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How to find SEO keywords to rank a new domain quickly

Author: Lily Ugbaja

an image of author Lily Ugbaja, with search-related iconography, including a search bar, a key icon, and a search volume draft

I once ran a blog that barely scratched 100 organic sessions per day in the first two years—the majority of its traffic came from Pinterest.

One day, as I scrolled through Pinterest, I noticed a topic that I would never have come up with on my own, so I published a blog post on it.

What happened next was wonderful, but curious: My blog’s Google search traffic went from less than 100 daily sessions to nearly 1,000 daily sessions in less than two months.

Google Analytics graph showing search traffic to Lily’s website

It turns out I had stumbled on a high-volume keyword that was just starting to trend.

Over the next weeks, I looked for patterns to understand how I could find more SEO keywords like that:

I discovered a keyword research technique that helps to grow traffic to new domains by finding and analyzing keywords on competitor sites with skewed traffic profiles (i.e., when a site's two or three top-performing pages receive significantly more traffic compared to the rest of the site).

Testing my theory on another website (which was four to six months old at the time), I saw the site go from 0 to 100 daily organic sessions within three months. That number of sessions may not seem impressive, but it certainly shows that I achieved the goal of ranking the new domain and it’s a great starting point to gather data to formulate a longer-term SEO strategy.

You don’t need to wait six months for traffic to start rolling in, and you don’t need to build tons of links first.

Just find the keywords your less obvious competitors are ranking for, and target them.

Table of contents:

How skewed traffic profiles offer opportunities for new domains

Skewed traffic profiles can often be attributed to high-volume keywords that a site inadvertently targeted. The site owner likely published a blog post based on a personal interest or reader requests and doesn’t have a strategy to replicate their results.

This often means that the keyword they’re ranking for is one that many other publishers haven’t discovered yet—making it a low-competition keyword.

Here’s an example of what this might look like in practice: A site has published 100 blog posts and is getting 20,000 monthly pageviews. But, 15,000 of those pageviews come from only three (of the 100) blog posts. It’s likely that the publisher didn’t intend to target the keywords that are bringing in traffic for those three posts.

This tactic is even more effective when you identify a new domain with a skewed traffic profile: Older domains often have backlinks (which are a search ranking factor) from other sites. This means they tend to rank higher for relevant keywords.

If your skewed traffic site is on an older domain, there’s a chance the brand/site owner has just started doing SEO and are ranking for keywords that a newer site like yours may struggle to rank for.

But, if you have a new domain, it’s highly likely that you can rank for the same keywords as other, younger domains, since you’re also likely to be starting from scratch in terms of your backlink profile.

Why not just target the keywords your obvious competitors are targeting?

Your obvious competitors are the ones that show up in the search results for your core keywords. In the eCommerce industry, that’s often Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or other well-known retailers. For local search queries, the top results are often Yelp or Tripadvisor pages.

This looks different for each keyword and industry, but the point is that you’re unlikely to outrank these mature brands with your relatively new domain. This is because there are many factors that can work in favor of older domains:

  • Google might still be “figuring out” what your new domain is about, whereas the top domains for that keyword may be over a decade old.

  • Mature businesses/domains likely dedicate resources to SEO, which might be tougher for newer brands that simply don’t have those resources.

  • Established competitors may have generated valuable backlinks from other reputable publishers, which would be unlikely for a new domain to replicate.

For these reasons (and many more that I won’t list here), targeting keywords with low competition at the domain level (by identifying skewed traffic profiles) is an effective way to get Google to rank your new domain.

01. Find the first 100 URLs ranking for your main keyword

The first step of this process is to conduct keyword research to find as many relevant competitor domains as possible for your skewed organic analysis.

Start your research with your main keyword so that you’re accounting for every domain that is loosely related to your niche. If you’re not sure what your main keyword is, think about your main offering (what you sell or provide) and who your audience is. I’ll use the keyword content marketing as an example for this article.

It’s unlikely that the sites you’re looking for would rank in the first ten, twenty, or even thirty results for your main keyword because they just don’t have enough authority. That’s why we want to cover at least 100 URLs.

You’ll need access to an SEO tool, like Semrush, for several steps in this process. First, plug your keyword into the tool to see what sites rank for the term.

Steps to use Semrush for keyword research

Next, export the search analysis so that you can use it in the next step.

