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I've been a long-time advocate of keyword mapping as a foundation to SEO best practices.
In my opinion, it's the single most important step in setting yourself up for success in SEO and something that's severely under-valued and under-utilized by most practitioners.
This powerful technique will provide you with a very clear roadmap for all your on-page and off-page optimization and as such simply cannot be ignored.
But this is not just a tool for SEO!!!
Keyword mapping will have a profound and often immediate impact on your PPC activities as well. Make no mistake this is a tool that should be central to all your search marketing work.
What IS Keyword Mapping
Keyword mapping is a process where you map the researched keywords, related to your niche, to specific landing pages. The idea is to map them to ideal landing pages as opposed to existing content. This process innately addresses information architecture and site architecture issues which arise when deciding where on your site each piece of content should "live".
A Vital Tool For Content Marketing
Keyword mapping is an important part of your content marketing plan. Every content marketing strategy should begin with the content at your "home base". But the trick is to do this from the customer's perspective rather than from your own internal perspective.
Many SEOs are now onboard with the idea of giving Google exactly what they want: quality content. And this is indeed a good idea. But a common mistake is to do this from an internal perspective and adopt a content-first approach. In other words, they ask themselves what topics would make for a good read and would likely be of interest to their target audience. They brainstorm different content ideas and look to various sources for inspiration in order to produce that elusive "quality content".
What Is Quality Content?
If we are planning on providing Google with quality content shouldn't we take a moment to ask ourselves what exactly is meant by "quality content". It's certainly a question that Google invests a lot of time addressing and I think it would make sense for us to do the same.
Here are a some points from various sources that help define what is meant by "quality content" according to Google.
Search Quality Rating Guidelines
- user intent
Adwords Quality Score
- landing page relevance to keyword and ad
- landing page quality (relevant and original content, be transparent, easy to navigate)
- CTR of the keyword
- CTR of the account (all keywords and ads)
- relevance of keyword to the ads in the ad group
- relevance of keyword and matched ad to search query
Panda Negative Signals
- big templates (and little unique content)
- bad website design
- empty content
- high ad ratio
- affiliate links, auto generated content
Panda Quality Metrics
- low bounce rate
- low number of ads
- time on page
- where are visitors arriving from?
Google Freshness Update
- fresh content is considered higher quality for some queries
Is this the ultimate definition of quality content? No. This is very much a search-centric perspective. The quality of social media content may be defined quite differently.
But given this article is all about search marketing this definition serves our needs perfectly.
And the process we recommend for creating that content is as follows:
- Start with thorough keyword research. What keywords does your business or website relate to? What volumes are up for grabs? Think outside the box - this is about attracting your target audience to your site with relevant content rather than creating content that is 100% about your core business. eg. if you're in the gym or personal training business look for keywords about health and nutrition.
- Plan the ultimate landing pages for those queries. Map keywords to urls where the content will be hosted. What would the best page on the internet look like for that keyword?
- Take a holistic approach to your keyword targeting by creating a site that will accommodate all these landing pages with minimum confusion. This step is very much about information architecture through analysing the different ways in which users categorize information in your industry and then making sure your site structure will accommodate that search behaviour. An example from the travel industry is provided in the section entitled "Create a Demand-Based Site Structure" below.
- Develop your content creation plan. Who should produce it? In what formats (text, images, video etc). How often should you add new content?
The conclusion is that if you don’t do your keyword mapping properly you will be left guessing what content to create and where it should reside. You risk ending up with poor content that attempts to cover too many keywords (a Frakenpage according to Rand Fishkin). Or you could end up with the opposite extreme of multiple content pieces targeting the same keywords. This cannibalization of your efforts leads to diluted link equity and "confusion" for Google as to which page should be ranking for a given keyword.
This is why you need a holistic approach to your keyword research rather than starting with content ideas and then trying to find keywords to optimize that content towards.
In other words you should map content to keywords rather than mapping keywords to content!!
This is an important distinction from the title of Rand's most recent Whiteboard Friday. And while I've always disagreed with Rand's SEO Pyramid because it has content as the foundation and keywords on top of that, this latest video suggests that he has seen the light.
