These Big Niche Publishers Do NOT Do Keyword Research and Absolutely Kill it with SEO

Crystal Mill Wooden Powerhouse located on Crystal River Colorado

A few years ago I was in Seattle for a college reunion.  Talk about a great few days.  In fact, we’re overdue for another one.

I had rented a car with GPS.  I wasn’t used to GPS at the time, but didn’t know downtown Seattle at all, so I was relying on it (at least trying to rely on it).

Like most downtown areas of big cities, there are roads, lanes, merges and bridges all, over the place.

At one point trying to get out of downtown and head to the Airbnb we had rented the GPS said to turn right.  The problem was, there were two roads on the right very close to one another.  It was dark and raining so I couldn’t see the road signs.  I was forced to guess.  It turned out I chose the wrong right.  After a bunch of GPS “recalculating” pauses and a slew of turns, I got on the right track and made it to the house.

I’ve had similar troubles with GPS since then even after becoming familiar with it.  I get so focused on what the GPS screen is suggesting that I’m not really paying attention to what’s going.  I end up making wrong turns when had I just looked at the signs, I would have been fine.

Tools can be great aids, and I’m not getting rid of my GPS any time soon, but sometimes tools, especially software tools, result in missing the forest from the trees.

Keyword research software can do that.

I can get so wrapped up looking for keywords based on some set of parameters I impose that I miss great topics that belong on my site to make it a more complete site for the niche it’s in.

While I’m not giving up on keyword research, I thought it would be refreshing to show a series of different successful sites that deploy different levels and intensity of keyword research from NO keyword research to extensive keyword research.  Here they are.

1. Examples of successful niche sites that are a result of no keyword research

Which is why I find these guys really, really refreshing.  I have great respect for everything they do.  It’s no wonder they do so well with a variety of niche sites.

They’re also insanely transparent; more so than me.  I guess I”m paranoid, but not them.  Good on them.

Here are some traffic screenshots of their niche sites courtesy of Ahrefs:

Site traffic without keyword research

Site traffic without keyword research

Website traffic growth with no keyword research

Website traffic growth with no keyword research

Anyway, one thing they teach and do is to NOT use expensive keyword software tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs, or any keyword research software for that matter.

Instead, these guys know their niches and use their brain and Google autosuggest to come up with article topics.  That’s it.

And they end up targeting topics and keywords that haul in organic search traffic to their niche sites.

Another reason I like their approach is they don’t build links.  Instead, they put out good content trusting other sites will link to them.  It works.  Their niche sites do get plenty of natural links.

Actually, all the examples of niche sites in this post don’t do any link building.  They all just publish content.  The only differences are the approaches to keyword research.

2. The other end of the keyword research spectrum… extensive keyword researh

I know another guy who earns high six figures per year from one niche site who does extensive keyword research for every article.  He’s a data and analytics fanatic.

It works for him like gangbusters.  His keyword due diligence for every new piece of content as well as when updating existing content is exhaustive. It pays off.

Check out the growth for his site:

Website traffic screenshot for website with lots of keyword research

Website traffic screenshot for website with lots of keyword research

3. Middle of the road approach

And then there’s another guy I know doing close to half a million per year from niche sites who does some basic keyword research with Ahrefs but just enought to come up with topics.

He doesn’t dig in for LSI or related terms using other expensive or free tools to come up with a mega list of terms and phrases to weave into his content.  Instead, he finds one keyword for an article and publishes lots of thorough content daily.  He believes covering the topic thoroughly using good sense and his knowledge of the topics will do the trick with the SERPs.

He’s right as well.  His methods work great for him.

Check his traffic screenshots:

Very high traffic site grown with moderate keyword research.

Very high traffic site grown with moderate keyword research.

What do I do?

Interestingly, I do all of the above.

Here are some of my Ahrefs traffic screenshots:

I publish articles on topics that I don’t bother doing any keyword research for.  If the topic is one I want to cover because it’s a good fit in a niche site, I cover it.

I also publish lengthy cornerstone content for which I do keyword research for every section going after as many related and LSI words as I can to ensure it’s as thorough as possible.

Finally, I publish lots of content focusing on one main content.  I trust that if I cover the topic well, make it interesting and write naturally injecting some personality here and there that it’ll rank.

For me, all three approaches work some of the time.

“Some of the time” is the operative phrase here.

If I could bat 100% with publishing content, I’d have 50 million monthly page views.  I’m not batting 100%.  No site does.

I do what I think best for each piece of content.  Sometimes I believe extensive, thorough keyword research is the best approach.  Other times I just like to wing it and write it.  These pieces of content I usually write and do so becasue I want to write it and enjoy.  I just write.

And then sometimes I know the one main keyword I want to target has sufficient balance of search volume and low keyword difficulty and leave it that.  I just publish a solid article and hope for the best.

Which method gets me the best results?

I haven’t tracked this in any detail, but if I had to guess, I’d say the middle-of-the-road approach is what’s gotten me best results.  I do basic keyword research and then write it (or assign it to be written) trusting that if it’s thorough and good, it’ll hit the necessarily related keywords.

What should you do?

Here’s where it’s interesting.

There are all kinds of courses, blog posts, white papers and videos that show you various keyword research methods, theories, formulas, concepts, tools, etc. including those that suggest to not bother at all with keyword research.

Part of building up a successful online publishing business is carving out your own way.  By all means study and copy to get started, but over time develop your own methods.  It may be a hybrid of approaches.  It may be an extreme approach where you super analytical and geek out over keyword research, or you may wing it not using any software at all (because you have a knack for writing on topics and content that performs well).

The point is this.  There is no right way to come up with topics and keywords for content for niche sites and blogs.  Instead, there are many ways to do so.  Be flexible.  Experiment.  Don’t sweat it if you don’t do it such and such a way.

I’m definitely guilty of changing course when stuff is working just because so and so say some other way works for them.  It’s always good to try new things, but it’s also good to stick with what’s working for you.



What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Anne says:

    I have an off-topic question, Jon. Could you possibly share what software you’re using for your newsletter? I LOVE the new format!

    • Jon says:

      Hey Anne,

      Of course. It’s Elink.io. I’ve been using it in a few email newsletters and I love it. I have a review lined up for this site. It’s definitely a time-saving tool that actually results in a very good way to send out newsletters.

      • Anne says:

        Thank you! Can’t wait to read the review. I’ll take a look and see if they work with Sendy (which is what I’m currently using to collect emails).

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