Don’t target vanity keywords without a plan.

They’re expensive, hard to rank for and require a HUGE amount of work.

Most websites that rank for vanity keywords have astronomical budgets.

Even if you spend countless hours and lots of money pursuing vanity keywords, there’s a good chance you still won’t earn rankings on the first page of Google.

In this guide, we’re going to take a deep dive into vanity keywords.

What are vanity keywords?

Vanity keywords are search terms that are too broad or too competitive (or both) to be profitable.

Some examples are overly simplistic keywords like “shorts,” “car,” “parenting,” and “marketing.”

These keywords may describe the products or services you’re selling, and ranking for them may have a psychological ‘prestige’ factor. However, the resources you need to rank can easily drain empty your marketing budget—and even then, you probably still won’t be able to rank. (That’s how competitive these vanity keywords can be.)

They're also not the keywords that the vast majority of your potential customers are searching for. I'll explain more about this further down this post.

Let’s say you’re a fitness coach, and you plan to target the keyword “fitness,” here’s how the search results look.

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As you can see, the sites that are ranking are massive, well-established household names. Competing against them is going to be a nightmare unless you have huge resources.

The problem with vanity keywords

Search engine optimisation, content marketing, and paid advertising cost money.

Keyword research helps to ensure you get your money’s worth by targeting the right audience in your campaigns. It also helps you pick winnable battles through low-medium competition keywords, which are yet to be targeted by big-name brands with massive marketing budgets. Picking your battles is important.  

If you target vanity keywords, you’re essentially wasting money on keywords that aren’t optimised for conversions.

Remember, we’re talking about vanity terms that are broad and with very mixed search intent.

Granted, they are top-level and have large search volumes, They could potentially generate thousands, if not millions, of monthly searches. But since they’re too broad, they’re highly competitive and unlikely to be used in search queries that end in sales. They're mostly useful for awareness and not commercial performance.

Putting money into vanity keywords also causes you to miss out on keyword opportunities that are actually profitable.

These are usually longer, more specific keywords capable of pulling in users with purchase intent. They’re also far less competitive than vanity keywords, making them the ideal target keywords for SEO and content marketing campaigns.

These are called long-tail keywords.

Here’s why they’re important.

The importance of keyword length for search engines

In SEO terms, broad vanity keywords can sometimes be referred to as “short-tail” keywords.

Short-tail keywords are search terms that mostly contain one to two words, like:

  • Shoes
  • Coffee
  • Plants

These keywords may get a lot of monthly searches—great if you’re a top-tier brand in need of more exposure.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, lie on the other end of the keyword length spectrum. And they're also usually much closer to a conversion as they're bottom-of-the-funnel searches with conversion intent.

These are keywords with three or more words, such as:

  • Best women’s running shoes for beginners UK
  • Coffee maker with grinder UK
  • Low maintenance plants for bedrooms

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Long-tail keywords may generate less traffic than short-tail keywords. But what they lack in traffic potential, they make up for in quality traffic potential, lower competitiveness and higher conversion rates.

For one, it’s easier to identify the user’s intent when searching for “coffee maker with grinder UK” instead of “coffee machine.”

If somebody has searched for the long-tail variation, it’s clear that they’re looking for a product with a specific feature they want that’s also available for purchasing in the UK.

But if they simply searched for “coffee machine,” they may only be interested in how those machines work, reviews, advice, help, support - they might just be looking for a picture. They could even live in a part of the world where it’s logistically impractical or impossible to buy coffee makers.

As a marketer, “coffee maker with grinder UK” is a far more lucrative target keyword. That’s because it’s used by people who are considering spending money on the product.

Not to mention that “coffee maker with grinder UK” is way less competitive than “coffee maker.”

A quick Google search can confirm this.

For the keyword “coffee maker,” Google returns a grand total of 479 million results.

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That’s nearly half a billion other pages competing for the same audience.

