Authority Website Income

How To Do Keyword Research for a Competitive Niche

We have all heard it before – keyword research is the most important part of building a website. Well for an Authority website keyword research is not as important to me as it is for my micro-niche sites. However, if I were to create my authority site and right away try to rank for my primary keywords I would simply be banging my head against the wall. Let me share with you how I plan on getting traffic to my highly competitive student loan site via the “back door”.

Key Strategy #1 – Backdoor Keywords

When I will be creating my authority website I a will be going up against tough competition (banks, Universities and the Government!) each of these organizations have significant costs with each piece of content they publish and therefore target only keywords with high commercial value or high search volume. This leaves a large swath of keywords in most niches with no one targeting them either through PPC(in the case of the low commercial value keywords) or SEO and a great opportunity for a scrappy start-up authority website to come into a niche via these “backdoor keywords”.

A Niches “Backdoor Keywords” Have


Low Commercial Value with Moderate Traffic

You may be wondering if I am planning on targeting these low/no commercial value keywords how do I make money? It’s a fair question, my answer to that question is I will still have the high commercial value pages/posts on my website and traffic will flow from the low commercial value pages/posts to the high value pages/posts.

Key Strategy #2 – Usefulness of my Website is More Important Than Low Competition

Keyword research is important but it is more important to have a complete body of work on the subject. If the visitors to my website are looking for a piece of content that I have no chance of ranking for I will still include it on my site to improve the websites usefulness. Keyword research is the #1 concern for my micro-niche sites because I can rank based solely on the lack of competition. However, for an authority site I need to provide lots of value to my visitors and generate natural links to help boost my SEO efforts. Therefore, I don’t worry as much about competition as I do when I am building Micro-Niche Websites.

At the end of the keyword research phase I will have a sitemap for the website written out. This sitemap will be used to assign writers to create my content. I will provide a link to the keyword research template I use to create my sitemaps.



Wont Lie - It Sometimes Feels Like This!

Step 1 – Create Initial Keyword Seed List/Sitemap

Now that the niche I am targeting has been defined here it is time to lay out the type of site my target avatar would like.

To do this I visit similar websites and create an outline of the key pages on the site that will be of THE MOST VALUE to my visitors.

Step 2 – Identify Pillar Content Page Titles

Now that I have the outline of my sitemap I want to identify my pillar article titles and the subpage titles. Using google adwords keyword tool makes this process very easy.

The structure for my pages will be one main article for a target keyword with several sub-pages in the form of a drop down menu.

  • Target Keyword
    • “Long Tailed” Version of Keyword #1
    • “Long Tailed” Version of Keyword #2
    • “Long Tailed” Version of Keyword #3
    • “Long Tailed” Version of Keyword #4

Step 3 – Identify Low Competition Keywords and Post Titles

The final step of keyword research for my authority website is to identify the post titles I will need to have written. These posts are not big enough keywords to have a page and subpages dedicated to it but there is the potential to rank for the keyword so I want to include it as a post.

The trick here, see Key Strategy #1 at the top of this tutorial, is for me to identify the “low hanging fruit”, keywords that will be easier to rank for.

What Makes a Keyword Easy to Rank For? Low competition in the top 10 in Google, here is what I am looking for…

  • 50% or less of the results have the keyword in the title
  • 2 or more PR0 websites with no Backlinks in Top 10
  • 2 or more Weak websites in the top 10 (ehow, yahoo answers, ezine, forum)

In some highly competitive niches it will be very difficult to find keywords that meet the above criteria but the goal is to get keywords as close to the above target as possible.

I will put a lot of effort into this stage of the keyword research since identifying these easier keywords to rank for in a highly competitive market is one of the only ways for me to have my site get traffic at the start.

This technique is not perfect for all niches but it generally gives you a good idea of what some of the less competitive keywords are to target.

As Promised – Here is my initial sitemap (Public Google Document – Click Here)


What I Just Did Was The Hard Way…

Here is The Easy Way To Find The Best Keywords


Watch as I find low competition keywords in a competitive niche in under 5 minutes!


This technique is not perfect for all niches but it generally gives you a quick idea of what some of the less competitive and therefore easier to rank for keywords are.

The strength of LongTailPro I love which isn’t directly related to an authority niche is its ability to find exact match domains for keywords that can easily rank with decent content and a few backlinks. Although this site is talking about 1 authority website, my team is still building niche sites using LongTailPro.

Try LongTailPro free for 10 days – Click Here (aff. Link)


Other Keyword Research Tutorials


About the Author Jon

I am a 33 year old husband, father of 3, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours AND so I can spend time outside skiing and biking with my family.
Jon Gillham, Online Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment:

Jas says September 30, 2012

Jon appreciate your openness and this site that you have created. Trying to understand the site structure of your authority site and a bit confused. So the home page is expected to get new blog updates which visitors will see as and when the updates are made. On your pillar pages how often are updates expected and how do you envision your visitors to know when new content is added. I see your pillar heading as niche topics of their own but key question that I a trying to get to is how do you see your visitors interacting with the site given its structure.

