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How To Develop A Keyword Plan
Since last time, you’ve been busy growing your keyword seeds into little seedlings, using those handy Excel tricks I wrote about. You’ve likely got thousands of keywords now, and may have no idea what to do next.
If you’ll forgive me, I’ll continue the planting analogy for categorizing and mapping keywords. It seems appropriate, with spring upon us. You’ve found your seeds, planted them in little cups, and gotten seedlings from them. Now it’s time to plant them in the garden and watch them grow.
But just as you shouldn’t drop a bunch of seedlings into the ground in no particular order, you have to have a plan for your keywords as well.
In case you aren’t familiar with planting, I’ll digress briefly to explain. When you plant seedlings, you need to plant them in groups according to how much sun they need and how aerated the soil should be. You also want the plants to be visually appealing when they grow, so they need to be spaced appropriately and you’ll want to have a plan for how tall they grow and what colors they’ll be at maturity. It is actually the same with keywords.
Keep in mind while you do research that these “search volumes” that you retrieve (whether it’s from Google or some other source) are just estimates. The values are useful for determining trends and relative volume, but should never be used to estimate expected traffic.
What’s That Mean?
To begin with, you’ll need to think about what your keywords really mean. Don’t sort them into groups too early based on something arbitrary like what word they contain.
For example, don’t sort real estate keywords into “house” and “home” type keywords. Sort them according to what they mean. For example, you might have keywords that people use when they are looking for a house/home that is new construction vs. people who are looking for a house/home that is in an “established neighborhood”.
You might still have another set of keywords for people looking for townhouses or apartments. Seem too granular? It’s really not.
Patterns Take Practice
To categorize effectively, look for patterns in the way that people search. Are they looking for a specific type of something, or do they seem concerned with style, color, features? Is there a local component to their searches?
It’s actually easier to do this if you’re working on your own site because you know the subject matter so well. But if you are helping a customer, you’ll need to take time to get familiar with the subject matter first. The more you do keyword research, the better instincts you’ll have.
As you sort keywords and determine categories, make sure you do a quick search for anything that you aren’t 100% sure what it means. Put the keyword into Google or Bing and look at the results.
Do these seem like your customers? Are your competitors showing up? There’s nothing worse than wasted effort on a keyword that won’t convert to visitors and customers.
If you find a keyword like this, take an extra minute to go back and take out any similar keywords. Keep in mind that you might change categories a couple of times as you get more familiar with the patterns. It’s always better to start with too many categories and consolidate them later than to go back and re-categorize one that was too broad.
Questions Are The Key To Great Content
As you categorize the keywords in this way, keep an eye out for questions that people are asking about the topic. This is a great opportunity for you to create more content on your website later that specifically meets searchers’ needs, or to change existing content so that it more exactly matches the search terms that you found.
After you have everything sorted, take a look at the estimated volumes and make sure that they match what you expected.
For example, do more people search for “washers”, or “washing machines”? Does that match how you refer to them on your website? If “washing machines” as the technically correct keyword is searched less often than “washers”, are there ways you could work references to “washers” onto your site also?
Draw A Keyword Map
The last step is to look at the categories to see how they correspond with pages on your site. Are there perfect or near-perfect matches? Go ahead and match those up and optimize those pages for the corresponding keywords.
Are there keyword categories that don’t match anything you have on your site? Make a quick editorial calendar of content to create. Prioritize the content however you want; you might choose to do the highest profit margin areas first, or the areas where you currently have the lowest traffic, or you might even have a seasonal product/service that it makes sense to write about first. This editorial calendar will help you continue to create relevant, interesting, keyword rich content over time.
Don’t worry about creating all of the content at once; even one new piece of content per month can make your site more attractive to search engines. As you create the content, don’t forget to add it to your Google/Bing sitemaps.
Done & Done, Or Are You?
Now you have a great list of keywords that are categorized by customer intent and mapped to the right content. You even have an editorial calendar of content that needs to be created, which keeps your website fresh and interesting over time (a key component to great ranking).
So you’re done, right? Nope. You’ll need to refresh this research periodically, because people change the way they search for things over time. You’ll also want to refer back to this research each time you create a new page or add a new product or service. But it will be much easier next time, since you won’t have to start from scratch.
And that’s the seed method of keyword research! If you’re reading this out of order, be sure and go back to the other articles in the series:
- 5 Questions To Streamline Your Keyword Research
- The Keyword Research Rabbit Hole
- Tips For Growing Keyword Seeds With Excel Formulas
Photo from http://gardenthemedwedding.com. Used under Creative Commons license.
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