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How to Use “Topical Research” for Explosive SEO Growth

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    How to Use “Topical Research” for Explosive SEO Growth

Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. This blog is one of the channels I use to demonstrate that. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate (bring it internet trolls). Click the icons below and fire away.

Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. This blog is one of the channels I use to demonstrate that. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate (bring it internet trolls). Click the icons below and fire away.

This is a short video that walks you through one of the many processes we use to identify relevant, large volume and rankable “topics” for content marketing and SEO growth.

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Happy Friday night everybody. Hopefully you’re doing something better than I am. I’m putting together a video talking about how to do topical research for SEO to hack traffic. And the reason I’m putting this together is because a couple weeks ago I shot a video and I was talking about how I did this hockey stick growth in organic traffic for my baby here Laces Out and how I used topical research as post keyword research. And I got a ton of questions about how to do that so I’m putting this video together, to show you how you can hack that process and do it very, very quickly without a lot of skill and all you really need is SEMrush.

Now when I do this for clients, I use about five or six different tactics to build content and to come up with different plans or strategies. This is one of them, I don’t have time to do all of them here. I wanna keep this quick so I’m just gonna go ahead and dive right in. So you’re gonna need SEMrush. If you don’t have it, I strongly suggest you get it. It’s by far the best tool on the market. You’re just gonna take your website, you’re gonna put it up here and then you’re gonna go to competitors. And what we wanna do is, we wanna find websites that have a lot of different keywords and topics in common with us. I like to take the top ones, because the top websites that are ranking for a lot of different keywords, they’ve established authority with search engines. That means they’re gonna be ranking for a ton of different keywords and topics that we can effectively just jack straight from.

I’m gonna take this one right here. This is really the leader in the space; they crush it. And all I’m gonna do is I’m gonna come down here to keywords and I’m gonna go to export. And I’m gonna get it into a CSV file. I’m just gonna let it download and open it up and then I’m gonna do a little bit of filtering and cleaning this up. We don’t need any of this stuff over here. It’s cool before we’re done we don’t need it. I’m gonna get rid of previous position. I’m gonna leave search volume position, cost per click and URL. Now I’m gonna do a little bit of foot work here and filter this up. And basically what we wanna start by doing is getting rid of all of the keywords over 20. I only want the keywords that are ranking under position 20. I’m going do less than 20. Go ahead and set that. Let’s make sure this filtered them. Just gonna filter this here just to make sure that it filtered out all the other ones.

Okay, cool. So now I have all these keywords underneath 20. Now depending on what niche you’re in, I also like to filter out search volume too but because they’ve only got a couple of hundred keywords left in here, I am not going to. I’m just gonna leave it like this. Generally the next step, I would filter out search volume. And also I recommend you doing it because what I’d like to do now is, after I’ve done one site, I’d like to go back and I like to get the next couple of competitors and dump them all in here and then filter them out. For the purpose of this video, I’m only gonna do one but basically what I do with this next is, I’m just gonna copy all this. I like to work in Google Sheets because that’s just where we store everything. I’m just gonna take that and paste it in here. And I’m gonna do a little bit more foot work here. Sorry, I’m like a psychopath when it comes to formatting.

Everything has to be formatted perfectly or my brain can’t function. It’s kind of disgusting, actually, I have issues. I’m just gonna get this set up and then I’m gonna lock these cells. Where you at? You freeze one row. Cool. Alright, so basically now what I’m gonna do is, I am going to filter these by page. When you filter these by page what happens is you can start to see topics forming. So what I’m gonna do here… Their home page is ranked for a lot of stuff, that’s tough. I’m actually gonna hide this for right now because this is a bad example actually, because their home page just ranks for everything. They just crush it. Most websites don’t do that. I’m just gonna hide these… You don’t wanna hide? There we go. Alright so I’m gonna hide these.

04:07 S1: The next thing I’m gonna do is, I’m just gonna look for bunches. So you can see these, I’m gonna look for pages that are ranking for multiple different keywords. Because what we can see here is, we can start to see the topics that Google is associating with this page, right? You look at these things Jordan six. We can just open this page up. You look at this it’s lacing Jordon 3s. How to lace Jordon 6. How to lace Jordon 6, lacing Jordon 6. You can see here, we’re starting to form topics. What I’d like to do here is, I like to make a separate column here for topic. And of course I’m breezing through this. I usually spend a lot more time doing this. But what I’ll do then is I’ll come up with different topics for these different, what I call clusters or bunches, right?

