Your Guide to Creating a Keyword StrategyBy Greg Snow-Wasserman
This article is part of an SEO series from WooRank. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.
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When creating and implementing a digital marketing campaign, you first need to design your keyword strategy. This strategy is more than just finding keywords that will bring you the highest number of visitors. It’s a top-to-bottom concept that will influence how you design your site, select keywords, optimize your pages and measure the success of your campaign.
Define Your Keyword Goals
Before you can start delving into keywords, search intent, search volume and click-through rate, you have to define what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your SEO. After all, how can you be successful if you don’t even know what you want? There are two basic goals when it comes to SEO campaigns:
- Conversion: This is the most common campaign goal when it comes to digital marketing. Using a conversion goal means you want your keywords to attract users that wind up converting on your website, whether that be making a purchase, completing a contact form, signing up for an email newsletter or downloading an app. If you go this route, you should focus more on longtail commercial keywords.
- Branding: This campaign is looking to generate lots of impressions and pageviews and focuses less on conversions that happen on the landing page, if they are even possible. For a branding campaign, ranking highly is its own reward as it establishes your brand as a thought leader and an important player in your niche.
You aren’t constrained to one or the other though. You can use a hybrid keyword strategy by dedicating the majority of your keywords (around 80-90%) to a longtail approach, while reserving the remaining for keywords that will get your brand and content in front of a lot of eyeballs.
How you define success will impact the keywords you choose and how you evaluate their performance.
Before you begin any marketing campaigns you need to ask yourself, “what does success look like?” Or, what metric will you track to determine if you’re achieving your campaign goal? When talking about an SEO campaign, most people first think of measuring improvements to your site’s ranking, or increasing the number of new visitors. If you’re running a branding campaign, then these are your top metrics to track. However, you should also keep track of important SEO indicators like click through rate (CTR), time spent on site and bounce rate, as these metrics will help you evaluate your landing pages’ relevance to the target keywords and content quality.
If you are measuring your campaign against a conversion goal, determining success by SERP ranking and traffic is overly simple, and can even cause you to waste time and effort optimizing pages for keywords that aren’t achieving your goal. To measure your conversion campaign, use your analytics to evaluate visitor behavior by keyword. Some important metrics to track for conversions:
- Pages/visit: How many pages are users viewing per visit? This will tell you whether or not your site is engaging users and piquing their interest in your products or services.
- Bounce rate: A high bounce rate can be a sign of a few different issues with your keyword, your page or both, which we’ll cover in a little bit.
- Average time on site: Do users leave your page right after arriving? This is often closely related to bounce rate — low time on site and high bounce rate is a sign that your page’s content doesn’t jive with your keywords.
And, finally, the most important metrics to track for conversion campaigns are conversions and conversion rate. The reason you want to track indicators other than just conversions is because that number alone doesn’t give you much context, and you could otherwise be missing opportunities to target keywords that have higher conversion rates.
How to Choose Keywords
Now that you know what endgame you’re optimizing for, you can start to find keywords to target with your SEO. To get the best list possible, start with your product (or service). Ideally, you know this inside and out. Start by brainstorming keywords that come to mind when you think of your business, or how you would answer the question “What is my website about?” or “What does my business do?”
Since Google’s Hummingbird update, it’s more important than ever to base your keyword strategy around the way humans use and interact with search engine results. Target keywords that will help you answer questions that users would ask in order to learn more about your industry, company and products.
One nice in-house resource you have for this is your very own customer service team. Keep a record of the conversations you have with your customers, or if you’re big enough, have your customer success team keep track of their tickets. Take note of:
- The most commonly asked questions your CS team handles.
- Any particular features and/or services people ask about or mention, both positive and negative.
- Any concerns or comments left by customers.
This exercise will result not only in a better experience for your customers, but a solid list of potential keywords for you as well. If people are contacting you to ask a question or leave a comment, you can bet they’ve already done so online.
If you have a search bar on your site, update the settings in your Google Analytics account to track what your users are searching for. Click on the Admin tab then under View, select View Settings and switch Site search Tracking on. You can then provide the query parameter used in your search URLs to begin tracking. This will help you to understand user intent, as well as highlighting content gaps where no relevant content exists on your site based on the search query used.
Along with understanding how your potential customers are searching for your company and/or product online, you also need to decide what part of the sales process you want to target. Are you looking to start a prospecting campaign that attracts users at the very beginning of the process, and then convert them later via email marketing or retargeting? Or do you want your website to be shown in front of in-market searchers who are looking to buy right away?
To effectively find your right target audience, you need to understand the search intent behind the keywords. The stage of conversion you want to target will determine what sort of keyword you optimize for:
- Informational: These keywords represent the very beginning of the conversion process, and are not very likely to convert on the first visit. If you’re running a branding campaign you’ll want to be sure to include informational keywords on your list. If you’ve got a conversion goal, you still can’t afford to ignore these keywords as they make up the majority of searches. Informational keywords often use words/phrases like “how to”, “do I need” and “where to find”. Consider these leads to be converted later via your website or a retargeting campaign.
