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Thinking Sideways: Technique for Finding Little Known Keywords

Surface level keywords are teeming with competition. In order to compete online, finding little known keywords with good traffic is a crucial skill. It’s not a no brainer, but it’s not rocket science either; and you can bet that learning this skill will eventually pay off!

Here is a brainstorming technique to find little known keywords.

Thinking “Sideways”

A great way to find little known keywords is through “sideways” thinking. In other words, “what else might this type of person type in?”

Many people take the lazy route of only typing in their top level keyword and researching more keywords based on those results. Unfortunately, everyone’s doing that, resulting in a lot of competition.

If you go one step beyond, it’ll very likely pay off for you.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If you’re selling an eBook on teaching men how to get a girlfriend, your most basic keyword might be “how to get a girlfriend.”

But what else might you try to rank for? These are just a few as an example …

“Where to meet girls”
“I’m lonely”
“Geek dating”
“Get a Date”

So on and so forth. Now that was pretty basic but still it works. This applies no matter what industry you’re in. There are so many potential keywords that don’t have your base keyword in it. You’d be missing out on so much traffic if you just used keyword tools and a couple base keywords to do your research.

Also, think about going for more long-tail keywords. Long-tail keyword phrases are those that include three or more terms, especially when trying to obtain traffic locally.

Another example of thinking sideways using long-tail keywords along with a local modifier is this: If you’re a dentist in My Hometown, XX, you might want to think of other keywords outside of the usual “dentist my hometown, xx” etc. and maybe add the following:

“braces for kids hometown, xx”
“whiten my teeth hometown, xx”
“fix teeth overbite crossbite hometown, xx” (I’ve known people to type this!)

Utilize these low competition little known keywords to boost your traffic and your business to where you want it to be.

The more you’re trying to do what everyone else is doing, the harder it will be for you to succeed. The more you think outside the box and do what everyone else doesn’t know how to or isn’t willing to do, the more success you’ll have!

Important Update

My friend, Stella Anokam, wrote a very detailed post entitled, “Understanding Keyword Research For Beginner Bloggers: The Foundation For Effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO),” and this is a MUST read for beginner and seasoned bloggers alike. It’s the first post in a series she’s creating and I highly recommend you check it out!

Your turn…

Do you think outside the box when it comes to keywords? How do you brainstorm non-popular, low to moderate competition keywords when creating your content?



  1. Imani

    Hey, I am just reading your post for today. I am delighted that I found you via twitter. I hope that we can link up soon, as I would like some guidance.

    Regards, Imani

    • Kesha

      @Imani, sure thing. I’m glad you came by to visit and hope to see you back soon!

      Feel free to contact me via twitter, facebook, skype (xdwebsolutions), phone…Girl, I’m all over the place ;-)

      Talk to ya soon!

  2. Jayne Kopp

    Hi Lakesha, You know, I have really missed you!!! Seriously. I want us to keep in touch. I so love reading your blog, so I am placing you on my schedule.. that way if I don’t see you around much, I know I just have to drop in on you!

    I loved this post. I actually do try to think sideways!! Another thing I do is go for the less competitive keywords. There are many… and if you optimize for one or two, often you can find demand for posts under those keywords to add upto almost as good as a popular one. (If I am making sense).

    Its all about niching… if that’s even a word. Just finding your little golden nugget.

    I have to say though, I do get a lot of traffic… that I want… but misses the point of my blog… ha ha… ie: I have turned into a dear Abbey on some of my posts…. lol….

    I have to try to keep my keywords a little more targeted to my desired end result.

    Love your posts.


    ps: I see you don’t have a share bar… but do you know how to add book marking buttons to one? I have a couple I would love to add to my side bar… and perhaps make the buttons a bit smaller. Just though I would ask my fave “go to” techie whiz!!
    Jayne Kopp recently posted..The Easiest Way to Make Money OnlineMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Jayne, I know I’m not as active either because I’m working on other projects but I always love to hear from you of course! I try to keep up my RSS feed reading to stay connected with you guys’ blogs as well but been slacking off :-(

      I’m glad you stopped by and shared your feedback!

