Keyword mapping ensures 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 your search engine optimization (SEO) keyword strategy. It shows which pages are tied to which keywords, what your site currently ranks for, and where you can improve your SEO visibility with new keywords.
What is keyword mapping?
Keyword mapping is the process of connecting keywords to your website content. This process supports your content marketing strategy by prioritizing topics in the upper, middle, and lower funnel that are important to your target audiences. It gives clarity to your existing pages and helps facilitate supporting ideas for new content creation on the site.
It’s like creating a roadmap or GPS directions for Google and searchers to navigate a website.
A keyword map usually comes in an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet like this one:
Creating a template will make it easier to supply all the details your content team needs. And including a keyword map key in your spreadsheet can clarify your document so everyone is on the same page.
But keyword mapping isn’t just for blog posts, you can also use it for website pages.
The aim is to cover as many keywords as possible without targeting the same keyword on multiple pages, which is keyword cannibalization.
Having two of your own pages competing for visibility on the search engine results page (SERP) for a certain keyword can hurt your SEO efforts.
“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.”
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, look for errors and the following:
- 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 have to complete the entire keyword map for your whole site at once. 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
- Primary keyword
- Secondary keyword(s)
- Primary keyword volume
- Title tag
- Meta description
- Additional notes
Next, let’s look at the steps for creating a keyword map.
Step 1: Define your primary goal and stick to it
Determine the specific goal or objective of the keyword map. Are you creating it for search engine optimization (SEO), content planning, or market research?
Step 2: Identify the target audience to attract
Understand who your target audience is and what they’re looking for, so you can choose relevant keywords aligned with their interests and search intent (informational, transactional).
Step 3: Brainstorm seed keywords for direction
Create a list of seed keywords most relevant to your topic or industry. These broad terms represent the main themes or categories you should focus on.
Step 4: Expand your keyword list to drive more traffic
Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, or Ahrefs to expand your keyword list. These tools provide insights into search volume, competition, and related keywords. Look for long-tail keywords that are specific with less competition.
Step 5: Create keyword groups
Organize your keywords into groups or clusters based on their relevance and similarity. This will structure your list of keywords and make it easier to analyze and prioritize keywords later.
Step 6: Analyze keyword search intent
Consider the intent behind each keyword. Are people searching for information, looking to make a purchase, or seeking a specific solution? Align your keyword map with the different stages of the buyer’s journey and create content that matches the user’s intent.
Step 7: Prioritize which keywords to target
What’s the importance and value of each keyword you selected? Find this out by looking at search volume, competition, and relevance to your business’s primary goal (from step one). Prioritize keywords with higher search volume, lower competition, and matching search intent to drive quality organic traffic.
Step 8: Assign keywords to your content
Map each keyword to specific pages or pieces of content on your website. Use these keywords to optimize existing content or plan new content using those search terms.
“Once you’ve defined your target audiences’ needs and marketing goals, you should identify pages that support those goals,” shares Matt Smith, Associate Director of SEO at HawkSEM. “Start with the pages with the most organic traffic because they have the most opportunity for current and future rankings.”
Step 9: Monitor and update your keyword map
Regularly monitor the performance of your keywords using analytics tools like Google Analytics or SEO software. Track ranking pages, organic traffic, and conversions to identify opportunities for improvement and update your keyword map accordingly.
Step 10: Refine and iterate your keyword mapping
Keyword research is an ongoing process. New search trends appear, and user behaviors change on a whim, so continue refining and reiterating your keyword map. Stay on top of industry news, conduct competitor analyses, and collect customer feedback to ensure your keyword map remains relevant and effective.
Remember, a keyword map is a dynamic tool that should evolve with your business and target audience. So keep it updated to stay ahead of the competition and drive organic traffic to your website.
Why is keyword mapping important for digital marketing?
Keyword mapping defines your overall SEO strategy. It gives a snapshot of your website’s current state and helps plan future campaigns, website revamps, or new page or content ideas.
“When keyword mapping is properly done, it allows a site to build up its overall expertise, authority, and trustworthiness with search engines and users,” explains Joe Leija, SEO manager at HawkSEM.
Before developing a fine-tuned SEO strategy, you must know where your site stands, how your site looks to search engines, and what phrases you appear for.
Then, once you get started, you can take advantage of the following benefits of keyword mapping.
Improved visibility in search engines
Keyword mapping pinpoints the most relevant keywords to attract more qualified traffic. You can use this intel to select the right keywords to optimize meta tags, headings, and content for better visibility and relevance.
For example, mapping the keyword “best running shoes for women” to a specific product page on your e-commerce website. This allows you to optimize the page’s content and meta tags to increase its search visibility.
Better user experience for target audiences
Aligning content with search intent improves engagement, time on site, and conversion rates. You’re delivering the exact content your audience is searching for, which makes their research easier.
For instance, if you have a blog about healthy recipes, mapping the keyword “easy vegetarian dinner recipes” to a blog post directly targets users looking for simple vegetarian dinner ideas. By meeting this search intent, you create a better user experience.