    Jon says September 30, 2012

    Jas, Thanks for the comment. I will keep trying to be as open as possible.

    To answer your question about structure…you are exactly right each Pillar article and sub-page is like a micro-niche site. So that content does not get updated regularly they are meant to be evergreen resources that dont get “new” posts added to them but do get updated as required with current information.

    I see visitors interacting with the site by coming to the site via search engine traffic to one of the long tail keywords targetted with the blog post and then see the Pillar Article sections of the website and get additional value out of them.

    Monetization will include several steps which I will be rolling out next month.

    Thanks for the comment and let me know if you have any other questions.


Jas says October 2, 2012

Thanks. I am in the process of getting a site up and running. Will keep you in the loop. I am techie so will be around it but being a competitive market trying to evolve a strategy. I am leaning more towards having a site to simplify technology for the layman. Not sure how I m going to do it and what exactly the topic is going to be. You think it will be hard for me to find writers on tech front or are they readily available?

    Jon says October 4, 2012

    Jas, simplifying technology I think can be a great niche but definitely competitive.

    If you are looking to outsource content creation one idea could be to have a non-native-english VA create screenshots step by step tutorial based on a technical problem video tutorial then have a writer convert the likely broken english into good grammar. This way you have a value added post which solves the technical problem but have high quality written content at the same time. Having multiple moving parts will definitely add some complexity to your content creation plan. I have never tried this before but when I understood your problem I thought it might be solution that could work for you.

    To answer your question directly…will it be hard to find writers who are tech savvy and great english? I believe it will be but if you follow a system like the one I use here then its easy to cycle through several writers before you find one that really works!

    Keep me posted on your success.


      Jas says October 4, 2012

      Thanks Jon. I like your idea of solving problems via actual screenshots and videos… something to think about… Anyways thanks for your time and will stay in touch. Take care.

Dave says August 17, 2013

Jon: I started at the beginning in your series and I’m pausing here to add my comment. I never really did a keyword search for my site; I just thought that as you fill the site up with good information; over time you will generate all the keywords needed. As the site is indexed, the search engines will understand what your site is about and begin to move your results towards the top of page one. So as I read more, it will interesting to see if this is what happens with you.


Louis says September 14, 2013

Hi Jon,

I like the idea but what is the alternative now for finding exact match search volumes as it’s really tricky with Keyword planner because they only give you broad match until you add keywords to a plan.

Also I noticed in one of your videos you mentioned that you were confused why a Huffington Post page showed up as PR0 with SEOQuake and I think this is because that is the page rank of the page itself rather than the root domain so Google may still see a PR0-1 page as an authority domain and it may still be harder to beat a low PR deep link page. I think it would be to also look at the Root Domain details too.

Niche Site Preparation and Getting Sick says September 18, 2013

[…] do this, I’m compiling notes from sites like and and I’m adding those notes to what I already […]

Leo @Newbiesup says November 15, 2013

Thanks for sharing. I can always find useful tips and thoughts from your post!

    Jon says November 17, 2013

    Thanks Leo, glad you found it enjoyable!

Jay says January 3, 2014

Hi, good article, thanks! Like a lot of the stuff on your site. Have spent quite a lot of time reading through…

What exactly do you mean by ‘Pro Websites’?

ForexPortal says January 21, 2014

Hi, PRO stands for Page Rank 0 (zero) in this context, Thanks Jon for the detailed post – I have question to ask – what is an authority website really , what are the determinants, is the number of posts/pages a site has or perhaps the brand factor behind the blog/site? kindly share as much info as possible -or links to other informative resources – thanks a lot -keep up the good work

Noor Azman says March 15, 2014

Jon, how to do you evaluate ecommerce site like google or amazon. do we treat them as part of the matrix?


Sean says August 2, 2014

I found it difficult to follow exactly what you were doing here. So basically you are using a silo structure for the website? I also have Longtail Pro but I’ve had nothing but trouble with it. I gave up on using it for keyword research as most of the time it would not return any results. I was still using it for competitor analysis but then noticed it was showing localized search results for keywords even though the settings were set to global in the software as well as in Adwords itself.

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[…] that I have identified my audience and done keyword research it is time to pick my authority websites domain name. But first I want to look at what good website […]

John says May 16, 2016

Indeed a great post about keyword research.

It is true that keyword research is the very 1st step to target the right traffic from search engines like Google. I have seen so many people who never does keyword research and always keep themselves busy in writing articles on different different random keywords which is not good.

If We really want to get potential traffic which can converts easily then we must have to target the right keyword.

For a productive work, every expert suggest to target long tail keywords with having low competition. Because long tail keywords with low competition are easily to rank rather than short tail high competitive keywords.

I always use Google Keyword Planner to check the keyword search volume and Long Tail Pro for keyword competition score. I am glad that You have covered such an indepth article on keyword research.

Thanks for sharing it with us. 😀

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