The Google algorithm has changed once again.
When the Google algorithm changes, you need to adapt your SEO keyword strategy to follow suit.
If you don’t, you run the risk of falling behind your rivals and losing your position in the SERPs.
Google takes many things into consideration when it comes to ranking a website, and keywords are just one of those things.
Sure, their relevance has dwindled…
But they still matter. A lot.
If you adapt and implement the tactics in this article, you won’t just survive—there’s a chance you might even thrive.
The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Killer SEO Keyword Strategy
Keywords continue to be an essential part of SEO as they make us more discoverable.
There are three parts to creating an effective SEO keyword strategy: keyword research, keyword optimization and keyword tracking.
Let’s take a look at what you need to do for each.
1. Create a List of Topics
Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of keyword research, it’s important that you draft a list of topics centered around your niche, and which you can build content—and keywords—around.
For example, if your company sells an SEO tool, you should be creating topics like digital marketing, social media marketing, inbound marketing, lead generation…
You get the idea.
If you’re stuck for topic ideas (and it’s a good idea to come up with at least 10), just think about the conversations you’ve had related to your business in the past. What topics have come up the most?
Think about your customers, too. If you were a customer, what topics would you want to read about?
2. Draft Some Keyword Ideas
Once you’ve got your list of topics, you then need to fill them in with keywords.
This can be a lot easier than it sounds. All you really need to do is take a topic—for example, “social media marketing”—and run it through a keyword research tool like KWFinder or Ubersuggest to find suggested keyword phrases.
Some of the phrases that come up might include:
- “social media marketing tools”
- “social media campaign”
- “social media monitoring”
- “benefits of social media marketing”
As well as keyword ideas, you’re also generating even more topic ideas with this step.
At this point, you’re not finalizing your list of keywords. Instead, you’re coming up with a few phrases that your customers are potentially using to find content like yours.
Another way you can find more keyword ideas is to find related search terms via Google Search.
Just search for your topic or keyword phrase in Google, then scroll down to the bottom of the search results to find a list of eight related search terms.
As an example, here are the related search terms that show up for “social media marketing:”
If you need even more keyword ideas, take those related search terms, type them into Google and take a look at their related search terms.
Once you’ve got your list of keywords, add them to your keyword research tool and take a look at their search volume and commercial value to see whether or not they’re worth building content around.
Ideally, you don’t want to use a bunch of keywords that are super-duper popular (because you’ll find it hard to oust the competition), but neither do you want to employ a load of keywords that have less than 500 searches per month.
3. Research Short and Longtail Keywords
Using your keyword research tool, you should scout for both short and longtail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are capped at three words, whereas longtail keywords are longer. They contain 3+ words.
Short-tail keywords are also more competitive and generic—for example, “social media marketing”—whereas longtail keywords are more specific, like “how to succeed with social media marketing.” Longtail keywords can be a great way to drive traffic and rank better if you pick the right ones.
It’s a good idea to have a mix of both because it’ll help you create a well-balanced keyword strategy. Short-tail keywords can increase traffic, but longtail keywords can bring you more of the right traffic much more quickly.
When you type “social media marketing” into Google, it literally tells Google nothing about what kind of social media marketing-related content you’re looking for. As a result, if a user who types in “social media marketing” is greeted by your website, there’s a very high chance that you haven’t got what they’re looking for.
On the other hand, “how to succeed with social media marketing” is a lot more specific. If a user types it into Google and finds your website, there’s a really strong chance that you’ve got what they want. Happy days.
When you optimize for longtail keywords, it’s easier to beat the competition
At the same time, short-tail keywords—although super competitive—shouldn’t be discounted. They drive a lot of traffic, and aiming for short-tail keywords can pay off over the long term.
So, make sure your list of keywords contains both short and longtail keywords.
4. Understand User Intent
Following on from the above point, one of the main reasons you need to change the way you do keyword research is something called user intent.
User intent is the reason why someone has performed a search, and it’s now vitally important to your SEO keyword strategy.
When you perform a search, you have one of four different intents:
- Informational — you’re looking for information
- Navigational — you’re looking for a specific website
- Commercial — you’re researching before making a purchase
- Transactional — you’re ready to make a purchase
Understanding your customers’ intent behind their query will help you select the right keywords and create the right kind of content that helps you rank.
Google has worked very hard at understanding user intent and matching it up with valuable content that satisfies a user’s specific need. The more your content matches a specific need, the higher you will rank.
Let’s imagine I’m trying to rank for the keyword “digital marketing agency.”
To assess its value, I run it through a keyword research tool. What I find is that people are indeed interested in it. What’s more, it has commercial value.
Next, I run it through Google to see what results are appearing on the first page. As expected, it’s a list of local digital marketing agencies.
What I can deduce from this is that Google considers “digital marketing agency” to be a transactional phrase. In other words, people who use this term are ready to choose an agency and make a purchase.
On the other hand, if the results were leaning towards “best digital marketing agency deals,” it would be a commercial phrase.
