A solid foundation of well-researched keywords is crucial to SEO success. But where should these keywords go? One way to organize your site’s keyword strategy is with a keyword map.
Keyword mapping is an essential way to match search terms with your website pages. In this guide, I’ll explain why you need a keyword map, walk through the steps to create one, and show you how to make your map actionable.
What Is Keyword Mapping?
Keyword mapping is the process of identifying and assigning relevant keywords to pages on your website. Keyword mapping is a multi-stage process that involves researching and selecting keywords, grouping them together into categories or topic clusters, and assigning them to specific pages on your website. Your keyword map can guide future content production and site expansion while ensuring that everything stays organized and logically connected.
Why You Need a Keyword Map
Why is keyword mapping essential and how can it help you? The obvious answer is that keyword mapping helps digital marketers achieve better SEO results by ensuring their content is optimized with the keywords people are actually searching for. Digging deeper, it’s clear keyword mapping can actually support SEO and content strategies in several different ways.
Keywords can serve as the foundation for your site’s structure, helping you create a well-organized site architecture that fits in with your content plan. The pages your keywords sit on are points of entry to your website. Having a site architecture that logically links these entry points can support both your content plan and your internal linking strategy.
Having a detailed keyword map can streamline your internal linking efforts by providing a clear path through your site’s topic clusters. An accurate keyword map will help you to identify which pages are best to link to one another based on the keywords they contain, the topics they cover, and their role as pillar or secondary pages.
Neatly laying out all of your keywords on a map will make it easier to spot opportunities in your keyword strategy. Mapping can highlight gaps in your strategy that you can capitalize on and identify potential keyword cannibalization issues.
Site & Content Planning
A keyword map serves as an official record of which pages are associated with which keywords. It can also guide your content strategy to ensure you steer clear of any duplicate content issues. You can also think of your keyword map as an SEO map — something that you can turn to time and time again for guidance and a point of reference as you continue to build your site, add new content, and optimize for SEO.
How To Map Your Keywords
Ready to dive in? Creating a keyword map is a straightforward process, but it can take some time if you’re working with a large site. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process that you can use as a keyword mapping template.
Step 1. Identify Keywords and Generate Keyword Themes
The first stage of the mapping process is to prepare your keywords. I’ll break this down into 2 smaller steps: identifying your keywords through keyword research and grouping them together into common themes and topic clusters.
Start by identifying a primary keyword for every page on your website. Look for a seed keyword that you can use as a jumping-off point to identify other relevant keywords. Rather than guessing, use a keyword research tool to find terms that have high enough volume and low enough competition scores to ensure they’re worth competing for.
Struggling to choose a keyword? If you’re mapping a site that is already established and receiving traffic, head over to Google Search Console to see what kinds of keywords your website is already performing well for. Some of these keywords can serve as seed keywords themselves. At the very least, they can provide guidance as you go through the keyword research and selection process. (Learn how to do this here.)
Another good source of inspiration is your competition. Have a look at the keywords your close competitors are ranking for and consider whether you want to compete for those terms.
Generating Keyword Themes
Once you’ve identified your keywords, it’s time to sort and organize them. Start by grouping your keywords together into semantically related clusters. Keywords that are very semantically similar can likely go on the same page or nearby pages.
For example, if I were looking to map the keywords for a pet store in San Francisco, I may want to group keywords like ‘cat food in San Francisco’, ‘buy cat Food in San Francisco’, and ‘San Francisco cat food’ since someone might use any of these queries to find the same thing.
One special point of consideration when grouping your keywords is search intent. Remember that search intent usually falls into one of four categories: informational, commercial, transactional, and navigational. The goal here is to further divide your keywords into additional subgroups that all answer the same kind of query (intent).
Clarifying intent ensures you have clearly designated pages set aside for certain search situations. You’ll also make sure that these pages are not encroaching on each other (which can result in thin content, duplicate content, or keyword cannibalization). In the keyword mapping example above, I argued that all 3 of those keywords belong together because they satisfy the same transactional search intent (someone looking to buy cat food in San Francisco).
You’ll want to filter for low-quality keywords during the first step, but if any irrelevant, low-volume, or overly competitive (high keyword difficulty) keywords make it through, you can use the sorting process as a second chance to remove them.
Step 2: Create a Spreadsheet
While it’s possible to draw up your keyword map the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, it’s easiest to use a spreadsheet. Not only will you digitally back up all your information, but the data will be easier to move around, edit, and filter when needed. Keeping your data in a spreadsheet also makes it simpler to add information, like the URL list you’ll generate in the next step.
The spreadsheet for your keyword mapping should include:
- Keyword theme name (generally the primary keyword)
- Primary and secondary keywords
- Keyword difficulty
- Keyword search volume
- Search intent
- Word Count
- Extra columns for additional customized content
Step 3: Identify Existing Content
If you’re just getting started on a fresh site, you can draw up your map from scratch. However, if you’re working with an active and established site, the next step is to create a list of the live pages on your website. Create a new tab on the spreadsheet where you can place this information.
