High KW Difficulty Opportunities

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Premise:
So, I'm going through my top pages on Ahrefs and noticed that one of my articles recently made it to #8 for the KW that I was targeting. Its a long tail one that is an extension of a "How to X", meaning the KW I was targeting was "How to X with Y and Z"
- The KW difficulty was a 28

However, I also noticed that I somehow also ranked for the "How to X" at position #17.
- The KW difficulty for that is 64

I browse through the SERPs for "How to X" and notice that all of them talk about methods on how to do X.
- For instance rank #1 lists 4 ways to do it
- Rank #2 lists 6 ways
- Rank #16 lists 12 ways

Although none of them are an actual how to?
- I was under the impression that for how to articles, you should actually list out the steps from #1-10 for what to do such as
  1. Open the door
  2. Unscrew the hinges
  3. Remove the hinges
  4. Carefully pull door apart
  5. Place new door
  6. Screw in new hinge
  7. Test door to make sure it works
And not simply state the door should be replaced.

Impression: I feel like the search intent is not being completely answered...
- As of the moment, I don't have anything ranking in #1 for any KW difficulties above a 30
- Despite the high KW difficulty, are these situations where you would grab the bull by the horns? It is significantly well above what I've been able to rank for so far.
 

Ryuzaki

お前はもう死んでいる
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However, I also noticed that I somehow also ranked for the "How to X" at position #17.
- The KW difficulty for that is 64
I've got posts ranking on the first page for four-letter words and crap like that too. These are the kind of words where Google is splitting the intent on the homepage, so 1/3rd of the positions are for eCommerce, 1/3rd are for "what is X" and 1/3rd is for local sites, with slots saved for news, Youtube, and images, as an example.

I've been sneaking up in them for 200k volume and more, and getting zero meaningful traffic for them. An example would be "bike". There's no serious person alive that searches the word "bike" and has any actual intent behind them. And I think that's part of the reason Google can't get ahold of the intent, as you're saying. A lot of it is likely bot traffic, too.

But I think part of the reason we end up ranking for this stuff way ahead of our skis is because Google wants to treat these queries as ones that deserve freshness, partially because they're such high volume. How embarrassing to show the same exact top 10 results on a million-a-month search volume keyword, knowing it's probably the same people searching that over and over again. It'd be like if your Facebook Feed showed the same exact posts month after month.

In my experience, you've fulfilled one of their sub-intents and you did a good job. Your post is fresh. They rank it for a while. You lose freshness and you lose the rank. A core update mixes up the intent again anyways. It was a worthless ranking anyways.

- Despite the high KW difficulty, are these situations where you would grab the bull by the horns? It is significantly well above what I've been able to rank for so far.
I don't think so. The longer the tail, the higher the intent. The money is in the long-tail, whether that's through page engagement, how hot the lead is, etc.

Impression: I feel like the search intent is not being completely answered...
In the case that you mentioned, imagine this scenario. Some giant BobTheBuilder.com type of site makes a post of the wrong intent as you've described but did all the right on-page and since they're DR90 they shot to the top.

Everyone else of high authority came along and copied what they did. And they're all DR90. So now Google's got recognizable brands with high DR filling up the SERP with an intent that just isn't quite on target.

But that's the top 10, a bunch off slightly-off-target intent pages. So that's all anyone clicks. And because they're all getting the clicks, Google's internal data starts getting jacked up and it starts to believe its own nonsense and now the intent is officially a list of alternative things to do rather than steps to actually do the thing.

That's the danger of machine learning, A.I., algorithms, and why SEO exists and why all of this is exploitable.
 
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@Ryuzaki Very interesting perspective that makes a lot of sense. Didn't think of it that way.

Aside from that, is there a certain difficulty threshold that you just don't bother with? Or anyone else for that matter.

I think I may just drop an article on it anyway just out of curiosity's sake to see what happens.