Coach Accountable, and several other competing platforms:
In the end, here are all of the pain point related keywords I generated:
I must note that I was hoping for keywords that directly related to the pain points we solve (improving accountability, engagement, NPS scores, etc.), though the above keywords are probably the second best option (keeping in mind that I will still create posts for this client regarding engagement, accountability and NPS scores).
Start Improving Your Content Marketing Keyword Research Process Now
If the only thing you do this year is improve your keyword research strategy by only targeting keywords that directly relate to the customer pain points your product/service solves, your content marketing will already be ahead of 90% of content strategies out there.
If you’re still struggling to find great keywords (or you don’t know if your keywords are effective), reach out to me and my team, and we can help you get your strategy off the ground.