Moving on to “coffee maker with grinder UK,” Google only returns a little over 5 million results.

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Five million is still a huge number. But it’s still far less competitive than a keyword for which 479 million websites exist.

Another example might be someone searching for "car". Put yourself in the situation where you might make a broad search in Google for a car.

Your search journey might last weeks, and go something like this:

Search one: car
Search two: fuel efficient cars
Search three: diesel family cars
Search four: best family car
Search five: car dealer near me
Search six: BMW X5 pictures
Search seven: BMW X5 reviews
Search eight: Most fuel efficient BMW X5
Search nine: What is the best colour for a BMW X5?
Search ten: Do BMW X5's hold their value?
Search eleven: BMW X5 vs Audi Q7
Search twelve: 2020 grey BMW X5 diesel for sale near me

You get the idea. The further down the journey (funnel) the person is, the more specific the search gets and the closer to they are to converting.

How to research and use long-tail keywords

Below are four proven ways to search for long-tail keywords using broad or vanity keywords:

Option 1: Use Semrush to generate long-tail keyword ideas

To look for long-tail keywords to replace useless vanity keywords, use a keyword research tool like the Keyword Magic Tool from Semrush.

The Keyword Magic Tool is one of the most popular keyword research platforms money can buy. It is designed to expand broad keywords into hundreds of profitable, long-tail keyword ideas.

Simply enter a broad keyword or “seed keyword,” pick your location, and click ‘Search.’

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In addition to hundreds of long-tail keyword suggestions, Keyword Magic Tool will also provide you with essential keyword metrics, like:

  • Average monthly search volume
  • Keyword difficulty rating (KD%)
  • Average Cost Per Click (CPC)
  • Competitive Density (Comp.)

These actionable metrics help you handpick the perfect target long-tail keywords for content marketing and SEO.

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Option 2: Make sure you analyse keyword intent

Evaluate the user intent behind long-tail keywords to see if they’re the right fit for your marketing strategy.

Keyword Magic Tool also automatically analyses the intent behind each keyword suggestion. This is useful if you want to target keywords that align with your marketing goals.

Keyword intent can be found under the “Intent” column, containing any of these markers:

  • Informational. Used by people who only want to do research.
  • Navigational. Used by people who are looking for content from a specific website.
  • Commercial. Used by people who are considering or comparing products.
  • Transactional. Used by people who are ready to buy something.

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In reality, there are a lot more intent types, but these four should give you enough to go on.

Understanding keyword intent informs future strategies that involve content creation and conversion rate optimisation.

To turn keyword traffic into real business results, match keyword intent with the right content types to drive user action.

For example, if you want to promote a “how to” guide to raise brand awareness, target keywords with “informational” intent. If your goal is to increase sales or boost a product page, choose keywords with “commercial” or “transactional” intent.

Option 3: Generate SEO content plans with Surfer

Surfer is a powerful on-page SEO tool that can help you produce keyword-optimised content from start to finish.

The “Content Planner” tool lets you build an actionable content strategy by generating dozens of keyword clusters around the main topic. These are keyword groups used for content projects that address a specific customer need.

To use it, enter a seed keyword, choose the right location, and click ‘Create Content Planner.’

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Wait for Surfer to identify the potential keyword clusters around your vanity/broad keyword. When done, click on your content planner from the top of the list.

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Surfer sorts long-tail keyword ideas into individual content plans. The tool also defines the intent that each plan satisfies, like “shopping,” “customer investigation,” and “informational.”

Here are some of the content plans for the keyword “security cameras”:

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For the complete list of long-tail keywords, hover your mouse over the content plan you’re interested in and click ‘Open Detailed View.’

This pulls up Surfer’s content plan reporting window, which contains relevant long-tail keywords. The tool also calculates the total traffic potential of all the target keywords combined.

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Remember, these keywords are far more valuable than vanity keywords that offer little substance in terms of marketing. These are profitable long-tail keywords that will help you accomplish business goals with the right keyword optimisation strategies.

