Updated: May 28, 2019
It is universally acknowledged that search engines use hundreds of signals to decipher and rank the relevance of a website. A website owner in possession of good keyword research, must be in want of some traffic!
NB: If you haven’t done your keyword research yet, I would highly recommend this article from MOZ on how to complete basic keyword research in 30-minutes.
While it has been more than 15 years since simply using keywords on your website was the only way for search engines to make sense of your website, keywords still play a crucial role.
Using keywords successfully not only tells a better story, it also helps search engines and users understand which search queries your website is relevant for.
So, you have done your keyword research. You have your initial keyword list. Now what? How do you apply them to your website for SEO?
Here’s your 6-step guide to applying keyword research to your website utilising a “keyword map”.
1. HOW TO USE KEYWORDS
The overall goal of this exercise is to match the language on your website to the language that your customers use when they search for you.
Keywords are simply how people search for your product or service. The goal of SEO and the effective use of keywords is to help search engines understand your site.
Search engines are robots. That said, they are not stupid. Any attempt at deceiving or manipulating them will be quashed.
Effective use of keywords however, will help the likes of Google to understand your website, and what each page on your website is about... so that customers (humans) who are searching Google, can find what they are looking for.
2. THE APPROACH
The first principle to digest is that you aren’t really “using keywords on your website”, so much as you are using certain keywords on individual pages.
Second, don’t think in terms of individual keywords, think in terms of themes of keywords. A single page will be about a single topic, which can then be described with several keywords.
Your keywords should work together to tell the full story of your site. Using a single keyword theme per page to help Google understand exactly what each page is about and how it relates to the whole site.
Here’s an example. Suppose you want to build a website that ranks for “outdoor furniture”. It’s not enough to focus purely on “outdoor furniture”. You have to be the site that you would rank if you were trying to find the most relevant outdoor furniture site on the Internet.
A site like that would not just have a page (maybe the homepage) that talks about outdoor furniture in general, but it would probably have a page about outdoor chairs, outdoor tables and perhaps pages about outdoor lighting, parasols, furniture covers and maybe cushions.
All of these keywords work together to tell the full story.
3. CLUSTER KEYWORD THEMES
Group your keywords into keyword themes. For example, if you run a football retail website, a theme of keywords might be; junior football boots, kids football boots, football boots for children, and youth football boots.
These keywords all revolve around the same theme, which will allow you to write content that is natural and non-spammy. It will allow you to write relevant content that clearly builds around the keywords and their theme.
Add to your themes where appropriate by building on your original keyword list.
Use free tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Trends. You can also use lesser known tools such as AnswerThePublic, Google Suggest, KeywordTool, UberSuggest, Google Correlate and many, many more(!).
Mine other useful platforms such as FAQ Fox, BloomBerry, Wikipedia Topics, Reddit Search, Quora Search, YouTube and Yahoo Answers... BUT don’t get overwhelmed by all of these options, pick a couple and go from there. Remember keyword research is iterative.
4. BUILD A KEYWORD MAP
The next step is to start mapping keywords to pages. This will not only prevent duplication of keyword themes, but it will also help you see all your site’s parts, its architecture, and how they work together at a glance.
Below is an example keyword map.
You will see the page name is in the first column (I find that using multiple columns works well, as you can show a hierarchy of pages, with each subpage indented by 1 column).
The subsequent columns are page URL, keywords assigned to each page, local search volume and competition (especially useful if in a competitive industry). Volume and competition numbers can be established for free from Google Keyword Planner.
You can target as many keywords as you want per page, but keep in mind that you will have to use the keyword to target it. That said, any list beyond about 6 or 7 on a page can become unmanageable and a list with only 1 or 2 can get spammy (as you end up repeating the same keywords over and over again).
Place the keywords in descending order based on search volume seen in the Keyword Planner, these will allow you to quickly judge which keywords represent the biggest opportunity.
5. CHECK RELEVANCE AND VALUE
Once you have completed your keyword map and now that you have all the pages of your site in front of you, you can start to look at them individually and as a whole.
Look at the keywords assigned to each page. Could someone unfamiliar with your website, product/service tell you exactly what each page is about? Could you give someone your keyword map and ask them to write content?
Do all the keywords associated with each page go with each other? Or should you consider breaking up pages? Conversely, are there any pages that are similar enough to merge?
You might find plenty of keywords that are related to your site, but don’t quite fit a page yet. Don’t delete them. Instead, put them into your grouped keyword themes, but designate them as ‘future opportunities’. They can be used for future pages or perhaps blog content for your site.
6. ADD YOUR KEYWORDS TO YOUR SITE
Now that you have your keyword map it’s time to add them to the following key places within your website:
Page title tag – this is the HTML meta data element that specifies the title of a web page. Make sure it is under 65 characters (including spaces) and lead with your most important keyword. Do not use the same keyword more than once.
Meta description – this is the meta data snippet of up to 170 characters that summarises a page’s content. Make sure you include the most important keyword. Do not use the same keyword more than once.
Page heading – the title heading copy of your page
Copy on the page and in-particular the first paragraph
It’s easy - just make sure you follow the rules(!)
When you add keywords, make sure they appear naturally. Pay attention to how often they are repeated within your copy. This is known as keyword density. Generally, it is recommended that your keywords reflect between 2-3%, which is 2 to 3 times per 100 words.
Make sure you write for humans and not search engines. Although it is important to include keywords, this shouldn’t affect the quality of your copy. Text should flow naturally, and be helpful and engaging. That goes for your metadata too.
In short, keywords are critical to being found by search engines, which can make a big difference to the number of visitors to your website.
I hope this post was useful, please don’t hesitate to ask any questions and do let me know how you get on!