Seek advice on SEO keywords prioritization

Hello all,

We’ve started in SEO its been 1 month now and we are facing some friction on prioritizing keywords. Our keyword process looks like that:

  • Gathered thousands of keywords based on important keyword seeds to our business.
  • Populated these lists with data on search volume, search difficulty and CPC (as a proxy for high commercial intent), since these parameters represent the ones we should prioritize on.
  • Prioritize keywords.
  • Build content on those keywords.

The problem is in step 3: which parameter (volume, cpc, difficulty) should we give more importance to, since we are just starting (have a low domain score) and need to convert ASAP? Is there any way of quantitatively prioritizing these keywords? Like, have you ever used some “final score” to understand which keyword you should focus on first?

Thanks in advance!


One tactic I’ve seen is using the short-list to run ads towards those keywords first and use conversion rate as a metric to prioritize them.
i.e. If you have 50 keywords – pay for the clicks first and see which ones bring in high quality customers, and then go build search optimized pages to capture the traffic without having to pay for it.


Fix domain authority as priority, the rest is a multiple on zero until you do.

If you don’t fix domain authority, you can only target extremely niche or uncompetitive keywords.


One other comment is that framing SEO as something that can convert immediately is fundamentally off. It takes at least 6 months to start seeing payoffs, and the right mindset here is long term. So expecting any immediate results could be disappointing.


What are the best ways to increase DA?


@AhmadBashir, high quality backlinks, making sure your site runs fast, also being strong in a domain of knowledge, not just a lot of mediocre content across domains.


I’m going to run counter to everyone here:

  • Domain authority isn’t a good use of your time to focus on. You’ll build it over time. Also worth noting that the number you see for domain authority is a made up metric number that ahrefs or whatever tool you’re using calculated.
  • Forget backlinks. I’ve worked with a number of sites, and I’ve never seen a positive correlation between backlinks and an increase in organic traffic that can be attributed directly to backlinks. Focus on your content.
  • I’ve seen SEO pay off in a month. If it doesn’t pay off in 3, then it’s worth revisiting your strategy.
  • I’ve always run keywords by the eye test. If the other content on the page looks bad and you can create something better, then go for it.
  • If I was really pushed, I’d target for under 1000 first, once you prove it out, you can target the higher volume keywords.
  • Generally, the lower volume/longer tail keywords will lead to high conversions because the user is further down the funnel. (Flower shop versus where to buy flowers in Burbank)
  • High quality content is what’s going to make you win. Most other things are secondary.
  • Make sure your site has its SEO foundations set.

I think good content is tablestakes - bad content gets you nowhere. domain authority isn’t and is often overlooked, which is why I think peeps are focused on it. If you want SEO to be your backbone with results early enough to affect an early stage startup (as it sounded like this was) then domain authority is probably going to be your issue. If you’re a high growth startup with traffic coming from other places then yes you can afford to wait.
I have seen grey/black hat backlinking attributed to SEO gains consistently over the last decade, was the original “hack”


But I agree with the rest, @MichaelYoffe.


I’ve helped a number of startups go from 0 to 100k a month with low 20s in their domain authority. I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you on needing to focus on domain authority. Domain authority is the result of creating good content, getting traffic and accruing links over time. Domain authority is a magic number that some engineer or SEO dreamed up of. It’s not the number that Google sees your site on. Optimizing for DA is optimizing for this magic number.

What’s always worked is: good content and a good SEO strategy.
On backlinks:
I haven’t seen any startup or company that’s invested in a backlink strategy that could be directly attributed to their growth in SEO. I’ve seen many attempt it, and none of them have worked. If someone wants to attempt to do black hat link building, it might work until the time bomb ticks down and Google hands you down a manual penalty.

I have quite a few clients that go the link building route, after we get their site to an acceptable state. 4 months later, without fail, they come back and say it was a waste of time and they didn’t see any measurable uptick in traffic.


I think what we’re all saying is SEO is a lot of work and you have to do all of it. Good content to build DA over time is still DA, and you can’t just do DA with garbage content. It’s not a single variable thing.

Your background is SEO so you’ll know the details more than me, but I’ve worked with plenty of businesses who focused on backlinking and clickbait content no one would call “good”

We just did it for “growth marketing”, took a great piece of content plus some careful backlinking and suddenly were page 1


Closing the loop. I’m talking on @Rohit on DMs but wanted to surface part of the convo.
Sure, but I’m going to push a little further. How many times have you done the same thing and it hasn’t worked? Would the content perform the same if you hadn’t pushed it? I find that a lot of people will look at the number of backlinks a website has, see that they get a lot of traffic and make the conclusion that backlinks help with more traffic. I’ve seen lots of websites where they’ve invested in tons of backlinks and gotten no return on it. The way that SEO case studies are broken down lends itself to survivorship bias. No one is breaking down how a no name website didn’t achieve SEO. There aren’t companies bragging about how their SEO strategy didn’t pan out and that backlinks didn’t work. We usually see a company that has a lot of SEO success, and automatically assume that everything they did contributed to that success.

What makes teasing apart backlink impact difficult, is that most companies are working on both backlinks and other large SEO fixes at the same time. What’s to say the big impact isn’t from the normal SEO stuff that you did and the links haven’t had much, if any, impact? You could make the argument that it’s the other way around, SEO fixes did nothing and backlinks did all of the work, but I’ve run enough SEO experiments to know that basic fixes for sure have an outsized impact.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on backlinks and how they relate to SEO. It’s nice to have when you get it, don’t spend extra energy to build it out. You have a finite amount of time to spend on SEO, I’d much rather spend it on content creation than backlinks.


Thanks all this is super interesting and relevant. I’ve been digging our site out of a technical SEO hole, it’s been slow. Also our content up until about a year ago was “sparse” and arguably low value. It’s been a long climb out but seeing some gains, just slower than I’d like.

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Thanks everyone for all the help!
That was an amazing thread that reminded me how good is to be part of an engaged community!

Thank you once again.

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