I’ll just highlight all these different pages in different colors so you can start to see them bunch up and then what I’ll do is, I’ll create a common topic that exemplifies all of these keywords, okay? This one would be like a run shoe laces and I’ll just drag this down and then it will capture all these keywords with that topic, okay? And then what I’ll do is, I’ll just go down and do all these really quickly and then what I’ll do is I move these to the next tab. This is called our Topic Ideation Tab and I’ll just dump this in here. And then what I do is, I take this topic and I actually go to Google and I’ll dump it in. And once I get into Google, I’ll take a little bit of look around. I’ll look at search volume up here. I’ll look at what’s ranked… Let me zoom out a little bit. I look at what’s ranking, I’ll actually layer on MOZ here to take a look at overall domain authority and page authority of the pages that are ranking. Just to see what topics and what websites are ranking. Then I’ll look down here at searches related. I’ll look at the volume here, the cost per click and I’ll start to again formulate more topics with more keywords that I’ll then dump in to here.

Then what I’ll do is, I’ll build out this list, I’ll build out 20 of these different ones, based on all the different keywords that I jacked from here, and then what I do is I start to formulate them. So I’ll look at, is there enough search volume? So for this one, let’s say, no. But for this one, let’s say this was ‘lacing Jordan 6s’, that was another topic one. Lacing Jordan 6s. I’m gonna say yes for this, and then I look at, can we compete? Right, so I’ll look at understanding the domain authority and what we rank for, I’m gonna look at the overall domain authority, the average of the first page. Sometimes I’ll even use the keyword ‘difficulty’ if you have MOZ, it’s not overly accurate for me, I don’t really care for it that much. And again, I’ll look at if there’s ads on top, because if there’s four ads on top, it’s gonna be very competitive. So again, what I’m gonna do here is I’ll say for this one, yes, this one, it’s not relevant cause there’s not enough search volume, but I’ll say yes, and then journey.

So there’s four journey stages that we use, we use viral, we use discover, we use consider, and we use customer. So these are four different journey stages that map to a funnel, and it’s what this topic maps to. So lacing Jordan 6s, for me, because we sell shoelaces, it’s important for us to get people to the site that are looking how to lace this certain sneaker. So what I’m gonna call this one is discover, and potentially even consider, because we actually sell these laces. So I’m gonna call this one consider. So this is a very valuable topic for us, because it’s pretty deep in our funnel. Then for this one, if this is new or rewrite, what I’ll do, this’ll be new because I don’t have that content on my site. If I do have the content on my site, I’ll mark it as rewrite. But since I don’t have it, it’ll be new. And then in here, I’ll put in some notes. And really what I like to do in the notes section is, I will look at the top articles that are ranking for this, so again these are all money keywords, this is really better served for content, but what I’ll do is I’ll look at what’s ranking. So I’ll look at, to see if there’s an exact match here.

So let me see this one, Jordan 6 laces. So there’s a forum thread ranking, and again this homepage is ranking for this, which is crazy. So what that tells me, actually, is this is a really good topic for me to attack, because if I can put together something more robust here, then I can outrank these very, very quickly, because there’s not a topic that’s really matching. These YouTube videos are pretty tough, especially in these how-tos, YouTube videos rank very, very well. Here’s my page ranking down here. But I digress. So let me get back here. So then what I’ll do is, after we build out a list of topics, I’ll actually move this into a content calendar. We do this for clients. And we’ll build out all these different things. Again, like the different stages here, the different audiences that we build out, this is where the topic goes, Jordan 6 laces. And then what I’ll do is I’ll put in the keywords. So for the keywords, honestly, I’ll just grab them from down here, and I’ll do this a couple of times, so this is gonna be like… Just copy this, Jordan 6 laces for sale, those are okay, Jordan 6 laces Infrared, this is a different sneaker type, so I’m gonna want to put that keyword on the page, lace lock for sale, lace length, how to Jordan 6 laces, Jordan 6 shoelaces, all that stuff.

These are all the different keywords that we’re gonna want to use, then the competition, I’ll just take the topic, and again I’ll use MOZ’s score here, I don’t want to log in, it’s a pain in the ass. I’ll use that, and I’ll grab the average keyword difficulty, and I’ll put that in here. So let’s say this is 45%, then the traffic. This is just a sum of all the keywords, so we’ll call this 500. Then this is a content tactic. This is important. So for this, this one… A lot of these will actually end up being skyscraper curated roundup, for this one, I would probably call this expert guide, because what I’m gonna do is, I’ll create a guide to how to lace Jordan 6s, right? It’s pretty easy, and then blog post for this one, potentially even a video. Actually, for this one I would definitely do a video, because you see all these videos ranking here, I could just punch that onto our YouTube channel and get it to rank pretty quickly, and then title, and then word count, author, and then this is where we pass it off. So again, this is how I create content at scale, too. I don’t write this crap, it takes too long. What I’ll do is I’ll fill all this stuff out, then I’ll build an outline for it and I’ll assign it to one of my writers.