So now that I know what the user intent is behind my keyword, I can then create better, more valuable content that satisfies the intent in the hope that Google will rank me higher.
With user intent, any keywords you choose must be very closely related to the content of the page. If they aren’t, Google simply won’t rank you because it’ll see that you aren’t satisfying user intent and giving people what they want.
1. Categorize Your Keywords
Now that you’ve got your keywords, it’s time to categorize them according to topics.
Some keywords will be synonyms of the same keyword. In such cases, it’s okay to use them in the same piece of content.
Categorizing your keywords is simply a case of adding certain keyword phrases to the right categories.
For example, if one of my categories is “digital marketing,” I’d group together related short and longtail keywords like “what is digital marketing?” and “digital marketing definition.”
2. Choose Your Main and Secondary Keywords
For each piece of content you write, you’ll be optimizing for primary, secondary and even tertiary keywords.
How you decide what keywords to use as your primary ones is simple, especially now that you’ve put them into categories.
For example, let’s say I’m writing an article about mountain bikes for a client. I’ve lumped the keywords “mountain bikes,” “rocky mountain bikes” and “buy cheap mountain bikes” into this category.
I run each keyword through my keyword research tool and discover that “mountain bikes” itself is the most popular search term in this niche. That means it needs to be my primary keyword.
Because it’s the keyword that has the potential to attract the most traffic. It needs to be used the most in my content.
When choosing your primary and secondary keywords, don’t go overboard. One primary keyword and 2-3 secondary keywords is fine.
3. Include Keywords in Your Content
Google wants you to produce valuable, in-depth content that satisfies a user’s concern. Your content needs to be original and rich in value.
Add keywords to your content to make it more discoverable to the right people, but make sure that any keywords you add are naturally placed. You’re adding keywords so that Google ranks you better, but you need to remember that you’re writing for human beings first and foremost.
To that end, don’t stuff your article with keywords. Don’t obsess over your keywords, but instead write naturally.
4. Add Keywords to Your Title Tags
When it comes to on-page optimization, title tags are fundamental. Your title tags need to contain your main keyword, but you need to be sure to write these tags using natural human language.
Remember that a title tag isn’t meant to be written for a computer. Like the content on the page itself, a title tag is written for humans, and it should improve the user experience.
Avoid stuffing your title tags with keywords. Keep them to a maximum of 75 characters and focus on demonstrating what your content is all about.
5. Add Keywords to Your Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions don’t have the ranking value they once had, but they’re still important.
A compelling meta description should include your primary keyword, and it needs to show a user why they should click on your website. Therefore, the keyword and the text has to be relevant, and it needs to show people that you’re going to resolve their problems and satisfy their needs.
In turn, this will boost your click-through rate, which is an important ranking factor.
Because meta descriptions become truncated at around 150 characters, it’s a good idea to keep them short and sweet.
Here’s a good example of an optimized meta description:
It contains the main keyword, engages people by asking a question, and it shows us what to expect from the page.
6. Add Keywords to Your URL Slugs
To really get the most out of your keyword strategy, don’t forget to add a keyword to your URL slug.
This will make life easier for Google and potential site visitors, as it shows both what your page is all about.
7. Add Keywords to Your H1s and H2s
Adding keywords to your H1s and H2s helps you to rank better. Google pays close attention to the words you use in your headings on the assumption that this will help it to understand what your page is about.
More than that, headings act as a guide to the user.
When they arrive on your website, they might scan through your content first, and the headings can give them a general idea of whether or not you’ve got what they need.
If they’re dissatisfied, they might quickly exit, and this will leave you with a high bounce rate.
1. Add Your Keywords to Monitor Backlinks
After you’ve published your optimized page and content, you then need to keep track of your rankings so you know if your keyword strategy is working.
The best way to do that is with Monitor Backlinks.
From the Rank Tracker page, add your list of keywords by clicking on the “+” button at the top right:
Your keywords will now be automatically tracked by Monitor Backlinks, and they’ll appear in a list as you scroll down the page:
Along with each keyword and your current ranking position, you’ll also see the page that’s ranking for the keyword, your ranking history, how your competitors rank for those same keywords, and more.
2. Monitor Your Keyword Rankings
This part of the process is the easiest, because Monitor Backlinks basically does it all for you.
Once your keywords are added to the Rank Tracker tool, Monitor Backlinks will automatically update your rankings every seven days.
So, you can either check on your keyword rankings every week…
Or just wait for the Monitor Backlinks weekly email update for an overview of your keyword performance and ranking changes:
With that information, you’ll then be able to know which keywords are working for you and which aren’t, and whether you need to change any part of your keyword strategy.
SEO Keyword Strategy Wrap-up
The next thing to do is go forth and execute your keyword strategy.
But if you can nail the keyword aspect of your overall SEO strategy, you’ll be well on your way to search engine success.
Aljaz Fajmut is a digital marketer, internet entrepreneur and the founder of Nightwatch—search visibility tools of the next generation. Check out the Nightwatch blog and follow him on Twitter: @aljazfajmut