This is the third post in our How to Conduct an SEO Audit in 2020 series. If you’re just joining us, we recommend starting at the introductory post.
Before diving into your audit you need to take a look and evaluate your current keywords. This is necessary whether or not you had a keyword strategy before.
If you had an SEO strategy and were intentionally targeting keywords, you need to determine if you were targeting the right ones.
If you didn’t, then you need to learn what keywords your site is presenting to search engines and their crawlers.
You also need to be sure that the keywords you’re targeting are attainable - this is something I alluded to in the last post about business strategy. Often businesses go all in thinking that they’ll be able to rank for keywords that are out of their league, but this overly-ambitious approach often results in failure.
By conducting an audit of your current keywords you’ll understand their quality, and it will help inform your content strategy later in the SEO audit process.
Successful SEO Keyword Strategy
The most successful strategy with SEO given the current state of the internet is to target less competitive, long-tail keywords. These are what are often referred to as “low-hanging fruit”. Since there is less competition and ‘noise’ in this area, it is far easier to grow your rankings and establish authority for these types of keywords.
But there’s another added benefit that’s arguably more important: People searching for long-tail keywords are more specific in their intent. This means by targeting the right set of keywords you’re going to place yourself in front of a self-qualifying audience. This is an audience that’s far more likely to convert into leads, sales, and eventually customers.
This is why it’s an industry best practice to review your keywords at the beginning of an audit, as well as every quarter. Once you’ve set up your campaigns, you can monitor which keywords are performing the best and which are performing the worst and use this to adjust resource allocation accordingly.
You don’t want to spread your resources too thin, especially at the beginning of a new campaign. This obviously applies to your internal employee and financial resources, but most people don’t realize that your keywords are a resource too! If you’re trying to rank for hundreds or even tens of keywords at the beginning of a new campaign you won’t be able to spend the time necessary to do quality research for each of those keywords.
Once you do revise your campaign, make sure you review periodically, track your top performing keywords, and focus your resources on them.
What if I don’t have a keyword strategy (yet)?
If you already have a keyword strategy you’ll know what you’ve been targeting.
But if you’ve never put one together, you’re probably wondering how exactly to find out what terms your page is presenting to search engines. Locate and write down the following things:
- The URL slug (www.example.com/`this-is-the-url-slug`)
- The text of your
- The text of your
- Your page body text
Take these and run them through a keyword density checker. A good free resource is SmallSEOTools Keyword Density Analyzer.
While you can just plug in your URL, it’s important to know what the density checker is looking through.
See what words show up the most frequently. If there aren’t any, then your page doesn’t present much intent to search engine crawlers.
Another tool you can use is Google Webmaster Tools.
Picking the right keywords
Now, at this point, you’re probably saying: “Okay, but what are the right keywords to target?”
Remember we talked about S.M.A.R.T. goals in the last post? Using your business goals in conjunction with your buyer personas is the key to successful keywords.
Each keyword you choose to focus on is supporting and aligned with a goal for your business and SEO campaign.
We recommend starting with generating broad keyword groups and topics based on your business and audience. At this point, don’t be afraid to throw everything idea out there - consider this a brainstorming phase. We often see people asking employees, friends & family, even (especially!) customers what they would search for to find your business online. Once you have a big group of topics, distil them down to a list of five to ten based on your buyer personas.
Now you can start building out your keywords. Take your topics and break them into specific long-tail keywords. Again, use your buyer personas and campaign goals. Depending on your resources and the scope of your business you should settle on a list of between 20 and 100 keywords.
Next, it’s important to refine your list. You likely have some short-tail highly-competitive keywords in your list. Unless you’re an established business and already have a decent amount of domain authority, you’ll be expending resources for zero gain if you target those. Remember, the companies that hold domain authority have been around for eons in internet years, and that means that search engines trust them. A lot. They’ve also been link-building for years. And, because they’re ranking highly for those short tail keywords, their business is going to have enormous amounts of traffic, which results in large amounts of revenue, and a portion of that is going back into their marketing budget. It’s somewhat of an exponential cycle, and it means that barring some big upset in how search engines work and rank, those giants will always outpace the rest of us.
So remove any short-tail keywords with high difficulty from your list.
On the other side of things, you likely have some highly specific keywords (huge-tail-keywords, if you will). These are keywords that are probably targeted towards 5-10% of your audience, and so while they’re probably going to be easy to rank for, the ROI for your time investment is going to be small. Don’t strike these completely, but do move them to the bottom of the list.
Now you should have a slimmed down list of keywords. Prioritize them based on their relevancy to your business. Google is relying more and more heavily on what they call “relevant quality content”, so make sure you keep this in mind when conducting your SEO keyword audit.
Now that we’ve covered how to conduct a keyword analysis as part of your SEO Audit, it’s time to move on to analyzing your competitors.