Over the last year, I've spoken with hundreds of brands, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, and they all have one thing in common.
They have loads of existing SEO opportunities but don't have a way of uncovering low-hanging fruit keywords or a process to optimize their content seamlessly.
In this article, I'll show you how to use Google Search Console to find low-hanging fruit opportunities and highlight some of my favorite paid tools that will help speed up your low-hanging fruit keyword research.
What are low-hanging fruit keywords?
At Northcutt, we classify keywords as low-hanging fruit if you're currently ranking for these keywords between positions 2-20. If you're ranking between positions 2-20, you're within striking distance, and a handful of optimizations could result in enormous gains for your brand.
We have a few guardrails to ensure we prioritize the low-hanging fruit keywords that will improve traffic/conversions fast.
Let's hit the brakes for a moment. Before we start improving our URLs, we need to understand the intent behind the search and the content that Google is already rewarding.
There are four types of search intent:
Informational: Actively searching for information (NFL scores, how do credit cards work?)
Navigational: Searcher wants to land somewhere specific (Twitter, Northcutt)
Transactional: Searcher is looking to buy/download (Red Apple Watch strap, where to buy PS5)
Commercial investigation: best credit cards, best travel cards
In theory, it's pretty straightforward. In practice, search intent can be blended, e.g., transactional and informational, as this piece from Nerdwallet demonstrates. The best way to determine the intent behind the search is to look at the SERP for your keyword!
For example, let's say we're ranking in position 15 with a landing page for "Best Travel Credit Cards." Technically, this keyword would be considered a low-hanging fruit opportunity, but after a quick look at the SERP, it's clear that Google knows what users want, and it isn't a landing page. Google is rewarding informational content with comparisons, etc.
Without looking at the SERP, we may have wasted countless hours optimizing a page that would be DOA.
How To Find Low-hanging Fruit Keywords
1. Google Search Console (manual)
Google Search Console is a powerful tool that can help you find low-hanging fruit keywords, but this is a manual process and can take a bit of time. Here's a simple process to find low-hanging fruit keywords in GSC.
Step 1: Open the "performance" dashboard in GSC.
After clicking on "performance," you should see a dashboard like this:
Once you're in the performance tab of GSC, you'll want to click on the "Avg position" tile at the top of your performance graph to add your position data to the table.
By default, Google Search Console will display the "queries" view in the table, but I find the "pages" view to be more valuable (and quicker to pull insights!). Click on "pages" (image below) to view all of your ranking URLs, and we'll add a filter in the next step to highlight low-hanging fruit keywords.
Step 2: Apply filters to your data table.
Once you've added position data to your table, add a filter position that is smaller than 20.
This will filter your search data to only display keywords that have an avg--position under 20.
Now that you've filtered your data, you'll want to sort the table by impressions. Now we can see URLs with low-hanging fruit opportunities that you may be able to swing in your favor within a few days/weeks.
Step 3: Dig into your data
So, our table is filtered and sorted. Now what?
Click a URL and switch the view from "pages" to "queries." Now you'll see all of the keywords for which this URL ranks.
Unfortunately, our initial filters won't persist across views, so we'll have to add them again. Add the same filter we used in step 2: position is smaller than 20.
After you've added your filter, be sure to sort your data by impressions to find your biggest low-hanging fruit opportunities for this URL.
Now we can dive deeper into our low-hanging fruit keywords for this URL and determine if they are relevant to the piece of content we're looking to optimize.
Quick Tip: There may be opportunities to consolidate your content. Take a look at the other URLs that are ranking for this query. Should they stand alone, or should they be consolidated into one authoritative guide?
If you're looking for a low-hanging fruit keyword checklist that you can export to Google Sheets, check out our low-hanging fruit keyword checklist. You can use a similar process to find low-hanging fruit keyword opportunities for featured snippets.
I may be a bit biased since I worked at SpyFu, but the tool has made strides over the last few years, especially when it comes to keyword research. While I prefer SpyFu, you can use your favorite SEO tool (SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.) to discover low-hanging fruit keyword opportunities quickly.
Step 1: Head over to spyfu.com and enter your domain. You'll be taken to the domain overview, where you'll see organic and paid metrics for your domain. Click on "organic keywords" to view your domain's ranking keywords.
Step 2: Now, you should see all of your domain's ranking keywords. By default, the table is sorted by your most valuable keywords. We'll want to add a column that displays our rank in the keyword table. Click on the "columns" and check the box for "rank" (change). Now we'll be able to view our organic rank in our keyword table.
Step 3: To the left of the keyword table, you'll see additional filter options. Scroll down until you see "rank." Here we'll filter out our keyword data to only display keywords that we rank between positions 2 and 20.
Now that we've added our rank filter, we'll be able to see all of our low-hanging fruit keywords and their corresponding URLs. You can export this data and prioritize based on your most important KPIs.
Frase.io is known primarily for content optimization, but they recently released a feature called "Content Analytics" that is a gem for finding low-hanging fruit keyword opportunities. If you're working with a larger site, Frase will make this process a breeze.
The tool's functionality is similar to what I outlined in the manual process above; in fact, they're pulling data in from Google Search Console (they don't store/sell your data). Just like the manual process above, you can see all of the queries your URL is ranking on, but Frase adds a ton of value by automatically tagging a status to your queries/pages.
There are six statuses in Frase, but I'm going to focus on the three that bring me the most value.
Decay - Lost more than two positions, and clicks have decreased.
Quick Win - Ranked 1-10 within 3 months of publishing.
Opportunity - Position is 10-50, but impressions are growing quickly.
Not only can you find low-hanging fruit keyword opportunities, but you can also discover content that is decaying and optimize that content to regain your lost traffic.
Optimizing your content
What do you do now that you have all of your low-hanging fruit keyword data? It's time to optimize our URLs! I'll save you the "it depends" answer and share what I commonly l optimize when I find low-hanging fruit opportunities:
Improve keyword targeting: Often, you'll find low-hanging fruit keywords in GSC that you're not deliberately targeting that may warrant a section in your content.
Prioritize converting pages: Rankings are great and all, but unfortunately, we can't pay our people with traffic. Once you have your low-hanging fruit keywords, be sure to tie in conversion/revenue data for these URLs. For example, if we're ranking position 5 for "golf cart batteries" and our landing page is driving conversions (revenue!), it makes sense to start here versus spending time on an informational blog post. You can easily forecast uplift in conversions with the data you have in GA!
Improve internal Linking: Are you helping your pages rank? Internal links pass PageRank, and there's no penalty for using exact match anchor text when linking internally. Build internal links from relevant pieces of content around your site (don't brute force this, make it relevant and useful for users).
Quick Tip: Mix up your anchor text. Use exact match and long-tail variants of your low-hanging fruit keywords.
Build more links: We all know that backlinks are important, and if you're trying to rank on a competitive SERP, you may need to beef up the number of referring domains to your URL. You can use a tool like Ahrefs to view RDs (referring domains) for each ranking URL on a particular SERP.
Check search intent: Google your low-hanging fruit keywords as a user would. What types of content are ranking? Is it primarily long-form content? If so, a landing page won't stand a chance. The SERP is filled with gems, so take a few minutes to analyze the SERPs for your low-hanging fruit keywords.