The “Golden Ratio” For SEO: What Is It and Is It Real?
There’s a near-endless well of topics and rabbit holes you can dig into in marketing and SEO. I’m a believer that there’s always something high-level you can be looking at, and the deeper you go into a niche rabbit hole, the more likely you are to be spending way too much effort on way too little reward, but now and then something comes along that it makes sense to pursue. My pet issue is site speed and optimization; I’m very proud of my Core Web Vitals and Pagespeed Insights results.
One such potential high-level and yet somehow overlooked idea is that of the Golden Ratio for keywords. Also known as the Keyword Golden Ratio, KGR, or Bulk Keyword Ratio, it’s a concept many people don’t know about, but it might be hugely relevant. Or, maybe, it’s not. Let’s dig in.
What is the Golden Ratio in Mathematics?
Chances are you’ve seen this image somewhere before. It’s an extremely common illustration of a phenomenon that appears all over in nature, space, and the universe. The Golden Ratio is a representation of the Fibonacci sequence, where each number is added to the previous number in a sequence to produce the next: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. The ratio of each number to the previous number is the so-called Golden Ratio or Divine Number, which gradually, as the numbers get larger, starts to approach 1.68.
The Golden Ratio, when graphed out, produces the spiral seen above. That same spiral and that same ratio are seen all over the universe. It’s present in some seashells, in the way some brassicas produce their florets, in the way some fractals get their shapes, and in tree branches, flower petals, the shape of spiral galaxies, the shape of hurricanes, and even in the ratio of the lengths of your fingers. Once you start to see it, you can’t not see it everywhere.
It’s also very, very commonly used in design. Designers and artists produce graphics with the ratio embedded in them. There’s not really much evidence that it’s psychologically more attractive or more effective, but designers certainly love it, so it crops up everywhere in our media.
So, what does any of this have to do with SEO?
What is the Keyword Golden Ratio in SEO?
The answer is… nothing.
That is, the Keyword Golden Ratio is not related at all to the mathematical concept of the Golden Ratio. It’s just a name coined because it’s catchy and referential. It has nothing to do with the spiral or the number 1.68.
Instead, the Keyword Golden Ratio is any number between 0.00 and 0.25. But how do you calculate it, and out of what?
Alright, let’s start from the beginning.
Pick a keyword. Make sure it’s a relatively long-tail keyword because keywords with high search volume don’t work for the calculation.
Now, determine the monthly search volume for the keyword. Let’s say our example keyword has a monthly search volume of 100 searches.
Next, perform a search and see how many times that keyword appears in meta titles in Google search. To do this, search for the keyword and use the search operator “allintitle.” So, your search would look like this:
Allintitle:Example Long Tail Keyword Here
This will give you the number of times that specific long-tail keyword appears in the meta titles of content in Google’s index.
Now divide the second number by the first.
(Number of Allintitle Results) / (Number of monthly searches)
Let’s say that our allintitle results for our example is 10. These are low-volume searches, after all. So you have 10 divided by 100 for a result of 0.10.
Since this number is between 0 and 0.25, it’s considered a good golden ratio keyword.
What’s the Point of the Keyword Golden Ratio?
The goal of the keyword golden ratio is to evaluate the competition of a long-tail keyword. The higher the ratio, the greater the proportion of results using the keyword with monthly searches you want to target. Thus, the higher the competition would be. If you tried to write content for that keyword, you would face greater challenges and find it harder to rank without significantly more work than you otherwise might want to put into it.
The idea is that there are a handful of specific benefits to finding and using keywords with a good KGR.
- It allows you to identify keywords with low competition that you can immediately rank for, which helps you see immediate, tangible results for your content marketing. This, in turn, helps boost motivation and morale when your long-haul efforts might otherwise be tedious and slow.
- It helps you prioritize the effort you put into your marketing where it can have an impact. If you have two hours to spend to create content, would you rather spend it on a piece of content that has a low chance of ranking or one that’s near-guaranteed to rank #1 right away?
- It gives you a data-driven way to rank and evaluate keywords, so you can organize, prioritize, and target them using something other than gut feeling to decide.
Those of you who have spent more time in content marketing and analysis than others may already be thinking of reasons why this isn’t always an optimal strategy. Me too. So, let’s talk about that.
The Drawbacks of the Keyword Golden Ratio
The first and by far the largest issue with the keyword golden ratio is that it’s only applicable to keywords with a very low monthly search volume.
Now, you can calculate the keyword golden ratio for any keyword you want as long as you can harvest those two points of data. You’ll always get a number between 0 and 1. You can, indeed, assume that the difficulty of the keyword is in some sense related to that ratio, as well.
The trouble is that after there are a certain number of results, it really no longer matters. Even a 0.01 KGR keyword will have 10 pages of highly valuable, highly relevant results if the keyword is popular and targeted enough.
