September 27, 2012 – 2:11 pm
It’s not uncommon to see a great keyword list poorly executed. This can result in hard work gone to waste and your website can see little to no SEO improvements.
By the same merit, a terrible keyword list properly mapped throughout a site can assist in your SEO success. Keyword mapping is often the first stage of writing meta data. There is not right way to do this. Every SEO optimizer has their own technique for allocating keywords to a page. Some like to just wing it and write each page as they go along, and some like to attack in stages.
In the past, keyword stuffing had been effective. We can still see some sites that have effective search results with stuffing. Though, when we examine their larger keyword strategy, we can quickly identify the short-comings with this method.
Proper keyword strategy includes allocating specific keywords to relevant pages. The keywords you have chosen should be uniquely (ideally) relevant to a particular page or set of pages on your website. Some search optimizers like to make one big list from which they’ll make their selections. This certainly is a popular method and I’ve done this in the past as well as seen it work well with others.
Blueliner’s keyword list approach is unique. Based on the 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing techniques and best practices, Blueliner’s keyword lists use a tiered approach. A typical keyword list is broken into 5-8 tiers, depending on the size of the site. These tiers represent the level of importance these keywords have to you and how you will distribute them throughout the site.
The keywords in Tier 1 are more important to you and thus distributed more freely throughout your content and in your meta-data. Tiers are developed based on several factors, including volume, relativity, specificity, competitiveness, and more. Each keyword is given a score based on these verticals. The system works well as it forces the optimizer into providing justification for their keyword selection and why they deem one more important than the other. Even more importantly, the scoring system (which is complex and I won’t get into) allows for flexibility. Because of this, the same system has been effective for websites across an array of industries.
I personally prefer a multi-tiered approach. It’s exactly Blueliner’s strategy but makes it easier me when optimizing and analyzing a website. The first thing I do when I look at a website is break out the different sections. When doing keyword research, I like the break out the optimization based on subject matter. Thus if a website’s content can be broken out into six different talking points or subjects, I’ll create seven smaller keyword lists. The first keyword list will be general and speak to the website as a whole. These keywords represent those that will be distributed and represented throughout the entire site.
I tend to find inspiration for keywords based on what the website currently ranks for, what their competitors rank for, and by just reading the site copy. Although I know some of that will change, one can never underestimate the ideas or directions they’ll come up with based on the site copy. Unfortunately, this is not common practice for everyone. Reading almost an entire website is one of the first things I do when creating a keyword list.
The other 6 mini lists include keywords specifically targeted to the variant website subjects. The keywords within these lists are broken down and organized the same way as Blueliner’s tiered strategy. When I create a sitemap, I’ll assign each page a subject. I tend to color code this in Excel and correlate this to the color coding on my individual keyword lists. From there, I’m able to easily allocate the keywords based on subject to the most relevant pages of the site. I will always take at least one keyword from the general list and incorporate it into the page.
This helps to put it into perspective a bit. I now know which keywords are on which page, why they’re there, and can easily affirm their relevancy.
After implementation, this multi-tiered approach makes link building easier as well. I can now track link building to sets of keywords, rather than a keyword list where I sometimes have to wonder if a certain part of a site has gotten enough attention.
When analyzing, refreshing website data, or doing a routine competitive analysis, the multi-tiered approach can also assist in determining how much of a voice you have. It allows you to single out how competitive you are for the different aspects of your website against varying competitors, allowing for a different perspective on where improvements can be made.
This is just my method though. There are tons of great ways to stay organized from the very beginning, making subsequent aspects of your SEO easier on you. Write in the comments below, and let us know what little things you’ve done over the years that have helped you keep a handle on large and complex websites.