SEO 101 – You’ve got your keywords, now what?

This is the third of the SEO Chicks 101 series that Lisa introduced a couple of weeks ago with her delve into canonicalisation issues. The second post in the series was Nicholas look at data analysis

This post was inspired by Lesley Cutts, owner of one of my favourite sites who posted what I thought was an interesting response to a statement I made on twitter. Now not to make you think I’m disorganised, but I had lost some notes I had made on a keyword strategy for a client (I found them in the end & all was well), and Lesley commented that she wouldn’t know where to begin writing down a keyword strategy, as it seemed like quite an intangible thing.

This got me thinking, as there is a lot of information about how to do keyword research out there, and lots of information on conducting on page optimisation, but really I find there is very little about the middle step, deciding what to do with your keywords once you have them, so I convinced Lesley to be guinea pig case study for this post. Armed with a keyword list for Goodness direct, I’m going to show you how I use that to define how I apply the on page optimisation.

Getting organised

looking at the Goodness Direct site you’ll see that there are lots of categories, which means hundreds of keywords. This can seem quite unmanageable when it comes to optimisation, and deciding what goes where. For me the first step in creating a strategy, is always to create some order. The reason for this is two fold, firstly, it makes the job a hell of a lot less daunting, and secondly, it makes life a lot easier when it comes it grouping for internal optimisation.

To anyone who has ever done large scale PPC campaigns the way to organise keywords will be obvious, you manage your keywords in themed groups. so looking at just one section of the site, supplements, there are categories that we can place the keywords into, just as we catagorise the products

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbal

Those are our categories
form there we group our keywords into groups

  • vitamins
    • vitamin c
    • vitamin A
    • Vitamin B
    • etc
  • Minerals
    • Iron
    • calcium
    • zinc
    • etc
  • Herbal
    • Garlic
    • Ginger
    • Ginko Biloba
    • etc

And in each group we assign the relevant keywords

  • vitamins
    • vitamin c
      • daily vitamin c
      • vitamin c supplement
      • vitamin c benefits
      • vitamin c powder
      • pure vitamin c

So now we have a way of managing the huge number of keywords we have for the site, it becomes much easier to determine the strategy of what we are going to do with them.

So where does the strategising start?

The next step is to look at which pages we are going to i for individual keywords, and which pages are going to be the focus. Every product in the range qualifies as a vitamin C supplement, so which page should be optimised for it, do we try and use the term on every page? No. It’s much easier to focus optimisation on key pages, especially when it comes to key terms. For some things there will be a need to optimise one page above all others, for instance product x is a best seller with a huge profit margin, it makes sense that that would be the page you want to optimise for the highest volume term, but if that page is terrible, and another product page has a higher chance of getting positions, you may want to optimise the best page instead, get the quick win that that will afford and look at optimising the high profit product longer term.

Before I start looking at the financial benefits of individual pages or products though, I want to know what Google thinks. So I check which pages already have positions for the keywords (I generally go 3 pages in on a manual search) if the site isn’t ranking for the term, I then use the site operator to look at which pages Google is picking up for the term, for example; site daily vitamin c

These are the results I got;


From the table & links above a few things become clear. First is that Goodness direct is missing out on some very easy wins, simply from having more keywords rich page titles. In the one instance where the keywords are in the title they’re ranking very highly indeed, so adding keywords to their page titles is likely to have a big impact. We have also identified the most relevant pages to do this to for daily vitamin C & vitamin C supplement. However the page identified for vitamin C supplement is the Vitamin C home page, which may not be the page we want to rank for that term long term (although it is likely to be the quickest win).

You’ve probably also noticed that I have highlighted two of the results, this is because the most relevant pages to these terms, and in fact the top 10 most relevant results on site returned by Google, aren’t vitamin C related pages. This highlights the need for additional content to be added to the site to cater to these search terms.
I know at this point you’re thinking “bloody hell Sarah that’s a lot of work to go through just to decide where keywords go” and for some sites it is, but if it can mean the difference between seeing results in a couple of months, and chasing your own tail for years. I do this a lot, and so the information I have provided above took about 10 minutes to produce. Doing this throughout a site will take a few hours, but it will let you identify the quick wins & the long term goals. So bare with me, because there is just a couple more paragraphs and another table before I’m done.

