While marketing teams around the world struggle to get traction with rehashed blog content, sites like Quora and StackOverflow quietly generate billions of visits from user generated question and answer content.
Both sites’ traffic is almost exclusively search driven. 75% of Quora’s traffic comes from search. And a whopping 89% of StackOverflow’s traffic is from search.
But the raw traffic numbers are only the beginning of the story.
Things get more interesting when we dig deeper into the types of keywords driving all that traffic.
A little number crunching inside the Ahrefs SEO research tool reveals that roughly 2/3 of the traffic generating keywords for both sites have a keyword difficulty of 10 or less.
Keyword difficulty is a score on a scale from 1-100 inside Ahrefs aimed at measuring how hard a keyword is to rank for, with a lower number being easier to rank. More specifically, it measures the backlink authority of the other sites currently ranked for that keyword. If the currently ranked sites don’t have a lot of backlinks, the keyword will be given a lower score.
In my experience, keywords with difficulty scores under 10 are generally easy to rank for. Even if your site is relatively new and hasn’t built up a lot of backlink authority yet.
That means 2/3 of the traffic generating keywords for Quora and StackOverflow would be easy targets for a new entrant into the space to compete for.
A Blue Ocean SEO Strategy
Let’s break this down further.
We have two sites focusing on question and answer content. Together, they generate around 750 million visits a month from search.
2/3 of that traffic comes from low competition keywords, or approximately 500 million visits a month.
While Quora focuses on a mass audience, StackOverflow specializes in technical questions for the software development community. Hinting that these dynamics exist across both general and niche keyword categories.
To me, this looks like a blue ocean SEO strategy that could be applied across a wide range of markets.
And it’s likely a strategy that will continue to provide a renewable source of blue waters to seize. Google data shows that 15% of searches that occur every day have never been seen before. Which highlights that there will always be new questions to answer. Why not focus your efforts there, instead of rehashing the same topic that hundreds of other sites are already competing for?
Contrast this with a popular blog driven site like HubSpot, where only 5% of organic search traffic comes from low competition keywords (with a keyword difficulty below 10). Instead, HubSpot’s blog posts target established, higher competition keywords with in depth, long form blog posts. But this strategy only works for HubSpot because it has spent many years building its backlink authority to a level where it can compete for these keywords.
Build a Stand Alone Community, or Bolt One On as a Growth Engine for Your Existing Product
In Quora’s case, they’ve built an ad driven platform with the community at the center. While StackOverflow leverages it’s community to funnel development teams into it’s enterprise SaaS knowledge base product.
If you have an existing product or company that you’re trying to grow, StackOverflow’s approach is the obvious choice. There are likely a plethora of questions your niche market is searching for answers to. And some of these can act as a bridge into awareness and eventual purchase of your product.
And if you don’t already have a product, Quora seems ripe for disruption. Many of the answers on the platform have been hijacked by self promoting start-ups. And there’s minimal vetting of contributors. A niche site with a focus on building a tighter knit, better regulated community could easily sway visitors away from a generalist site like Quora.
Bootstrapping Your Own Q + A Community
Community building is hard. It’s one of the network effect holy grails that many have strived for, but few have actually achieved. That’s why I would reframe this as an SEO strategy, with a successful community as a long term bonus.
Instead of getting lost in the vision of a successful community, I’d start small by simply answering questions that fulfilled the intent of low competition keywords in my market.
At first, and probably for a relatively long runway, the question and answer content would be crafted internally by your team – not by users in your community. The user generated content engine would take time to spool up and fully kick in as the main source of new content.
This internally crafted content wouldn’t need to only be created by team members or paid content writers, though. In fact, it would be better if you curated a list of top experts in your space and reached out to partner with them. Getting them onboard to write a short answer to an interesting question should be a lot easier than convincing them to write a long guest blog post.
At this stage, you would essentially be developing a knowledge base for your market. If you target the right keywords and implement SEO best practices, this internally developed knowledge base would be a powerful traffic engine by itself.
But as you attract more and more visitors with internally developed, curated answers – the potential would exist of reaching a tipping point where users themselves would begin to take over the content generating role.
Worst case – you end up with a curated knowledge base that ranks and drives traffic for your chosen keywords.
Best case – you end up with a thriving niche community driven by a perpetual feedback loop of user generated questions and answers.