10:28 S1: They’ll write a draft, and then I’ll publish it. So, again, in just a couple of minutes here, I’ve showed you how I’ve found a very good topic for my website, very valuable, exactly where it maps to us, and again this is mostly for client stuff, so that’s why there’s all these extra cells, so you don’t need to worry about that. But now I want to show you an example of something that I published today. So you can see here, published five hours ago. This was for a shoe called the ASICS Gel Lyte, the ASICS Gel Lyte III, and ASICS Gel Lyte V, and what I did was I wrote a guide, so let me just open this up, so again what I found was, hey, there’s a lot of search volume around this stuff, there’s really not one good topic around this, and everything that was it was very thin. So I went out and I put together a really good guide, and I rounded up 10 different lace swaps, or laces, lace ideas, for this ASICS Gel Lyte sneaker. So I’m hitting the keywords lace swap, lace recommendations, lacing ideas, and these are very, very hyper-relevant to the brand, because, hey, we happen to sell most of these laces.

So again I put together, using H2s, H3s, and a little blurb here that the person wrote, some very nice images. Of course, I credited the author, and then I linked to our actual product with the product image. So you can just see, it’s a very good looking post. But, more importantly, when you look for it now, ASICS Gel Lyte III shoelaces, on day one, you can see we’re already ranking here on the first page. We’re ranking fifth, on day one, five hours later. So let me see if this is ranking too. Yeah, there you go. And again, I jacked it from this laced-up laces here and over time this is gonna rank much higher. This is gonna end up ranking first because it’s just a much better… Let’s look at what they have. So this is hyper specific to one shoe and what I did, there’s 30 words on this page, it’s just not a very good result and then when you click on here, I have these shoe titles in here semantically marked up. It just works, man. It’s just the quickest way to hack traffic. This is gonna be driving organic traffic in no time whatsoever and not only that, but it’s gonna drive value for the brand and it’s probably gonna drive some sales for us too.

So, that’s really it. That’s all I do is one of the tactics that I use to generate these topic ideas is just looking at the top websites and kind of reverse engineering what they’re doing, looking at the post they have ranking, and then always, always, always doing it better. So the key here is to find these topics. So this is a great way to just generate ideas but then also on top of that, what you wanna do is you wanna layer on just better content and if you can do that, you’re gonna have very very quick results and when you do this at scale, that’s when you start to see… Let me just show you, a brand new website having explosive results with relevant key words because I’m constantly just building this content, and constantly getting it out there, and constantly targeting the right ones finding holes in the SERPs and attacking them. So again, this is just one way to do topical research, I’ve got a bunch more. If I put them on the web I’m gonna have to sell them because this is really how I make money. But if you guys are interested, please leave me some comments below, leave me some questions. I love hearing from you guys and I’ll see you in the next video.

About Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. This blog is one of the channels I use to demonstrate that. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate (bring it internet trolls). Click the icons below and fire away.


  1. Hi Ryan

    When building a brand like this on a brand new domain, do you wait until the site has got out of the sandbox or do you start a massive link building campaign no matter what?


    • Ryan Stewart

      i build heavy hitting links from the day the site goes live…as long as they’re links from quality sites, theres nothing to worry about. ive never had issues with the ‘sandbox’ for that site, it started getting major organic traffic within a month

      • Costa

        Can you elaborate on how and/or where you got “heavy hitting” links for a shoelace site?

        I’m trying to rank my widget site, but finding it difficult to get white-hat links for it… thanks!

  2. Hey Ryan,

    Thank you for the fantastic step-by-step video overview on hacking your competitors keywords, categorizing them by topics and ranking for them!

    Really great stuff my man!

  3. Thanks Ryan, that’s a really clear breakdown into repeatable steps of what is really a creative process. Very helpful video.

  4. What was that SEMRush report you pulled? Did you enter the keywords first? Or does SEMRush somehow work out all the phrases that site is ranking for?

    • Ryan Stewart

      sem rush works out the keywords, thats why its so powerful

  5. Hey Ryan,

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing, and know that people such as myself are getting value out of your content even if we don’t always mention it.