      Let me research the share bar item and get back to you :-)

      Talk to ya soon Jayne!

  3. Dr/ Bob Clarke

    Hi Kesha,

    This is solid advice for those looking to drive their business via the search engines (and who isn’t?). Thinking laterally is important because it’s what separates you from your competition.

    I have to admit that I’ve been using some great keyword tools (like Market Samurai, for example) that do a lot of the heavy lifting in keyword research for me), but it still pays to unplug and brainstorm about other, less obvious keywords.

    Thanks for the reminder, Kesha. Love your blog!
    Dr/ Bob Clarke recently posted..Are You Ready To Take It ALL OffMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Dr. Bob Clarke, I use Market Samurai as well and think it’s a great too sometimes :-)

      I’m glad you love the blog. I do hope to see you back soon! Thanks so much for your feedback!

  4. Lisa R.

    Kesha I love this – I was teaching a few folks how to use Google’s keyword tool and this is exactly what I told them. It was funny to show them the plethora of things that were coming up in search that they didn’t think of (and apparently, neither had anyone else).
    Lisa R. recently posted..Fernbank Museum Pirate &amp Princess DayMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Lisa R., I know right! I just recently learned about, and starting using, Google’s Keyword tool…it’s such a neat little tool as there is always something that comes up we haven’t thought about!

  5. Heather C Stephens

    Hi Kesha,

    Great tip! I like to use twitter to search for what people are talking about within my niche to help me brainstorm keywords. I also like to use the things in my google analytics. It amazes me how many things come up that I never would have thought of. Taking your tip of thinking sideways to these keyword sources for me sounds like it will be effective and help me search out some unique keywords!

    Thanks so much!
    Heather C Stephens recently posted..Commenting Controversy- Are Tribes Smart or SleazyMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Heather, now that’s a very good idea (searching twitter)…I’ve done that before too. I need to do it more often so thank you for bringing that to our attention!

      As always, thank you for your feedback!

  6. Martha Giffen

    Everyone should read this post! If you are not paying attention to the little keywords, chances are, you are getting lost at sea! I’m not the best person to follow my own advice. Usually, I just write and see what words and ideas surface while I”m writing. That produces some of the gems! Great post!
    Martha Giffen recently posted..Social Media Manners and a Twitter Hashtag PartyMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Martha, girl, thank you for that! I truly appreciate your feedback!

      You’re doing the right thing by writing first because I believe it’s best to write for your audience since they are the most important right?!. Then, one can go back in and add/update content based on keywords. :-)

  7. Marty

    I guess I try to think what I’d put in to a search engine to seek the solution I want. Since doing that I’ve noticed more organic search phrases used. I like the long tailed approach.
    Marty recently posted..How to overcome blocks to readingMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Marty, I’m glad it’s working for you and bringing you more organic searches! Yah! :-)

  8. Jeanine Byers Hoag @DressingMyTruth

    I have done that but need to do it more often. Sometimes I look in my stats and see what people have searched on to find me.

    But here’s my question. Do you have to state them exactly like they are? For instance, another blogger (Stella Anokim) pointed out a great keyword phrase I could use (thank you, Stella!) and I have been trying to find ways to use it in my posts ever since. But it is … not good writing.

    The last part is “online course program”, so I have been doing “course and program” or “course/program” in my posts. Does that kind of change still work?

    Jeanine Byers Hoag recently posted..Dressing Your Truth &amp the Energy of ColorMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Jeanine, I apologize for my late response to your queries!! I think as long as what you are using makes sense to readers, it’s good (and Stella is awesome!) :-) Using synonyms (like course and program) is a good way to implement additional keywords! Play with other phrases and synonyms too while you’re at it.

