All bloggers should aspire to build their domain authority. It makes it much easier to rank for competitive topics.
However, that can take years and you want traffic now!
But how do you do that? How can you find topics to write about that have high traffic potential AND aren't so competitive that you have no chance of ranking without 100s or 1,000s of backlinks.
In this article I'll show you one little trick that signals to me when a keyword has the potential for a smaller site to rank for quickly.
Let me start with a story to best explain this concept.
When I was in high school, a small number of kids in my class landed "amazing" jobs.
At the time, anything that paid over $10 and didn't require you to deal with angry Karens or fried food fit that bill.
The problem was that most of us couldn't get these jobs. We had bare resumes and hiring teens and paying them well isn't exactly at the top of the priority list for most companies.
These jobs did exist though. It was just a matter of finding them.
The "spray and pray" approach of filling out dozens of applications at the best companies rarely worked for most of us.
However, it did work for some people.
My friend Michael was one of these people. He landed a job at a country club paying a whopping $15/hour PLUS TIPS! Oh, and free pool access.
He might as well have been the CEO of Blockbuster we thought he was doing so well (this was a different time).
Even crazier, he didn't get the job through nepotism or some type of stand out resume. He was an average guy who got average grades. He was average in all ways relevant to being a good candidate for the job.
Most of us were envious of Michael.
My friend Travis on the other hand saw it as an opportunity.
He told Michael that he was going to apply for a job there too. I asked him about it and he said,
"Dude, if they'd hire Michael, it's a good sign they'd hire me."
Travis saw this as an indicator that there was an opportunity for him. Michael was the signal that he should also apply there and he might get hired.
Well, he did get hired.
This concept of seeing opportunities opened for someone who is similarly qualified and then pursuing them works in the blogging and SEO world just like it did in high school job hunting.
In SEO, Google is the manager who is hiring and the top pages of high volume search terms are the dream job we're looking to land.
For most high volume search terms, Google favors the websites with great resumes. In this analogy, those are sites with high domain authority and deep link profiles.
Sometimes though, they let an outlier with low authority in. When we see that, we need to pounce on the opportunity.
Here is what that looks like and how to spot them.
How to Find These Outlier Opportunities
Let's start with an example.
In the image below, I searched for "raise hand in zoom" and I reviewed the metrics in the green box to see if there was a possible signal that this term has traffic potential without needing high domain authority or tons of backlinks.
I typed in "raise hand zoom" into the keyword explorer feature of AHREFs. I found this keyword after chasing a few rabbit trails for about 30 minutes.
The metrics I am focused on when doing looking for high potential topics are in the green box above. They are...
DR - Stands for domain rating. This is the total domain authority of the website. This includes all backlinks to all pages of the website.
UR - Stands for URL rating. This is the authority of the specific URL that is shown. This includes just the backlinks that go directly to this page and doesn't weigh the backlinks to other pages.
Backlinks - The total number of incoming links to this URL from other websites. More high quality links improves the chances of ranking higher on results pages.
Domains - This is a more reliable metric than backlinks. The backlinks metric could be inflated by one website linking to the URL many times. The total domains shows the sum of all unique domain names.
Traffic - The total estimated clicks every 30 days to this URL for this specific keyword. The post gets more traffic than what appears in the image above (more on that in a second).
Keywords - This shows how many keywords a URL is appearing for in Google search results. Some of these may be driving clicks while others are appearing but getting few clicks if any at all.
Here are the stats for the post above.
Traffic: 5,548 (from the "raise hand zoom" keyword)
This was just for one keyword. Remember, a blog post is a collection of many keywords and not just one. The post above actually has more traffic than shown when we navigate to the URL overview option.
Do you see why this is a signal URL to a high potential topic?
The DR, UR and total number of referring domains are extremely low. Many sites have higher authority and building 2+ links is not difficult, especially when you realize that the efforts can help you earn a share of that 7.3K traffic.
That is the goal, we want to surpass this article in search traffic and take a share of these clicks. If that URL is getting that many clicks, we can get that same number or more if we take it's position in rankings for most keywords.
Now, there are additional things we need to consider before diving into a topic because of one of these signal articles.
There are a few exceptions that can make topics seem more attractive than they are and you need to be aware of them. Here they are.
#1 Topical Authority
Some websites receive special treatment from search engines because of their topical authority and relevance. Sites that focus on one niche can often be considered more authoritative even if they have lower domain authority on paper.
For example, if in the "raise hand zoom" article above was a site that was entirely focused on Zoom tips and tricks, it would be less appealing.
Since the site isn't particularly niche and focused on Zoom or tech tips, this article topic still has high potential.
This is how a site like zoomtips.com (a made up domain) with a low DR could potentially outrank a large, high authority site like ESPN.com on an article that covers Zoom.
ESPN has topical relevance in sports and no relevance in tech.
#2 On Page Optimization
We need to inspect the signal article to make sure we can beat it (we almost always can, it's just a matter of how much work will be required).
I highly recommend that all bloggers use an on page optimization tool like Surfer SEO to ensure that their content is optimized for search engines.
Surfer SEO shows content scores from 0-100 on content in search engines. We can use this to create content that is better than our competitors. We can also use it to inspect the quality of content that is already ranking in SERPs.
The signal article has a 59 content score, which is relatively low. It would be very easy for us to create a more optimized piece on the topic. Especially if we're using Surfer SEO.
This is another great sign that this is an article worth pursuing. If Google is ranking an article that has a low content score, imagine what we can do with a decent one!
Keep in mind when choosing your topic though, you need to match the search intent to truly compete with the signal article. If I try to beat this post with an "Ultimate Guide to Zoom," type of piece, I'll fail. I need to compete with a "How to Raise Your Hand in Zoom" type of specific article.
#3 URL Age
If an article took several years to rank, even as a low authority site, it might be a sign that ranking could be difficult.
The article in the example above was published in July 2021, 6 months from the date I found it, and it took about 3 months to start getting traffic. It was up to 5,000+ organic monthly clicks by October 2021.
This is a good sign. I'd like to see it moving a little faster but this is fine.
#4 Authority of Referring Domains
It's important to check the DR of the referring domains. In the example above, there are only 2 domains linking to the article, but if they were both extremely high authority sites (such as over 50+ from websites that are topically relevant), it could be difficult to compete with them.
In the raise hand in zoom example, the referring domains are low authority and also irrelevant to the topic. This is a great sign.
#5 Content Type
You always need to verify that the signal is the same type of content that you're looking to create. In AHREFs and most keyword research tools, you can see this in the SERP preview pages.
#6 Social Shares
An article that drives a lot of shares on social media (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc) can push its way up search engines. Social signals do carry weight. Not as much as backlinks, but they do impact an articles search positions.
The signal URL in the example has only 11 social shares and they are all from Facebook. This is another good sign.
As long as there aren't 1,000s of shares, I don't let this deter me often.
Have questions? Ask me in the comments!