Applying Keyword Research

Effective use of keywords is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for increasing traffic to your website. Identifying the best keywords for your website involves a great deal of careful research and analysis.

It’s important to be able to properly estimate competitiveness of a potential keyword. While we ended up with a large amount of keywords, we will actually only be using a small percentage of them. Proper competitive analysis will allow you to provide your client or employer with data that helps answer these questions:

  • how long it takes to see results
  • what kind of budget they may need to see the results
  • what resources they should put in place on a project

A competitive analysis contains various stages. In order to effectively analyze the competition behind a keyword or term, we must

  1. first select potential keywords we want to use, based on relevancy, intent, and competitiveness.
  2. then identify who is for that term in the competition.
  3. next evaluate what competitor sites are doing well and areas they are lacking in.
  4. finally analyze our own site to identify opportunities we have to effectively compete.

We want to make sure the key words that we choose align with our site in business goals, and yet have enough search volume to bring traffic to our site. This way we can be assured that we will receive traffic for the terms that we choose.

Another thing is to check how well an audience might respond to a keyword. If you have access to analytics data and the webmaster has enabled tracking of searches performed within the site, you can use this feature to gain additional insight into consumer intent. The search analytics function allows you to gain insight into what consumers are searching for within your own site.

Have we selected potential keywords, let’s perform a competitive analysis. This will help us determine whether or not we can rank well for a particular query, also help us identify who are online competition is. The analysis report will provide an overview of the top competitors for your chosen keyword phrases.

Just knowing who our competitors are is not enough if we are going to reach our business goals, we need to determine which competitors we can beat in search rankings and who we can not. We’ll also need to set reasonable expectations, and develop a plan for placing ourselves in the best possible competitive position. Note that many companies may not be aware of the organic competition and may rely only on who they think are their competitors.

Next, we will analyze our top competitors, so we can see what they are doing well as SEOs, whereas they are falling down on, and how to turn this into an opportunity for our site to rank well. It is an extremely important topic to deep dive into the process of evaluating your online competition – what they are doing and where we can improve. Mostly these are on-page factors, technical factors, and off-site links. For larger sites, itโ€™s important to look at how deeper pages can be optimized to improve their competitiveness.

Mapping Keywords to Pages

A keyword map is basically a document which outlines which keywords belong to which pages of your site. The purpose of a keyword map is to help us:

  1. Create focused pages grouped around a keyword or group of keywords
  2. Determine the theme of the page
  3. Avoid using duplicate keywords
  4. Creates a reference document for clients

Optimizing pages around keywords tells how well you match the topic and language to the intent of your user base. Before we start assigning keywords to existing pages, we first need to look at how the page is performing from a user experience and optimization standpoint. It’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How well does that page already rank for its current keywords?
    • Perform a quick rank analysis, to see how well that page is ranking for that keyword.
  2. Is that keyword appropriate to target?
    • For example, does it have good search volume? How well does that page match user intent?
  3. How well the keyword is performing by looking at user engagement?
    • Looking at user engagement, will also give you an idea of what pages may need a revamp, before or shortly after your SEO efforts.

If a keyword does not fit naturally into a sentence, then it may not be the best choice for that page. Most of a site’s authority will reside on the homepage, since the homepage is a bit broader in scope than other pages, it will have greater opportunity to rank for more competitive keywords. Other pages can focus on more specific, yet less competitive terms.

Whether you are working with clients or co-workers, it’s vital that you create a document that shows where keywords are used within your website. This makes planning and future updates to your site much easier. If the site does not have a page or pages that work with the keywords you have researched and chosen, you can:

  1. either create an entirely new page that matches the keyword
  2. or change a copy of the page to match the keyword

Competitive Content Analysis

Besides analyzing a competitor’s keywords, another important element of on-page SEO is knowing who your competitors are and what strategies they are using to attract audiences. A competitive content analysis will give you a good idea of what your competitors are doing with their content. These insights will tell you:

  • who your true competition is when it comes to content
  • how your target audience responds to that content, and
  • ideas for improving your existing content
  • determine what voice to use in your content

