How to Use Ahrefs for Keyword Research

It’s good to have a few trusted keyword research tools under your belt.  Our teams at Content Refined are currently using two in conjunction: SECockpit by SwissMadeMarketing, and Ahrefs.  We started using Ahrefs a while ago when SECockpit stopped returning results in certain fields and niches (i.e. we stopped getting results for cbd oil related keywords).  Ahrefs has a ton of detail in their results, and I really like the way that they suggest alternatives.

So here are the basic steps for using Ahrefs to determine whether a keyword is competitive.  For our purposes, we are looking for a few key metrics:

  • monthly search volume over 500
  • keyword density under 30
  • most of the other top competitors have a low domain authority

These are the tried and true metrics that Content Refined usually sticks to (unless there’s a unique site that needs something slightly different).  We’ve talked about this before in an article about SECockpit.  For that article the monthly search volume filter was set to ‘over 1000’.  We’ve since found that over 500 is a valuable metric with more opportunities for a lot of sites.

For Ahrefs Keyword Research, follow these steps in this order:

  1. Go to ‘Keywords Explorer’ from the headings.
  2. Search for the keyword. In this example, ‘ketamine infusion’.
  3. Scroll down to ‘also rank for’ and click on the ‘view all #’.Ahrefs keyword explorer
  4. Click on KD and put ’30’ in the “To” section. Click ‘Apply’.Ahrefs keyword KD to 30
  5. Click on Volume and put ‘500’ in the “From” section. Click ‘Apply’.Ahrefs Volume from 500
  6. Now you’ll have a list of keywords with good metrics.Ahrefs keywords with good metrics
  7. Click on one that looks good, in this example, ‘ketamine infusion therapy’.
  8. In the new page, scroll all the way down to the ‘SERP Overview’ section. There you’ll be able to see the Domain Rating (“DR”) of the top competitors’ websites. Make sure that the majority of these are under about 35. In the example ‘ketamine infusion therapy’, most of those DRs are low, which is good!Ahrefs keyword Domain Rating
  9. Determine whether this is a good keyword for your needs, and copy the details as needed into your keyword research plan.
  10. Begin search again with a new keyword, as much as needed, to complete your keyword research.

I love finding new strategies and tricks for finding the best competitive keywords in any niche.  For Content Refined we also go back once or twice a year and run some data analysis to see which tools are working the best.  We did that last year around this time, and are currently in the process of running a new set of data analysis (I’ll be sure to share the findings for you guys).

Keep me updated about what tools and strategies you guys are currently using in the comments below!

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How to Write a Blog Post that Actually Ranks (4 Steps)

Over the past couple of years, myself and my teammates at Content Refined (the content marketing business that Madeleine Taylor and I co-founded) have really nailed down how to write killer content and optimize it for ranking.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember when we analyzed some of our content’s data to find the best tools and techniques.  There were a few articles about this—I’ll link at the end of the article.

Well, we actually had those results reviewed and confirmed by a real statistician with a Master of Science in Statistics from Texas A&M (so he, unlike me, actually has the piece of paper on the wall that says he knows how to analyze data).

Our experience in content creation combined with the statistician’s findings has really solidified our understanding of how to achieve awesome, rankable articles.

As always, I want to share this plethora of knowledge with you guys, so that you can implement some of this stuff into your own websites.  Also as always, I hope you guys like graphs!

content article writing

The Four Step Process

Refining systems and processes has absolutely been key to continued success with our content (hence the name, Content Refined).  If you make a good systematic cycle, and stick to it regularly and efficiently, you’ll be heading in the right direction.

So here are the four steps for creating articles that work for us:

1. Keyword Research

The foundation of our articles is a strong primary keyword that is highly probable of ranking.  We find the right keyword, and create an article title around it.

2. Writing

Once the keywords and article titles are good to go, they’re sent out to some excellent writers.

3. Editing

Our editors are the final step before publication.  A thorough quality check includes checking for plagiarism, editing the writing carefully, and running each article through a content gap analysis and keyword optimization tool.

4. Publishing

Our publishers follow a standard protocol for nicely formatting articles with stock photography and ensuring search engine optimization.

Standards for Each Step

Now, let’s break down these steps into a set of standards to abide by.

Keyword Research Standards

There are a lot of keyword research tools and methods out there.

With our data review (checking the content we’ve created against their real results), we have verified three essential components of each chosen keyword; (1) monthly search volume, (2) competition score, and (3) domain authority of competitors.  So, when performing keyword research, we target the following measurements:

  1. A monthly search volume  of over 500.
  2. A competition score under 30%.
  3. The majority of the top 10 competing websites with that keyword have a domain authority score under 30.

But remember, these measurements are flexible according to your content needs (eg. international location, site traffic, niche, etc.).

