Introducing Cohort Keyword Research

Cohort keyword research is a process I’ve created and refined over the past ~2 years as an off-shoot of FTF’s larger keyword research offering; identifying a market’s total addressable market online.

What is Cohort Analysis?

If you’re unfamiliar with cohort analysis, wikipedia defines it as:

Cohort analysis is a subset of behavioral analytics that takes the data from a given dataset (e.g. an eCommerce platform, web application, or online game) and rather than looking at all users as one unit, it breaks them into related groups for analysis.

These related groups, or cohorts, usually share common characteristics or experiences within a defined time-span. Cohort analysis allows a company to “see patterns clearly across the life-cycle of a customer (or user), rather than slicing across all customers blindly without accounting for the natural cycle that a customer undergoes.”

An easier example to understand would be thinking back to your high school class, while it’s likely there have been thousands of people who have graduated from your high school, one specific cohort would be the group of people you graduated with — for me this is the class of 2002 from Valley Forge Military Academy.

You can go deeper down this rabbit hole as well, for example additional cohorts (that I would be a part of) are the 2002 VFMA Calculus 2 class, or the 2000 VFMA Varsity Rifle Team, and so on.

The nuance here within SEO is applying the approach to sets of keyword data to identify patterns between cohorts that exist based on keyword-level metrics like search volume, cost per click, and organic difficulty.

The Keyword-Level Data

For this process I am currently exclusively using data from Ahrefs.

As of the time of publication, their keyword difficulty rating is my favorite across all the SEO tools out there.

The cohorts my process looks at are:

  • Competition (difficulty)
  • Cost per click
  • Monthly search volume

For each metric, I’m going to use data from 5 websites in the same niche, and create cohorts for the average maximums and minimums of each metric, using the mean for each as the middle of the road to sort all other term-level metrics into an “above” or “below” bucket.

This is useful because it allows you to combine these metrics to identify your best opportunities, i.e. keywords with higher than average volume and cost, but lower than average difficulty.

How To Use This Sheet

It allows us to identify opportunities based on combining data from each threshold group and then applying it across the entire keyword population.

So pulling the top 1,000 keyword rankings for each site (for these top 1,000 I’m using the highest ranking terms (i.e. sorted by lowest ranking position; so from position 1+) in ascending order, but you could sort terms by MSV, Difficulty, or whatever your heart desires), I’m able to set a heuristic baseline for each site saying “show me all terms that are“:

  1. Under the total average difficulty across all sites
  2. Under the total average CPC across all sites
  3. Above the total average MSV across all sites

A Video Walkthrough of the Process

To help run through this entire process, I created a Google Sheet that’s setup with a dashboard view, “keyword environment” sheet that dynamically shows the individual term lists and all correlating data based on your selected cohort query, and is built to support up to 100,000 rows (keywords) for 5 websites.

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Image SEO: Actionable Mini Guide

Your website can be made of various elements. Many of those elements are visible to the human eye, and many of them are not, such as your webpage backend source code. When it comes to images though, they’re one of the key visual elements of your website that goes along with your web copy.

Image SEO is a search engine optimization technique that is used for increasing your website visibility by a better ranking of your web images on Google search. Search engines today have an enhanced capability to locate images with the help of AI and machine learning. But still, search engines can’t read the entire data from an image. This is where image optimization steps in.

Why Image SEO Matters?

Just like your web copy SEO, your image SEO matters too. It’s all about being discovered and providing the best possible UX when the users click your page. There are few important aspects that you need to consider when it comes to the importance of image SEO:

Site Loading Time

You need to think about the size of your image files. People won’t wait more than 3 seconds for a page to load. Amazon also did their research and found that they can lose almost $2 billion if their web page loads slowly. If you have images that are big in size and resolution, you need to optimize them ASAP, not just because of the UX, but because Google considers page speed as one of the most important ranking factors.

Positive User Experience

Providing impeccable UX is crucial if you want your target customers to enjoy when visiting your website. For that, you need to optimize your images. This will improve your page loading speed and as a result, it will enhance the overall UX of your page.

Viral Content

It’s a cliché, but an image is really worth a thousand words on your website. Think about. You want your images to be of high quality and appealing. But, as we said above, HQ images can slow down your page. And if your page load slowly, the user will close the link and with that, the possibility of sharing your content on his social media account. It is vital to find the right balance between image attractiveness and quality.

Finding the Right Image

Images can help the readers in many ways. For instance, images can help them comprehend what your copy is all about. They make 1000+ words articles more readable and can make your social media posts more attractive.

Using Unique Images

If you have your own quality designs and images as a part of your brand, it is advisable to add them to your website to set apart from the competition that uses stock photos.

Every page of your website, including your blog posts, need a unique image that is aligned with the topic of the page. This is important for your page SEO because when an image is surrounded by text and if the image is related to the topic in the text, the page will rank better for the keyword that is optimized for.

Alternative Images

If you still don’t have unique professional photos or designs, you can use sources that will provide you with images that are less used than the standard stock photos. For example. Or, Canva’s free photo resource page.

