Written by Caroline Cox on Mar 30 , 2022

Keyword mapping helps ensure your target keywords match your site’s pages. Here’s how to do it, why it matters, and how it can boost your SEO.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How keyword mapping is defined in marketing
  • Why it’s worth your time
  • Tips for creating your own keyword map
  • How keyword mapping figures into SEO

There’s a quote attributed to Maya Angelou that goes, “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you have been.”

Was she talking about keyword mapping? Definitely not. But does it apply? Yes.

Keyword mapping is an important part of overall SEO. It helps you see what pages are tied to which keywords, what your site currently ranks for, and more.

Man writing on whiteboard image.

Before you can develop a fine-tuned SEO strategy, you have to know where your site currently stands. (Image: Rawpixel)

What is keyword mapping?

Essentially, keyword mapping is the process of researching, targeting and connecting keywords to your website content. This is generally on a page-by-page basis, though it can also be broader, on a per-topic basis.

A keyword map usually comes in the form of an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. Along with blog posts, keyword mapping can be done for all of a website’s pages.

The aim is to cover all your SEO bases and ensure you’re not targeting the same keyword on multiple pages, which is known as keyword cannibalization.

This can, of course, hurt your SEO efforts by having two of your own pages competing for visibility on the search engine results page (SERP) for a certain keyword.

“Keyword mapping is one of the key processes of on-page optimization, giving Google and other search engines the opportunity to analyze the relevance of each page and ultimately provide users the information they’re searching for,” as Semrush explains. “By avoiding this process, your strategy will be less structured and you’ll miss out on a number of keyword opportunities.”

keyword mapping key

Including a keyword map key to your spreadsheet can add clarity to your document so everyone viewing the sheet is on the same page.

Why is keyword mapping important for digital marketing?

Keyword mapping helps define your overall SEO strategy. It can also give you a snapshot of your website’s current state. This can help when you’re planning future campaigns, website revamps, or new ideas for content.

Before you can develop a fine-tuned SEO strategy, you have to know where your site currently stands. Along with that, it’s important to be aware of how your site currently looks to search engines and what phrases you’re appearing as relevant for. 

How do you create a keyword map?

When you’re analyzing a website’s SEO, creating a keyword map is a great project to do as early in the process as possible. It’s often built into the technical SEO part of an SEO audit.

During the technical SEO audit, you’re looking for errors as well as things like:

  • Where the site currently ranks
  • What the top pages are
  • Where the organic traffic is coming from

When keyword mapping, our SEO pros recommend mapping the pages getting the bulk of the traffic first. From there, you can zoom out and do a full map of all your site’s pages. 

You don’t necessarily have to complete the entire keyword map for your whole site in one fell swoop. It can be a time-consuming process — especially since each page should have a primary and secondary keyword, depending on how niche your industry is. 

Your map can be as high-level or detailed as you want. Often, the keyword maps we create include columns for:

  • Page title
  • URL
  • Primary keyword
  • Secondary keyword(s)
  • Primary keyword volume
  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Status
  • Priority
  • Additional notes
semrush keyword mapping example

A keyword mapping example from Semrush (Image: Semrush)

Can you create keyword maps for e-commerce and other large sites?

We know some websites have hundreds of pages, such as large e-commerce brands. When you’re working on SEO for enterprise and e-commerce sites, you’re likely going to have situations where multiple pages are ranking for the same keyword, known as keyword cannibalization.

For example, Amazon may have multiple landing pages ranking for “tennis rackets,” such as a category page, best seller’s page, men’s tennis rackets page, etc. By building a keyword map, you’re able to:

  • Identify and target unique keywords per page
  • Monitor pages that are being cannibalized and take action (optimize the content, remove it, or add a 301 redirect)

On the enterprise level, it’s not always possible to target unique keywords on each page if the content is too similar and if it’s being automatically generated and crawled. In this case, you can audit pages with low authority. This can help you determine whether they should continue to be indexed.

You can also focus on similar keywords for various stages of the buyer’s journey (informational versus purchase, for example).

Pro tip: If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can take advantage of their topic clusters tool to organize your pages and their corresponding keywords.

The takeaway

Like SEO audits (and managing SEO in general), the prospect of creating a keyword map for your website can be daunting.

But once you know the steps, what the end goal is, and what info you most want to gather, you can create a map that you can continue to build on down the road.

And if you simply don’t have the time, expertise, or bandwidth to take on keyword mapping for your website SEO? Well, that’s what we’re here for

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of reading, yoga, quick vegetarian recipes, and making lists.

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