Before you can embark on creating a keyword strategy it is important to do a Keyword Research. Well in fact, both might go hand-in-hand and whilst you are developing the strategy further research must be conducted. Either way, you won't come around the brainstorming session where you sit down with colleagues and put down some general ideas. Once this has been done it is time to draft your first Keyword Strategy.

Tuesday, 10 Mar 2015

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How to create an effective Keyword Strategy

What is the aim of a keyword strategy?

The keyword strategy shall give you an idea of what keyword and keyword groups you are going to target. It will contain a set of keyword groups and individual keywords, plus landing pages and a score that helps prioritising your keywords. Most businesses or individuals have the industries major keywords in mind when thinking of optimising towards specific keywords. This often proves to be difficult. Your newly developed strategy however, will be let you realise quickly that those main keywords you initially had in mind won't be the most important ones on your list. So the aim is quite simple - what keywords to target when in order to maximise ROI in the short and over the long run.

What goes into your keyword strategy?

It is important to know how you can assess the importance of your individual keywords. So here we discuss the factors that tell you how important your keyword will be.

Dimension: Keyword

You have conducted your keyword research previously and have come up with a (most likely) long list of keywords you would like to target. If the list is too long, you might want to shortlist a few keywords first and target on those. By the way, you will be creating keyword groups in the next step when it comes to organising your keyword strategy. In case you have a a set of similar keywords, simply group those.

Metric: Relevance (1-10)

How important is the keyword to your website? Obviously there are a lot of "nice to have" keywords, but is it really crucial that you chase this particular keyword? Will a visitor who just found you through that particular keyword find what he or she is after? Bear in mind that you want visitors to convert. Also remember the Pareto principle (20-80 principle), which states that 80% of sales come from 20% of your products/services. So you might want to focus on the 20% that generates the profits. So go through each keyword in your research and attach a value from 1 to 10. One being of lowest priority and ten being a very important keyword. There's no need to lie to yourself - be as objective as possible. After all it is your website's success at stake.

Metric: Specify (1-10)

This relates to long-tail vs. single word keywords. This is a bit tricky, and might require a bit more work, I tell you why shortly. In general it is easier to achieve good rankings for long-tail keywords, therefore you would attribute a higher value to any keywords in your research that consists of more than one or two words - the longer the better. If the search term you are after consists of six words - then you can easily pack this phrase into your site's content and it should get you on the first page quickly. If you are optimising towards a keyword that consists of one or two words it will get a lower value as it will be more difficult to optimise for it. The idea behind this is that the more difficult keywords should get a lower value attached in the overall score. So keyword difficulty should be part of the equation.

However, and here it gets a bit tricky. You have to know what kind of website you are running. If you are informing about a general topic - for example you have a site similar to wikipedia that has a page informing visitors about "bikes", then you might have no other choice but optimising towards general keywords. So you have to be careful when attaching those specify values - perhaps you don't allow the lowest to be "one" but "five" instead - or control the weight of the factor when it comes to total score. I tell you about the weighting issue later. Another solution is to turn the ranking up-site-down and attribute the highest specify value to the shortest and most general keyword. Bear in mind that optimising towards your keywords might take a bit longer than the other way round.

Another concept you want to bear in mind here is the searcher's intent. How will your target market find you. What keywords are essential in order to convert. As an e-commerce shop you would want to aim for transactional queries - hence give it a high value.

Metric: Competition (1-10)

This metric plays an important part to decide over the time it takes to optimise toward a keyword or set of keywords. The higher the competition, the more difficult it is to achieve good rankings. For example, it will be much easier to optimise towards "buy a second hand Bianchi frame in Shoreditch" than "bikes", right? There will be many website offering bikes and they are all relevant when it comes to the search term "bikes", convincing search engines that your content is the most relevant won't be that easy. Many factors such as Domain and Page Authority, content and other on-page factors will be playing a crucial role. Let's assign keywords with lower competition a higher value as they should receive a higher overall score, so that you will be seeing progress in the short run when you start your optimisation campaign.

