Learning from the Best: Building on Popular Content to Increase Search Traffic

Keyword research should be plugged directly into your content development process. By carrying out keyword research, you’ll be able to identify new opportunities to target keywords relevant to your business and drive quality traffic to your site.

Now, whilst keyword research should play a part within your content creation process, there’s a lot more data available to you that you can use to get the best possible results from your campaigns. One of these data sources comes in the form of existing popular content related to the topics that you’re targeting.

Having an understanding of the different components that make up a successful piece of content should be high on your priority list. I often dedicate a huge portion of my content development time to researching established content and breaking it down into the different elements that make that post a success.

Here’s my general process:

  1. Understand the overarching subject area that you want to develop content around (for example, web hosting).
  2. Research keywords related to the core subject and map out more specific queries that can be targeted (for example, where to buy web hosting).
  3. Identify existing content that has been heavily linked to and shared that relates directly to the keywords that you’ve targeted.
  4. Analyse the popular content to find trends and features that work well.
  5. Implement the findings of your analysis to develop content that has a dramatically greater chance of success.


Researching Keywords

Once you’ve decided upon a core subject that you want to build some traffic around, it’s time to look at the keywords that can be targeted through the search engines.

At this stage, you just want to look at broad search terms. For example, this could be relevant to your services, products, or brand. To make things easier, let’s use a company selling vegetarian food products as an example.

Some top-level keywords could be:

  • Vegetarian
  • Veggie food
  • Vegetarian meals

I could list more, but I’m sure you get this picture. This stage is just about identifying a few key themes that we can build upon at a later stage. If you’re not hugely confident in carrying out keyword research, you can check out this post outlining the fundamentals of keyword research.

Using a broad topic like vegetarian, you can use the Keyword Suggestion tool to find a flurry of relevant keywords that are related to this term. Here’s what the results look like:


Now that you’ve got a larger pool of search terms, it’s time to take a look at some of the popular content related to them…

Identifying Popular Content

Here’s where you can use one of my favourite features within Keyword Eye, the top content finder.


All you need to do is right-click on any of the keywords shown and then select the option named Find Top Content. Keyword Eye will then work its magic to find some of the most popular content related to that term based on social shares across each social network in the past month.

Here are the results for the term vegetarian meals:


At a glance, it’s clear to see that Facebook is the most popular social network for sharing content related to vegetarian meals. This in itself is a useful insight, as it means you can shift your promotion strategy to lean more toward seeding shares via Facebook. Before you even begin thinking about promotion, you’ll want to gain some more insights into the content itself…

Analysing Popular Content

I’d recommend gathering a good number of popular articles that focus around a number of relevant search terms related to your core subject. In this example, it could be vegetarian recipes, vegetarian meals, vegetarian meal plan, and vegetarian diet.

You’ll probably get some overlap in the popular content, but it will help you to also see patterns in content that is performing well over a number of subtopics. To make things easy for yourself, you may want to paste a few of the top-content URLs into a spreadsheet (I always find that analysis work is a lot easier in Excel).

Once you’ve got a list of popular content, it’s time to break down the content into a variety of different components. Here are a few of the elements that I tend to gather information around:

  • The format of the content (i.e., video, text-based article, infographic, etc.)
  • The length of the content (in words)
  • The length of the content headline and the types of language used
  • The ratio of image to text
  • The author of the content and where it was published
  • Length of the paragraphs (or length of the video if it’s a video)

These are just a few of the things that I look for to identify trends in the top content. Gathering this information is easy enough, and you can go through each article one by one to gather the result. You can then create a large comparison table of each of the best pieces of content.

Note: If you don’t want to gather all this information manually, you can use a tool like URL Profiler to go through and grab these data automatically.

From here, you may find that most of the top-performing pieces of content have a large number of images within them. They may have a word count between 300-400 words and headline length of 7-10 words. You may also find that the headline includes a number, for example, 29 Meat-Free Meals You Can Make Without Your Stove.

These findings are pure gold.

This is the kind of data that you can use to build out a template for the perfect article. I guarantee that you’ll see the benefit of this when you’ve done it once. If you want to see this in action, check out my content analysis case study.

