How to Create a Keyword Strategy for SEO

A keyword strategy is a wonderful way to organize your search marketing activities. We advise that every company starts with a documented strategy before getting too far with content writing or anything else.

 

Google’s market share in 2017 was 75% of all keyword inquiries, according to Smart Insights.

 

So first, what is a keyword strategy?

A keyword strategy is a documentation of several keyword clusters you’d like to target. It includes focus keywords and also “long-tail” keywords that are related to the cluster. It also includes a content plan to achieve those goals, with action items like “write blog post,” “publish SEO page,” or “optimize existing page.” It’s something you can follow like a map, and use to get your whole team on board.

So, how can you create a keyword strategy for yourself? Follow this step-by-step guide.

Understand your business’ audience

The first and most important thing you can do for your keyword strategy is to understand your target audience. What phrases and terminology are they using? Oftentimes, businesses rely too heavily on branded terms that describe their own products or methods — however, these terms rarely work in a keyword strategy.

To audit keywords that will work for your audience, you should:

  • Interview your target audience and take notes on the phrases they use
  • Ask them deliberately if they understand terms that you would choose
  • Read industry publications and research #hashtags being used
  • Do research on keyword volume — see next step

Don’t be afraid to rethink how you talk about your business and services. In fact, it’s very likely that keyword research will be eye-opening for you, and will challenge you!

Choose a tool for research and tracking

Many popular tools compete in the keyword space. Even though HubSpot sunset its tracking tool, many others have taken its place. You can use Agency Analytics to track keywords over time, Moz or Keywords Everywhere Chrome extensions to measure keyword metrics, and BuzzSumo, SEMrush, and SpyFu for more research.

Play around with those tools and see what makes you feel most comfortable and what also fits in your price range. However, one thing you must do is invest in a tool that will continually crawl your website and track your keyword progress over time. Agency Analytics is one such tool.

Add lots of keywords to track and analyze

Next up you must create a large database of keywords you want to research. Work on adding keywords that are wide-ranging into your tracking tool. Experiment with new phrasings even if you don’t use them already.

You don’t need to keep these terms in your tracking tool forever, but the more phrases you have, the bigger sample size and better judgment you will have. Try to add at least in the range of 50-100 keyword options.

Tip: Search a desired term into Google and see what comes up for related searches. These will often give you new ideas into your audience’s minds.

SEO tip: related keywords

Choose the best targets

Next, pare down all of your keyword options into the very best targets. The best targets have:

  • Immediate relevance to your business
  • High volume — at least several dozen to several hundred monthly searches, and more if you’d like to scale with that keyword
  • Low to medium difficulty — If you’re new to your keyword strategy, you won’t have a lot of authority and can’t rank for anything much higher than 7/10 difficulty
  • An existing ranking URL — if you are already “ranking” for a key term that is already showing up in a Google search, it may be a good target because you have some momentum building

You can find all of these analytics across the tools mentioned above. Keep note of all of these metrics in neat columns so you can reference them later.

Tip: Make a note of low, medium, and high priorities based on the analytics. Color-coding can be helpful! Ask yourself: What are the very best and most relevant terms to my business, that have enough volume to drive visitors to my website, but aren’t so difficult that I can’t even make a dent? Those are high priority!

Organize your keywords into topic clusters

Topic clusters (also called content clusters) are groupings of content around a similar topic. By writing content in clusters and hyperlinking them all together, you tell Google that you have wide and deep authority on a subject. This helps you rank in search.

Of your “high” priority keywords that you labeled, choose 1-2 that will serve as the centerpieces of your new topic clusters. Write these down.

Next, think of potential “long-tail” variations on these keywords. Long-tail keywords usually have less volume, but are more specific. For example, “information technology” at the center might yield “IT service management,” “information technology definition,” and “IT manage best practices.” Write these down as well.

Tip: Notice that in the example above, we’re using variations on the center phrase. Google is getting smarter and can understand semantic similarities in keywords. So just write in a way that would make sense to your audience.

Next, come up with an action item for each keyword. If you are already ranking for that term, your action might be “add more website links pointing here” or “refresh and optimize the content for this keyword on this page.”

If you are not ranking for a target keyword, your action item will be “create SEO page” which will be the center of your topic cluster.

Write, publish, and refine content

Now that you’ve determined action items for your keyword strategy, get to work! You should aim to publish at least one blog post a week, or even twice a week if your industry is saturated with a lot of content. Refreshing old content with new keywords is also a great way to “recycle.” And you should also publish SEO pages often in your content marketing mix.

Tip: SEO pages are basically just landing pages that are targeted for a keyword. The keyword must be closely related to your business offering. Always include plenty of content on these pages including rich images. And always include a form for conversion.

SEO tip: landing pages for SEO

Remember to tie all of your content together with hyperlinks. Google likes to follow these paths like breadcrumbs to understand your knowledge on a topic.

Analyze and iterate

Remember how we said you must be tracking keywords over time with a tool? This is really important. Periodically you need to check your progress over time:

  • Did you get on the third page of Google? The second or even first?
  • Which position are you in, and for which URL?
  • How many visitors are you getting to that page?
  • If you’re seeing success, how can you replicate and scale those actions?

The metrics here will tell you how to optimize your strategy. By refining over time you will create a strong SEO presence that pulls in many new leads.

Sources

Smart Insights, 30 January 2018, “Search Engine Statistics 2018”




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Ironpaper is a results-driven digital marketing agency. Ironpaper integrates design, technology and marketing for the web to drive meaningful results for clients. We are based in New York City and Charlotte, NC.