3-hour keyword strategy


Building a Keyword Strategy in 3 Hours

Building your own keyword strategy can happen in lots of different ways. For example, you could just make a list and decide arbitrarily. (This is more common than you might think.)

But if you’re reading this, our guess is that you want to build a keyword strategy that you can explain and justify, and that has the best possible chance of working. And you want to verify and quantify what your intuition and common sense may tell you.

This guide will give you a simple framework and a set of exercises to quickly and efficiently do just that. Then you can make intelligent decisions about what content opportunities to pursue so that you rank for the topics you’re ready to prioritize.

What is a keyword strategy?

Before the work begins, let’s make sure we’re speaking the same language. We define a keyword strategy as a way of deciding what keywords you want to target for ranking in organic search.

We’ll use our Ercule website as an example. We’re a content performance and SEO agency. There are potentially hundreds, or even thousands, of keywords for which we could try to rank. But we know that, to be effective, we need to pick just a few and focus our content-creation efforts. So, when we built our keyword strategy for our own website, we used a method that gave us a list like this:

  1. Content optimization
  2. Content performance
  3. Content promotion
  4. Content creation
  5. SEO conversion optimization

This list is easy to follow, and it’s easy to explain why we made the decisions we did. This list is also short, which is critical for it to be effective.

We’ve used and refined this method for our own agency, plus dozens of clients across different industries, company sizes, and marketing models. We like the method we’ve developed, and we think you don’t need to invest a huge amount of time or money to put together a thoughtful, data-driven keyword strategy. With this guide, it should take you about 3 hours.

Once you’ve figured out what your keyword strategy should look like, you can use it to help you decide what content to create. But, taking your keyword strategy a step further, it can also be an important factor in figuring out:

  • What topics to follow, and contribute to, on social
  • What communities to join
  • What pillars to organize your blog around

…along with many other content-related tasks.

So think of this as a keyword strategy to be sure, but keep in mind that you’ll be able to take it a step further and use it as a topic strategy – a way of figuring out where to build and demonstrate your expertise to prospects and customers.

About this guide

In this guide, we’ll show you how to generate a seed keyword list, then use a spreadsheet template to balance 3 different sets of data to get to an effective, and defensible, keyword strategy.

First, you’ll need to generate good keyword ideas – there are lots of places to get these. We cover what “good keyword ideas” are in the second section.

Next, you’ll pull three different kinds of data:

  • Relevance. You’ll need to rank these ideas on how important they are to your business, and whether visitors will actually convert if they land on your site, based on these keywords.
  • Volume. How popular is a specific keyword? What is the demand for information about it?
  • Competition. How hard will it be to get traction? Put another way, what is the supply of information that’s already available?

The general framework is that you want a balance of terms, with:

  • Some volume
  • Not too much competition
  • Real relevance to your business

Once you’ve done the research to find the right terms that cover these 3 requirements — and let our spreadsheet template do a little math — you’ll be well on your way to a successful keyword (and content) strategy.

By the way, a keyword strategy doesn’t mean that certain topics are all, or even most, of what you write about. But it does mean that you align your company with those keywords, and becoming a known expert on them is something that you do as part of your content strategy – it’s an objective that your marketing team has.

It also gives you a model that you can iterate on, instead of constantly reinventing. And iteration is important, particularly if you’re working at a smaller company where what you focus on might change every few months.

Understanding the Keyword Strategy Spreadsheet

We’ve built a simple spreadsheet that will help you work with this model.

Once you click on that link, you should make a copy to save in your own Google Drive. You can do this under the “File” menu, using “Make a copy”. (Questions or problems? Give us a shout.)

This template has 2 tabs.

  • On the first tab, “Keyword Data”, we’ll gather all of the information we have about what your seed keywords are, including relevance, volume, and competition. There’s also a formula that combines these different parameters to tell you in what order you should pursue your keywords.
  • On the second tab, “Strategy Output”, we have a formula that gives you an ordered list. It’s the same data from the first tab, just put into something that’s a little easier to read.

We’ll follow the columns in the spreadsheet from left to right, starting with generating the seed keywords, then determining relevance, and finally pulling volume and competition data.

As you use the spreadsheet, replace the information in it with what you gather in the following sections.

Ready for the next step? Let's gather seed keywords.