Implementing Your Findings

At this point, you should have an idea of the key elements that make up a successful piece of content within your subject area. Using this information, you can create a piece of content that has a far greater chance of performing well. But it doesn’t stop there…

There’s one more trick that Keyword Eye has up its sleeve: influencer analysis.


Go back into your initial keyword research and right-click on one of the search terms that you used to find popular content. Instead of selecting this option, click on Find Top Influencers.

The top influencersare those that have been instrumental towards increasing the online reach of popular content. These are the social media accounts of people that have shared content relevant to your keywords.

Using this information, you can build a list of people that you want to get in touch with to share your content with. A single share from any of these accounts could result in a snowball effect of social sharing.

If you want to go even further with this kind of analysis, you can look at the people linking to the content and get in touch with them to see if they’d consider linking to your new piece(s) of content.

By following these steps, you’ll not only be able to identify gaps in your niche to bring in more traffic through, but you’ll also develop a deeper understanding of what content works.


  • Understand the overarching subject area that you want to develop content around (for example, web hosting).
  • Research keywords related to the core subject and map out more specific queries that can be targeted (for example, where to buy web hosting).
  • Identify existing content that has been heavily linked to and shared that relates directly to the keywords that you’ve targeted.
  • Analyse the popular content to find trends and features that work well.
  • Implement the findings of your analysis to develop content that has a dramatically greater chance of success.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Keyword Research

As a newbie to SEO, the infinite number of highly technical posts surrounding keyword research, content optimisation and link building can be very daunting. With SEO it’s particularly important that you learn to walk before you begin even considering a run – the fall that will ensue could be quite painful.

Consequently, the best starting point is to gather a basic understanding of keywords, the role they play in an SEO campaign and how you can conduct some basic keyword research.

Luckily for you, I’ve spent the past seven years improving and refining the process that I use for researching SEO keywords (amongst many other things!). Within this article I’m going to give you the answers that you need surrounding keyword research without overwhelming you with technical detail. By the end of reading this post you should have a grasp of the following:

  1. What keyword research is used for.
  2. The role that keywords play within an SEO campaign.
  3. How you can identify relevant keywords for your campaign.

Let’s Talk Keywords…

On the most basic level, a keyword is something that is searched for within a search engine that will return a list of results. These results are made up of different webpages that have been deemed relevant to the term searched for.


The idea is that if this keyword is relevant to your website, you want your site to be appearing highly within this list of results to increase the chance of the user visiting.

You don’t need to worry about how you will get your website ranking well in the search engines at this stage; you just need to understand which search terms you’d like to have an appearance for.

There are three major factors that make up the suitability of a keyword for your campaign. They are:

  1. Relevance.
  2. Traffic Potential.
  3. Competition.

1. Relevance

In order to ensure that you’re bringing the right visitors through to your website, you need to ensure that the keywords you’re targeting are relevant to the content that you’ll be displaying to them.

If a user has searched for the keyword ‘buy car paint’ and they land on a webpage that talks about the different types of car tyres available then this is a seriously negative user experience. Even if you were to bring in a lot of traffic by ranking well for this keyword, the majority of the traffic would instantly be lost due to it not delivering the result the user is after.

This is a very important point to bear in mind. Traffic isn’t everything – sometimes less is more.

2. Traffic Potential

Alongside the keywords being relevant to the content that you’ll be displaying, there should be a significant amount of potential traffic that could be driven back to your website as a result of ranking highly for it.

You will be able to see how many times a keyword is search for each month via Keyword Eye. Based on monthly search volumes, you’re able to predict potential traffic based around ranking in various positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs).


Image source: http://moz.com/ugc/how-to-get-more-clicks-with-low-rankings

There have been loads of studies into the click-through rate of search results within the SERPs. In general, a good figure to go with is between 30-40% for ranking at the top of page one.

For example, if a keyword was searched for 10,000 times every month, you could expect between 3-4,000 visits to your webpage if you ranked at #1 in Google.

3. Competition

As well as ensuring the keyword is relevant and searched for regularly, you need to be aware of the competition surrounding it within the SERPs. By this I mean, how easy will it be to achieve good search engine rankings for this keyword?

