Untapped Keyword Research Methods

November 22, 2023

Looking for new ways to do keyword research? Here are some lesser-known methods that could give you an edge when looking for great keyword opportunities. These methods will help your website stand out from the crowd. Read on:

Use the Ahrefs Content Explorer

The Ahrefs content explorer is a great place to find newer keyword opportunities based on recent content that's getting some good organic traction. To start:

  1. Search for a broad topic, such as "dog toys"
  2. Set some parameters around your search such as "News Mode", publish date, page traffic benchmarks. The below is what I got from news only, published in the last 30 days (includes updates) and page traffic greater than 500:

Next, look at:

  1. The title of the article
  2. The keywords it ranks for
  3. The internal links within content, as this give you an idea of their product/service targets, and also related content

From the above 3 results alone there are 2 standout keywords:

  1. interactive dog toys
  2. dog toys for aggressive chewers

Digging a bit deeper into both articles, you'll find a whole range of other target terms, along with popular product keywords such as "durable plush toys and "doggle bubbles".

Now I'm sure you might find all these keywords in a standard search for "dog toys" using any third party keyword research tool, however, with this method, you can uncover high authority content that has been published recently, along with the associated keyword targets.

This will give you a great list of timely, relevant and unique keywords to shape your content around, and that is what keyword research should be all about.

Find Local Keywords with the Google Assistant

Local keywords go far beyond "near me" and "service in (insert your suburb)".

Topically and geographically relevant keywords can be a goldmine for traffic, and a great way to find these quickly, based on what Google is deeming topically and geographically relevant, is via the Google Assistant.

This is how to do it:

  1. Open the Google Assistant and ask/type in a generic phrase such as: "find me a hotel in Sydney"
  2. Ask the Assistant to tell you more about a result. In this case: "Tell me more about Shangri-La Sydney"
  3. Down the bottom on your phone you'll see a carousel of results. These are all related to the Shangri-La hotel. Some of the keywords here include: "Shangri-La Sydney address", "what is special about the Shangri-La hotel", "who owns the Shangri-La Hotel", "how many levels are in the Shangri-La Hotel"
  4. Click on any of these cards to explore further and surface more cards. This does function similarly to Google's autocomplete and Google's search card feature, but the results do differ slightly. This can be a great way to find untapped keywords

This also works for generic terms, such as "dog toys".

Explore the cards the Google Assistant returns. Again you'll find these closely match a typical Google search, but there can be extra localized terms in there.

Dissect Competitor Sitemaps

Sitemaps are treasure maps for SEO. They list all the URLs that a website wants search engines to crawl, making them a goldmine for competitor analysis.

With sitemaps, you can get a view on more than URLs. With a bit of work in breaking them down, you can walk away with an incredible list of keywords.

How to Find Sitemap Files

Sitemaps are typically easy to find. Here's what to do:

  1. Manual Search: Go to competitor.com/sitemap.xml
  2. Robots.txt: Check the robots.txt file of the competitor's site. It often lists the location of the sitemap.
  3. SEO Tools: Some SEO tools can fetch sitemaps for you.

The best place to start with this is post-sitemap files, if the website is on WordPress. This is because it'll give you a URL list of all article content on a website, which is often SEO-led.

If that isn't available, look for a 'sitemap_index' file to see how websites have segmented their sitemaps. Big ecommerce sites are likely to have product and category sitemaps for example.

What to Look for in Sitemaps

Now that you have your site maps, here's what to look for.

  1. URL Patterns: Identify common structures in URLs to understand the site's architecture. Some examples include: "how/what/can/when" and other informational query modifiers. Others include "best", "vs/versus", and also the name of products, services or categories you're interested in ranking. With this you can see how your competitors are talking to certain topics.
  2. Keyword Presence: Look for keywords in the URLs to gauge the competitor's keyword strategy. Search for your main keywords in competitor sitemaps. The easiest way to do this is to use excel. Paste in the sitemap file and then search for the keyword.
  3. URL Groups: When searching for keywords, you're likely to find multiple articles where the same keyword appears. Take note of all this. Often there are numerous articles talking to the same main topic.
  4. The Type of Content: Look at the format of content, think: tips, lists, comparisons etc. The type of content will often dictate the search intent, especially if the competitive result is ranking well. This can take much of the research leg work out, as you know the format of the content and how they are talking to the topic is already on point.

Filtering URLs to Keywords

Looking for patterns is one thing, but we can take that further with a few short steps to turn URLs into keywords. This is how to do it:

  1. Paste your sitemap into Screaming Frog: Open up Screaming Frog > Go to Mode > List > click "Upload" > click "Download XML Sitemap"
  2. Open a Google Sheet/Excel: Copy the URL list from Screaming Frog and paste it into column B
  3. The formula: In column A, enter this formula: =REMOVE_DOMAIN_HYPHENS(B2). This will remove the domain and the hyphens between words in a URL. Now you have a list of keywords!


These methods are somewhat more laborious than using a typical keyword tool, but the little bit of extra effort can definitely pay off. Have a go at each method and you won't be disappointed in what you find!

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