If the site you’re mapping has many active pages, you can compile their URLs using a tool like Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider.
Make sure you use the filter setting in the top left corner of the crawl window to allow only HTML pages so that no unnecessary scripts, CSS files, or images get caught up in the crawler’s net. The free version of the tool will crawl up to 500 URLs and can export the generated URL list as a .csv so you can add it to your mapping spreadsheet.
If you haven’t already done so, use Google Search Console to see what keywords your pages are currently ranking for. Add those keywords into a column next to the URL list in the spreadsheet. (Learn more about getting this data from Google Search Console here.)
Step 4: Research Competing Content
The keyword mapping process is a great opportunity to dig into your competition’s SEO. Seeing how your closest competitors are performing can give you much more data to work with when it comes to making your keyword map actionable.
There are a number of different competitor research tools you can use to gain valuable insight into how your competitors’ websites are performing on search engines. Identify which keywords and what kind of search intent they are capturing, the forms of content that are successful (blog posts, landing pages, etc.), and the word counts for top pages.
Step 5: Note Content Opportunities
With your competitor’s data in hand, you can identify content gaps (valuable topics your competitors are covering but you aren’t). Take note of where you need new content and what kind of content is working best for your competitors in these areas. Check out what keywords are performing well for them in SERPs and decide if you want to compete for these terms. Then, modify your content roadmap accordingly.
Making Your SEO Keyword Map Actionable
Keyword map in hand, you can now begin to apply it to your keyword strategy. I’ll divide this process into three actionable steps: on-page optimization, content creation, and link-building efforts.
Before creating new content around additional keywords, first, optimize your existing pages. For example, if you found new keywords for existing content, incorporate them into the page and update titles, meta descriptions, and header tags.
If you find page optimization issues during the mapping process like missing title tags, unoptimized image tags, multiple pages targeting the same keyword, etc., address those problems as you get the ball rolling on content creation.
During the content creation stage, add to your content roadmap and schedule future content production. This is the stage where you assign the keywords you’ve mapped directly to the content of your pages. Consider your competitors’ content and brainstorm the specific content you want to create, the word count it needs to be competitive, what pillar pages it should link to, what priority to assign it, and, of course, what keywords fit best.
A huge plus of creating a keyword map is that you’ll also build a clear roadmap for internal linking. Your map creates a clear hierarchy between all of the relevant pages in one topic cluster, as well as between pillar pages and secondary pages across your site.
A keyword map makes it easy to visualize the links between your site’s pages because your keywords can serve as anchor text for your links. This way all of your internal links stay neatly organized and create a smooth flow of traffic for visitors and search engine bots to explore your website.
Many SEO tools provide insight into how many backlinks are necessary to improve the chances of ranking for particular keywords. If you are attempting to rank for queries with a high keyword difficulty, you’ll need to ramp up link-building efforts with a link building service. This is generally when the page is critical for driving conversions or is valuable for reaching a particular business goal. If any of the keywords you target have a high keyword difficulty, note how many backlinks and referring domains the top-ranking pages have in your spreadsheet and work with your SEO partner to establish a healthy link velocity to increase backlinks to critical pages.
Measuring the Success of Keyword Mapping
How do you know if your keyword mapping SEO efforts are paying off? You’ll need to keep an eye on page performance as well as other important SEO and site metrics.
Use keyword tracking tools like Mangools, SEMRush, and Ahrefs to regularly check the performance of your chosen keywords. If new keywords are ranking well and old keywords are improving in ranking, create a regular cadence for monitoring keyword performance and researching new keywords to target.
If your keywords are not performing well, do a deeper diagnostic dive to find out why. Make sure your content is well-optimized and that the search intent behind your keywords matches the content of the page. Search intent can change over time, so it’s always good to double-check that a keyword’s intent is up-to-date and that there’s no conflicting search intent on any one page (unless the page is specifically designed to capture multiple search intents).
Also, keep an eye on how your new pages are performing overall. If your keywords are performing well, great — but are they also helping you meet your business goals? Measure and track web traffic and conversion rates for any pages you’ve created to ensure they’re performing up to expectations. If a new page is generating traffic but not conversions, this could be a sign of mismatched search intent (though it could also be a conversion rate issue if the page isn’t fully optimized to convert).
SEO keyword mapping is a constant process. As you fill out your content roadmap and plan the next phase of content, you’ll need to keep returning to your keyword map. Additionally, if you decide to update or revamp existing content, you may want to add new keywords or even update your keyword strategy across multiple pages.
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Keywords connect your website to your target audience, and a solid keyword strategy is critical to pull in organic traffic. Don’t risk targeting the wrong keywords. Our keyword research services generate results by identifying conversion-focused keywords to drive real business outcomes with every click. Book a free consultation with us today to see how Victorious can benefit your keyword strategy and SEO efforts.