Keyword strategies take websites from a hundred visitors a month to thousands, if not millions. Basically, a good keyword strategy will help you rank on search engine results pages and drive relevant traffic to your page.
It is an essential component of any successful SEO plan.
Need help building your keyword strategy?
SEMRush is one of the most trusted SEO and keyword research tools around. You’ll find all the tools and reports you need in one place so you can easily manage keyword strategies.
To find out more, check out our complete SEMRush review and tutorial.
What is a Keyword Strategy?
If you’ve been trying to increase your monthly search volume, chances are you’ve heard of keyword research. This is the process of finding out relevant keywords that resonate with your target audience.
In a nutshell, a keyword strategy means utilizing keyword tools for finding keywords and analyzing SERP features to determine which keywords to target, then tracking the results.
A strong keyword strategy helps:
- You identify gaps in your content
- Establish topical authority in your niche
- Increase site visibility and traffic
The first step in building any keyword strategies is looking at where you’ve been and knowing where you want to go. Before getting started, you should consider which, if any, of your pages rank, who your potential customers are, what your business goals are, and your overarching SEO strategy.
How to Build a Keyword Strategy in 5 Easy Steps
Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you build out your keyword strategy!
Once you have an idea of what your goals are, you can begin keyword research alongside developing your keyword strategy. This means finding keywords that have ranking potential and align with what your potential customers are searching for.
Finding keywords can sometimes be the most difficult part of the process. But the sweet spot is where ranking, business, and traffic potential intersect.
To make the keyword research process a little bit easier, SEMRush developed their keyword magic tool.
It lets you type in any keyword and get important information like search volume, keyword difficulty, CPC, and alternate keyword suggestions.
Another thing to consider is keyword phrases, sometimes called long-tail keywords and low-competition keywords.
As part of your overall keyword strategy, long-tail keywords are more likely to lead to organic traffic with high conversion potential.
And so these low-competition keywords can offer an important boost to your SEO.
Initially, your keyword research will probably look like a Google sheet organized into topic clusters and quick win opportunities. At this stage, it’s just a list of words, but once you figure out what to do with these new keywords, you’ve started developing a keyword strategy.
If you want a little more help with keyword research, check out our interview with Keyword Chef founder, Ben Adler. He’s got lots of actionable tips to improve your keyword research.
Analyze Keyword Difficulty
An important part of keyword research is analyzing keyword difficulty. Good keyword strategies are about more than just a list of keywords.
A strategy helps you understand what power those words have and how to use them.
Keyword difficulty is a common term in the SEO world. It refers to how difficult it is to rank for that particular keyword on search engines based on link profiles of the ranking pages. Any keyword will score between 0-100. Anything between 0-14 is considered very easy to rank for, and anything over 80 is very hard to rank for.
It might seem like the logical step then is to target low difficulty keywords. Unfortunately, that won’t necessarily get you very far. You need to combine keyword difficulty (KD) with search volume and relevance to your authority in order to get an idea of how worth your time it is to rank for that keyword.
A keyword may have a low KD score, but that could be coupled with a very low (or almost non-existent) search volume. In this case, there’s almost no point in targeting it. Almost. The benefit of these keywords is that you can use them to build your overall SEO score and improve your topical authority. Choosing the right keyword difficulty depends on the age and authority of your site.
Let’s consider some factors that influence KD:
- Backlink profile
- Search intent
- Search volume
Authority and Backlink profiles
A big part of building a successful SEO keyword strategy is building your topical authority. This has a major impact on where you rank in search results. Whenever a search is performed, the top pages that Google brings back have a combination of relevant search intent and good authority.
SEMRush offers a great backlink analysis tool to check your authority and backlink rating, as well as competitor sites.
For example, if we take a look at Neil Patel’s website:
We can see the site has a great authority score and a ton of backlinks. This is why it often pops up at the top of Google.
Search engines will prioritize websites with high topical authority. For that reason, a keyword’s relevance to your established authority is worth considering.
It’s worth mentioning that Google claims they don’t consider authority when it comes to ranking websites. So for SEO purposes this is technically irrelevant. However, there are ways that authority indirectly contributes to your SERPs so many people still track it.
Another thing worth mentioning is your backlink profile.
This is one of the main ranking factors that Google uses. Your backlink profile refers to the quantity and quality of links pointing back to your site. Anchor text will also play a key role here, as a mix of branded and keyword anchor text will contribute to the diversity of your backlink profile.
What does this have to do with keyword strategy?
Well, keyword difficulty will be, in part, based on the backlink profiles of your competition.
