(2022) Using Secondary Keywords to Scale Growth

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If you want to attract more visitors to your site, you need targeted keywords that are relevant to your business and that people are actually searching for.

Most businesses focus on primary keywords, which are the most obvious and popular terms related to their products or services. But they're also excruciatingly difficult to rank for. If you want to get the most out of your SEO efforts, you need to also target long-tail, secondary keywords.

At Embarque, we've brought some of the best results to our clients by doubling down on these secondary keywords. And in this guide, we're going to share what we've learned about how to find and target these valuable terms.

Ready? Let’s go.

What are secondary keywords?

Secondary keywords are long-tail, less competitive terms that are related to your primary keywords. They tend to be more specific and attract a narrower, but more engaged audience.

For instance, our client, MentorCruise, is a mentorship platform that’s reached 2 million in annual search traffic by targeting keywords relating to mentorship without ranking for the keyword ‘mentor’. But why not? The first page of the query has a ton of noise, the keyword is almost impossible to rank for, and our energy is better spent targeting more lucrative keywords.

In contrast, it’s ranking first for more relevant secondary keywords where people are looking for a mentorship platform:

Not only are these terms less competitive, but they also tend to be associated with people who are further along in the buying cycle. That means that if you can rank for them, you're more likely to reel in people who are ready to purchase.

Work smart…and hard ;). 

Why are secondary keywords important for your SEO?

How to research secondary keywords like a pro

1. Think: service, product, & customer experiences for keywords

When brainstorming secondary keywords, it can be helpful to think about your product or service from different angles. Consider all of the different ways that people might search for what you offer.

For example,

You should also think about the different stages of the customer journey. Someone who's just starting their research will have different needs than someone who's ready to make a purchase. Consider what kinds of keywords they might use at each stage.

While "electrical muscle stimulation" may indicate a user trying to learn about the topic, "electric muscle stimulator" suggests purchase intent. You can tap both keywords by first publishing an introductory guide on the topic, and then following up with an optimized landing page or product listicle of the "best electric muscle stimulators" with your product being at the top of the list.

2. Google Autocomplete & Related Searches

Alongside brainstorming, one of the simplest – and free – ways to come up with keyword ideas is to use Google's own search engine. Start typing in a keyword and see what Google suggests. These are all potential keywords that you could target.

You can also take advantage of Google's related searches feature. Just enter a seed keyword into the search bar and scroll down to the "Searches related to" section at the bottom of the page.

And lastly don't forget about the "People Also Ask" section that you run by mid-scroll on the search results page. These tell you the leading questions (long-tail keywords) that customers are asking about the product in question. Be sure to include them in your content to maximize your ranking potential. 

2. Check out your competition's content

Researching your competition is always a good idea when you're trying to come up with keyword ideas. Not only will you be able to see what terms they're targeting, but you'll also get an idea of how difficult it will be to rank for certain keywords.

If you're not sure where to start, a simple Google search can be helpful. Just enter a keyword or phrase related to your business and see what comes up.

You can also use tools like Ahrefs' Site Explorer or Moz's Open Site Explorer to get an in-depth look at your competition's backlink profile and the keywords they're ranking for.

4. Use a paid keyword research tool

If you want to go beyond Google, there are some great paid and free keyword research tools available.

Some of the best paid secondary keyword research tools include:

Admittedly, SEO software can get expensive and there's a bit of a learning curve. That's why many successful businesses opt to hire SEO professionals who have both the industry-leading tools and talent to boost your rank on the SERP (you can get 4 keywords for free by contacting your friends at Embarque).

There are also some great free options available, including:

5. Look for gaps in your content

Another great way to come up with keyword ideas is to do a content audit. This will help you see what topics you're already covering and where there might be gaps in your content. To start, create a list of all the topics you write about on your blog or website. Then, use a tool like Google Sheets or Excel to track the keywords you're ranking for.

Once you have your list, take a look and see if there are any topics you're not covering but should be. This can be a great way to come up with new ideas for blog posts or even product pages.

Of course, SEO tools or agencies can do this for you in half the time as well.

Using secondary keywords the right way: Don't forget these tips!

Putting it all into action: Example walkthrough

Now that we've gone over all the different ways you can use secondary keywords, let's put it into action with a quick example.

Let's say you own a small business that sells dog food.

You've been using primary keywords like "dog food," but you're not getting as much traffic. And why would you? With companies like PetSmart pouring thousands into content marketing, you need something more on your level.

This is where secondary keywords come in. By using a tool like SEMrush, you can find related keywords with lower competition that you can rank for.

For example, while "dog food" has a SEO difficulty of 97 according to the tool, we can see that there are some with much lower competition like "high calorie dog food" (27) and "lamb dog food" (28). These are much more possible to rank for.

You can also use a tool like Answer the Public to find questions people are asking about your topic. This can give you some great ideas for blog posts or even product pages.

For example, some of the questions people are asking about organic dog food are "what is the best organic dog food," "is organic dog food worth it," and "where to buy organic dog food." By targeting these keywords, you can start to rank for them and get more traffic to your site. You can also add the secondary keywords you found and add them into the mix too: "is lamb dog food worth it?" And so on.

So how do I use these keywords for my website?

While it can be very difficult for a newer business to rank for a primary keyword, that doesn't mean you should ditch them altogether.

If you're selling dog food or even organic dog food (which also has a high keyword difficulty), you'll still want to add it to the meta tags on your main page despite their scary high KD, since they have the most traffic potential for when you do start ranking.

And since high calorie dog food and lamb dog food have lower search volumes, you'll want to use these as blog post ideas or even create new pages for them on your site. They will be your secondary keywords.

You'll definitely want to choose one primary keyword, but you may very well have a handful of secondary keywords to work with. As shown in our example, the secondary keywords should be a close match to the content and primary keyword.

Steal secondary keyword traffic from competitors with Embarque

When it comes to secondary keywords, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The important thing is to start by identifying the gaps in your content and then using them strategically throughout your site. By doing this, you'll be able to fine-tune your keyword traffic and get more eyes on your content.

And if you're looking for help with your SEO efforts, be sure to check out Embarque. We're an agency specializing in all things SEO and we would be more than happy to help you get the traffic you deserve.

Happy optimizing!

Tameem Rahman

Tameem Rahman is a professional SEO copywriter from Canada. He has a world-class education on strategic marketing from the renowned Schulich School of Business at York University. He also studied neurolinguistics, copywriting, and digital marketing under industry-leading copywriters at the one and only University of Toronto. Now he runs his own publication, writes for 400k monthly readers, and serves multiple 6-7 figure clients worldwide.

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