Ranking with Zero Backlinks in the Pet Niche

Inside the SEO community, we often hear about new websites gaining massive traffic overnight. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including publishing huge amounts of content and/or link-building.

However, a lot of bloggers shy away from these strategies as they can be risky when done incorrectly (see the autoblogging.ai success story). Still, one can find success using simple keyword research strategies and human-written content.

In this case study, Sharon Ben Davar took a more traditional approach to building his pet site – he outsourced content to a small group of writers to create content focused on long tail keywords. He shows that even zero search volume keywords can bring in hundreds of visits each per month.

Throughout this case study, we’ll explore how Sharon used tools like Keyword Chef and Ahrefs for keyword research and how he created article templates to outsource to writers.

What kind of site is this?

Key points:

  • 105 articles were published (95 info, 10 reviews)
  • Built on a fresh domain
  • Randomly decided on a sub-niche within the pet category
  • Monetized with Ezoic display ads and Amazon affiliate

Hi Sharon, would you describe to us your website and how it is monetized?

My site is mainly an info site with some reviews here and there (about 95 info articles and 10 reviews currently). The site is 18 months old and was built on a fresh domain. It’s in a sub-niche inside of the pet niche.

Choosing the niche was pretty much random. A friend and I talked about 2 niches and decided to each pick one and start a site about that.

The site is monetized using Ezoic display ads and Amazon affiliate links.

That’s interesting considering the pet niche is very popular. Did you do any niche research at all? Why did you decide on the pets category in the first place?

I did some research on other niches (Niche Insights is a great tool for niche research), but when I looked for keywords, I saw they were very competitive. All of the good keywords were shared with the current niche so that got my interest. Usually, I pick a niche that I’m interested in (see our guide for picking a niche), and only after I do keyword research based on those niches.

Finding keywords with Keyword Chef

Key points:

  • Found keywords using the Wildcard, How-to, and Question categories using Keyword Chef
  • Uses other tools like Ahrefs (Content Gap tool) to find keywords to import into Keyword Chef
  • Ahrefs has a lot of data but doesn’t compare to the SERP Score inside Keyword Chef

How did you use Keyword Chef as part of your keyword research process?

I mainly used Keyword Chef to find keywords for my articles. I used the Wildcard, How-to, and Question categories. I also used the Ahrefs Content Gap tool and imported those keywords into Keyword Chef.

Can you describe more about this? What is the content gap tool and how does it work? What is the idea behind using the tool?

The Content Gap tool is a tool that shows you keywords that your competitor is ranking for that you aren’t.

For this site, I got a few hundred keywords and then filtered them in Ahrefs before importing them into Keyword Chef. I looked for <200 vol, <5 keyword difficulty, and at least 4 words in the keyword.

Ahrefs gives a ton of helpful data but the KW difficulty indicator that they have is nothing compared to the SERP Score in Keyword Chef. Even if I use Ahrefs or other tools like Keywords Everywhere or Keyword Sheeter, I always import them to Keyword Chef to choose what I’m going to write about. I also use the PAA from Keyword Chef to create FAQs in my articles.

When using other tools like Ahrefs or Keyword Sheeter, do you do any filtering before importing them to Keyword Chef? For example, certain volumes, words, or search intents?

Nothing specific. I play with the filters a lot, but as described before with the Content Gap Tool, a good rule of thumb is volume under 200 and a low KW difficulty. I also prefer long keywords so I add a filter for their length.

Publishing Process

Key points:

  • Using Similar Keywords inside Keyword Chef to cluster keywords into a single article
  • Uses AI to brainstorm title ideas
  • Creates an outline for the article to be completed by a dedicated writer
  • Finding writers is a process and you need to test a lot to find the good ones
  • Has one dedicated writer who understands the entire site and can easily interlink articles

Once you have the keywords, what’s your publishing process like?

After I have a list of keywords, I usually cluster them to find similar keywords and group them into 1 article. Then, I create an impelling title (sometimes I use AI tools to get suggestions) and a featured image. I use a template I created that contains the title, site logo, and a featured image I chose for the article.

Next, I create an outline. This includes a 2-3 line description, subtitle (which are usually the keywords I clustered together), and FAQ.

Do you find that AI is good at generating titles? What are some prompts you might use? Do you use AI anywhere else in blogging or SEO?

I have a close relationship with AI. I use it a lot in every aspect of my life. I never trust it completely and rarely use exactly what it gives me, but I think it gives an amazing starting point.

I prefer not to share my exact prompts, but the basics are asking for 20 captivating title options for an article about {insert description here}.

I sometimes use AI to modify the subtitles, and I also use Google Cloud Vision API to check images (I guess that counts as AI), but other than that, I don’t use AI for SEO.

Once the article outline is created, what’s your next step?

After the article outline is created, I send the outline to a writer dedicated to this project and publish it to the site when ready.

A lot of people struggle with finding good writers to outsource to. How did you find your writer and make sure they were good?

I think that’s the worst part about niche sites. It involves spending a lot of money to test writers, but usually, I post job offers on all the writer sites including Fiverr and Upwork.

Once I have a list of writers, I give all the people I like a test article. Then I pick two or three writers and test them with 5-10 articles, and then I keep the good ones (if there are any).

Other than writing the article, what other work does your writer do? For example, do they do any internal linking or add affiliate links? Do you do any editing after the writer’s work is completed?

That depends on the specific writer. Some of them also upload the articles to the site, some also create images, and some do internal linking. I try to have 1 writer dedicated to the site so he knows all the content and can reference other articles in a good way.


Key points:

  • Doesn’t do any link-building
  • Created social accounts for the site owner’s identity

What kinds of SEO efforts did you take such as link building, EEAT, or using other tools?

When it comes to link building, I didn’t build links to the site, including any guest posting or outreach.

I did create an identity for the site owner with social media accounts, where I post all my articles.

Tracking the Results

Key points:

  • Just over 100 articles were published
  • Most keywords ranked within a couple of weeks. Some took days and some didn’t rank at all.
  • Zero-volume keywords ranked the fastest and brought huge traffic

After the articles were published, what kinds of results did you see? How well did the articles rank?

I published a total of 105 articles. In terms of ranking, some ranked within a few days, but usually about 2 weeks. There were a few keywords that didn’t rank at all.

Did you notice that some keywords ranked faster than others?

Yes! 0 search volume keywords got me the most traffic and also ranked the fastest. Some of these keywords brought in 1,000 visits per month.

When it comes to zero-volume keywords, how do you decide if they are really worth targeting?

The best indicator is to see a lot of conversation in Quora or Reddit about them.
Other than that, it’s a lot about gut feeling for me.

Did any Google updates impact you?

On this site, the updates only helped my traffic, including the Helpful Content Update. However, I had another site with all AI-generated content that did rank super fast and then got hit pretty hard with each update.

About Sharon Ben Davar

Sharon Ben Davar is a software developer and SEO. He owns and operates SM-ART.app – a platform for blog owners to automate and streamline their social media presence and Knoby Studios, an SEO and website development agency located in Israel.