Search Intent and Search Volume
Search intent is really important when planning your keyword strategy. Whether or not a keyword is going to bring in relevant traffic, all comes down to intent.
For example, if you search “backlink checker”:
All of the top hits are for free tools.
This is important because it indicates that people searching for this keyword are looking for a specific tool they can use (not a how-to article) and, preferably, a free one. If this isn’t what you’re offering, then reconsider your keyword.
Secondly, we already mentioned search volume is an important thing to consider when determining how difficult keywords will be to rank.
Search volume is a great indication of how important a topic is to your audience. High-volume searches can be more difficult to rank for but can also be beneficial when it comes to encouraging organic traffic.
That said, a good mix of high and low-volume keywords will help boost your overall keyword strategies.
Low-volume searches are usually easier to rank for and can play an important role in establishing authority.
They also tend to be more middle to bottom of the sales funnel keywords with higher buying intent than higher traffic, but more general topics.
Pro-tip: Try using Google Trends to look at search volume over time. You might find that a keyword has a relatively low search volume now but that it has been steadily increasing over time. This could mean a bigger pay off later.
Relevance and Conversion Potential
We mentioned above that you should target keywords that offer high conversion potential.
Remember that search traffic will always come to your site either at the top, the middle, or the bottom of a sales funnel.
The best keyword strategies target keywords that are relevant to every stage of the sales funnel. This way your SEO efforts are helping to drive traffic at every stage of the sales process.
With this in mind, you can decide what kind of content the keyword is best suited for. For example, a keyword that can help build your authority is probably better suited to a blog post. If there are people searching for a keyword that is directly related to a product or service you are selling, use it somewhere like a landing page.
Now that you’ve established a list of keywords and determined ranking difficulty, it’s time to start creating a strategy document.
This is where you want to keep all your research. List out your keywords and include relevant information like search volume, ranking difficulty, keyword modifiers, etc. A good strategy document will allow you to determine high-potential keywords quickly.
Tracking Your Keywords
The final aspect of any good keyword strategy is tracking your keywords. Good keyword strategies are fluid and adaptable, but you can only adapt if you have the analytics to point you in the right direction.
There are lots of tools you can use to measure your progress against your goals and gain invaluable insights into how your keyword strategy is working.
Making sure you check in, at least monthly, can save time in the long run as you can avoid continuing down a path that isn’t working.
You can use SEMRush to track how well your content strategy is working. On the off chance you’ve gotten this far without using any tools, you’ll definitely want to check out some Google keyword rank checkers to gain valuable insight into your performance.
Keep in mind that a solid SEO keyword strategy can take as long as 6 months to a year to start showing real results.
Tracking your keywords can give you an idea of whether or not you’re on the right track.
Budget Alternatives For Keyword Research
When it comes to ease of use and quality of tools, SEMRush is one of the best keyword research tools on the market—but starting at $119.95/month, it certainly isn’t cheap.
With that in mind, here are some affordable tools for those of you just starting out that aren’t ready to drop a bill a month on the right tools.
KeySearch is arguably one of the best affordable options out there.
Not only does it offer a pretty robust keyword tool, but Keysearch also has everything you need to do competitor analysis, rank tracking, and more. They offer a free one-month trial, and plans start as low as $17/month.
You can read our honest Keysearch review here to find out more about whether it could be right for you.
KeywordTool.io has grown in popularity as an alternative to Google Keyword Planner (which, FYI, isn’t the best free tool out there for keyword research).
KeywordTool.io uses Google autocomplete to generate long-tail keywords.
And where Google Keyword Planner is geared toward advertisers rather than SEO, KeywordTool.io is for content marketers and bloggers.
The basic keyword research tool is free to use, but there are no additional insights like search volume or backlink analysis, and it will only bring back a limited number of results. This makes it a good starting point if you’re hard for cash, but it won’t be enough for full keyword research.
Keywords Everywhere is a free plugin extension that works on Chrome or Firefox and is designed to return keyword data from Google searches.
So basically, you use it alongside performing your own Google search, and it brings back information like ‘related keywords’ trend and competition data, and long tail keyword suggestions.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of keyword research tools, take a look at our round-up of the best keyword research tools, including both free and premium options.
Keyword Strategies in Closing
Never underestimate the value of keyword strategies when attempting to build a profitable website.
Whether you are a content marketer, niche blogger, or small business looking to drum up more traffic—finding keywords to target is one of the most important things you can do. And without a keyword strategy, it’ll probably be quite a while before you start seeing any ROI.