You should refrain from the overused photos on the web and use images that are more authentic. The important thing is that you need to use people and situations in your images, but they shouldn’t look like this.

Other alternatives for images can be drawings, sketches, graphs and GIFs, as one of the most popular content types today.

Getting Your Images Ready

When you have the right image, graphics or illustration, it is time to start preparing the image and optimizing it for your webpage. In this stage, there are numerous factors that you need to consider, such as:

Name Of The File

Image SEO begins by naming the file. This is the first place where you need to insert your target keyword. With that, Google or other search engines will know what the image is about. For example, if you want to rank for “Beaches in Greece”, you can’t go with a filename like “DSC12495”.


Responsive image for flexible mobile screens are crucial for your SEO. If your images are not responsive, it will ruin the mobile UX for the users and that will significantly escalate your webpage bounce rate.

Decreasing File Size

One of the crucial steps in image SEO is compressing your images to the right size. You can use tools like ImageResize or TinyPNG. If you use Photoshop, you can use the “Save for Web” option that will not significantly decrease your image quality. You can also use tools like to compress your images. This is also critical if you own a large blog like a web magazine.Mario Peshev, DevriX CEO and Chief WordPress architect said it on his personal blog:

A large percentage of websites online list thumbnails while using the original uploaded photo, instead of resizing it. A large blog or an online magazine may very well display 40 or 50 high-res images on the homepage which could add up to 10MB of page size, making it nearly impossible to render for under 30-40 seconds on a mobile device.”

Placing the Images

You can’t just place the image whenever you like in your web page. You need to know how to blend in with the rest of the content. You also need to be certain that the image is relevant to the content.

Captioning the Image

Your image caption is text that goes with the image.

Captions are also important for your image SEO. Users use captions to scan your article along with article headings. If your page text is long and you include images as an explanation of a certain paragraph and a topic, it is advisable to include captions.

XML Image SiteMap

With image sitemaps, Google collects information about the images in your webpage. This helps the search engine to discover images that can’t be found by crawling, such as images that are retrieved with JavaScript forms.

To give Google helpful information about your images on your webpage, you need to add applicable details to your standard sitemap. This covers image type, subject matter, caption, title, geolocation, and license.

WordPress SEO Plugins That Would Help

These are three of the plugins that can help you with your web images SEO optimization:

1) SEO Friendly ImagesSEO Friendly Images is a WordPress SEO plugin which automatically updates all images with proper ALT and TITLE attributes for SEO purposes. If your images do not have ALT and TITLE already set, SEO Friendly Images will add them according to the options you set. Additionally, this makes the post W3C/xHTML valid as well.

2) SEO Optimized ImagesThe SEO Optimized Images plugin lets you dynamically insert SEO-Friendly “alt” and “title” attributes to your images. Simply activate the plugin, provide the pattern, and you are ready to go.

3) SEO Image OptimizerThis plugin dynamically replaces title and alt tag of images. All changes are done without affecting the database. The plugin also resizes and compresses the images to boost your site speed.

A Few More Pro Tips

To help you be sure that you optimize your images correctly, here are additional pro tips and advice.

  1. Original HQ Images vs Stock Images

When it comes to a webpage, it’s not just about having images, it’s also about making sure that those images have the compatible texture, size, details and fit perfectly with your brand. In fact, quality images can rack up to 94% more total views on your page than pictures that are not relevant at all.

So, why would you use lower quality stock images? Maybe you’re on a budget. And you’ll download a stock photo. But, when you look at all the downloads of the same photo, you’ll see the reality of the situation when using stock photos.

For your brand, there can be some seriously damaging factors that revolve around using a stock image. One of them is the Picture Superiority Effect – when images are more memorable than text on the webpage.

If the stock photo that you’re using is exactly the same as a stock photo that the user saw on another page that provided negative experience, they’ll project the same experience on your page. This diminishes the trust for your brand and will result in exiting your page and not visiting again.

If you really must use stock photography for your brand, make sure that not overused and figure out how to use design tools to make it look like your own. Tools like Photoshop or even Canva have the power to completely transform a stock photo and it doesn’t take a lot of time to achieve the desired effect.

2) Open Graph & Twitter Cards

Open graph is a protocol that allows your website to become a rich social graph object. In essence, you tell social networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn which information will be displayed about your link when people share it on those platforms.

Social networks do the same thing as search engines do – they look for data in your webpage to display in search results. The open graph gives the object data to the social graph and how it needs to be presented. If you want to define how your image will appear on social media, the title and description, and location or language need to be displayed.

Open graphs and Twitter cards are specifically created for social networks and search engines may ignore them. But, there can be an indirect benefit for your SEO strategy. If your content is popular on social media it means that more people click and share the content. Increased sharing can attract search engines to rank your link higher and will spark new backlink opportunities.

3) Image Reclamation To Acquire Backlinks

To do this successfully, you need to do a Google Image search of your own unique photo and find if some other websites are using it in some form. Then, you would kindly write to the people that are using it that they’re allowed to continue so only if they include your link as a source. And voila, you have another backlink and improved SEO for your image.