You’ve probably been there.
You put your blood, sweat, and coffee into a killer blog-post of 2,000 words with a strong composition and actionable advice. With research, writing, and editing you’ve spent a good couple of days working on that bad boy. And now you’re eager to see the likes, shares, and comments drip in as rain in the Amazon.
But instead you’re left with a draught of the likes only seen in the Sahara. And all that coffee is turned into tears.
So how do you avoid this happening?
When you create content, you could either go the way of producing material that you think your target audience will like. Or you can take the route of creating content that your target audience has already shown interest in.
If you’re going to spend hours upon hours creating and promoting content, wouldn’t it be nice knowing that someone else has already validated it? You bet it would.
And that’s where Ahrefs comes in. Ahrefs is a super powerful SEO and content tool that could help you in a variety of ways in your SEO ventures. But for now, we’ll focus on how you can quickly create a validated content strategy using Ahrefs.
Step 1: Know Your Competitors
First and foremost, you need to know your competitors. And not necessarily your business competitors, but your content competitors. This goes whether you’re looking for people who want to hire a PHP developer or a plumber. And if you’re in the plumbing business, your main content competitor might not be your business competitor.
Your main content competitor might be Plumber Magazine.
If you have big, established competitors with a strong online presence, chances are that they will also be your content competitors. But ensure you find the type of content that your target audience will like and find who do it best.
2. Analyze Their Content
Once you’ve got a clear idea of who your content competitors are, it’s time to map their content.
First, log into Ahrefs. If you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can get a free account here. Next, click on the “Site explorer” and type your content competitor’s URL in the text field.
Here you’ll be presented with a wealth of information. Start by clicking the “Top pages” section in the menu.
If you’re a plumber, for example, you might now be presented with a list of Plumber Magazine’s top pages. Sort the pages by traffic, and you will see which pages Ahrefs estimate bring the most traffic to the site.
On the right side of the menu, you will see the top keyword that page ranks for, the volume of the keyword, and the position which the page ranks for that keyword.
Next, export this list of keywords into a spreadsheet.
In order to find other potential candidates for your competitor content analysis, click the “Competing domains” tab.
Here you’ll see competitors which share the same type of content that you can add to your competitor content list. If you find suitable candidates, repeat the procedure above for them.
3. Spot the Opportunities
Once you’ve gathered enough information on your competitors, it’s time to look at the top keyword opportunities. Do this by filtering your keywords by monthly search volume in the spreadsheet. Aim for keywords with at least 2,000-3,000 monthly searches.
The next thing you should pay attention to is the buyer intent behind each keyword. This is actually a key element that many people forget. Long tail keywords of three or more words are usually easier to rank for and have higher buyer intent behind them.
Also it’s important to keep track of the CPC — or cost per click — for each keyword. The higher the cost per click, the higher the buyer intent usually is. And if your goal is to drive lucrative traffic, focus on long tail, high-CPC keywords.
You can analyze the CPC for different markets with the Google Keyword Planner as well.
Once you’ve found at least ten keywords with a 2,000 search volume and a CPC of at least $5-7 you can proceed. Plug these keywords into Ahrefs “Keywords explorer”.
Here you should look for keyword difficulty as well as search volume. Since backlinks are the main ranking factor for Google, Ahrefs quickly tells you how many backlinks you’ll need to rank in the top ten for that keyword. Estimate how many backlinks you’ll be able to build and filter keywords based on that.
In summary, you should find keywords with:
At least 2,000+ monthly search volume;
A CPC of at least $5;
A keyword difficulty of less than 20 if you’re just starting out.
4. Find Topics
As the final step, it’s time to find good topics around those keywords. Click on “Content explorer” in Ahrefs to find similar content on that keyword that has performed well.
Type your keyword into the search bar and sort the results by shares. Below, for example, we can see a strong interest in how to plumb a basement bathroom. Perhaps you could take a spin on that topic and write “The Step-by-Step Guide to Plumbing a Basement Bathroom”
That way you’ll ensure you’re writing about a topic that’s popular with your target audience. Look at the top performing posts and see if there’s a pattern for that keyword, perhaps they all have similar headlines. If you could do your own, better, version of that headline, you’ll optimize your post’s CTR.
In addition to this, it’s also a good idea to check the first page of the search results on Google.
If we search Google for “how to plumb” we get these results:
Again we see how three of the top five results deal with plumbing bathrooms, and two are videos. A good idea for “how to plumb” would deal with plumbing bathrooms, and preferably include explanatory video as well.
This is the basic method for using Ahrefs to creating a validated content strategy. You can go more in-depth as well, for example by exploring Ahrefs “Content gap” feature described below.
But by following these four steps, you should be well on your way to a powerful content strategy that is optimized for SEO and engagement. Simply remember to promote your content and build backlinks and you should be able to rank your posts in Google in a few months’ time.