Build your road-map

You now have all of the information you need to actually build your strategy. This can be seen in the table below, which outlines the strategy for the vitamin C pages of Goodness direct. In Excel I can sort this by tasks, position, and a number of other factors to look at how the site is doing at any time, this is also arranged into campaigns & adgroups, to allow me to focus on higher value product groups or specific site areas at any given time.

gd table 2

For me this is a road map to the entire optimisation process. When I’m looking for links, I’m thinking about what page is relevant based on the information here. When I’m thinking about content creation, I’m looking at what gaps there are that my strategy tells me need filling. I use it to look at whether the pages that are ranking are the most effective for that term, or whether I need to start trying to outrank myself with a more relevant page. As with all journeys in life a road map might not be necessary, but setting out without one can cost you dearly both in time & money,  sometimes an extra few hours planning can make all the difference.

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11 Responses to “SEO 101 – You’ve got your keywords, now what?”

  1. Sarah this is really great. I completely get your mindset in terms of the research foundation, before you even get to prioritising the on page stuff, factoring in commercial performance.

    Good approach to identifying the holes and the quick wins!

  2. Lesley says:

    Thanks Sarah, that is really helpful. Now I will go get myself a road map! I now know where to start.

  3. @Lesley I’m so glad you found it helpful, that was the point after all. I think you’ll be amazed how quickly your next actions become apparent once you have all the data together.

  4. Matt Davies says:

    Hi Sarah, like your methodology but I’m a little confused as to how you choose the best page for a keyword to be placed on when phrases like “daily vitamin c” and “vitamin c supplement” could realistically be targetted on any of those pages. Could you elaborate?

    I tend to work the other way round, look at the pages on a site and then select the keywords those pages could/should be targetting, then look for any other keywords that have been missed out and create pages or modify existing pages to target them.

  5. @Matt you’re right for some terms there isn’t necessarily a single obvious page, so I would look at this in two ways; short term I want to know which page is most liklely to get ranked quickly, so I would look at which page Google is already favouring, and assuming it is relevant, optimise that page. long term I would look at it commercially, either optimising a high profit product, or a highly converting page.

  6. Really great post Sarah – I work along very similar lines & love my road maps.:) I often use google docs to set up a simplified version of this to share with clients as they often get themselves in a panic, or ask me endlessly about ‘other really important keywords we aren’t including on every page’ and this methodology seems to help keep the peace for all parties!

    With regards to Matt’s comment – I think it’s good to work from both sides. Working from the pages, you often find a page ranking say top of 2nd page that just needs a little boost. Working from keywords will also throw up obvious gaps in the site for popular terms. I also like to run ranking reports on a whole host of broader and long-term keywords to get a feel for the site as a whole and the niche terms that are small but effective that often get overlooked.

  7. Sadie says:

    This is a realy good post I was wondering the same as Matt as I tend to look at the pages first then choose the keyword, I als go down in terms of competitiveness leaving the harder keywords in the higher directories with strong internal linking.
    We tend to focus on paid for keywords then monitor a number of long tail targeted keywords with good landing pages, I find the combinations of efforts will show a quicker ROI and happier customers not hassling you for results while the more competitive keywords get established.

  8. Gabriellla says:

    Bravo, to see the way you organized this makes me realize there is a method to our madness. I will admit the secondary & tertiary words was always a hard one to explain to clients as well as writers, but I do like the way you broke things down! Needless to say the road map is brilliant, thanks for writing this.

  9. Dustin says:

    Great post Sarah. Anyone who has gone through the process of trying to organize a keyword strategy on a large.. or even small website with highly competitive keywords knows the importance of organizing. You touched on something I haven’t seen a lot of people talk about and I think you did a great job. Road map is awesome.

  10. rishil says:

    Apart from organising ourselves, data like this makes it so much easier to share with clients – it is often important for them to understand what we are doing :)

  11. [...] SEO 101 – You’ve got your keywords, now what? publicado em 17/11/2009 A Sarah Goodwin do SEO Chicks publicou um artigo bem interessante mostrando como organizar toda a sua linkagem interna e externa, pensando em páginas que já estão bem rankeadas e naquelas que você ainda não conseguiu rankear. Ela mostra como mostrar uma tabela para organizar esta parte da estratégia de SEO. [...]

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