To begin with the obvious, SEO revolves heavily around keywords. What people search for, how often they search, and how difficult it will be to rank for a target term are all concepts that we mull over when completing keyword research. As SEOs, we comb through data, look at trends, and ultimately pare down an unwieldy list of keywords into actionable targets. Identifying what terms to rank for, how they are currently ranking, and if, how, why, or when that changed is all part of the game.
One crucial aspect of keyword research that is often neglected – or just misunderstood – is that of keyword mapping. Whether you are new to SEO or an established veteran, the concept of keyword mapping is equally valuable to maintain and convey an accurate understanding of the state of your website in organic search and how it can be improved.
Read on to learn what keyword mapping is and how to do it right.
What Is Keyword Mapping?
At its most basic form, a completed keyword mapping deliverable is a spreadsheet that correlates URLs on your site to the target keywords associated with them – whether extant or yet to come. It is a lovely visual representation of these keywords and illustrates where they belong within the pages of your site. Keyword mapping will enable you to create better content, optimize existing landing pages, and better understand your site’s organic strategy as a whole.
A keyword mapping document can reveal critical aspects of the site. We are provided with a better understanding of its structure and can better discern priorities for optimization.
When To Do Keyword Mapping
There are a lot of situations in which creating an accurate keyword map will greatly strengthen your organic strategy and inform your roadmap moving forward. Rather than making the blanket statement that it is “always a good idea” (which to some degree, it must be said, is true), let us examine a few more concrete situations:
- Keyword mapping to identify new content opportunities
If you are ideating new content for your website, you can establish ahead of time the exact purpose of each new page as it relates to target keywords and rankings. Keyword mapping before content creation is also extremely beneficial in identifying content overlap. If a proposed page has a central theme that is already targeted by keywords on another page, you can either keep away from the topic altogether or augment the existing page with new content. There are enough competitors for your site in organic search – you do not need to play against yourself.
- Keyword mapping before a site redesign/migration
Site redesigns and migrations are often pain points for SEOs. Aside from the all but guaranteed temporary traffic dip, many things can get shaken up when search engines recrawl the new version of your site. Generally, there is going to be some confusion among the bots. Having an accurate keyword map already established will allow you to track what content/keywords correspond to which URL on the site and enable a more accurate basis for keyword tracking through the migration. It will also allow you to keep your sights on new keywords and develop a long-term roadmap for content generation.
- Creating a keyword map for a new client site/never been done
If you begin work on a client site or are working on your own site’s SEO for the first time, there is a high likelihood that this process was never done. Furthermore, even if it has, it will likely be outdated. In either scenario, now is a perfect time to create an accurate keyword map for existing pages and better understand the purpose of each page.
Benefits of Keyword Mapping
- Gain a visual understanding of your site’s architecture, and understand the exact purpose
of each page
Every page on your website should serve a purpose, or it should not exist. It is obvious, sure, but it does not take much digging to find counterexamples of this principle.
- Communicate better with your content development team
Having a high-level, keyword-oriented database for your site’s pages makes things much smoother when changing hands. A tidy keyword map can communicate the purpose and expectations of an upcoming piece of content. This is particularly useful when working with freelancers, as the map serves as a basic template for each page – and contains the most critical keywords that need to be featured.
- Enable better, more accurate reporting
By creating a more granular representation of your site’s pages and their target terms through keyword mapping, you can cut straight to the chase in reporting. You are empowered to demonstrate a concrete understanding of the keywords most applicable to a website and communicate the efficacy of your efforts.
- Evaluate search intent
For existing content, seeing what queries lead to what pages on your site enables you to better understand how organic searchers interact with your website.
- Are searchers taken to the best possible landing page for high-volume queries?
- Would a current target keyword for a page be better suited to live somewhere else on your
- Is the user given an adequate path down the conversion funnel from the page they are
currently landing on?
- These questions can be better understood with a proper keyword mapping strategy
For target terms, knowing search volume, difficulty, and CPC costs are invaluable when developing a content strategy. These metrics can and should be used to determine which URLs to target first, judging from potential returns. Proper keyword mapping can serve as a treasure map for new content, and understanding the competitive landscape around your target keywords will only increase the efficacy of your campaigns.
- Identify internal linking opportunities
When we understand every page’s explicit purpose, we can also identify their relationships to other pages within the site and link to them internally. A healthy interlinking structure is all-too-often overlooked even though it benefits user experience (being able to easily progress through the site’s information in a natural flow) and funnels authority throughout the site.
- Identify Keyword Gaps through Keyword Mapping
In addition to establishing current head terms and where you are currently ranking for them, through keyword mapping, you will also be able to identify what you are not ranking for or even just ranking poorly. Identifying these gaps is critical in informing your content strategy moving forward and enabling the creation and/or optimization of existing content tailored to those underperforming keywords.
For visually-oriented thinkers, seeing the state of your major keyword rankings (do not be afraid to colour-code or stylize the data in a manner that suits you) can be eye-opening.
At Dwarika Web Solutions, we often find that clients know what they would like to rank for in a peripheral sense, but being able to communicate a clear plan of action to address keyword gaps – particularly as they pertain to competitors – that they may not have even considered can cause ears to perk up.
