Keyword research is only the first step in building a website that ranks highly on SERPs. Having the best phrases to target is one thing—knowing how to use them drives growth. Having a keyword strategy is a crucial part of business online. Although keyword research tools provide you with search volume, relevancy, keyword difficulty, and other crucial indicators, you only have a list of phrases if you don't know what to do with them. With a keyword strategy, you can choose tactics that enable you to drive traffic through search queries. It gives you the 'why,' which makes your activities more meaningful.
How Do You Create a Keyword Strategy for SEO?
When developing an SEO keyword strategy, the first thing to do is break down the steps you need to take. These things will help you determine what keywords to concentrate on and why these should be part of your strategy.
1. Know Your Context
Benchmarking your current performance is the first step in creating a keyword strategy. Since you're trying to improve your organic presence, it makes sense to know your context, the place where you'll be starting. Semrush has tools that provide insights into your SERP rankings. Pay attention to organic keywords you are ranking for and ones that you aren't. This data will tell you which keywords will deliver quick wins and which ones you'll need to work on extensively. Understand your starting point, so you know what goals and KPIs you need to make.
2. Identify Your Goals and KPIs
If you know your best keywords, you'll be more effective at setting goals and identifying your team's key performance indicators. If you only generate a list of keywords and arbitrarily choose which ones to target, you won't be able to gauge your SEO campaign correctly. Here are some KPIs you should include, regardless of your goals:
- Rankings: Digital marketing professionals have differing opinions on whether rankings are crucial or not. Generally speaking, people associate better rankings with better performance, but some believe rankings are a vanity metric. Rankings are essential in the context of a keyword strategy; they tell you which of your targeted phrases have the best SEO.
- Keyword Footprint: The keyword footprint consists of the overall profile of indexed phrases that reflect the monthly search volume. It aggregates the performance of your target keywords, as well as ones with a higher "buyer intent" but a lower search volume.
- Organic Keyword Trends: Increase in traffic, non-branded search, organic impressions and CTR, and similar metrics should be part of your KPIs. Watch out as well for a percentage increase of traffic from specific geographical locations or conversions.
3. Create Strategies for Topics
In 2021, you should no longer be thinking of optimizing for single keywords. Today, Google and other search engines can easily detect keyword stuffing, so optimizing through topic clusters is a more effective way of ensuring that pages rank. Structuring your content using topics instead of individual phrases lends itself well to creating a keyword strategy. When you map out clusters, you can group keywords and prioritize their relationships. It also helps you avoid cannibalization.
4. Pay Attention to Referral Traffic
Besides driving organic traffic, your keyword strategy should also help you get more people through referrals. Your SEO strategies should provide people multiple entry points into your marketing funnel. It is because a solid plan for referral traffic could potentially convert better than organic channels. You hinder your own website's growth if you don't include referral traffic into your keyword strategy.
Things to look out for include the percentage increase in referral traffic after using a particular strategy, increase in referral conversions, and increase in engagement metrics. Monitoring bounce rates, dwell time, and pages visited from referral links should also help. It matters which referral links bring conversions because they will tell you a lot about the demographics of your visitors, their concerns, and even what they like about your products.
For example, suppose you sell Christmas trees and have referral links from a home improvement blog and a website selling ornaments. If you get more traffic from the former instead of the latter, you know that most people visiting your website are into do-it-yourself projects. This insight is something you can use in your keyword strategy.
5. Identify Which Keywords to Prioritize
After you've gone through the first four stages, you would have enough data on keyword difficulty, conversion opportunities, and relevance to help you craft a good strategy. At the heart of it, a strategy is about prioritization. It involves knowing how to allocate resources so you can achieve your goals.
Ask yourself how the website performs for the keywords you've chosen. Know which pages represent quick-win opportunities for you, ones which are at the cusp of entering higher rankings. For example, are there pages with keywords that put it on page two of search? What will it take to push it to page one? Consider if the keywords are relevant to the company's offerings and the stage of the funnel they target.
How one business chooses keywords will differ from another, even if they're in the same industry. It's why some companies in your niche aren't ranking for the exact keywords as you. By consciously thinking of which keywords to prioritize, you put yourself in a position to align your business strategy with your company's overall goals.
After Implementing Your Keyword Strategy
Once you've implemented your keyword strategy, you need to check in with it at least every month. You should have a handle on your KPIs and know how close you are to achieving your goals. Also, share updates with others in your business. It could be that things are moving fine in your perspective, but they aren't working well for another department. Finally, be okay with strategies to change. Take note of the tactics you implement halfway through the campaign and reflect on why they were necessary. This will help you improve your strategy and take it from good to great.
Keyword research is an essential part of a content plan. However, many businesses don't move beyond it—they equate researching keywords with a strategy for these. By having a 'why' for targeting keywords, you'll have better marketing plans that align with your company's goals.
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