Exporting a SERP Analysis from Semrush

02. Filter ranking domains by age

I use domain age instead of domain authority (DA) because a higher DA is often a byproduct of rankings, which are influenced by the site’s backlink profile (which you’re not in a good position to compete against as a new domain).

If a site about your domain age or less is ranking for a keyword, there’s a high chance you can rank for it as well (even if your DA is not as high).

How to check domain age

To identify the age of relevant domains, copy the URLs you extracted in the last section and paste them into a bulk domain age checker tool (like Bulk SEO Tools, shown below) to find their registration dates.

Bulk checking domain ages

Next, you’ll need to organize your findings. Sort the domain list by “Date created” and export it as a CSV.

Filtering and exporting domain for keyword research

In your CSV file, delete all sites older than yours and filter out domains that are outside your niche.

For URLs with incomplete data in this tool, you can review the URL’s historic ranking data by using a rank tracking tool to see when the page started ranking. In the example below, you can discern that the domain is around three years old (at the time of publishing).

A traffic chart showing no traffic to a domain until roughly January 2020.

03. Isolate domains with skewed website traffic distribution

Analyze the traffic profile of each of the remaining domains in your CSV file with a tool like Semrush.

You’re looking for sites with a handful of posts (mostly one or two) driving the majority of the pageviews to the domain overall.

For illustrative purposes, a skewed traffic profile may look something like the example below. Notice that there’s a relatively large dip in pageviews between the top page and the second-highest performing page, and there’s also a large dip between the second-highest performing page and all other pages.


Skewed traffic profile ✅

Distributed traffic profile ❌

Top blog post 1

74.5% of pageviews

27.9% of pageviews

Top blog post 2

16% of pageviews

23.2% of pageviews

Top blog post 3

3.5% of pageviews

​18.6% of pageviews

Top blog post 4

3% of pageviews

16.2% of pageviews

Top blog post 5

2.8% of pageviews

13.9% of pageviews​

Here’s what a skewed traffic profile would look like in a tool like Semrush:

A keyword and traffic analysis within Semrush, showing that two blog posts are ranking for a number of keywords and are responsible for a disproportionately large percentage of the domain’s overall traffic.

Here we have a website with overall monthly traffic of around 45K, where two blog posts are driving over 17% of traffic with just six keywords.

Two blog URLs in Semrush, accounting for nearly 47% of a site’s total traffic.

You can see that these two blog posts account for nearly 47% of traffic to the site. Though there are 306 ranking pages on the website, almost half the traffic is via these two pages.

This traffic suggests that the keywords those two blog posts rank for are low-competition keywords that the publisher inadvertently targeted.

04. Analyze top-ranking pages to identify potential keywords

Once you find a site with a skewed traffic profile, analyze the top-ranking pages to see what keywords they rank for.

Let’s say you’re analyzing a page about personal loans from Nerdwallet, for example. You can run an organic research report in a tool like Semrush for that exact URL.

running an organic research report in Semrush

That way, you’ll see only the keywords that page is ranking for.

Filter the results by traffic to find the main keyword the page ranks for. This will be the primary keyword you target for your article because it’s already proven to have the best chances for a new domain. For example, if a page about personal loans gets the majority of its traffic from the keyword best personal loans, then the latter will be your primary keyword.

filtering keywords in Semrush

Rule out variables

To rule out extenuating circumstances that could lead to outliers in your data (like a link-building campaign, for example), run a quick analysis to find the top-ranking pages for that keyword as well. Your keyword tool should show at least three to five sites around your site’s DA rating in the top 10 for that keyword to be viable for your website.

You have the keywords—all that’s left is to create the content

Even without optimizing every aspect of your content, the keywords you’ll find using this keyword research method should be relatively easy to rank well for.

But, of course, the best results come from publishing search-optimized articles that consider search intent and focus on creating value for the reader.

To that end, always:

But, look beyond individual keywords, too. After a while, more competitors tend to discover hidden-gem keywords and if their brand has greater authority than yours, they could displace your content.

Invest in content around the entire topic (we call them topic clusters). That way, you don’t just rank for a keyword, you completely own the SERPs for those topics.


Lily Ugbaja

Lily Ugbaja - Fractional Content & Growth Manager Lily is a content marketing consultant for brands like Zapier and HubSpot. For seven years, she has built and managed content sites (including three of her own) that rely on SEO as the main distribution channel. In her spare time, she writes the marketing newsletter Marketing Cyborg.


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