Boost your conversion rates
Analyzing keyword data sheds light on which search queries to include in on-page SEO throughout your site. This includes terms to tie to your landing pages to drive more quality visitors who are ready to buy.
For example, if you have a website offering digital marketing services, you can optimize a landing page for the keyword “social media marketing agency.” So, you map the keyword to a landing page and optimize its page title, headings, and content to ensure it appears to your bottom-funnel audience.
Consistent brand messaging
You have a brand message you want to share with the world —or at least we hope so. By mapping keywords most relevant to your branding, you create consistent messaging throughout your website.
For instance, if you have a clothing brand known for sustainable fashion, you can map keywords to relevant pages that are related to sustainability, eco-friendly materials, and ethical fashion. This way, your brand’s commitment to sustainability is consistently communicated everywhere on your site.
Improve your content strategy with insights
Is your content strategy the best it can be? Keyword research and analytics give you insights into what’s working and opportunities for improvement.
For example, keyword mapping tools (e.g., google search console, Semrush) and analytics can help you discover that the keyword “digital marketing trends 2023” has a high search volume and low keyword difficulty (less competition), and search intent that matches your target audience.
You can leverage this data by creating timely, relevant, and in-depth content that attracts organic traffic and positions your brand as an authority in the industry.
Common keyword mapping mistakes to avoid (according to our experts)
“The most common mistake in the keyword mapping process is assigning keywords without understanding your target audience’s needs,” says Smith.
This leads to a few different outcomes:
- Assigning based only on keyword search volume
- Assigning based on keywords that don’t support your target topical clusters (which should connect to your target audience.
“Another mistake I see is attempting to assign a keyword for every single page on the site,” continues Smith. “Not every page has equal weight toward your marketing goals, and they don’t all need a keyword focus. Only priority pages.”
Leija also sees frequent mishaps among marketers and brands.
“A common mistake I see is creating content without a pillar/cluster keyword and content strategy in place,” says Leija. “Creating a page that targets a specific keyword is not enough, there needs to be supporting content that targets related keywords along with internal linking.”
He also offers a little word of advice to avoid this:
“Through keyword research, identify your pillar and cluster keywords and then see what pages on the site currently rank for these keywords. Identify any optimization and/or content opportunities to increase those rankings. If the site is missing identified pillar and cluster keywords, create new content targeting those keywords.”
Pro tip: Internal links and anchor text are important when mapping out your keywords and content. Make sure to use the keywords you want those pages to rank for in anchor text when linking back to relevant pages.
Can you create keyword maps for ecommerce and other large sites?
Some websites have hundreds of pages, like large ecommerce brands. When you’re working on SEO for enterprise and ecommerce sites, there may be situations where multiple pages rank for the same keyword.
For example, Amazon may have multiple landing pages ranking for “tennis rackets,” like a category page, best seller’s page, and men’s tennis rackets page.
This is an issue because it causes them to compete for the same search result, which can cause all sorts of issues, such as:
- Confusion for search engines: Having multiple pages on your website target the same keywords may make it difficult for search engines to select which page is most relevant and authoritative for that search term. This can lead to a dilution of ranking signals and lower visibility in search results.
- Competing with yourself: When multiple pages are competing for the same keyword, they end up cannibalizing each other’s rankings. So instead of having one page ranking highly for a keyword, multiple pages may rank lower or not at all. This reduces the overall visibility and traffic potential for your website.
- Inconsistent user experience: Keyword cannibalization can create a confusing user experience. If a user conducts a search and sees multiple pages from your website, how will they know one to choose to meet their needs? This can lead to higher bounce rates and lower engagement metrics.
- Poor conversion rates: When different pages on your website target the same keyword, they may have different conversion goals or calls to action. This can confuse users and make it difficult for them to take the desired action. In other words, your conversion rates will suffer.
- Wasted resources: You spent time and money on creating, optimizing, and promoting multiple pages targeting the same keyword. A complete waste knowing these pages will cannibalize each other’s rankings.
Keyword mapping tips for ecommerce and enterprise websites
We get it — it’s tough keeping up with all the pages on your site, let alone the keywords they target. And it’s the reason we highly recommend using keyword mapping to stay on top of it all.
By building a keyword map, you’re able to:
- Identify and target unique keywords per page
- Monitor pages 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 per page if the content is too similar and if it’s being automatically generated and crawled. In this case, you can audit low-authority pages to determine whether to continue indexing them.
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, take advantage of their topic clusters tool to organize your pages and their corresponding keywords.
“Create your content pillars around products and information,” advises Leija. “These two will support each other but it will allow for top-of-the-funnel educational content to build EEAT (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, trustworthiness), but also middle and bottom-of-the-funnel content that is specific to the product offerings.”
Smith and Leija also note that you should begin with a few product categories/services that drive the most conversions for your business. Map pages that support these goals first. And if you’re building blog pieces, create content that supports those products.
“Once this resource/informational content is developed, link it to and from the specific product pages it focuses on,” says Leija.
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, the end goal, and what info you most want to gather, you can create a map 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.
This article has been updated and was originally published in March, 2022.