That’s why the inventor of KGR, Doug Cunnington, said it’s only effective for keywords with a monthly search volume under 250.
That, too, brings in a challenge. As a content marketer, you want to bring in real traffic that can deliver real results, whether it’s for yourself or on behalf of your clients.
Tell me: would you rather focus on creating, promoting, and going viral with content targeting a keyword with 200 monthly searches or one with 20,000?
Even a mediocre success on the latter, in pure raw numbers, is going to bring in more numerical traffic than a stunning success on the former. Targeting a KGR keyword and getting #1 brings in, at the absolute most, 200 hits per month. You only need to capture 1% of the search traffic for the more popular keyword to equal that, and anything better exceeds the best possible results from the low-volume keyword. The threshold is even lower for keywords with higher monthly searches.
The other gigantic drawback is that KGR only takes meta titles into consideration.
Some of those search results that don’t have the long-tail keyword in the title (for example, because it’s unwieldy) might use it twice in the meta description and 20 times throughout the content. That content will likely show up and rank well, but it won’t even exist in the allintitle search.
There are also all kinds of other SEO factors that are completely ignored by the KGR calculation. Backlink profiles, volumes of content, content quality; there’s a ton there that just gets ignored. And, as you all know, in SEO, the devil is in the details. You can’t just ignore them.
Is the Keyword Golden Ratio Worth Using?
When he introduced it a few years ago, Doug Cunnington boasted impressive results for the technique. He discusses how he brought a niche Amazon affiliate site from $100 monthly revenue to nearly $15,000 monthly revenue in just a year. And don’t get me wrong, his results are impressive.
How much of it is due to KGR? I don’t know. He used the technique to choose his keywords, but at the end of the day, he published 200 relevant content posts in six months, and that kind of volume is bound to yield some results if there’s any attention paid to keywords at all, whether or not it’s KGR specifically.
Critically, Doug still needs to do a lot of initial keyword research to find keywords that are even worth evaluating for their KGR.
If only Topicfinder had existed back then! Doug could have had tens of thousands of potentially useful keywords with just the click of a button. If you want that kind of list, click here to start a free trial and see how useful it can be.
Once you have a huge list of keywords, you can then plug them into one of the various Keyword Golden Ratio Calculators available. It’s a lot of pruning, but you’ll be left with, ideally, a list of keywords that would be useful to target.
Is the Keyword Golden Ratio Valid for SEO?
Yes, but also no.
Targeting a keyword with low competition is a great idea. You can easily dominate the search results if you put a little effort into the content you produce. And even a small amount of traffic compounds when you repeat the process hundreds of times.
But, on the other hand… well, consider this metaphor.
You have a home, and you want to dig a pond in the front yard. Which option do you choose?
- Grabbing a teaspoon from the kitchen and starting to dig with it. It’s tiny, but it moves dirt, and you’ll eventually have a pond. If you’re lucky, you might even find a bigger scoop buried in the yard and can upgrade as you go.
- Going to the store and buying a shovel. It costs a little money, but it’s much more effective at moving dirt than a piddly little spoon. You’ll still be at it for weeks, but you’ll finish the pond somewhere before you die of old age.
- Going to rent, buy, or hire the services of an excavator. The heavy machinery will clear out the pond in a matter of hours, allow you a much larger pond in a much shorter amount of time, and is extremely effective at removing obstacles like buried boulders. The only downside is it costs a lot.
This is basically what you’re looking at in content marketing.
The first option is creating content targeting Keyword Golden Ratio keywords. It’s slow, and while it’s effective, it takes a long time for those results to compound to reach the heights you want. It’s also not resilient to obstacles; anyone else swooping in to outdo you can scalp away your traffic with ease.
The second option is a standard keyword difficulty analysis using a variety of common tools. You don’t exclusively focus on low-volume keywords. You may have a hard time of it, but the results are faster when they work, and it’s well worth the effort.
The third, of course, is hiring professionals to do your content marketing for you. People with a ton of experience, a deep awareness of both your topic and the market, and the tools necessary to produce and promote content to rank and succeed at any keyword is like hiring heavy machinery for your marketing. Fast, effective, but expensive.
The way I see it, using the Keyword Golden Ratio is fine. It’s effective, but it’s slow unless you put a ton of time and effort into it. Often, that same time and effort can be better spent elsewhere, either focusing on higher-competition, higher-reward 10x content, or even on other elements of SEO or site optimization for your site.
If slow and steady is what you want, go for KGR. If, on the other hand, you want faster results, use professional tools, take greater risks, and aim for the stars. You won’t always win, but you’ll have a better chance than if all you do is target the tiny keywords.
Do you have any questions about the keyword golden ratio? If so, please feel free to let me know in the comments section down below, and I’ll gladly help you out however I can!
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