As an inbound marketing agency, we’re constantly exploring businesses’ goals and how to help them achieve the ideal level of awesomeness they have in their heads. However, often times when we ask a client what their goals are, their answer is, “I want my website to rank number one on Google”. While this answer uncovers a few misconceptions about search engine optimization (SEO), I’m not going to focus on that. Instead, I’m going to dive deeper into keyword mapping and explain why it’s important to get the right pages on your website to show up for the right searches.
What is Keyword Mapping?
Keyword mapping is the process of assigning relevant keywords to the different pages on a website based on thorough keyword research. It’s an important aspect of on-page search engine optimization that will allow search engines to see the page’s relevancy based on a user’s search.
If you skip the initial keyword research and mapping process, you’ll be shooting in the dark when it comes to creating content and showing up on search engine result pages (SERPs).
What does it look like?
Depending on the software at your disposal, the keyword mapping process could take on a few forms. For instance, if you’re a HubSpot customer, you have an incredible keywords tool. You also have a content strategy tool to use in order to determine relevancy, overall estimated search volume, and how difficult it would be to rank for that specific keyword.
However, the more traditional and tedious way to map out keywords is typically in a spreadsheet document with each row being a page on your website. The each of the columns is assigned a specific on-page SEO element to focus on, so you can ensure each element is aligned with your ranking goals.
Regardless of how you decide to set up your map, it’s important to have this information in one centralized location so you can refer back to it, and make changes if necessary. Keep in mind that results from SEO can sometimes take a little time to “kick-in”. Give it some time, and trust the keyword research you’ve done.
Thorough keyword research sets the foundation for a strong keyword map. The research process can also look a bit different depending on the tools you use. There are a few things to be sure to take into consideration during the research process:
1. Search Volume
This number will give you an estimation of the average monthly searches a specific keyword gets. This is important to look at, because it will give you an idea of the reach your ranked page could get from a single keyword as well as the amount of traffic it could generate.
2. Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail
It can get a bit overwhelming if you focus on broad search terms. For instance, if you’re in the business of selling athletic shoes, the short-tail keyword “shoes” will probably be close to impossible to rank for, especially if you’re just starting out. Focusing on more specific search terms such as “women’s athletic shoes” or “long-distance running shoes” -- phrases with less competition -- could therefore be more beneficial to optimize around.
This number will give you an idea of how much effort you’ll have to put in to rank for a certain keyword based on the current status of your website. Typically, short-tail keywords have a much higher-ranking difficulty than long-tail keywords, so the more specific you get, the easier it gets.
Relevancy is extremely important during the content mapping process. This is because search engines are constantly on the quest to deliver the highest quality and most relevant content to users. Relevancy also is important when getting the pages of your website to rank on the first page of the search engine results.
One of the most common misconceptions about SEO is thinking that websites rank. In reality, pages on websites rank. The good news is, it can be possible for you to have multiple pages of your website rank on the first page of multiple search engine results.
This also means that, by creating relevant content and strategically building internal links, it’s possible to completely own the first page of search engines -- it’s just incredibly difficult and uncommon. However, if this is your goal, make sure you pay close attention to relevancy.
In my experience, usefulness has never showed up in the keyword research process. It’s not a number that you can measure. It’s the human aspect of SEO. With update after update to the search algorithms, search engines are increasingly focusing on search intent. This means that they’re not only looking for content that is relevant, but also -- and more importantly -- useful.
Think about how your content answers a user’s question or helps them solve a problem. That way, you’ll lower bounce rates, increase time on site, and boost overall engagement.
Looking at your competitors' websites can give you insight into what keywords to target on your own website. A paid SEO tool like Ahrefs or Moz can be used to perform much of the keyword research outlined above as well as to identify your top competitors for those keywords in the SERPs.
Chances are, your competitors have already done the hard work for you. By researching the keywords they are ranking for, you can select the best ones for you to target.
You can also find additional relevant keywords that your competitors are ranking for on a specific page. A single web page can rank for hundreds and even thousands of keywords. Of course, this is based on the amount of high-quality content present on the page.
If you have a brand-new website, or if your site has a very low domain authority, we suggest going after the keywords with the lowest number of difficulty (i.e., as close to 0) as possible. Using this tip, you may be able to rank with hardly any backlinks --- sometimes with no backlinks at all, as long as you have the on-page optimization correct.
Why is Keyword Mapping Important?
Setting up a keyword map is important, because it sets the tone for the rest of your content and digital marketing strategy. With the rise of search engines and their uncanny abilities to scour the web to find the content for which we’re looking, your keyword map is the backbone of your digital strategy.
It gives your content marketing direction. When you know what people are searching for and how relevant it is to what you have to offer them, you can set out to create content that continuously provides users with value. Instead of just being a website that sells something, you’ll be a useful resource people will turn to.
Unless you’re launching a new website, a keyword map will give you an idea of your current position in the market. Thorough keyword research will show you ranking opportunities that could expand your business and reach your target audience in ways you never thought of before. The market is always changing, and that doesn’t change when it comes to digital.
Developing a keyword map sets up your digital campaigns for success. If you need help developing a keyword strategy or simply don’t have the time, an inbound marketing agency will be able to explore your goals, create a keyword map, and develop a plan of action to reach the right people at the right time with the right messaging.
Don’t skip the process of developing a keyword map for your website. This and other SEO services will help you understand how the pages of your website are viewed in the eyes of search engines and help you identify additional opportunities to more effectively reach your target audience.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.