    I am wondering if you can elaborate a bit more on the process for which you created the written content for the shoelace page? You mentioned something about passing the spreadsheet off to a writer with all of the keywords, etc. Did you simply cut up the finished article into blurbs for each entry in the roundup? What types of instructions were they given?

    I’m just trying to understand a bit more about that part of the process since, as you know, writing is something we as marketers are better suited to outsource.

    Thanks again!

    • Ryan Stewart

      youre welcome john, im working on another video for that process…stay tuned!

  6. Thanks Ryan, this is so helpful. I find everyone in my industry write the same old shit, its same-same-but-different. Re, super boring. It’s hard to write content that’s different. But what I’ve taken from this video is that I don’t necessarily have to write different content, just write better content. That I can do. Thanks again!

  7. Ryan,
    Solid video and serious props for how well you have your process dialed in.

    I purchased the outreach course to get some of my new brand managers up to speed and they are loving it.

    Keep the great content coming.

  8. This video is golden pony boy! Glad I sat down and watched it!

  9. Great info Ryan, I appreciate all the content you have been putting out! Any chance to get a copy of that spreadsheet?

    Also, what about an update on your FBA journey on youtube?

    • Ryan Stewart

      id love to give you that spreadsheet, but honestly it’s too valuable to me. im thinking about building some templates and selling them for a low cost for everyone to access. ive been swamped, i havent had time to update it, but im going to soon!

  10. Ryan,

    You said you look at search volume. Was there a tool for that or are you putting them into the Google Keyword Planner.

    • Ryan Stewart

      i use the keywords everywhere chrome plugin, it pulls its data from KW planner

  11. Hey Ryan,
    Awesome stuff man. This really makes SEO fast and brilliant. I totally love using the SERPS to help decide what type of content you can/should create around it.

    Has topical traffic been converting into sales for you directly? Compared to keyword traffic, how do you feel about topical traffic?
    Would it be smart to add another layer to the content before looking at conversion (viral>*quality content*>conversion offer)?

    Thanks for keeping SEO real

  12. Nice video Ryan this method is the quickest way to hack traffic by hacking on competitors keywords that have a highly search monthly volume.

  13. Ryan, great video! Thanks for the tutorial. I was taking a similar approach to my research only incorporating a pivot table. I like your method better. I’ve recently started to utilize the “pages” function for faster topic searches. Have you tried taking that approach? If so, have you noticed a difference in speeding up the discovery process?

    Thanks again,

    • Ryan Stewart

      i still use the url, but its a similar process – ill have to look into the page section…the tool is gold

  14. Any chance of getting a template of the spreadsheet you use? (Could be a great content magnet!)

    • Ryan Stewart

      maybe in the future, right now its too integral to our business

      • Chandler

        I second this request. I’m finding my biggest hurdle at the moment is getting everything organized into something I can easily pass on to a VA and share back and forth. Your template looks great! Any chance of a trading your template for … hmmm … some really crappy PBNs? Haha. No… seriously, I’ll sign a NDA bro!

        • Ryan Stewart

          il be releasing it soon! get on my email list or like the FB page to stay up to date

          • Art

            Hi Ryan,

            Have you released that spreadsheet template?


          • Ryan Stewart

            next week!

  15. Here is what I think. It will work in this case but not all cases. Google is trying to do be like a human so it will work. In 2016 Google is not a human so and it is close. That is why links still matter, use of tools to find KD is important, and what your competition is doing all still matter.

  16. this is some good piece of advice here, really boosts projects when we are going for a lot of those keywords firsthand.

    thank you Ryan!

    – Philipp

  17. Awesome stuff, thanks for Sharing Ryan. With Topic Trends, would it also work with a services business or more suited to products like the example in the video?

  18. Hi Ryan!

    Do you released that sheet? I will love to get it by any chance :)

  19. Hi Ryan,

    Awesome tutorial, I’ve been devouring all your content, I learned a lot from all your YouTube videos, especially the one about getting 1.2 organic visitors. I’ll be putting it into action for my website. You really know your stuff! It would be amazing if you release a course on content marketing or something down those lines for those who want to learn from you. Keep up the great work!

    • Ryan Stewart

      hey cesar – i’m launching a massive training platform for all types of digital tactics in the next 6 months. it will have everything you need to run a web business

  20. Love you content Ryan.

    Quick question – do you suggest I wait for this new training to become available or get the current training you have?

    How will the new differ from the current course you have?

    Keep up the magnificent work. You’re the only guy I follow for this stuff. :)

    • Ryan Stewart

      the new training will cover all of seo, link building, content marketing and social media ads. the training right now is focused on agencies looking to scale their link building. i would def wait!

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