You might have heard about SEO keyword mapping and its huge importance to successful on-page SEO projects. But what is keyword mapping and why you should include it in your SEO workflow?
If you’re an SEO junky, keywords are probably your second nature by now. Although we love good keyword research, there is something more important for ranking: organizing your relevant keywords and matching them with the right pages of your website.
Mark Jenkins, a famous American artist once said: “Planning a journey without a map is like building a house without drawings.” Translating this to SEO, gathering keywords with no proper mapping will keep your website irrelevant.
At Embarque, we’ll delve into SEO keyword mapping. In this article you’ll learn:
- Keyword mapping: what is it and why is it important
- What are the benefits of SEO keyword mapping
- How to do keyword mapping for your website
- A keyword mapping template that you can use
Let’s get to business!
Keyword mapping: what is it and why is it important?
SEO keyword mapping is the process of grouping together relevant target keywords and assigning them to a website’s landing pages. So, basically showing up for the right keywords with the right pages.
Keyword research is not enough for a well-structured website. The keyword mapping framework allows search engines to determine the relevance of each page and provide users with the most accurate results.
With Google’s algorithm getting smarter by the day, search intent is the key focus of today’s search engines. If you answer the users’ search intent, you’ll get the rankings, the traffic, and the sales. It’s as simple as that.
SEO keyword mapping gets the extra credits for keeping your organic results high, as focusing only on your target keyword will not do you any good. That’s why it’s super important to dive into the kind of content that satisfies the needs of a person searching.
What are the benefits of SEO keyword mapping
It’s proven that companies that use SEO keyword mapping decrease the difficulty of their content marketers’ jobs by at least 500%! When you avoid spreading your keywords randomly on a website, and actually invest in creating compelling content that answers your users’ questions, you have no way but up.
SEO keyword mapping is a reason to celebrate as it helps you:
- Include keywords you missed in your landing pages, or even create new ones. It basically identifies keyword gaps and allows you to target them with the right content. Therefore, you don’t leave any missed opportunities behind.
- Identify keyword overlaps and make the necessary changes to target keywords with unique landing pages. You want to avoid internal competition that creates conflict between your pages at all costs.
- Avoid duplicate content. If you’re consistently publishing content, it’s much harder to remember what pieces of content were published in the past. It’s better to refresh an existing blog post rather than create the same content slightly different for the same keywords.
- Manage your content efficiently. With SEO keyword mapping you get a clear understanding of whether you should bundle up keywords and hit them with the same blog post, or separate them to different blog posts for each topic. It all gets down to website structure and which page you want to rank for what keywords.
- Create comprehensive content and how-to guides. With an effective keyword mapping strategy, you’ll be able to find out how to create comprehensive content around one core/pillar, high-volume topic and its subtopics.
- Invest in a successful internal linking strategy. Similar to content management, when your keywords are well-organized, it gets much easier to create effective link-building between relevant pages with the right anchor texts. At the same time, through an effective internal linking strategy, Google will come to trust you as an authority in the topic, which will help you rank for other relevant topics much faster and thereby increase search visibility.
- Measure effectively your SEO efforts and present persuasive reports to your clients. By evaluating your rankings and ways they can be optimized, you focus on an effective SEO strategy that doesn’t randomly use keywords all over your website. You are, therefore, able to present effective reports to your clients and have a panoramic view of your SEO efforts.
- React quickly in outages or the newest trends. Last but not least, proper mapping equals proper breaking down of what’s a priority and where new opportunities are. Everyone has visibility of your current SEO status and can easily adjust to outages, algorithm changes, or new trends.
How to do keyword mapping for your website
Okay, so now you know what is keyword mapping and its benefits to your overall SEO strategy. There is still one issue: how to do keyword mapping. Seriously, where do you start?
Here is your step-by-step guide on how to implement keyword mapping:
1. Search for new keywords
You want to start with keyword research in order to gather as many relevant keywords as possible. For discovering new keywords there are many excellent keyword mapping tools such as Google Search Console (to optimize for keywords you already rank for), Ubersuggest, Semrush, Ahrefs, or even Google Analytics.
Let’s use Ubersuggest for our example. Enter your target keyword in the search bar - let’s say “candles” - and click on the “Related” tab. You’ll come across over 154.995 results for this query, but to keep things simple, we’ll export only the first 50 keywords.
Export them as a CSV and immediately sort them out based on volume and SEO difficulty. Scores lower than 30% indicate low search difficulty, 30% to 70% moderate difficulty, and 70% or higher, high SEO difficulty. Your spreadsheet should look like this:
2. Search for keywords your website is already ranking for
What you want to do next is identify the keywords that already bring traffic to your website. This keyword database is vital for your SEO keyword mapping process.
You can do that by using keyword mapping tools such as SEO Scout, SEO monitor, SEMrush, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, or Rank Tracker. Let’s continue with our previous example by monitoring a candle website with Rank Tracker.
We will start a new project, add our chosen URL and choose the “Ranking Keywords” feature. Rank Tracker will then proceed to present the list of all the keywords that our website is ranking for. Once identified, we get 9 more keyword research options to find gaps, related searches, or keyword combinations.
Now that we’ve identified our ranking keywords, we can even enter our competitors’ websites and check their target keywords in Google Search results. The possibilities are endless!
You can export this list as a CSV file, or enrich the list you’ve already created. You’ve now made your first steps to SEO keyword mapping.
3. Group the keywords with relevant topics
The way you want to go about this is to focus once again on search intent. Your criteria should be what keywords answer to the same questions. What keywords are relevant enough to be grouped and assigned to the same unique landing page.