Major Benefits of Keyword Mapping
Keyword mapping allows you to:
1. Identify Content Creation Opportunities
In my experience, when most people go into SEO-mode they do not have a mindset of adding or improving the content on their site. Instead, they think "what existing page can I get ranking for that keyword?". And typically, the page they decide upon is not providing your average user with the answer to their query. We need to ask ourselves, "What would the best page on the internet related to [insert keyword] look like?" and then build that page. And that goes for every keyword we are serious about targeting.
Why is that so important from an SEO point of view? Here's a few reasons:
- think about this from Google's point of view… is this form of SEO "gaming the search engines"? or is it exactly what Google would like to see? ie. organizations identifying user needs and then creating the best content to serve those needs. Of course, the search engines want their algorithms to reward that approach to SEO and they are working very hard to make that happen.
- in a post-panda world, we have to create content that provides Google with strong quality signals and building content in this way is the best approach for achieving that.
it gives us real focus when building landing pages and optimization happens, to a large extent, automatically.
Impact on PPC advertising:
As mentioned, this tool will also have a profound impact on your PPC advertising as well. And the reason for that lies in these highly targeted pieces of content which will allow you to provide better targeted landing pages for each keyword and thereby dramatically boost your quality score.
As most of us know, an increase in quality score will generally allow your ad to show in a higher position at the same price which will in turn improve your click-through-rate and again boost your quality score. Ultimately you should be able to get higher ad positions and click-through-rates at the same (or even lower) prices. And normally, the user will respond better to these targeted landing pages because they're more constructive in answering the user's query.
2. Create a Demand-Based Site Structure
When you have determined what landing pages you need in order to serve your target audience's search behavior you then need to structure them in a visitor friendly way. To arrive at such a result you need to pay attention to the different ways that your audience categorizes things in your space. For example, in the travel industry customers tend to categorize by:
- type (last minute, charter, cheap)
- activity (golf, spa, beach, family)
- and combinations of the above
We see some travel sites are dominant in the search engines for one of these types of categorization but very few dominate across all types of queries because they haven't figured out to handle them all in their content management system.
Not only does this analysis allow us to create landing pages that will perform exceedingly well in the search engines but it forces you to figure out a site structure that is based on the way people are categorizing information in your industry. This inevitably leads to an improved user experience when it comes to the navigation of the site.
3. Avoid Typical Trade-offs in On-Page Optimization
When mapping keywords to landing pages it is important to group only those keywords that have largely the same semantic meaning. It might be tempting to cut corners and map roughly-related keywords to the same page, in order to reduce the amount of content creation. Be wary of such short cuts!
By doing that you won’t have a clear map for your on-page optimization. You will go chasing too many keywords with one landing page which will force you to make trade-offs when it comes to your titles, headings, meta description etc.
4. Develop a Roadmap for Link Anchor Text Optimization
At the end of the keyword mapping process you can filter the document for any single url to see the full list of keywords that have been mapped to it. In most cases that number should be in the range of 5-10 keywords per page. With that list we can now set about optimizing the anchor text of links to that page, both internal links and inbound links. And by varying the links (using the 5-10 keywords and logical variants such as plurals and synonyms) we create a very strong link profile to each page that sends Google a clear message as to what that page is about - without over-optimizing for the primary keyword.
Quick list of benefits:
- Helps you identify content creation opportunities
- Demand-based site structure – facilitates a site structure that makes more sense to users
- Niched content with only semantically related keywords hosted on separate landing pages boosts quality signals (eg. bounce rates) that search engines look for.
- Easier to optimize On-Page factors such as titles, headings, meta description and internal links.
Provides you with a link building roadmap - you know what anchor text to use for external links and what landing page to target.
There is no short-cut to SEO but you CAN transform it from a difficult and frustrating activity to something that you can dominate quite easily. And you do that by providing users and the search engines with exactly the content they want!!!
Keyword mapping is a powerful technique that comes with many benefits for both on-page and off-page practices.
This simple tool provides us with a structured process for producing and optimizing quality content that will not only boost your rankings but will also create a great user experience for your visitors.
This is clearly the most important document in our search marketing work at KliKKi and really makes it surprisingly easy to get incredible results for our clients.
The keyword mapping from KliKKi is an excellent tool both for SEO and SEM. The main benefit for us was in content creation planning and getting the right focus for our different landing pages, it was also a good tool in refining our Adwords account.
Jonas Gretzer - Compricer