As a general rule, the higher the monthly search volume of a keyword, the higher the competition. Now, there are exceptions here but this is generally the case.

You’ll need to be able to identify when a keyword is going have a high level of competition to rank for this in order to calculate your ROI effectively.


Onto the Keyword Research…

The first stage of your keyword research is to map out some ideas for what it is that you’re trying to target. Forget about search volumes, relevance and competition at this stage, just focus on the basic – what is it you’re trying to bring people through to?

Let’s use the example of a consumer electronics retailer. Before they even begin looking at the likes of the search terms people are searching for, e.g. buy plasma televisions online, they would need to map out all the different products/services/themes associated with the business.

This could look like this:

  • USB flash drives
  • Plasma televisions
  • Consumer electronics
  • Surround sound systems
  • Home cinema
  • Keyboards
  • PC monitors

You get the idea…

Once you’ve mapped out an extensive list of the different products/services/themes of your business, it’s time to drill down into the search phrases associated with them – this is where you’ll need some help from Keyword Eye.


The first step is to navigate to New>Keyword>Suggestion. You can then search for one of the terms within your list of products/services/themes. For example, USB flash drives.

Keyword Eye will go through and find any search terms that are related to the one that you’ve inputted and supply you with a ton of extra data surrounding them. For example, monthly search volume, PPC competition and the number of webpages shown in the results (a good indication of how competitive it is).


You’ll also have a word cloud with all of the results so that you can visualise each of the suggestions in a way that is easy to break down. You can order the size of the word based on search volume so that it becomes easy to find any keywords that are searched for regularly.

I often use this feature to get inspiration for new search terms. For example, within the above screenshot I can see that many people refer to USB drives as pen drives, thumb drives and USB sticks. This is really useful to know as you can add these terms into your main list of keywords.

The best process for gathering and analysing keywords is to go to the Grid View tab and then download the list of keywords to an Excel spreadsheet (via the Download button). I always find that it’s much easier to go through keywords once you’ve got them in Excel.

Refining Your Keywords

Once you’ve gathered a big list of keywords for each of your products/services/themes that you outlined, you need to go through and refine the list. This will include checking that they are relevant, that they’re searched for enough and also grouping them into categories.


Once you’ve downloaded your keywords, they should look something like this (see above).

The first thing that I do at this stage is to go through all of the keywords and just remove any of those that are obviously irrelevant. For example, in the USB flash drives example, there were keywords like what is flash and portable office which are completely irrelevant for people coming through to buy these products. These would be deleted from my list.

Once you’ve done this, you need to separate the short tail and the long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are generally longer in length and more specific. Short tail keywords are shorter in length and are generally broader.

For example, a short tail keyword would be USB drives. An example of a long tail keyword would be what is a USB flash drive?


Source: http://moz.com/

You can see in the diagram above that there are many more long tail keywords than there are short tail (fat head and chunky middle). 70% of all keywords are long tail keywords and this is usually the largest source of overall traffic to a website. Individually they may not be searched for a lot, but ranking well for a number of them can bring in serious numbers of traffic.

You will usually have a base set of short tail keywords that you can then build out variations of long tail keywords to target alongside this. For example, with the short tail keyword, Plasma TVs, you could have a whole host of long tail keywords, such as:

  • 32 inch Plasma TVs
  • Where to buy Plasma TVS
  • Plasma TVs with free UK delivery
  • How do Plasma TVs work?
  • Are Plasma TVs better than LCD TVs?
  • Thin profile Plasma TVs

Starting to get the idea?

Once you group your keywords within your spreadsheet, you’ll make it a lot easier for you to select specific pages on your website that you want to focus sets of keywords to.

Alongside the fact that you can easily assign keyword groups to specific page of your website, you can also get an idea of the total monthly search volume for each keyword set. All this requires you to do is calculate the sum of the monthly search volume (which Keyword Eye provides) for all of the keywords related to one product/service/theme.

This will make it much easier for you to prioritise the keywords you’re targeting based on their potential ROI. Once you’ve got all this mapped out, you’re well on your way to getting a good understanding of the fundamentals of keyword research.

