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7 Ways to Find Untapped Keywords

9 min read

There are many nuanced processes that go into SEO and ranking high in search. Keyword research and implementation are among these processes — you probably know by now just how important it is to find the right keywords for every piece of content.

While there is nothing wrong with using the traditional search volume and keyword difficulty matrix, it’s important to note that this method can cause a lot of untapped keywords to slip by.

Untapped keywords are the keywords you’re not ranking for, but one of your competitors is. These are the keywords that could bring a lot of SEO value to your website and content.

Untapped keywords also help you get more granular and specific with your SEO efforts to drive quality traffic to your website. This traffic includes the people that have a high chance to complete an action on your site, turn into qualified leads, and one day become your customers.

With all of that in mind, here are the top ways to find untapped keywords and take your marketing efforts forward.

Find and Reverse-Engineer New Pages

There’s nothing wrong with piggybacking off your competitors’ hard work. In fact, you should continuously keep an eye on your competitors to gauge their performance and see what they’re doing right regarding SEO.

Chances are they are doing keyword research differently than you, and they’re ranking for some keywords you haven’t even considered. One of the most effective SEO tips that’ll remain relevant in the years to come is that competitor analysis is always a good place to start.

Start by researching broad topics and looking for those keywords in the titles in search. If you’re using a smart keyword research tool, filter the results to those that have been published in the last two to three months.

You can then analyze these pages and identify potential keywords for your own content, filtering the keywords you’re not ranking for with a low keyword difficulty (KD) score. These untapped keywords might just be those that bring more quality traffic to your own website.

This is because companies underutilize them, making them less competitive — you can start generating traffic for the same terms in half the time.

MarketMuse Tip

Level-up your competitive content analysis with MarketMuse. Use Heatmap to analyze the SERP competition and the content cluster of any competitor’s site. Personalized metrics such as Personalized Keyword Difficulty and Topic Authority offer better insight into the performance potential than generic keyword metrics.

Get More Granular with Long Tail Keywords

A long tail keyword is a search term that has more words than your exact match keywords. These keywords are longer, which makes them more specific and nuanced, allowing users to find exactly what they’re looking for.

Using long tail keywords in your content strategy and across your website is a great way to bring better, quality traffic to your site. Long tail search terms don’t pull as much traffic as common phrases, but because they’re specific and less competitive, they’ll bring in people who know exactly what they want.

For example, if you are selling protein powder, ranking for that keyword in the top ten isn’t only virtually impossible, it’ll inevitably bring in bad traffic. After all, there are all kinds of protein powders that people might search for, so the chance of actually generating leads or conversions isn’t high.

However, if you create highly specific long tail keywords like “chocolate whey protein powder” or “strawberry vegan protein powder,” you’ll bring in high-quality traffic. These people are those who know exactly what they want and have a high chance of converting on the spot.

Start Using Keywords with Modifiers

It’s important to distinguish between long tail keywords and keywords with modifiers. A modifier is a word that adds value and meaning to the exact match keyword, but it doesn’t make it a long tail search term.

For example, change “whey protein powder” to “best whey protein powder 2022.” The words “best” and “2022” are modifiers that allow users to get more granular with their search. Another common example of a modifier includes “near me.”

Keep in mind that this method is yet another way to find untapped keywords — you can use long tail keywords along with modifiers to make your keyword portfolio more nuanced and organized. Both long tail keywords and specific modifiers are ways to spin your base keywords to create search terms that are more relevant to the end user.

However, modifiers are only useful to enrich the keyword and won’t revolutionize your SEO strategy. Use them as a complementary tool, nothing more.

MarketMuse Tip

Use MarketMuse Topic Navigator to discover up to 2,500 variants for the topics within the model. You’ll find them under the Topic Model tab.

Identify Untapped Keywords with Audience Intelligence

Let’s delve into audience research, which is a powerful way to enrich the keyword research process. Audience research in this context means employing social and web listening to discover what people are talking about and extract relevant keywords.

Topic cluster diagram with circles of various sizes representing topics connected to other relevant topics using lines.

