The Keyword Research Process
Not long ago, it was possible (and easy) to get nearly any page ranked for nearly any keyword by throwing enough exact-match anchor text backlinks at it. Starting with Panda 3.3 and continuing with Panda 3.4 and Google Penguin, that “Golden Age” of SEO has disappeared, and new-age SEO link building has changed dramatically as a result.
But regardless of what era of SEO we find ourselves in, businesses have the same needs: to achieve top rankings for relevant keywords in the search engines in order to drive targeted website traffic and sales. Before Panda 3.3, the process of getting ranked for all your niche’s keywords looked something like this:
Of course, this process no longer works. Low-quality backlinks now appear to pass negative value, which is apparently amplified when they use exact-match anchor text.
So, in this post-Penguin era of SEO, how do businesses achieve rankings for each of their target keywords? First, let’s take a look at an example.
Crackerize.com is a lyrics website where users can read and write rap lyrics translated into “proper” English. I’ve identified 27 keywords for which it should be extremely relevant in Google and Bing, yet it currently ranks on the first page of search results for two of those keywords: “rap lyrics translated,” “translate rap lyrics,” and “translated rap lyrics.”
So, why doesn’t it rank even in the top 100 (in Google or Bing) for terms like “rap songs translated,” “rap translations,” or “rap lyrics translation?” The website is completely relevant for all of those keywords. How do we get Google to recognize our relevance for each of the other keywords as well?
Many businesses are faced with this same question. Is it even possible, post-Penguin? Maybe. If so, I have some ideas for how I’d do it.
Below, I’ve outlined six steps I’d take for ranking my business in Google for every identified keyword in my niche.
Step 1: Keyword Research
Before you can get to work getting ranked for all of your niche’s keywords, you need to identify them. Start by gathering a list of keywords from Google’s Keyword Tool. For a detailed guide on how to perform keyword research with Google’s keyword tool, check this out.
Filter out as many unrelated or loosely related terms as possible. The more targeted and concise your list of keywords, the less work you’ll have to do to get ranked for each of them. I recommend not more than 30 keywords.
Step 2: Analyze Your Existing Rankings
Once you’ve got your list of keywords for which you want to rank, the next step is to find out how your website currently ranks for each one. There are various rank checking tools for this, but my favorite is MySEOTool. If you’re a Firefox user and you want a quick and free solution, try SEOBook’s Rank Checker plugin for FireFox.
Using either tool, you’ll be able to see if you have any existing pages ranking for any of your identified terms, and if so, exactly what ranking page was found. This is important because it’ll provide insight as to which existing pages on your website are currently considered most relevant for each term.
If there are keywords for which your website is not currently ranking, then there’s another way to find which page on your website is considered to have the highest relevance: a “site:” search.
For example, if I want to found out which page on audiencebloom.com has the highest relevance for the term “pinterest marketing,” I would perform the following search in Google:
site:audiencebloom.com “pinterest marketing”
This query would yield results only from the audiencebloom.com domain, in order of Google’s perception of most relevant pages for that term. If I wanted to improve my rankings for the term “pinterest marketing,” I’d want to target my efforts around the page that was the #1 ranking result for the “site:” query.
In the example above, which was generated using the SEOBook Firefox Rank Checker plugin, you’ll see that there were no internal pages identified with relevance for any of the targeted keywords; the homepage is the only ranking page. This is to be expected, since all of the internal pages on the crackerize.com domain consist of individual translated rap songs (i.e. I’d expect them to rank for variations of the artist name and song title, but not for the generic variations of “rap lyrics translated”).
Step 3: Group Your Keywords
The next step is to put your keywords into several closely related groups. Try to group keywords that contain all the same words but in a different order, singulars with plurals, and keywords that are only one word apart. For example, here’s how I’d group the keywords from the above example:
Group 1: translated rap lyrics, translate rap lyrics, rap lyrics translation, rap lyrics translated
Group 2: translate rap songs, rap songs translated, rap song translation
Group 3: rap translator, rap translations, rap translation, hip hop translation
Group 4: rap lyrics meaning, rap lyrics explained
Step 4: Assign Each Keyword Group to a Specific URL on Your Website
After grouping your keywords, select a primary keyword for each group. Generally, I go with the one that has the highest search volume (which you can determine using Google’s Keyword Tool). However, in some cases, it might be more beneficial to go with a term that you intuitively feel will convert at the highest rate.
After selecting a primary keyword within each group, it’s time to assign each keyword group to a specific URL on your website. Use the information you have about what pages on your website are currently ranking for each keyword to help you with this process.
