This post was last updated April 15, 2018

Search Engine Optimization is a complex topic, but keywords are its cornerstone. No pressure—putting a keyword strategy in place doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. 

Once you understand how your target audience is looking for your products, services, or information online, you'll be on your way to a killer keyword strategy and can say hello to more qualified traffic on your website.

It’s All in the Research

In order to get that keyword strategy going, you have to put in the time and do your research. Between reading articles and attending webinars to familiarize yourself with the topic of SEO, start by taking a look at your website analytics.

What popular keywords and search engines are visitors using to find your website? Do they have a high bounce rate? How many pages are they visiting on average?

Determine if these are the types of keywords you want to consider for your strategy moving forward.

Long-Tail Keywords: What’s the Value?

Long-tail keywords are “longer, and more-specific keyword phrases” that may not have as many searches as one- to two-keyword phrases, but will target and attract the people who are specifically looking for what your organization has to offer. These keywords are the easiest way to target very specific audiences and get the right organic traffic to your site.

Let's pretend you're the potential customer for a second. If you're looking for a new pair of shoes that offer great arch support, your search results are going to be massive if you simply type in “shoes”. You'll likely spend a lot of time trying to find the exact pair you want. If you type in “shoes with arch support”, you'll have a much better user experience sorting through these types of shoes versus filtering through the results of every type of shoe available.

On the flip side, if your organization sells shoes with arch support, you are attracting the right traffic by using this type of description in your content. This means you're more likely to convert those visitors into customers, and those customers got what they came for. Long-tail keywords are really a win-win for the user and the organization.

Create a Master Keyword List and Keyword Groups

On the flip side, if your organization sells shoes with arch support, you are attracting the right traffic by using this type of description in your content. This means you're more likely to convert those visitors into customers, and those customers got what they came for. Long-tail keywords are really a win-win for the user and the organization.

  • What problem does your product/service solve?
  • What information are your web visitors going to be looking for?
  • Why would someone come to your website?

Start with a broad term that relates to your product, service, or solution, and grow your list from there. After you create a list, make sure each keyword and keyword phrase has a group. Think of keyword groups as a hierarchy that branches out from one general keyword into more specific keywords or keyword phrases.

To make this easier to explain, we'll use our own SEO efforts as an example. At Siteimprove, we have several products that relate to web-related topics, but our keyword list does not only include words like "accessibility", "search engine optimization", "analytics", etc. We have to dig deeper than that in order to attract the right organic traffic.

Here's a concrete example from our own SEO efforts:

Someone who wants to know if they should invest an analytics tool might search for the term "analytics" to start. However, that's much too broad for someone trying to understand the value of a web analytics tool in the first place. You have to remember the user's intent.

So before they can be convinced, they might search for “why web analytics” or “the importance of web analytics”. We could go even further and more specific into analytics, such as “best analytics tools for start-ups” or additional keyword phrases related to the user's intent. There are endless possibilities, which is why research is so crucial.

Screenshot of short and long-tail keyword phrases within the Siteimprove SEO tool

In this example from our own SEO tool, the generic search term "analytics" has a large search volume at 135,000 global searches per month, and our target page ranks 17th on Google. (The goal is to appear in the first 10 results!) But when we target with the long-tail keyword phrase "why web analytics" and "importance of web analytics", we've tapped into a search volume of 20 and 30, respectively, and rank 1st in search results.

Map Keywords into Your Content

Now to implement! Next time you write a new piece of content for about a specific topic, focus on a keyword group or two and incorporate one or more of the keywords or phrases throughout the page's content. This is called keyword mapping, and can be done in Xcel or with the help of an automated SEO tool.

Screenshot of keyword mapping in Excel

When it comes to keyword strategy, a typical place to start manual keyword mapping is in an Xcel file.

Screenshoot of Siteimprove SEO's automated keyword mapping function

Siteimprove SEO's Content Optimization feature helps you map keywords throughout a web page instead of copying and pasting from an Excel file. In this example, the page's keyword phrase is "check website accessibility". 

Ensure you always place the main keyword within the first paragraph, as bots crawl the top of web pages to index them. In fact, research shows the keyword should be in the first 100 words of your content. This is also why your title tag is so important. It tells the search engines what your page is about, and ideally, your title should start with the keyword.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing and Poor Copywriting

With all that said about mapping keywords onto a page, always remember your readers. Relevant, rich content is the most important factor of SEO—exactly why your content and SEO strategies should overlap. If a keyword doesn’t fit naturally into the flow of the writing, then don’t use it. And don’t even think about hiding keywords on your web pages (for example, white text on a white background hidden at the bottom of your page).

Don't be overzealous with a single keyword in your copywriting. There is no definitive "good" or "bad" keyword density, but you can make a good guess just by reading through your own content. If the writing is compelling and relevant without repeating the same word over and over, chances are you’re good to go. If you want to know more, learn what Google experts have to say about keyword stuffing.

Improve Over Time

But how do you know if your keyword strategy is successful? The exciting—and sometimes stressful—thing about SEO is that it's not one and done. There will never be a perfect strategy, but you can always keep working to improve.

Keep up on SEO as much as possible. Read blog posts on SEO topics, follow SEO influencers on social media, connect with co-workers who know something about SEO, and meet with your web team often.

Most importantly, check your website analytics frequently to see what people are searching for. Then evaluate if your keyword strategy is working. Are visitors coming to your web pages from search terms you are focusing on? Did they take action on your website? Did they turn into leads or customers?

This is a continuous process that should receive attention at least once a week. If you don’t have time to dedicate to that right now, do the best you can and ensure it becomes a bi-weekly or monthly process moving forward, and/or designate a person responsible for SEO on your team.

Once you feel comfortable with a keyword strategy, remember there are many other SEO factors to consider: link-building, social media, meta descriptions, image ALT tags, click-through-rate (CTR), page load time, and more.

For more tips on optimizing SEO your website, check out our guide, 17 Killers of Your SEO Efforts and How to Fix Them.

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