This method is also called audience intelligence, and feeds directly into your SEO strategy by supplying your keyword list with new, untapped keywords from online conversations and social interactions. Needless to say, this kind of research can unearth highly relevant search terms that your competitors might not even rank for, making them unique keywords.

Audience intelligence isn’t just about extracting keywords. It’s about monitoring online chatter to identify important issues, talking points, trends, and consumer demands. This data can feed into your keyword strategy and help you understand search patterns, segment your audience, and identify keyword gaps.

Find Untapped Keywords Through Forum Topics

Forums rank high because of the relevant keywords they use and the overwhelming input from the online community, making them a great source for untapped keywords. While they aren’t Google’s first choice because of the high risk of spreading misinformation, you’ll often find forums in the top 10 search results because the keywords and topics are highly relevant to users.

Forty-seven percent of small businesses plan on increasing their content marketing budget within the next year — rarely do they consider forums a viable way to disseminate it. Even if posting on forums isn’t a part of your SEO and content marketing strategies, you should still scour these platforms for untapped keywords.

If forums are coming up at the top of the search results, chances are your competitors are not yet capitalizing on these keywords. Analyze the topics that are relevant to your brand and your audience, extract the keywords, and rank for these terms to drive traffic away from the forums and towards your website instead.

Find Keyword Opportunities in Query-Based Terms

The online world is quickly moving towards query-based search terms, meaning that people type questions in search bars instead of traditional keywords. They also use voice search in a more natural way, meaning that they ask questions instead of speaking keywords into the device.

Suddenly, “best auto body shop Illinois” has turned into “where’s the best auto body shop in Illinois?” and Google took that very seriously. Whether customers search for new business ideas from home or the location of local ice-cream shops, they search for products, services, and brands very differently nowadays — this change in search habits opens new opportunities for untapped, query-based keywords.

Remember to check your competitors first, and then run a query-based search yourself to find new top-ranking pages for these terms. Analyze the terms they’re ranking for and implement them into your keyword list.

Align your SEO strategy with the needs of the modern audience, and aim to answer their questions in a natural way. Keep in mind this is a perfect opportunity to get featured in the snippets, so create short-form, straightforward answers to these questions using your new keywords.

MarketMuse Tip

MarketMuse Topic Navigator reveals relevant questions to address in your content — it’s under the Questions tab. Use the keyword data to determine which ones to break out into individual pages of content.

Find Low Competition and Uncommon Seeds

A seed keyword is a short-tail search term, typically one or two words, which has a high search volume and very high competition. These search terms never have modifiers in their original form, but you can start building them up into modified and long tail keywords to create low competition, niche keywords.

While you may have your seed list already, you might want to update the keyword relevance with untapped or uncommon seeds to revitalize your SEO strategy.

Identifying new seed keyword opportunities manually is a complex and time-consuming task. So make sure you’re using a robust keyword research tool to help you filter and exclude common seeds. You need to be able to identify less common keywords on your competitors’ websites that would make for good seeds for your SEO efforts.

These new, untapped seeds will sprout new pools of untapped keywords, allowing you to capitalize on low-competition terms and attract quality traffic to your website.

MarketMuse Tip

Use MarketMuse personalized metrics such as Personalized Difficulty, Topic Authority, and Competitive Advantage when evaluating what topics to pursue. They’re better indicators of your sites potential than generic metrics, which apply to everyone.


Untapped keywords present an amazing opportunity for you to be the first to rank for specific and low-competition search terms. While you should continue researching and implementing keywords based on search volume and difficulty, you should also use untapped keywords to enrich your portfolio.

This strategy helps people find you easily when searching for specific products and services, and helps Google rank you higher through better page contextualization. Remember, untapped keywords that include long-tail search terms and relevant modifiers give search engines the context they need to deliver the best possible experience to the end user.

What you should do now

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Sara Novicic

A seasoned writer and storyteller, Sara does her best to share her experience with the world and help brands and entrepreneurs find their voice. She loves the learning curve that comes with writing, so she gladly takes on new topics that will expand her own knowledge and expertise. The only thing Sara steers clear of? Anything resembling a comfort zone in life, as well as writing.