- Research: These searchers are further down the funnel than informational searchers. They’ve already decided that they want to buy a product, but they haven’t quite decided which one is best. They’re looking for more information, so product keywords usually include words such as “review”, “top 10”, “comparison”. And while it may look like spam to you, a word like “cheap” can actually help turn researchers into conversions.
- In-market: These are the “shut up and take my money” searchers. They expect search results to take them directly to the product they’re trying to buy. These keywords typically include words like “deal”, “free shipping”, “discount” and “buy”. They don’t have high search volume, but should more than make up for it with high conversion rates.
- Freemium: These are people looking to get free versions of products and digital goods (movies, TV shows, music, books, etc.). Unless your product uses a freemium model, avoid these keywords. A person looking for “free Game of Thrones episodes online” is probably never going to buy the box set.
Part of designing your keyword strategy is making sure you target keywords that will bring in enough traffic to be worth the effort. There’s no minimum number of searches for a keyword — that depends on your niche and your ability to convert visitors into sales. If you’ve got a Pro or Premium WooRank account, use SERP Checker’s new search volume feature to track estimated monthly searches for your keywords, as well as historical ranking data. If you’re already using SERP Checker, the search volume will appear for your keywords automatically. If you haven’t used it yet, just enter your keywords in the tool and you’ll see your data within 24 hours.
If you haven’t created an Advanced Review yet, you can use Google AdWords or Bing Ads’ Keyword Planner tools to find search volume for your keywords.
Note that if you aren’t a big spender on AdWords, your data in Keyword Planner might get throttled. That means you won’t see the actual search volume for your keywords. Instead, the tool will display an estimated range of monthly searches, like this:
Don’t base your whole strategy on chasing volume though. Pay attention to the competition column in the keyword research tools. Even though these tools use pay-per-click (PPC) data to determine competitiveness and suggested bid, you can still extrapolate this data for organic search. High competition and suggested bid is a strong indication that there’s money to be made off of these keywords, as advertisers generally won’t bid high CPCs on poorly performing keywords.
Of course, don’t go overboard targeting competitive keywords with high suggested bids. They can potentially send you a lot of traffic, or highly qualified traffic, but they’re incredibly hard to rank for. Don’t avoid them entirely, but make sure you have a healthy blend of keywords that are both high and low competition.
Optimizing Landing Pages
Choosing landing pages for your keywords is an important element of your keyword strategy, and can be critical for both your SEO and your user experience. Look at it this way: When you click through to a site that really isn’t relevant to your search, what do you do? You most likely leave that page after a few seconds and likely won’t consider it in the future. So having poorly optimized landing pages can cost you sales. But they’ll also damage your SEO efforts, making it hard to rank.
Google uses bounce rate as a ranking signal, so if visitors are leaving your page without interacting with any other pages, the search engine will see that it’s either not relevant to the keyword, or the content is not very useful. Optimize these elements of your landing pages to show that the page is relevant to the keyword:
Title tag: This is one of the most important on page SEO factors. Search engines rely heavily on title tags to determine the topic of a page. Use your most important keyword at the beginning of the title, and keep your titles between 50 and 60 characters. A correct title tag in the
<head>of a page looks like:
<title>This is the title</title>
Headings: Search engines look at heading tags as well as title tags to figure out what a page’s content is about. Use keywords in your heading tags, and make sure to maintain your heading hierarchy.
Page Content: The days of minimum keyword density are gone. The number of times you use a keyword is really determined by the length of your content. If you are creating unique, quality content your will naturally use your keyword throughout your page. Sprinkle latent semantic keywords throughout your content to strengthen the page’s topical relevance.
Images: Even though search engines don’t really see images, you can still use them as part of your keyword strategy. First, make sure they are relevant to your page content, and add to the overall user experience. For search engines, use the alt attribute to help crawlers “see” what an image is about. The alt attribute is a part of the image HTML tag that is used by search engines, text-only browsers and screen readers to “see” an image. Use your keywords in the alt text, but be sure to do so naturally. Stuffing alt attributes full of keywords and synonyms will make your page look like spam and do more harm than good.
Use the search intent of a keyword to help determine what sort of page it should be used on. Informational keywords should be used on pages optimized for a branding campaign with content such as how to guides or product comparison articles. Avoid using these pages to target more specific in-market keywords. Those searchers have no use for a how-to guide or product comparisons. Use those to target your product pages that include specs, reviews, options and, most importantly, price and the “buy now” button. Of course, the “buy now” button could also be the email sign-up page or contact information form, depending on the type of goals you’re targeting.
Once you’ve devised your keyword strategy you can move on to more sophisticated on page optimizations like URL canonicalization, creating an XML sitemap and making your website mobile friendly. If you’re new to SEO, do some research to avoid making common mistakes that will hurt your ability to rank and get quality organic traffic.
What keywords are you targeting? Enter your URL to the right to generate a free WooRank SEO audit. Find out how consistently you’re using your keywords and how well your site is optimized for them.