Top Down SEO Research

Top Down SEO Research

 Hello internet friends. Today I want to share some of the awesome SEO work that I've been doing at eCommerceFuel. 🤓

If you're familiar with SEO research, a lot of writers come up with a list of topics they want to write about and then they will search for keywords related to that topic. They'll find a keyword somewhat related to their topic, they'll write about it, and hope that it ranks. 🤞 I call this bottom-up SEO research.

Then there's what I'm calling top-down research. And the hard part is you start the process ignoring what we want to speak about at first, doing all of the SEO keyword research, grouping everything, looking at the volumes (number of searches), and then from that list deciding which keywords we want to write about.

The benefit to doing keyword research this way is you know if you rank well you'll see decent traffic. And it prevents common problems like keyword cannibalization which can happen when you don't make an SEO plan.

Let me show you how I follow this process and how it drives traffic for eCommerceFuel:

Start with Competitive Research

First come up with a list of five competitors. I'm not going to share all five of ours, but one of them is Shopify. Since they've been content marketing for so long they have a ton of keywords that we can browse through.

We have a subscription to Ahrefs. In their Site Explorer tool you can type in your competitor's name or domain, and it'll show you a whole bunch of really important SEO information about the competitor. ranks for 1.5 million keywords

What we want right now is the organic keywords. You can see that Shopify ranks for 1.5 million organic keywords! That's a ton!

Even better is that you can export this data.

Export keywords out of Ahrefs
Export competitor keywords out of Ahrefs

With our plan we can export 10,000 keywords for each competitor. Which we did. After exporting keywords from 6 competitors and adding some of our own keywords we had a list of over 65,000 keywords.

If you take a look at these keywords you'll notice many of them are similar. That's okay at this point. Later in the process we'll group these together.

Duplicate keywords
Duplicate and near-identical keywords are fine at this point

There are a lot of duplicates in our list:

  • what is dropshipping
  • what is drop shipping
  • drop shipping
  • dropshipping

Technically these are are all different keywords. But, if you rank for one of them, you're probably ranking for all of them. So you want to shift your mindset from individual keywords to clusters of keywords. 💡

Cluster Your Keywords

Many small companies who are doing keyword research are looking for individual keywords rather than clusters. There's a very cool tool called, that can take your 65,000 keywords and turn them into keyword clusters with aggregated search volume. - Can analyze keywords and cluster them together. – Can analyze keywords and cluster them together.

From our 67,000 keywords, they came up with 9,000 clusters. That's basically 9,000 topics we could write about.

You can process these keyword clusters in their app but I prefer to export this data and work with it in Google Sheets or Excel. In your spreadsheet software, there are four different ways of looking at this data.

Spreadsheet of keywords with multiple tabs
Four different ways of parsing keywords

This is basically the same data in just slightly formats. My favorite two formats are the two middle tabs:

  • Pivot Table by Keyword
  • Hub

Pivot Table By Keyword Tab

Pivot Table by Keyword is my favorite way to search for keywords.

I was doing some research earlier and I wondered are any of our competitors talking about warehouses? And here's what I found in that sheet.

eCommerce Warehouse

If you're doing keyword research for a single blog post, you might think that “ecommerce warehouse management” should be a separate blog post. But with the clustering provided by both “ecommerce warehouse management” and “ecommerce warehouse” are likely going to rank for the same keywords. It's very likely one blog post rather than 5 different blog posts.

Hub Tab

My favorite tab is the Hub tab.

The Hub tab shows you multiple levels of clustering. You could have a large cornerstone article about “eCommerce Platforms” and you could have an article which links to it which covers “What is an eCommerce Platform”. And of course you can see the search volumes for all of these hubs, clusters, and individual keywords.

Hub tab is great for multiple levels of clustering
The Hub tab does a great job showing multiple levels of clustering and is great for a cornerstone content strategy.

Each of these spokes could be a blog post. And then each blog post could rank for all of these keywords underneath them.

The total for “ecommerce platforms” spoke is, 24,000. So this is a fat head keyword. Then “what is an ecommerce platform” is probably a separate blog post. And “ecommerce API” is definitely a separate blog post.

The first 2,000 rows were really helpful to us. But then the search volumes start to drop off and you only have tiny keywords. You can quickly skim these but you probably don't want to include too many tiny keywords because the whole point of SEO is to get traffic.

Copy Keywords With Potential to New Sheet

As I was browsing through the 9,000 keywords we brought our favorites into a separate sheet. I copied over my favorite 150 keywords.

SEO Content Plan
I added the keywords to my SEO Content Plan

Create Your Content Calendar

After I added all of my favorite keywords I categorized them and I set a month and a year. I can't share ECF's content plan for the next year. However, we were able to plan 3 SEO focused posts for the next 12 months.

eCommerceFuel's content plan for the next 12 months
eCommerceFuel's content plan for the next 12 months

I also made a separate pivot table for categories. We spent this past spring building up our Amazon content. So for the next 12 months we're only writing one SEO focused piece about Amazon.

Keyword categories
List of categories and how many posts fit under each one

And while I can't show you the exact areas of focus for ECF there are a couple topic areas which we're writing at least 4 posts about. These posts can easily link between each other, keep users on our site, as well as help our SEO since we're covering a topic from multiple angles.

This sheet provides me and my team a high level view of what we're focusing on for the next year. And while it's all planned out this is still flexible. We can always move something up and we can always add a post.

Final Thoughts: Top Down SEO

This is how I plan a whole year of content with a top-down SEO research process.

We're not thinking of topics and trying to find a keyword for that topic We are instead front-loading the research process primarily based on our competitors keywords as well as our own seed keywords, clustering those keywords, adding them to our content planning sheet, and then finally assigning them. to writers and starting the content creation process.

This process saves us time, gives us plenty of flexibility, and makes sure that our content is strategic and leads us towards our goals.

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