Keyword research is the process of identifying the words that consumers use to search for your products on Google and other search engines. Keyword mapping assigns those terms to pages on your site.
This is the seventh installment in my “SEO How-to” series. Previous installments are:
- “Part 1: Why Do You Need It?“
- “Part 2: Understanding Search Engines,”
- “Part 3: Staffing and Planning for SEO,”
- “Part 4: Keyword Research Concepts,”
- “Part 5: Analyzing Keyword Data,”
- “Part 6: Optimizing On-page Elements.”
Your pages are fighting to rank in organic search results. Each page should have a unique keyword target. Doubling up keywords could mean you miss other targets, helping your competitors.
The keyword map ensures that you’re deploying all valuable keywords to your pages optimally.
Listing the Pages
Start by listing the pages on your site in a spreadsheet, such as this template that I assembled in Google Sheets. It builds on the keyword analysis template in “Part 6.” List every page you plan to optimize, its category, and its URL. You can manually copy and paste each URL, or try one of the following shortcuts.
First, try crawling your site with a tool, such as Screaming Frog, that mimics a search engine crawler. Then sift through the returned URLs to identify the ones you want to map. Next, organize the URLs by category and page name to identify them easily.
Alternately, copy your header navigation, which should include your most important pages. Copy the HTML code from those nav elements and extract the links for the URLs you want to include in your map.
To do this, view the source of a web page, copy the code that contains the links, and paste it into a Word document using the “Paste Special, Unformatted Text” option, at Edit > Paste Special > Unformatted Text.
Next, isolate the URLs inside the code, one to a line, by searching and replacing bits of code. For the beginning of the URL, search for href= “https://www.your-domain.com, and replace it with ^p https://www.your-domain.com. The ^p characters in Word indicate a paragraph mark or return. That isolates the beginning of the URL onto a new line.
To complete the isolation, look at the code to see which characters appear at the end of a URL and which HTML characters follow that. For a URL that ends in a trailing slash, it could be as easy as searching for /”> and replacing it with ^p.
After your URLs are isolated in Word, copy all of the code and paste it into Excel using the “Paste Special, Unicode Text” function at Edit > Paste Special > Unicode Text. Sort the spreadsheet alphabetically to clump all of your URLs together and delete everything that doesn’t start with https://www.your-domain.com. Again, organize the URLs by category and page name.
Also, fill the other tabs in the template with data from keyword and SEO analytics tools, including:
- Google Keyword Planner or equivalent;
- Google Search Console performance reports by page at Performance > Search results > Pages;
- Google Analytics ecommerce report at Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview;
- Google Ads search terms report and Google Search Console performance reports by query (Performance > Search results > Queries) — two tabs not used in the calculations for this template, but included as holdovers from the keyword analysis template.
After you’ve completed the prep work, assign keywords to each page. Choose the most relevant, most highly searched word(s) for the primary keyword field. The template will pull in the searches per month for that keyword. Choose closely-related secondary and tertiary keywords as well.
Do not assign the same keyword to multiple pages. Each page should have a unique purpose and keyword. If you can’t find a unique keyword for it, consider whether the page is worthwhile to live on your site. It could confuse users and search engines alike.
Each keyword needs one page assigned to it to maximize the ranking potential, and each page should have only one keyword theme. That one-to-one ratio is essential.
It’s also essential to choose a primary keyword that represents all of the content on the page. Don’t cannibalize the keyword theme needed for a subset of the products on the page. For example, if a beauty page sells body scrub products, the primary keyword theme should be “body scrub,” even though it also contains some frequently-searched-for sugar scrub products. Let the sugar scrub page target the keyword “sugar scrub.”
You can use the completed keyword map to prioritize content optimization. The data in the analytics and rankings identify which pages to optimize first to improve your organic search performance. Pages that rank at the bottom of page one or the top of page two in search results tend to be the easiest to nudge higher for more visibility. Pages assigned to keywords with a higher number of untapped searches per month are also top priorities. Consider, too, product profitability. High-profit items could be a priority even if the keyword volume is low.
Enterprise search platforms, such as seoClarity, Ahrefs, and Searchmetrics, do some of the calculations for you to prioritize pages. However, if you can’t pull all the data into your search platform, or if you don’t subscribe to one, a keyword map is a good, manual method for planning and prioritizing content optimization.