Prioritizing content for long-tail keywords and topics can be challenging because search volume data for such keywords can be noisy and inaccurate. Besides search volume, there isn't any readily available metric that determines the popularity of one keyword/topic over the other.
As we were building our PAA Tool, we noticed that the same PAA questions were being repeated for a large number of search keywords in multiple cases.
Coincidentally, Bill Slawski had found the original, Google Patent for 'Related Questions' aka 'People Also Ask' . Reading through the patent, one thing was certain, that Google uses popularity as one of the metrics to rank PAA questions for a given search query.“Once the related questions have been selected, the system ranks the selected questions based at least in part on the number of times each of the related questions has been submitted to the search engine as a search query.”Source: Google patent
We took this a step further and hypothesized that the more often the same PAA question surfaced for multiple search queries, the more popular it was, and this could be used as an alternative to search volume, at least relatively to help prioritize content ideas.
We decided to test this approach and selected an informational site where no work had been done besides adding some content in late 2020. This was a vanilla website that launched in 2019. Until the end of 2020, the website had roughly 60 content pages.
Gathering keyword ideas from various popular keyword tools around the head topic only returned keywords with low search volumes.
Beginning in Feb 2021, we started prioritizing content creation solely based on ideas from the PAA dataset around the head topic and uploading them to the website.
We utilized the PAA questions to come up with topic ideas and not necessarily build a whole article around the exact question itself. We started going down the list and eliminated options where we already had existing content or instances where we could not flesh out a complete article.
Here is an example (this is not the topic of the case study site):
Suppose the target was building content around 'golf clubs', here are some of the top suggestions when we searched that query using our PAA tool :
Over time as Google indexed those pages and we started getting more impressions, our traffic started to increase gradually, in addition we noticed that since we were answering the PAA question's intent perfectly, we started capturing the slot within the People Also Ask SERP feature.
Currently we are seeing these 100 pages hitting > 6K daily sessions and the growth is still ongoing. There has been absolutely no link building done and the website traffic growth for the existing pages has been flat during this time frame.
Here is a graph showing daily sessions of only those newly added pages:
If our strategy used just the search volume methodology, we would have either not discovered or overlooked these topic ideas. The monthly search volume for the main keywords for these 100 pieces of content was fairly low (under 200) and seeing that we wouldn't have prioritized or created content for some of these keywords/topics.
One important caveat has to be pointed out - this is not to say that the 6K daily sessions to these pages are coming from these 100 keywords. The pages rank for a lot of other terms and this leads to higher traffic numbers. Since we also captured the PAA answer slot we started showing up for some very high search volume keywords, while this SERP feature has a low CTR the total traffic adds up since it can be across hundreds or thousands of keywords of varying search volume.
Taking our earlier example on ‘golf clubs’ further, here is one of the URLs that was ranking for the popular PAA ‘What is the best month to buy golf clubs?’:
You can see that URL winning the PAA slot for some high volume keywords:
In closing, the PAA popularity metric can be a good alternative to search volume for surfacing and prioritizing topics and content ideas.
As we keep working on enhancing the tool, we would love to hear from you - issues, feedback, ideas, anything!
We are actually users of the tools ourselves, and use this to enhance our workflow to come up with content and topic ideas. If you need any assistance in terms of how this tool could help you, please don't hesitate to reach out.-Abhinav (co-founder of Search Response)