      Also, take a look at what kind of traffic and competition those keywords bring so that you know if it’s a good one to go with or if you need to add more modifiers in the phrase so that you don’t compete with a lot of huge companies.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Janet @ The Natural Networker

    Kesha, aloha. Loved the idea of thinking sideways. Though I do it, I had not thought of it in those terms. As a habit, I always ask myself how else would I find __________.

    As it happens, I have someone else close by who thinks in a completely different manner than I do so oftentimes I ask, “if you were looking for such and such, what would you type in?” Kesha, the new perspective and words it gives me are quite remarkable.

    Like Heather, I will often type words into twitter because the results are nothing short of amazing; so many new ideas/phrases.

    And, Kesha, I so agree with you on long-tail key words.

    Well done on a great topic, Kesha. Thx so much. Until next time, aloha. Janet
    Janet recently posted..What’s an Obstacle By Janet Callaway The Natural NetworkerMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Janet, excellent advice! I used to ask my friends or those who are not in my field, what they would search for to find something. I wouldn’t give them much information because I don’t want to lead them one way or the other. And it’s very interesting to hear their thoughts! :-)

      See ya soon, and as always, thanks for your feedback!

  10. Josh

    Keyword is very important when it comes on searching something over the net. Adding specific words like “HOMETOWN, ….” is a great strategy especially those who wants to relate their place with their searches.
    Josh recently posted..How to Pay for Orthodontic BracesMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Josh, yep, adding local modifiers is the name of the game these days! :-)

  11. Lou Barba

    Hello Kesha,

    I thank you for your explanation of sideways thinking for keywords. I don’t have a very good grasp on mining for keywords, but I understand thathe better you are targeting your efforts, the better results you’ll get. Thanks for sharing this information.

    Lou Barba
    Lou Barba recently posted..The ApprenticeMy Profile

    • Kesha

      No prob Lou and hopefully this information helps you in searching for keywords for your posts that really targets it and get more traffic to your posts.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  12. Samantha Bangayan

    Kesha, it’s so great to connect with you again! This was a timely post for me because I just started using the Google Keywords website to optimize my blog.

    I changed my permalinks to include categories and spent the weekend choosing appropriate keywords, but I hadn’t even considered this sideways thinking you wrote about! I hang my head in shame that I did exactly like those newbies you described who just searched for major keywords and looked down the list. =S

    I’m going to dedicate some time this weekend to going through my keywords again. I loved Janet’s idea to ask a friend for advice. I have a lot of creative friends who could help me sideways-think, indeed! Thanks for this insightful post, Kesha! =)
    Samantha Bangayan recently posted..Health or Warmth- A Case of MitesMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Samantha, I’m so glad this was right on time for you! Don’t be ashamed chica because we’ve all been there!

      So did you take that weekend to go through your keywords again? How’d you do? I’d love to hear your feedback!

      • Samantha Bangayan

        @Kesha, It was splendid! =) I cut my keywords in half and *think* I’m getting more traffic from search results. I’ll need to give it more time to see! =)

        Thanks for your encouragement, Kesha! =)
        Samantha Bangayan recently posted..Want to Know Your FutureMy Profile

        • Kesha

          No problem deary! Just keep on testing and trying new things ;-)

  13. Marcus Baker

    HI Kesha,

    So good to be reminded not to ignore the “little guys” meaning the long tail keywords and side ways thinking (Love this by the way!) keywords. Using a combination of these is actually far more beneficial than trying to rank for very top line competitive words.

    Marcus Baker recently posted..Motivated Versus Inspired BloggingMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @Marcus, yes, the “little guys” are kept out of the loop a lot so if we start using them, they’ll start working for us ;-)

      Thanks a bunch for your feedback as always Marcus!! :-)

  14. Holly

    I am always thinking about keywords.. and what I can do to get different ones coming to mind! I like the idea of coming at it sideways! I need to take the time to do it, not just think about it. Great post! I use long tail sometimes. I also find it helps to talk to someone and see where their thinking is!! Trying to get into the head of my niche is still a work in progress! Great topic, Kesha!
    Holly recently posted..Do you know how important it is to move it If you are over 40 you need to!My Profile

    • Kesha

      @Holly, I think it will always be a work in progress for most of us so don’t fret :-)

      Yes, asking others what they’d type in is such a great way to get outside of our own heads and into the minds of others! Thank you for your feedback deary!