See, it’s not that bad!


  • Understand whether your keywords are relevant, have the potential to drive through traffic and that you can compete in the SERPs.
  • Map out a list of products/services/themes to identify keyword for.
  • Filter out irrelevant keywords from your master list.
  • Identify short tail and long tail keywords and group them.
  • Calculate the total monthly search volume for your keyword sets to estimate potential ROI.

Spying on Your Competitors – and Learning From Them

You can learn a lot from your competitors, and you’d have to be a fool not to stay on top of what they’re doing. Whether you’re looking to stay ahead of them in terms of SEO, social media or a general business perspective (which I’m sure you are nodding at all three!) then competitive research is a must.

I’m going to break down a simple approach to carrying out monthly/weekly/daily competitive research (depending on how obsessive you are!). First things first, let’s take a look at some competitive keyword research…

Competitive Keyword Research

Keyword research is an incredibly important part of any SEO campaign. Whenever I take on a new client, their competitors are my first port of call for sourcing keywords to target. This usually helps me find a load of long-tail variations and alternatives that I can work on for some quick wins, but it also gives me a good steer on industry terminology.

Carrying out competitive keyword research is easy and through using Keyword Eye, it can be done in a few clicks.

Competitor Analysis

Once you’re logged in, click on New (top-left) and then select Competitor Analysis. You’ll then be presented with a box (as shown in the above image) where you can type in the domain name of your competitor, select the search engine and then run the full report.

Keyword Research Word Cloud

Once you’ve ran the report you’ll get a nice big word cloud that you can order by search volume or their search ranking (amongst other factors). This helps you to quickly highlight where your competitors are bringing in search traffic from.

If you then navigate to the Grid View tab, you’ll get a breakdown each keyword complete with search volume, keyword competitiveness, your competitor’s organic ranking, the URL that’s ranking and the number of organic results for each query.

This data is gold.

On top of this, you can drill down to find long-tail variations for each of the keywords that you’ve found from your competitors. To do this, navigate back to the Keywords tab (the word cloud), right-click any of the keywords and select Find Questions.

Find Questions

Keyword Eye will then pull in long-tail variations of the short-tail keyword that you’ve selected to find more informational queries related to this. For example, this could be, What is social media? How many people use social media? Or, How to use social media for business.

The search volume and keyword competition score is also provided within these results. Awesome!

Exported Keywords

My next step is to repeat this process for a number of competitors (3-5 to begin with) and the download all the data and collate it into a .csv file.

This data in itself can be used to get a good idea on the types of keywords that you may want to start targeting, but I then take this a step further by adding each of the ranking URLs of my competitors into Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to find other semantically related keywords and add them into my spreadsheet.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to uncover low-hanging fruit this way.

Competitive Link Research

Like with keyword research, link prospecting is a staple part of any SEO campaign. Links add a huge amount of weight towards ranking well in the SERPs (I don’t need to tell you that, I’m sure!), so finding quick wins can have a big impact on the results of your campaigns.

I carry out competitive link research for each of my clients at least once a month. There are a number of tools that you can use to do this, each with their own pros and cons (which I’m not going to go into – check out this post from Matthew Woodward if you’re interested.)

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to use my most favoured tool, Majestic SEO (paid tool). For the competitive link research that I do, I combine the power of Majestic SEO with the functionality of the SEO Tools plugin for Excel (free).

The process is really simple, so all you need to do if follow these steps:

  1. Open Excel and navigate to the SEOTools tab (this is assuming you’ve installed the SEO Tools plugin.
  2. Select Majestic SEO and click the login button within the left-hand pane. Use your Majestic SEO login details to sign-in and grant the SEO Tools plugin full access.
  3. Once logged in, select New&Lost Backlinks from the Select Command: drop-down.
  4. Insert your competitor’s domain into the URL field.
  5. Select the interval as Last month.
  6. Select the mode as New.
  7. In the Fields: box, tick SourceURL, TargetURL, AnchorText, FlagNofollow, SourceCitationFlow and SourceTrustFlow.
  8. Set the Max Results to 1,000.
  9. Select the Fresh radio button from the Datasource field.
  10. Click the Insert button.

