With so many different ways to drive traffic, and the search engines now trying to simulate user intent as well as content itself, is keyword mapping really all that important?
The short answer is yes. There is no escaping it. Keywords are still the driving force behind organic rankings and PPC algorithms alike. Not mapping your keywords properly leads to a scatter gun approach and (essentially) meaningless data. Not to mention a haphazard user journey…
While it is possible to have multiple rankings in the search engines for a specific search term, your effort is better spent by optimizing different pages on your website for completely unique keyword groups.
Here is my breakdown for mapping your keywords properly…
There’s no denying it, keyword mapping isn’t a glamorous task. In fact its tedious, and because of this a lot os SEOs will simply skip straight from keyword research into on-page and off-page SEO as that’s what they like doing. But as always the devil is in the detail, and it’s therefore cricual to get all the planning right as it informs the strategy going forward.
The consequence of skipping this step is that some areas of your website (i.e. the homepage) generally get over optimised, with other areas being forgotten completely.
What Is Keyword Mapping
Keyword mapping is the process of assigning or mapping keywords to specific pages on a website based on keyword research.
Based on your mapping process you are able to then make specific on page seo recommendations / actions to help make the page more relevant to the mapped keywords. It also then informs both internal and external link building as you generate and distribute content in the future.
How To Do Keyword Mapping
Once you understand the process, is quite simple.
You need to know what keywords you’re going to be mapping to the website. Doing keyword research properly is essential to this process (and something we’ll cover in another post).
The key here is to not get caught up in having to rank for every good keyword that you find. Try not to loose the focus of the exercise – the purpose is to map keywords for two reasons:
– To map keywords to your current content
– Highlight where there are holes in your content (i.e. nothing appropriate to map a keyword to) in which case you need to generate new content.
Once you have a solid list of keywords within your industry and potentially geo-graphical location, you’ll want to move into mapping them to the most appropriate pages.
A note on here… When conducting your keyword research its worth flagging both primary and secondary keywords in your list. The primary keywords need to be at the top of the “tree”, with secondary keywords for each section mapped underneath the primary keyword.
Current Relevancy Check
We’re going to be assigning your list of keywords to the pages that we want to rank them for – we’ll do this in a spreadsheet first. To do this, we’ll look at each page of your website and ask what page is the most relevant to this particular keyword?, for every keyword that we’ve identified.
The first step is to make a list of all the pages of your website, and the position of each page within your website (i.e. which page is it’s “parent”). From there we can figure out which page(s) are the most relevant in terms of both a person browsing your website (with this as their entry point), and Google as a search engine.
To understand how Google already understands the keywords of your website, and whether you need to change your listings in the search engines, you can check it in Google using the site: modifier plus your keyword. There are premium tools that can speed this process up – SEMRush is the industry leader.
Your query in Google would look like this: site:domain.com/page keyword
Simple replace “domain.com/page” with the full URL of the page you’re wanting to map, and “keyword” with the desired keyword from your list.
Preparing a Keyword Mapping Document
To help keep things organized you will want to prepare a keyword mapping document. This can sometimes be called an on-page optimization document or an SEO change document. If you’re working with an agency they may refer to it as something different, but it should do the same thing.
A keyword mapping document is usually spreadsheet-based where each row is a specific page on the website and each column is a crucial element for the on-page optimization process.
As you will see, I like to pull the existing page data and then make a recommendation on what the new page data should be, however this is optional. Also, I like to make some notes on recommendations for each page. This can include content , word count recommendations, image alt tagging recommendations, etc. This too is optional, but I find it easier and quicker to do it whilst I’m looking at each page, rather than having to go back and do it retrospectively.
Once this process is complete, any keywords that have not been assigned now need content creating, and you can use this document to understand where this new content will sit in the hierarchy of your website.
Keyword mapping an existing website vs a redesign or new website
There are some slight differences in how you would map the keywords in each scenario. With a new website, chances are you will have some sort of sitemap to work from (or have one already from your chosen agency). You can use each of the pages from the sitemap for the document and work from there.
In the case of a redesign, you’ll likely have a set of pages and URLs from the old site. Be sure to use the updated URLs as they will appear on the new site (these will be your final destinations in a 301 redirect document).
With a redesign it’s also possible that you may need to create pages more pages, if you have an excess of keywords that do not fit well with the proposed sitemap.
Assigning the keywords to each page is also a little different for a redesign, because you’ll want to take into account what pages are currently ranking the best for your keyword list. If your homepage is ranking in the second page for a few keywords that you wanted to map to your services page, it might make more sense to map them to the homepage instead – chances are it will take less effort to rank them higher than trying to rank the different page.
This should be a case-by-case basis though, because sometimes you’ll see higher rankings on the new page once it’s properly optimized to target that keyword.