      Talk to you soon!

  15. James Foster

    Indeed true! Keywords are one important aspect that cannot be overlooked when you are optimizing your website for search engines. As far as thinking sideways is concerned, try putting up yourself in the place of that person and then try to visualize what you might have typed in.
    James Foster recently posted..Ikea Furniture- The Ultimate in DIYMy Profile

    • Kesha

      @James, absolutely. That is what really helps get new keywords out – thinking about what others would type in! Great feedback!

  16. Jen

    Great suggestion! I try to use more specifics in my keywords, like the hometown.

  17. raverture @ personalized wedding favors

    Hi Kesha,

    Good choice of topic! Sometimes, I am anticipating if what are the other keywords that most students or researchers would like to search in Google.That is why, we need to be a little careful when searching for the keywords so that we can get the apt results.. :)

  18. Adrienne

    Great tips Kesha,

    So are the sideways keywords not the same as long tail? I understand including your hometown in your search terms but if you only handle digital products, that wouldn’t be an issue. But I’m always trying to think what I would type in if I was searching for something and it’s not always the most obvious. I just keep my fingers crossed that my prospects are searching for the same words.

    Thanks Kesha, great tips.

    Adrienne recently posted..Wow- I Am SO Blown Away!My Profile

    • Kesha

      Hey Adrienne! In this instance, using long tail keywords is exactly the type of strategy I’m talking about with “sideways thinking” in addition to thinking a little differently about keywords. This way, we can try to capture the low hanging fruit and not compete on the highly competitive keywords.

      Sometimes, people tell me they want to rank high for coaching, staffing, beauty and fashion, etc. but those keywords results in millions of hits. I attempt to educate them to think a little farther than that.

      For instance, as far as beauty and fashion is concerned, I wouldn’t type that in to find stuff. I’d type in something more specific like “african american facial beauty video tips” or something like that as it will narrow down the results. This is a better way to show up in the search engines (more targeted). :-)

      Also, I like to reach out to others and get an idea of what they would type in to find my product or service. That helps open up even more keyword phrases!

      Thanks for adding your feedback as always! TTYL

  19. Maria Pavel@CNA

    I have to say that I do think “sideways.” In fact, at times, I think WAY TOO much! LOL When I’m thinking of keywords, many times I start at the top and just keep going until I have an unbelievable list of them. However, as a content writer, I still have trouble with those keyword phrases that make no sense but are, surprisingly, used a lot. Thanks for your guidance.
    Maria Pavel recently posted..Hiring CNA – HHA – Caregiver – Malibu and Woodland HillsMy Profile

  20. Antonia

    Hey, i always put myself in the shoes of my customer! I’m not sure this is actually thinking outside the box, but it’s definitely one of the better techniques when doing keyword research. How else can you sell something if you don’t know what the client wants?
    Antonia recently posted..Hypnosis Training – The 4 Stages Hypnosis ProtocolMy Profile

  21. Shivam Garg

    Hey Kesha,
    Nice post and great tips.These days the competition in the keywords is so much that we always should have a Plan B and you have certainly told a nice approach as by taking the example of dating.

    • Kesha

      Sometimes we don’t think about the obvious or even the obscure keyword phrases because we wouldn’t type them in ourselves. This is why keyword research is so important and asking others for feedback sometimes.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  22. Kate Brown Wilson

    These are great tips I have to admit, specially for me because I am new to SEO maybe this can be the best way to find keywords easier. aside from using Google ad-words this can be the second choice.