At this point you probably ask yourself how you can figure out the competition surrounding a keyword. There are a number of paid tools, but if you are just about to start up your business you might not have the budget for these kind of gadgets. But no worries, there are ways to do this without spending a single penny. Navigate to Google and type in the keyword and search for it. Once you get to the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) the amount of sites/pages found relevant to the keyword will be displayed just below the search box. If it is high - well then it might be that this turns out to be a competitive keyword. Ok, that might not be the most precise way of doing it - but it gives you an idea. Another way of figuring out how competitive your proposed search term might be is to go on Google AdWords, and make use of the keyword planner (previously keyword tool). AdWords helps you creatingPPC campaigns (Pay-Per-Click). The keyword tool will let you know how competitive the term is in terms of PPC. Although it is meant for PPC it still is a valuable input for your SEO campaign. Needless to mention that the keyword strategy you have created is going to serve as input for both your SEO and PPC campaign. But that's a different story.

Metric: Popularity (1-10)

You now know about the competition of your proposed search terms, but how popular are those terms in your country, city or area? Some keywords are very competitive and you may think it is worth chasing after those, just to find out a few months later that in your country no-ones searching for it that way. Imagine you run a E-commerce that sells shoes to young athletes in the UK as well as the US. In the UK you are optimising towards the keyword "buy football shoes", which makes sense - it might be super competitive but you decided that you need that keyword to increase revenue. In the US "buy football shoes" might be a very popular term as well, but if you are doing the same in the US you might be disappointed and the bounce rate goes through the roof. Reason being is that most visitors in the US might be looking for shoes they can wear playing american football. So you might need to optimise towards "buy soccer shoes". The higher the popularity of a keyword in your area is, the higher the value attached to this keyword shall be. Don't forget - long tail keywords do not to be appear to be as popular compared to the single to two word search terms - so make sure you consider this when attaching values. Long-tail keywords are important and just because people might not be search all the time for "buy green football shoes" there might be many of similar queries. That is why you want to group keywords.

How can you figure out the popularity of your keywords? Again there are paid tools that can help you there, but if you want to find out for free it is best to go to Google Trends or find advice at Google AdWords. You see, Google's keyword planner turns out to be a powerful to any start up.

Metric: Average Ranking

Oh well, this might be a slightly taunting task, but it needs to be done. It is not just for the keyword strategy, but you want to have a baseline so you can measure you performance in future. Best if you have you an account setup in Google Webmaster tools or any other tool that does keeps track of your average rankings for specific keywords. The problem is that for many of the keywords on your keyword research there's no average ranking available on Webmaster Tools, as you might not yet be ranking for it. That is why you might want to have a keyword tracker setup - the downside is that most of those charge. If you have some time on your hands you might just do it manually, by finding your current rankings manually. Be aware that you get different search results depending on location as well as user you are logged on to. Best if you clear all the caches and run a clean search to find the actual rankings.

So why is this important for your keyword strategy? The answer to this is, it is fairly simple to get into the rankings if your website has relevant content to a specific topic. The higher you climb up the ranking ladder, the harder it becomes to progress - at least that was our experience. In other words, you might rank #66 in a few days, but once you get onto page 2 it's hard to get under the top 10. It is not a must to include this in the overall score - but worth to know. If you decide to make it part of the equation you perhaps give keywords a higher value that rank lower, just to make sure you get them onto the front pages. If your content is relevant and you have done your on-page optimisation it should be fairly easy to do so.

Additional Information: Landing Pages

Landing pages are very important part of your keyword strategy. If you user finds you for a specific keyword (something they are looking for) then you want them to be straight away directed to the correct page. People do not like to navigate through your site to find information. The visitor might click one or two times, if they haven't found the information by then they where after, they will be leaving your site and hence won't convert. So make sure that you define landing pages for each keyword (group). The landing pages must contain the keywords in content and meta data to make it relevant to the search engines for a specific keyword. Word of advice, do not assign too many keywords to a single page - otherwise it will lose on relevance. Important - a keyword should only be assigned to one landing page, but a landing page can have several keywords assigned. Also, make sure you do not stuff a page's content and meta-data with a single keyword, this might be considered spamming and instead of better rankings you might end up ranking worse.