The steps to do competitive content analysis include:

  1. List the resources and content pages the competitors have available
    • Identify the types of content on the page
    • Track social media signals
    • Make a list of all of the resources and content pages a competitor has available
    • Track links available on a competitor’s page
  2. Analyze your competition to determine what types of content they are producing, and identify areas of opportunity for your site.
    • Find popular and active social channels.
    • Incorporate social media buttons.
    • Don’t copy competitors’ content strategies.
    • Include calls to action to share on social media & spread content.
    • Add posts that will increase interaction and engagement.
    • Duplicate pages and great content hosted on subdomains are hurting competition.
  3. List questions to consider during an internal content audit which is a necessary tool to help you inventory and organize the content on your site.
    • Do all articles and blog posts have an eye-catching and supportive image?
    • Are there other supporting pages within our site that the content can link to?
    • Are there external resources we can link to in order to provide a better user experience?
    • Could other resources such as video be added to make this more appealing?
    • Can this be combined with other potentially competing pages?
    • If the content is quite lengthy, can this be split up into a multi-part series or guide?

How to begin your content analysis? We can start with pages that are already receiving organic visits. They can potentially be improved upon, which would result in more traffic and potentially more social sharing. If the site is large, audit blog and internal pages separately.

Pages with low bounce rate (high engagement) and low traffic means they need attention from search engine. By improving the content, for example, adding more content or resources, we can help search engines recognize that these pages offer value to users and should be ranked higher.

There are things you need to note:

  1. Noting seasonality allows you to increase content and develop new content to drive traffic for specific times throughout the year.
  2. Note the type of content you are looking at:
    • text post: add more resources like images to improve the content.
    • infographic: revisit these on occasion and reach out to news sites or blogs that may be interested in republishing the infographic with the link back to your site.
    • video or something else.
  3. Note down both internal and external links:
    • Internal links let search engines know that you consider the content important enough to link to. This also helps robots crawl the page more frequently.
    • External links, provide more value to users, making your page more likely to rank while in search.
  4. Note post type or category, for example: “how-to” posts, Q&A posts, or posts about a particular topic. This will aid in discovery ability and drawn more traffic to those resources.
  5. Keep track of how you are targeting your audience. Through direct keywords, or through indirect methods?
  6. Whether or not the post or resource contains a call to action. With it, consumers visiting your site are more likely to perform that action, and significantly boost conversion rates within your site.

For large sites, this is an ongoing project where you might want to look at a couple different pages each month. You can then do the same for pages with high bounce rate or low conversion rate. As you discover more content, you can look at pages outside of organic landing pages to see what might need a little push to get discovered by search engines.

Domain-Level Content Strategy

Having a content strategy in place is important to the optimization of your site for several reasons:

  1. More content will bring in more organic search traffic, introducing new customers to your brand or services.
  2. More engaging content will engage users, increasing ranking and user time on site.
  3. Sharable content builds brand presence, increases consumer trust and loyalty.

Content is king when you have a well-thought strategy and great content. However some marketers are just throwing any content they can on their website. Generic content does not attract users or rank well organically. A domain-level content strategy allows you to create content that makes sense to your users and contributes to your goals. It’s important to take your entire domain or site into account when creating the strategy, rather than just a single blog page or static page.

A domain-level content strategy is a high-level vision of your site’s theme, which will help guide the creation of future content to meet specific business objectives. The main goal of any business is to drive profitable consumer action, by

  1. Attracting new customers to your site and making them aware of your brand.
  2. Driving existing customers back to your site for repeat purchases, thus increasing their lifetime value.
  3. Engaging existing and potential customers, which will result in these individuals organically spreading brand messaging for you.

Site’s Theme and Brand

While on-page optimization is very important, Google’s algorithm has evolved that it looks at websites from a whole picture perspective. The content of your site contributes to your website’s overall theme and authority around a particular subject. Centering around a core theme or purpose, you are increasing opportunities that content has to get discovered.