If you don’t currently have any pages on your website that are super relevant for any of your groups of keywords, then you’re going to need to create some new pages. But don’t just create a page for the sake of creating a page – in order to have any success, it needs to be super high quality, extremely valuable, original content.
Make a note of which URL you’re assigning to each keyword group on your page, along with which term you’ve selected from each group to be the primary keyword.
Step 5: Perform On-site SEO for Each Assigned URL
Follow basic on-site SEO best practices to optimize each URL assigned to your keyword groups. Within the title tags and h1 tags of each page, use the primary keyword that you identified in the previous step. If possible, use your secondary terms in the meta description tag of each page. Within the body content of the page, use each of your secondary keywords at least once. Think about how you can use them naturally and without sounding forced or unnatural.
After your on-page elements are optimized, it’s time to build strategic internal links. When you link from one internal page to another on your own domain, that’s called internal linking, and it’s an important factor in the ranking algorithms (though nothing is more important than external link building, which I’ll cover here in just a minute).
With internal linking, you have more flexibility and control with regard to the anchor text that you use in your links. Start by combing through your own website and identifying opportunities to link to your own target pages. Vary your anchor text with variations of your primary and secondary keywords, along with other text that makes sense and is appropriate without feeling forced or unnatural.
Step 6: Build Links to Your Pages
After your on-site SEO is all spiffed up for your target pages, it’s time to build links. Link building is the most difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating part of SEO, but that’s why it’s also the most heavily weighted part of the algorithm.
Prior to Google Penguin, link building was easy. The relevance of the content on the linking page didn’t play much of a role in the ranking algorithm; the anchor text of the link was vastly more important. Post Penguin link building is a whole new ballgame, and failing to play by the rules can land your site’s rankings in the bottomless chasm of Google’s sandbox.
Entire books are written about the art of proper link building, but for the purpose of this article I’ll discuss my favorite tactic: guest blog posting. While many forms of link building are considered against Google’s webmaster guidelines, guest blog posting is a high-quality, safe, and effective tactic that I highly recommend. According to this article at Search Engine Land, Google and Bing have specifically recommended guest blog posting:
“[Duane Forrester] suggested contacting an authority site in your space to see if they would publish a guest article that you write particularly for them. If the authority site finds your content valuable enough to publish, that’s a completely different situation from article hubs that allow anyone to publish anything.”
Take Duane’s advice and do as much guest blog posting as you can. You’ll gain valuable links, recognition, credibility, audience, and website traffic.
The first step in writing guest blog posts is to find potential publishers and authority websites in your niche. The easiest way to do this is to perform a search in Google for each of your identified keywords. Comb through the search results and identify websites ranking in the top 100 results that appear to be high-quality, with active readership, social channels, and frequent updates. These types of links are going to yield the greatest impact on your rankings and website traffic.
Before writing your guest blog posts, look at each of your keyword groups and think about an awesome article you could write that’s topically relevant for each one. In your articles, include relevant links to your target pages, while varying the anchor text. Exact-match anchor text, formerly the darling of the SEO industry (before Google Penguin), can now trigger a red flag which can get your site penalized. For every 10 guest blog posts you write, use exact-match anchor text only once. For a more in-depth guide on safe anchor text types to use for today’s post-Penguin world, see this post.
From a strategic standpoint, try to include one of your primary or secondary keywords in the title of the article, while keeping your content tightly relevant to that keyword group. The more closely related the link source and destination pages are, the more points you’ll score in the ranking algorithm.
If you’re in a competitive niche, you may need a lot of guest blog posts, combined with other link building tactics, social media marketing, and on-site content creation, in order to achieve rankings for each keyword in your niche. With enough time and enough effort, you’ll eventually find your website ranking for each keyword you’ve identified.
What about E-commerce websites?
If you run an e-commerce business, then follow the steps above, in addition to the following:
- Properly arrange each of your products into corresponding categories, and set up category pages which highlight the best products within each category
- If you have less than 10 categories, link to each category from your homepage. If you have more than 10, link to your top five or 10 categories in terms of profit margin
- Ensure each product page has proper on-site SEO elements (you can use some of these handy Firefox SEO plugins to double-check), and encourage augmented content such as user reviews, comments, and editorial review or opinions
- Enable easy social sharing via share buttons
There you have it, my step-by-step guide for exactly how I’d get a website ranked for every keyword in the niche. Have you successfully ranked your website for every keyword in your niche? If so, leave a comment and tell us what you did!
Latest posts by Jayson DeMers (see all)
- How to Get Ranked for All Your Niche’s Keywords – October 2, 2012
- How to Set Up Your Company in Bing Business Portal – September 18, 2012
- The Definitive Guide to Local SEO – August 15, 2012
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