How to organise your keyword strategy?

There is no right or wrong in how you organise your keyword strategy, but we want to give you a few ideas. You might not have any paid SEO Tool and often organisations, start-ups, and individual entrepreneurs like to keep their keyword strategy in a spreadsheet. Whether you are using Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, Google Docs or similar doesn't matter - you will get the same results with either tool. Here are a few things you would like to do:

Create keyword groups

Group similar keywords, such as "buy a red shoe" and "buy red shoes", another example would be "trackbikes" and "track bike". In fact, if you are using keyword planner tool by Google it already suggests you keyword groups. How far you would like to take your grouping is up to you. You can also put keywords into a group that cover the same topic. For example, if you are running a business that sells cameras you might want to place all keywords concerning Canon cameras into one group and those around Nikon cameras into another group.

Attach ID's to individual keywords and keyword groups

Attaching ID's is especially important when you are dealing with a great number of keywords. Furthermore, you may have similar keywords, so when it comes to reporting or in general communicating progress to others ID's can prevent misunderstandings and make life easier. But I am sure you know about the value of ID's anyway. Here an example: You have keyword group Canon Camera - with the ID: 1.00. Then a keyword in that group would get a sub-ID like 1.02.

Make use of tabs in case your keyword strategy contains keywords concerning various topics / services / products.

This again relates to grouping your keywords. Above we said that you might put all Canon cameras into one group and Nikon cameras into the other. If you have many keywords concerning Canon cameras and you have a dedicated landing page for canon products with links to sub-pages discussing each product (i.e.: Compact, SLR, lenses, etc.) then you might have all Canon keywords on one tab and group them into keyword groups.

Putting it all together

Now it is getting interesting as we are approaching the more rewarding part of creating your effective keyword strategy. You have assigned a value to each factor above that goes into the equation to calculate the total score for both, keyword and the group it belongs to. The higher the total value is the more focus you should place on this keyword / keyword group. Within each group calculate the total score for each individual search term. Once you have done that, create total average score for that specific group.

Equation to calculate the total score for each keyword:

((Relevance * rWeight) + (Specify * sWeight) + (Competition * cWeight) + (Popularity * pWeight)) / (Number of factors)

In a spreadsheet it is easy to calculate the overall score by applying the formula above. Obviously, you may want to tailor it to your needs. Perhaps you have more than one sources to assess the competition of you keyword - in this case you would add it to the numerator of the equation, whilst adjusting the denominator to average it correctly. Additional, each factor must be multiplied with its very own weight you assign to it. The weight represents the importance of the factor within the equation. For example, if you think Relevance is more important than the competition itself, then you simply assign a higher weight to it. Simple, isn't it?

Equation to calculate the total score of each keyword group:

Sum of Keyword Totals / Number of Keywords

So you have now calculated the totals for each individual keyword in your group. It's time to calculate the total score for the keyword group itself. Simply add up all total scores and calculate the average. For example, if you have 10 keywords in a group then you add up the totals and divide it by 10. Again, not that difficult, and the fact that you are working on a spreadsheet makes it way more easier.

What's next?

Since you have calculated your totals you have a pretty good idea how your search engine optimisation campaign is going to look like. You would focus on the groups with the highest scores - or if you prefer sort the list by highest scoring individual keywords. What we recommend here is that you phase your campaign. Let's say phase 1 is focusing on the top 10 keyword groups that scored highest and you set yourself a goal / milestone by saying you want to increase your overall ranking for these groups by 15% within the next 4 weeks. Just be realistic - and don't go overboard. Besides, you haven't done all the hard work just to get your SEO campaign started. The good news is that this document also serves as input to your PPC campaign. In fact, be smart and think outside the box. For example, for those keywords where it is hard to obtain a good ranking within a short period of time, but are important as your target market is using those keywords to search for your products or services -make a PPC campaign out of it for the time being!