How to Create A Keyword Strategy

Having a keyword strategy in place is not only essential to being found online, it’s foundational to all digital marketing initiatives – starting with your website. A keyword strategy makes campaign development easier and ensures that they perform better. Why? In a word: relevance.

Keywords serve a number of purposes, but the strategy behind their usage and placement can be broken down into two general categories: branded and conversion.

Conversion keywords are designed to draw traffic to a website or landing page, where visitors are then encouraged to make a purchase or take a lead action such as filling out a form, contacting or downloading more information. In this case, long tail keywords are the best bet. Long tail keywords are keyword phrases composed of three or more words that as a string are quite specific. Long tail keywords, as opposed to single keywords, are more likely to convert because there is simply less competition for them.

The goal of a branded keyword strategy, by comparison, is brand impressions – brand awareness and brand visibility, over new leads or conversions. In this case, broad search terms are selected. Customers who are further along in the buying cycle – and have already done their research as to what they want to buy – are likely to search for specific brand names to find the best price or other selling point. Returning customers would also find your business using branded keywords, since they’ve already visited your site and are familiar with your products or services.

The best strategy is a best-of-both-worlds approach, and the percentage of each will depend on the nature of your business and how long you can court prospective buyers before it becomes unprofitable. In your keyword research and management tool, segment your branded and non-branded keywords as campaigns to monitor their success in the context of your different buyer groups.

Ok,  now that you know why a keyword strategy is important, how do you put it into action?

Step 1: Research

Research Keyword research is the first step to developing your strategy, because after all – you need to know what terms customers use to find you (and your competition). For this, you need to take advantage of a robust keyword research tool from the likes of Google Ad Planner, Hubspot, SerpFox and dozens of others that are available for free or at low cost.

Keyword tool features vary, but it’s important to look at more than just the search volume for a given term. A strong keyword or keyword phrase should be relevant to your product, service or content offering (or to a specific landing page), have low competition, be targeted, and have intent. For example, is it informational, navigational, or transactional?

The temptation might be to stuff as many related keywords as you can onto your site to try to convert all possible visitors, but the quality of your traffic is just as important as the quantity, and for that you need a small number of strong keywords (about 3 to 5), relevant to each unique page of your website. In fact, overuse of similar keywords, known as ‘keyword stuffing’ will cause your site to be flagged by the search engines and penalized. Remember, too, that your keywords will be used in your web content – and content is read by real-life prospects. Potential customers will be turned off by content that is obviously chock-full of keywords. Your customers are people, not search engines. Always remember that.

Step 2: Optimization

Now that you’ve chosen your keywords, optimize your website and website content, as well as your social media and other online marketing platforms, aligning the appropriate keywords with each. In addition to text, images and media files – especially on the homepage – should include alt text that reflects your keyword strategy.

It’s critical to map relevant keywords to any landing pages you are promoting. If a user clicks on an organic listing or a PPC add from a SERP (search engine results page), or navigates to your landing page through niche marketing or banner retargeting, and finds content that has nothing to do with what the ad promised, they will bounce immediately.

The benefit of conducting keyword research before a site is designed is that there is an opportunity to add new pages that you did not realize you needed, based on your strategic keywords. Because search engines value fresh content so highly in their rankings, take advantage of editing existing pages and adding new pages as your keyword strategy plays out.

Step 3: Measure

Monitoring and measuring the success of your keyword campaigns is the only way to evolve your marketing efforts and make informed strategic decisions month over month. SEO agencies may adjust a client’s keywords strategy as often as once a week based on performance.

There are plenty of online tutorials on how to use Google Analytics’ Keyword Performance Analysis tool, but what exactly are you looking for? A lot of website owners get hung up on keyword rank, and for good reason – websites listed on the first page of Google receive up to 92 percent of traffic share. One of the problems in doing so, however, is that keyword rank in Google and other search engines can change hourly, which can mean the difference between first and second page search engine results. Securing a first page rank is a good measurement of success, but the more important question is what are people doing once they get to your site. Are they converting or engaging with your content?

First page rankings are useless if they don’t deliver enough of the right kind of traffic. Indicators of quality traffic include pages per visit, average visit duration and bounce rate. Keyword conversion depends on your organization’s specific goals, and will be different for B2B and B2C. Like rank, clients also get hung up on conversion – expecting every visit to convert in the minimum number of steps. But it would be a mistake to discount visitors who don’t buy; they may take another action that demonstrates interest. They’ve just become a warm lead, and an opportunity to come full-circle with your branded keyword strategy to get them back when they are ready to buy.