We have also verified that the most accurate keyword research tools currently available are SECockpit by SwissMadeMarketing,, and KWFinder by Mangools.  These are the three tools we use to perform our keyword research.

avg site domain authority vs google rank KWFinder vs Google Rank

Writing Standards

It’s super important to maintain a strong team of excellent writers.  We hire only native English writers (freelancers) who can pass a series of grammar and content creation tests.  Plus, our relationships with writers are dependent on great communication and clarity of requirements.

We also frequently review and renew our writing team.  Our general rule of thumb is to keep cutting out the bottom 10% (the writers who aren’t consistently awesome or are starting to slack off) and replacing them with new great writers.

Another thing to keep in mind is writing a minimum of 1000 words per article.  It’s generally recommended for search engine ranking.  Depending on your niche, you might need more than that.  The keyword research should help you figure out how long your content needs to be.

word count vs google rank

Editing Standards

An Editor really has to be a master of proofreading.

For us, we make sure that first, they run each article through a program that checks for plagiarism, ensuring that each article is truly original content.  The tool we’re currently using for this process is CopyScape.

Then, they carefully go through each article, editing for spelling, grammar, flow, and readability.

Lastly, they run each article through a keyword optimization program to naturally weave in more secondary keywords wherever they can. This greatly helps in filling ‘content gaps’ that the writer may have missed. The tools we’re currently using for this process are CognitiveSEO and MarketMuse.  Both tools have proven to increase the probability of ranking in search engines.

MarketMuse vs SERPFox

*note: In the MarketMuse vs. SERPFox graph: Negative MarketMuse Score was used instead of MarketMuse Score because of the ascending nature of MarketMuse Score (higher is better) vs. the descending mature of SERPFox Ranking (lower is better).

Publishing Standards

Publishing requirements tend to be subjective.

Everyone has their own processes for formatting and optimizing an article before publishing.  However, we’ve set out a set of standards that we follow, that have proven to increase the probability of ranking.

  1. Short URL slugs that include the keyword.
  2. H2 and H3 tags for headings and subheadings.
  3. Stock photography related to the subject matter.
  4. Meta description for the article.
  5. A few inbound and outbound links to relevant pages.
  6. Category tags.
  7. If it’s an Amazon Affiliate website, we embed the affiliate tag into all product links.

Uploading a bunch of articles at least once per month and scheduling them out is the most efficient way we’ve found to stay on schedule and make sure that good content is always there.

If you hire a freelancer to do this publishing, I definitely recommend doing a quick quality check before hitting the actual ‘publish’ button.

And Then Start Again!

Across all my sites, this is the system we use.  These are the core processes used at Content Refined, and we’ve had continued success in getting content to rank and organic traffic to grow and grow.  Check out these results from one site that Content Refined does all the content creation for (whose name we can’t share for privacy purposes).  They started with no organic traffic, and with these processes, plus a great niche, they’ve been able to scale super fast.

organic traffic content marketing

It’s been amazing to watch Content Refined grow, expand teams, and nail down these processes.  I do encourage you to check them out and jump on a call with Laura (our acting Business Manager while Madeleine is on maternity leave) to discuss content needs if that’s something you’re looking for.

Let me know what you think and if there’s anything that works really well for you!

Links to our previous data collection articles:

“Rank in Google with Certainty — 2 Metrics Reveal That You Will Definitely Rank Well in Google!”

“Rank in Google with Certainty? — Market Muse Review Updated Data Analysis”

“Definitive — Best Keyword Research Tool to Determine Keyword Competitiveness”

“New Ranking Data to Help Your Site Rank”

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Cyber Monday – Services Sale!!

Today I have some special Cyber Monday deals on my productized services businesses.

At whatever stage you are at in your business I hope one of these deals below helps you progress in your business!

For the last few years we have found that creating teams and systems to deliver productized services to clients focusing on complex activities in the SEO / internet marketing space has been a good niche for our team. (more…)

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4 Advanced SEO and Content Marketing Strategies Working Right Now

In this post I am going to share several strategies I have been deploying on my sites over the last few months and the results these tests/case-studies/strategies have been able to achieve.

All of the strategies listed below are being discussed from experience and not theory. Each of the example sites are from my portfolio. For the four strategies below I highlight 5 sites that are in my portfolio that represent what these strategies are capable of.

I am certain there are many many other strategies that work but these are the 5 I have been having the most success with lately… (more…)

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5 Step Content and SEO Strategy – Case Study Results and Penguin 4 Thoughts

In this post I am going to share some recent results we have had with our off page strategy outlined below and also share my thoughts on Penguin 4.0.