SEO Tools Plugin

You’ll then be presented with a big juicy list of the links that your competitor has gained in the past month, accompanied with metrics on the power of those links (Citation Flow and Trust Flow).

The next step is to filter the data by Citation Flow (largest at the top) and work through the list to find if there are any opportunities that you could capitalise on. Typically, these are some of the things I look out for:

  • Mentions of my competitors within the press.
  • Guest post content written by my competitors.
  • Links to images or video content they’ve produced.
  • Directories or useful links pages.
  • Links to their product pages (if applicable).

Upon finding each of these, it’s a case of following the paper trail back and trying to form a relationship with the linking website that can result in you acquiring a similar link.

Alongside this, I find that it helps me identify any new approaches that I could take to link building and replicate any success that my competitors have had. It also gives you a bit of an insight into how you can try to build links that make it tough for your competitors to replicate because I’m sure that they’ll be doing the same thing to your link profile.


  • Don’t ignore what your competitors are doing.
  • Use link analysis tools in tandem with Excel to easily identify competitive link opportunities.
  • Monitor your competitors’ rankings to uncover new keyword opportunities.
  • Expand on your competitors’ short-tail keywords with long-tail question variations.

Find trending content and influencers for your keywords

We’ve added a couple of exciting features to Keyword Eye Pro which will allow you to quickly identify what content is working well in an industry and who the major influencers are.

This adds an extra dimension to your research which I hope you will find useful. Here are just a couple of ways in which you could use this to your advantage:

  • Find out what content in your niche gets the most shares. Discover what makes your audience tick.
  • Find out who the influencers are in specific topics and analyze their sharing activity.

To access these new features simply login to your Keyword Eye Pro account (if you’re interested in upgrading to Pro please click here) and generate a keyword report like you’ve done before. Right click on any keyword to view a menu like this:

Clicking ‘Find Top Content‘ will return popular content for your keyword in the last month sorted by the total number of social shares. You can view the number of shares on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ that each piece of content has received. Clicking on any of the titles will take you directly to the content.

Clicking ‘Find Top Influencers‘ will return the top 5 influencers for your keyword sorted by relevancy. View their follower numbers as well as reply, retweet and URL share ratios.

That’s not all!

We’ve expanded our content analysis tool to incorporate this fresh content data. Let’s say we we want to analyze keyword usage within trending content for the term ‘world cup’. We will add this as the keyword and choose the ‘trending’ option.

After clicking ‘Run Report’ we were able to generate the following keyword cloud (keyword size reflects frequency in this case):

It looks like ‘France’ and ‘Ronaldo’ are getting a few mentions as we speak!

I hope you find these new features useful. If you’ve got any questions or feedback please leave a comment below.

How to generate reports using your own keyword lists

If you’ve used Keyword Eye before you will know it returns keyword suggestions related to or including a keyword or phrase.

What if you could generate a report for just a list of keywords you enter? Now you can. This is how you do it.

  • Login to your Keyword Eye Basic or Pro account. In the ‘New’ drop-down menu click ‘List’ under the ‘Keyword’ item (‘Suggestion’ is where you will find the traditional keyword suggestion tool).

  • Enter a list of keywords in the new dialog (one per line, maximum 100 keywords).

  • Click ‘Run Report’. That’s it! You’ll now be able to visualize average search volume and competition metrics for your own keyword list in a matter of seconds.

This new report is available to both Keyword Eye Basic and Pro users. Basic users are limited to 10 reports per day. Pro users get additional insight by returning CPC (cost per click) data per keyword.

At this stage the data is limited to Google US but we’re looking to expand this in the near future.

If you’ve got any questions or feedback about this new report please leave a comment below.

Using Reddit to find trending keywords

There are literally millions of people on Reddit discussing every topic you can think of. If you browse through a few of the discussions using the advanced search you will find a number of trending keywords that you just might not find using a keyword tool (Keyword Eye included).

We’ve added a little feature to Keyword Eye which we hope you find useful.

Simply right click any keyword in a keyword suggestion report (or competitor analysis if you’re a Pro member) and click ‘Reddit’ to open up an advanced Reddit search for the keyword in question.