In our example with candles, we observe that the keywords “soy wax candles”, “soy candle wax” and “buy soy candle wax” are quite similar to each other and should be grouped together and assigned to a landing page relevant to soy wax candles.
To make things easier for you, we suggest you utilize the “Keyword Map” feature inside the Rank Tracker tool. You automatically have your keywords grouped together by topic and you can opt to display them by the level of their semantic similarity.
You ideally want 5 keywords per group and all of them being synonyms or different versions of the same thing. It requires a lot of manual work, but with the automation the Rack Tracker offers, you’re one step ahead. Your groups should look like this:
4. Narrow your keywords down based on search intent
Okay, so you grouped your relevant keywords, now what?
You’ll notice that although the grouped keywords are relevant to each other, they don’t have the same intent. The keywords’ search intent comes down to 4 categories:
- Informational - Users search for information online, so keywords including “best ways to”, “how-to”, “guide to”, “what to do”, or “tutorial”, usually share an informational search intent. SEO content marketers answer to the informational search intent with guides, blog posts, ebooks, tutorials, and useful packed-up pieces of content.
- Navigational - Those are specific keywords that users fill in the search bar when looking for a specific website. It could be the name of a brand, or even a popular social media platform like Facebook. They are mostly generic and usually trigger the brand names users are searching for.
- Commercial - Keywords with commercial search intent usually find users navigating the web with the intent to get informed about products, new releases, reviews, and product comparisons. Users will consider buying from the brands at some point, but for now, their intent focuses on getting informed on the best offers and services. Keywords that include phrases like “review”, “compare”, “best of”, “alternative”, are most likely to trigger listicles, reviews, and testimonials.
- Transactional - Those keywords find the consumer ready to buy. They will usually trigger products based on the search query, and focus on phrases such as “price”, “buy”, “near me”, “for sale”, “cheap”, “coupon” or “discount”.
In our example, we observe that the keyword group “candle making” has 5 keywords of which 3 are transactional, 1 is informational and 1 is navigational. So what we want to do, is separate the transactional keywords, either by right-clicking and adding the keywords to a new group or by moving them to another existing group.
As for the informational keyword “make your candles”, we can add it to a new group named “candle-making blogs”. The same goes for the navigational keyword as well, which is basically the name of the brand.
By following this process, you will have a clear organization of your target keywords and an overview of new content opportunities.
5. Assign your grouped keywords to your landing pages
After all this preparation, it’s time to do the actual keyword mapping. You want to assign your grouped keywords to your different landing pages so that they are relevant and unique. In the Rank Tracker, simply right-click on your preferred group and choose “Assign Selected Keywords to Landing Page”.
Once you assign your grouped keywords to your pages, it’s time to (re) consider your URLs. It’s wise to focus on using your set of keywords in your URLs, to create useful paths for users and search engines. For example, for an informational candle-making group of keywords, you can create a relevant URL that focuses on: /how-to-candle-making.
A great thing about SEO keyword mapping is that it allows you to think of your website as a theme park. You get to distinguish which keywords should be used for the same page and which should be kept for other SEO content uses, such as blog posts or downloadable assets.
A great practice is to keep the keywords that have high SEO difficulty - 70% or higher - for content marketing campaigns, in order to avoid losing your resources in the rankings.
You might ask, what should I consider when assigning bucket keywords to pages? We got you covered! The top 3 tips to consider are:
- A page’s click depth. Pages closer to the homepage are considered easier to find by users and chatbots, and therefore keywords with higher difficulty should be assigned to them.
- A page’s content. If none of your existing landing pages match the groups of keywords you want to rank for, create new pages. Don’t play hard to get! It’s really important to stay relevant and not “force” the match.
- Your current Google Search rankings. If your pages are already ranking for your target keywords, you want to let things be. Opt for refreshing their content from time to time to strengthen your authority. Just make sure that you don’t duplicate content for the sake of it.
6. Optimize your pages to your assigned keywords
The essence of SEO keyword mapping is actually optimizing your overall on-page SEO strategy. When you get everything done, the most important step is to actually optimize your pages to your mapped keywords.
Double-check how many times your keywords are used in specific pages, what topics are being covered, what are the gaps and the keyword overlaps, what needs to be added in terms of meta tags and headings. The more detailed you are, the better your rankings will be.
Use our keyword mapping template
SEO keyword mapping is a quite demanding process that requires continuous work and continuous search. You don’t just do it once and you consider it done forever. It’s a perpetual movement that if done correctly, is very rewarding.
With this guide, you have a clear image of what is keyword mapping and why you should use it in your complete SEO strategy.
Now it’s your turn! Start implementing everything you learned on your own website! To help you get started, we prepared an easy keyword map template to replicate inside your preferred tool. Click here to download it.
Here's a walkthrough of what each column means in this keyword mapping template.
- Group - Self-explanatory. This relates to which group of keyword this piece of content is part of.
- Core topic - This is the main topic category you want to rank for. For Group 1, we want to rank for queries relating to keyword research.
- Primary keyword - This is the main keyword we will optimize a webpage for. So for this guide on keyword mapping, the main query that we're targeting is, well, keyword mapping!
- Keyword difficulty - This is Ahrefs's assigned keyword difficulty score for the keyword mapping query.
- Secondary keywords consist of the keywords that the top results are also ranking for to gain search traffic. One of the subtopics that the top results for keyword mapping are ranking for is keyword mapping template.
- Search traffic potential is the amount of search traffic we could be having if we efficiently optimize our content for keyword mapping and its secondary keywords. At Embarque, we've moved away from purely targeting keywords based on their search volume, as high volume searches may have poor clickthrough rates.
- Content format provides an easy way on how we want the article to be structured.
- Search intent is something that we've talked about earlier.
- URL slug shows how we want the full URL to look like.