In addition to having your content organized around a central theme, it’s also a good idea to devote time into developing your brand. Having a strong brand presence is important to a successful content strategy.

Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.

Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO

Strong branding adds legitimacy to your website and is a strong signal to search engines that your site is trustworthy. Google is able to determine the correct answer to a question based on content and links, Google can understand the similarity between two words and supply correct information. So site’s pages should be based on a core theme, and be useful and unique to users.

In addition, these pages should be linked together so users can easily find the answers they are looking for. This is called Cohesive Content Strategy and will increase site engagement metrics and lower bounce rate. Blog content will be the main focus after initial SEO strategy is in place. When possible, link blog topics and static pages to each other.

What Makes Content Great?

There are a lot of factors that go into having a great piece of content:

Strong keywordsPeople need to be able to find the content you have available in search engines.
Call to actionContent should prompt action by the user, who shall feel a connection to the content and perform some action after reading that content.
Share worthyThe content should be share-worthy. We want users to share the page with their friends, family, or coworkers on social networks. Social shares can lead to more traffic and better site ranking.

How to make sure that our content meets those end goals?

  1. Research the type of content enjoyed and shared by our particular audience.
  2. Provide necessary tools for users to take the next step – sign up for newsletter, or share social network.
  3. Align content with the focus of your site and your branding goals.

Types of Content

There are four types of content you can create, all of these types of content have their place in your content and SEO strategy:

EvergreenGREAT for SEO.
Always be useful regardless of the season, date or other factors.
Tend to rank higher than other forms of content.
Should avoid references to dates, news and technology.
TrendingAlso great for SEO.
Takes advantage of a trending topic or news story.
Difficult to write posts for because of time and effort required.
SeasonalRelates to a specific season, time of year or holiday.
Create content ahead of time, publish few weeks earlier, and continue throughout the season.
GeneralCurrently relevant and will be so for awhile.
Most of the content on your site will fall into the general category.

There are also certain types of posts, which tend to be shared and linked to more frequently:

  1. List posts – Top ten books to read before you die, etc.
  2. How to posts – In depth guides, etc.
  3. Interviews – Interviews with industry leaders, etc.
  4. Checklists – Mix between how-to and list.
  5. Case studies and whitepapers – B2B resources.

Create Impactful Content

How can we create excellent content? Find out what your audience is looking for, and provide that to them. Remember that Google provides answers above search results and the “people also ask” box. Having a strong brand focus around a topic increases the chance that your site will show up in the answer box, or in these additional areas.

You don’t always have to create content around a keyword. In fact, you should be looking at great content opportunities outside of keywords as well. Finding out

  • what your target audience’s pain points are
  • what questions they are asking, and
  • how you can help solve their queries

will help you provide useful content to your users.

Local SEO

Local SEO is the act of optimizing your website in any relevant business listings, so that they appear for search queries related to the to the location of your business and relevant keywords. For local SEO you generally will add location specific keywords to your search result, such as the city name or the phrase “near me”.

With local SEO, your goal is to acquire as much visibility as possible. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Local search pack,which is a list of local businesses, sometimes with the map that appears at the very top of organic search results.
  2. Organic search results themselves.

In order to appear in both the local search pack and organic listings, you have to optimize both your Google My Business listing and your website with local search.

It’s also really important to encourage users to leave reviews of your business. Reviews are one of the most important areas for your business to focus on in local search. Reviews help your business listing stand out, indicating to Google that you’re a legitimate business. Note that 63% of consumers will check reviews on Google before they visit a business. And Google currently has a 57.5% share of all online reviews. So people will generally leave reviews on Google before leaving reviews anywhere else.

It’s important to always encourage reviews. According to research, businesses that proactively request reviews have a higher rating (4.34 stars) than those who simply wait for unprompted reviews (3.89 stars). You must be careful about how you encourage reviews. DO NOT solicit for reviews! If Google finds that you’re offering a discount or an item in exchange for reviews, you may have all of your reviews removed.

Links (anything where one website links to your website or your Google My Business listing) and citations (references to your business name, or address or phone number) are important for local SEO.

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