Option 4: Build keyword-optimised content

Use your content plan to create SEO-friendly pieces to generate recurring organic traffic.

Surfer’s “Content Editor” tool is perfect for this job.

After viewing the content plan you want to work with, click ‘Create Content Editor.’

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Once created, click the ellipsis menu icon and click ‘Open Content Editor.’ This fires up Surfer’s proprietary, cloud-based document editing tool enhanced with on-page optimisation features.

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A better way to use Surfer’s Content Editor is through the browser extension.

This enables you to use the Content Editor as you create write-ups using Google Docs.

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After installing the extension, go to your Google Docs document and launch Surfer from the extensions toolbar. This opens the Surfer Content Editor sidebar, which will help you optimise your content as you write it.

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On the Surfer sidebar, click on the keyword you created via the Content Planner. This fully integrates the Content Editor’s on-page optimisation features into Google Docs, including:

  • Real-time Content Score. The Content Score provides real-time feedback on your content’s optimisation. Aim to reach the target (green) Content Score using the suggestions displayed through the Surfer sidebar.
  • Recommended content stats. Below the Content Score, Surfer shows actionable metrics to guide your optimisation efforts. This includes the recommended word count range, image count, number of headings, and number of paragraphs.
  • Target long-tail keywords. Lastly, Surfer shows a long, handy list of long-tail keyword suggestions along with their recommended usage. The tool also provides heading keyword suggestions to help structure your SEO content.

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Tip: Make the most out of Surfer by using it with writing assistants like Writesonic—an AI-powered tool that will help you with content ideation, outline creation, and the actual writing process. Polish your content drafts with an automated proofreading tool like Grammarly to eliminate grammatical, spelling, and readability issues quickly. Remember, though, make sure you craft the content yourself. Search engines can easily pick-out AI created content and remove it from the search results entirely (and maybe even your entire domain!). They should be used to speed up your process and not to replace your content writing. 

Why you need to identify vanity metrics

Not everything slapped with the word “vanity” is useless in marketing.

As explained above, vanity keywords are great starting points for keyword and content research. They also enable the upper echelon of brands to cement their authority in their respective industries.

The same can be said for vanity metrics, which are pieces of data that also make your brand look good on paper—but don’t necessarily impact your bottom line. That is if they’re not paired with the right business or marketing goal.

Some examples of other vanity metrics are:

  • Social media likes
  • Social media followers
  • Bounce rate (particularly low bounce rate)
  • Ad impressions
  • Click-through rate
  • Unique site visitors

Each of these can be useful to help to build a picture of overall performance, but in silo, they're almost meaningles.

How to actually use vanity metrics

Vanity metrics are useful when optimising the performance of your marketing strategies. In which case, they evolve into “performance metrics” or “user engagement metrics” that can give you insights into what works and what doesn’t.

Click-through rate, for example, is only a vanity metric when measured by itself. But when evaluated in relation to the performance of a Call-To-Action (CTA) button, it becomes a crucial measurement of effectiveness.

Unique site visitors also don’t automatically translate to more conversions. But this metric will help you assess the potency of traffic generation channels, or provide details of how your website is performing from a conversion standpoint.

Vanity metrics shine when used in an A/B or split testing strategy in which you track, measure, and compare the performance of multiple versions of the same content or element—allowing you to identify their best-performing versions faster.

You can collect these metrics using various tools, like Google Analytics and in-app social media insights.

Tip: If you track data from multiple platforms, use a tool like Supermetrics to consolidate them into destinations like Google Sheets and BigQuery.

Do keyword research that gets real results

Finding the best target keywords is just a small part of the journey to marketing success.

You also need proven and data-driven strategies tailored to your target audience’s goals, expectations, and content preferences.

This is where the heavy lifting takes place.Let me help you create an effective, keyword-optimised content marketing strategy. Book a free consultation today and let’s get to work.