- Find Keyword Overlap & Duplicates
As you without any doubt know, keyword overlap can be highly problematic. If multiple URLs on your website are ranking for the same keyword (whether intentionally or otherwise), you are creating problems for yourself.
Google, in particular, is picky about including multiple first-page results from the same domain in SERPs; how are you making sure visitors are taken to the landing page with the highest conversion potential? While keyword cannibalization is not as terrifying a problem as it once was, it can still negatively impact your organic traffic.
Identifying keyword overlap between URLs is one of the most beneficial results of keyword mapping existing content. Adjusting it accordingly (IE consolidating two pages that rank for identical head terms into one) can dramatically improve organic acquisition. By the same token, you will be able to see ahead of time if there is overlap in proposed or upcoming content – and take action to keep away from it.
- Streamline Internal Linking
As previously alluded to, a robust internal linking structure is a critical part of any healthy web property. Proper internal linking helps users navigate deeper within the site, funnel authority to otherwise neglected pages, and allows search engine crawlers to better understand the overall structure of a website. By obtaining a high-level view of your site’s keyword rankings and their corresponding URLs, you will naturally notice opportunities to link between related concepts. In the same way, you will have a visual aid to interlink new content to old where appropriate.
- Aligns Strategy & Direction
Particularly helpful when working among multiple or disparate teams, keyword mapping definitively aligns strategy and direction for content creation. A keyword map effectively serves as a compass and keeps everyone on the same page (both metaphorically and literally in this instance). Though strategic opinions may – and at times ideally should – differ, there is not much up for debate about the selected target keywords and the pages on your site that they correspond to.
Effective Ways To Do Keyword Mapping
Now that we have explored the myriad benefits and advantages of keyword mapping, let us explore a real-world example. Together we will go step by step through the process and get you ready to do it on your own.
- Keyword Research
Depending on your situation, you may be at the mercy of whatever tools are at your disposal. While we enjoy bickering about which of the major tools are best for what, the truth is that pretty much any of the industry’s heavy-hitters (Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, etc.) will enable you to get the job done here. For this example, we will be using Ahrefs.
- Group Keywords by Search Intent
Once your new target keywords are all settled in a new sheet, it is time to make sure things are as they seem. Carry out manual searches for any ambiguous terms, and analyze the search intent.
- Is it what you were expecting?
- Could your site provide a viable landing page for the query?
- If applicable, is there conversion potential?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, you will most likely want to discard the keyword in question. Do not get discouraged – you can always go back to the drawing board if you find yourself running thin.
- Sort Keywords by Categories
Once you have everything pared down to a list of viable keyword targets, it is time to sort them into categories and associate them with an appropriate URL. If you are focusing on augmenting an existing page, use the live slug. For new content, use a proposed URL as a placeholder – it can always be changed later before production.
- Use a Spreadsheet to Plan SEO Strategy for the Pages
After we have gotten everything established as a URL (whether new or already existing), we need to flesh out the SEO fundamentals for all of the pages. Again, this will keep expectations aligned and minimize the chances of misinterpretation or poetic license when the content is actually created. Like above, this sheet should generally include the following:
- Page URL and target keywords (ranking = current, mapped = new content yet to come)
- Existing page title (if applicable) and/or proposed page title
- Existing and/or proposed H1 tag
- Existing and/or proposed meta description
Having all of this information easily accessible is a truly invaluable resource. It will go a long way in ensuring the content that is being created will properly mirror what has been ideated. The document you have created is a roadmap for content strategy and SEO, all in the exact neat and tidy location.
- Analyze For Opportunities
Now that everything is clearly arranged, it is time to analyze the opportunities that have been unveiled through the process. Here, we uncovered five unique content/page opportunities, but that will not always be a viable quantity depending on the resources at your disposal. It is critical to establish the highest ROI opportunities as those are what stakeholders will generally be receptive to – in this instance, selling in bulk has the highest total search volume and is also an attractive prospect for moving products.
In a different circumstance, maybe our brand does not want to be seen as a bulk dealer and would instead focus on custom creation as it is more closely aligned with the brand identity that we are trying to convey to customers. It is important to be aligned with your team to establish priorities and opportunities, but the keyword map you have created can do much of the thinking itself. The opportunities are there, and it is up to you to determine how to proceed.
While we feel confident about the opportunities we have uncovered for the client, our work is never done. It is lovely to have a clear roadmap forward and a shareable document to align all team members on the content we are creating, but what about next quarter?
- Will these terms continue to be valuable in organic search?
- What if demand for custom rubber ducks falls off a cliff?
Our responsibility as SEO at Dwarika Web Solutions is to stay on top of the inevitable movement that will take place and adjust accordingly – keyword maps are a living document that will – if treated properly – inevitably change over time. It is not something you do once and file away; this is a process that has to be done continuously.
So, how often do you need to do keyword mapping? The answer varies greatly depending on the specific site – its trendiness, seasonality, and volatility will all significantly change the answer to that question. However, regardless of the vertical in which the site is situated, (at least) once quarterly is generally a good baseline.
This allows you to take inventory of how the previous quarter has performed while planning at a high level the content calendar and SEO initiatives of the quarter to come. You can’t do this process “too often,” but more than once a month should not be necessary.
Dwarika Web Solutions is a leading SEO company that can help you outshine your competition in 2023 by performing the best content marketing. Feel free to contact us at +1 (855) 561-4557 to speak with a professional!