Basic Strategy We Have Been Having Success With:

  1. Identify what the site is already ranking for
  2. Complete additional keyword research
  3. Content Creation (this step can be skipped if the sites content is already awesome)
    1. Build the best content for the given query. Google wants to rank the best #1 so be the best!
  4. Competitor Backlink Analysis
    1. Determine the number of links we need to beat our competition
  5. Build a mix of links to the site to close the gap with the competition
    1. Blog Commenting + Guest Posting
    2. Use My PBN Links
    3. Done For You PBN Links
    4. Editorial Links – Contact me for details on how to get these
    5. Outreach links (anything Brian Dean at Backlinko talks about)

Case Study Results:

Case Study #1 – Local Criminal Lawyer Serving 1 million person population City/surrounding area

Step 1: We first found out what the site was already ranking for by using

Step 2: We then looked to see which keywords were most fitting to the site and were ones worth ranking for. If they are on the 2nd-3rd page that is even better. We Found out which page we're already ranking for those keywords (which was the homepage) and got 5 Use My PBN links pointed to them. The results from getting these links created resulted in substantial ranking improvements.

Step 3: We wanted to find other keywords related to this niche so we took some of the keywords the site was ranking for as well as a few other relevant keywords and inputted them into LongTailPro. This will help us find a lot more relevant keywords as well as check the competition for each. We try to look for keyword competition under 30 as they are easier to rank for.

Step 4: We sent the keywords that we thought were relevant to the customer to get articles created around them (we usually create the articles but due to the niche it was better for the client to create them). Once they are completed they will send them to us and we will get more Use my PBN links pointed towards them to help boost their rankings.


A little up front analysis identified some great opportunities for easy wins. This has resulted in the client looking like a hero to her client!

Want Me & My Team to Help Execute This Plan for You?

If you are looking for help to execute this plan we have a couple options...

You can either do the majority of the analysis yourself and use my teams services to get links built... or if you are looking for a complete analysis, strategy creation plus execution we offer some higher touch SEO consulting/strategy execution as well.

  • Done For You Offering: (follow this strategy yourself and use my team to help with links)
    • Use My PBN (get links from my personal PBN)
    • Done For You PBN Creation (let my team build you an exclusive PBN)
  • Full Support: Want a full-service solution with my team doing the analysis, content creation and backlink creation? Fill out the form here

Case Study #2 – 7 Figure Affiliate Marketer Very Happy With Results in a Competitive Niche

This case study is a summary of what we did for one of our bigger clients who is having A LOT of success online generating millions of dollars a year through organic traffic and affiliate sites.

Step 1: We first found out what the site was already ranking for by using

Step 2: We looked at the keywords the site was ranking for and also talked with the client to see which keywords they are most interested in ranking for so that we can concentrate on getting them to rank better. We then got…

  • 10 Use My PBN links and split them up amongst those keywords to give them some ‘juice’ along with a
  • 3 editorial links (Huffington post etc) – Contact me for more info about how to get these links

Step 3: We also did some keyword research using LongTailPro and sent suggested article titles to the client and asked if they were okay. Once we got the go ahead we got the articles completed and the client posted them to their site. Next month we will be able to target these URLs to help push them up in the rankings.

Penguin 4.0 Thoughts – Overhyped?

Penguin 4.0 has rolled out live and I have received a few emails about what the impact has been for me and my clients sites.

Like most updates from Google I believe there is usually a hype fuelled hysteria followed by a more rationale approach. Penguin 4.0 is no different.

Changes to Consider:

  • Backlink cleanup should be able to be measured faster
  • Penalties are applied to a specific page vs the entire domain (the implications of this are interesting!)

So I think the bottom line is that we will see changes to rankings occurring faster when sketchy links are being built and when they have been removed sites should recover faster.

Although Sep according to Moz had the most fluctuations since they started tracking SERP position movement we have seen very little

From -

Impact on Mine & Client Sites

Despite all the movement we have seen no sites penalized and across the board there has been a solid increase for a hand full of sites. What is interesting is most of those ranking movements occurred at the start of Sep and not as a result of Penguin 4.0.

It will continue to be interesting to watch and I, as a fan of being able to test things, will certainly like the faster feedback on link cleanup efforts and when a site has crossed the threshold with Google into the un-natural link profile territory it will be apparent faster and easier to limit the damage.

Overall I am happy to see no negative movement and some positive movement while at the same time I think these changes are definitely a move in the right direction.

Unfortunately, Penguin has not been so kind to everyone, I received this email yesterday and I know how much losing your hard earned efforts overnight can hurt! So if you have been affected I certainly feel for you!

PBN Guide being referred to above is here

Have you experienced much negative movement with your site in Sep? If so I would love the opportunity to have a quick review of your site to both learn and ideally provide some insights.

Want Me & My Team to Help Execute This Plan for You?

If you are looking for help to execute this plan we have a couple options...

You can either do the majority of the analysis yourself and use my teams services to get links built... or if you are looking for a complete analysis, strategy creation plus execution we offer some higher touch SEO consulting/strategy execution as well.

  • Done For You Offering: (follow this strategy yourself and use my team to help with links)
    • Use My PBN (get links from my personal PBN)
    • Done For You PBN Creation (let my team build you an exclusive PBN)
  • Full Support: Want a full-service solution with my team doing the analysis, content creation and backlink creation? Fill out the form here

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