You’ve now found a keyword research goldmine!

Visualize Keyword Frequency within Top Ranking Websites

We’ve just added another cool tool to Keyword Eye Pro.

The ‘Content Analysis’ tool gathers the clean content (eliminating navigation, ads etc) of the top 3 ranking URLs for a given query within a selected search engine and displays the results in an image based word cloud.

The example below was generated for the query ‘digital agency’ for Google UK.

The size of individual keywords reflect the frequency of which they appear within the gathered content.

This is very useful for looking at on-site keyword trends for top search engine ranking pages, whether for SEO analysis or just from a messaging point of view.

The generated cloud is an image too so you can save it to your computer or embed it in a presentation or proposal very easily.

We’re going to be launching an additional interactive version of the content analysis tool in the next week or so.

15 New Country Databases Added

We’ve just added 15 new country databases to Keyword Eye (Basic and Pro). The new databases are:


  • Google AR (Argentina)
  • Google MX (Mexico)


  • Google BE (Belgium)
  • Google DK (Denmark)
  • Google FI (Finland)
  • Google IE (Ireland)
  • Google IL (Israel)
  • Google NL (Netherlands)
  • Google NO (Norway)
  • Google PL (Poland)
  • Google SE (Sweden)
  • Google CH (Switzerland)
  • Google TR (Turkey)


  • Google HK (Hong Kong)
  • Google SG (Singapore)

Each new database holds 400,000 keywords apart from the Netherlands which holds 6,000,000. In Keyword Eye Pro we have added new currency types for the respective countries where keyword CPC (cost per click) data is collected.

New Keyword and Competitor Tool Features

We’ve recently added two cool new features to Keyword Eye.

Phrase Match Keyword Results

Our keyword suggestion tool previously only returned keywords relating to your initial query. We have added a new option which will now only return keywords including your initial query. This is ideal if you are only looking for specific and relevant keyword ideas.

When creating a new keyword suggestion report simply click the ‘Includes Keyword Only’ option.


Get Keyword Ranking Data for Internal URLs

Our competitor analysis tool (Pro only) would previously only return ranking keywords for an entire domain. It is now possible to return ranking keywords for a specific URL so can now use this tool to find out what keywords an internal page is ranking for. When defining the options for a new competitor analysis report simply choose the correct option within the ‘Data’ drop-down menu.


What Next?

We are just about to launch an exciting content analysis tool which finds and visualizes keyword trends within the content of the top 3 ranking pages for a search query within Google or Bing. This allows you to:

  • Discover commonly occurring 1, 2 or 3 word phrases within highly ranked pages
  • Research related entities and topics for advanced keyword research

We plan to launch this tool in late January.

Looking at Questions to Generate Content Ideas

Content is (and has always been) at the heart of the internet. Heck, the internet is content! Millions of users are using the internet to look for content. As marketers we want to create content that users are looking for. Effective content strategies incorporate this.

How do we know what users are looking for? Let’s take a look at questions. We can look at questions that people are searching for in your sector to help write content. The purpose of such content would be to answer the question. This immediately adds value. It’s also a great way of getting such content ranking in the search engines for long tail queries.

We’ve created a new report within Keyword Eye Pro which allows you to find such questions. Let’s take a look at how this works.


In the ‘New’ menu click ‘Question Finder’. This will open up a new overlay. Add a keyword (additional keywords can be seperated by commas) which you want the questions to include. The type dropdown menu allows you to define what type of question you want returning. The options include:

  • How
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Who
  • Why

Of course, you can always leave the value as ‘All’ if you have no preference to the type of questions returned.

That’s it. Simply click ‘Run Report’ to load suitable questions. In the example below we have chosen ‘google’ as the keyword and ‘When’ as the type.


The report returns questions which matches the chosen criteria. It includes the question, monthly search volume, PPC competition and score. At the moment this report is limited to Google US only (this should be expanding to other countries soon).

You can also generate questions from our traditional keyword cloud reports too. Simply right click on a keyword and click ‘Find Questions’.


We hope you find this new report useful for generating content ideas or FAQ sections for your site. Feedback? Please do let us know!