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Keyword mapping: Your North Star for better SEO

Author: Ryan Jones

an image of author Ryan Jones, accompanied by various search-related iconography

Keyword mapping has driven success for many websites in many niches, and it can do the same to propel your business. In my role at SEOTesting (where I developed the content strategy for the business from scratch), keyword mapping has enabled us to position our content strategically, using the right keywords to take our organic traffic from 2,000 per month to over 8,000 per month (in a little over six months). Along with the traffic growth, keyword mapping has also facilitated better rankings and higher user engagement.


As you may already know, the better our businesses do organically, the better the bottom line typically looks. Using SEOTesting as an example, we have taken MRR from $22,500 to $31,000 in the last eight months with content, aided by a great keyword mapping strategy as the foundation.


To help you leverage this strategy for your website, this guide will give you all the information you need about keyword mapping, offering you the insights and tools to harness its full potential—whether you’re a seasoned pro or just dipping your toes into the SEO realm.


Table of contents:




What is keyword mapping?


At its core, keyword mapping is assigning keywords to corresponding pages on your website. In the context of SEO specifically, it’s a strategic approach to ensure that each web page is not only optimized for a specific keyword (or cluster of keywords, which I’ll go into more detail about later) but also resonates with the user’s search intent and journey. 


This process involves a detailed analysis of keywords to understand their: 



Keyword mapping is about creating a blueprint for your website’s content. It’s where SEO meets user experience, intertwining the “art” of content creation with the “science” of search engine algorithms. By mapping keywords to specific pages, you ensure your site is organized, relevant, and, most importantly, discoverable by your target audience.


The benefits of keyword mapping for your business and its SEO


Keyword mapping isn’t just an initial step in your overall SEO strategy—it also helps inform tactical, strategic, and business aspects of your website by:


  • Guiding new content creation

  • Helping you identify underperforming content to optimize

  • Revealing performance patterns that could affect your strategy

  • Targeting niche search queries to overcome bigger competitors


Guide new content creation

When you start creating new content, keyword mapping acts as your guide. It helps you identify gaps in your current content, revealing opportunities for new topics that resonate with your audience’s interests and search queries.


You can create content that fills these gaps by analyzing relevant (but not yet targeted) keywords. This ensures that your website addresses a broader range of user search queries, increasing the breadth of your content and enhancing its relevance for users and search engines.


Identify underperforming content to optimize

Keyword mapping is also an excellent way to troubleshoot and optimize existing content. By mapping current content to its respective keywords, you can identify pages that might be underperforming or not ranking for their intended keywords.


This insight allows you to re-optimize these pages by adjusting the keyword focus, updating the content to align with search intent, or improving on-page SEO elements. Such optimizations ensure that your existing content remains competitive and continues to attract organic traffic.


Reveal performance patterns

Monitoring entire keyword clusters, rather than individual keywords, will enable you to assess how search engines and users respond to your brand for entire topics, giving you a better overview of how your brand is seen across that topic.


For example, you spot a decline in traffic for your website following a Google algorithm update, and you look into this and see that it’s down to your rankings declining for keywords within a [best running shoes] cluster of keywords, it could signal that your brand is lacking authority or relevance on that topic.


Another example might be if your rankings for the keyword cluster are stable, but traffic from those keywords declines. This could indicate a new Google search feature or a decline in interest in that topic overall.


Niche-down for more conversions

For small businesses, in particular, keyword mapping is a game changer. It levels the playing field, allowing smaller entities to better compete with larger enterprises.


Small businesses can target their content more precisely to their audience by focusing on specific, local, or niche keywords. This targeted approach leads to higher-quality traffic, more engaged users, and better conversion rates.



If you’re operating on limited resources, keyword mapping helps you ensure that every piece of content created or optimized contributes towards your business’ online visibility and success.


How to start keyword mapping for your business’ website


Whether you work for a small business or a large organization, the steps to begin keyword mapping for your website are the same. Let’s begin.


Plan your keywords

Most businesses (especially those with an established online presence) already have many target keywords. These are typically based on your product offerings, services, industry terms, and even competitor analysis. However, expanding beyond this initial list is vital to excel in this planning stage it opens your business to untapped markets and audiences, allowing it to grow even more. Once your business is already established, growing new revenue generally comes from expanding to new audiences.


One effective way to expand your list of target keywords is to use tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, AlsoAsked, etc. These tools offer insights into keyword search volumes and competition levels, and suggest related keywords that your audience might use. 


A mind map focused on "SEO testing" with branches leading to questions about SEO. Central nodes include "What is SEO testing?", "How do I run a SEO test?", "How to do SEO assessment?", and "What is SEO in website?". Each node branches out to related queries like "Is SEO easy?", "What is SEO for beginners?", "How to prepare for SEO?", and various other questions about starting SEO, its cost, its relevance, and practices for effective SEO strategies. The image displays a systematic approach to understanding and querying about SEO in a visually organized manner.
Example output from AlsoAsked, which can serve as the basis to create more content.

By analyzing this data and selecting the greatest keyword opportunities (by comparing search volume, the difficulty to rank, and the intent for that keyword, among other elements), businesses can identify high-potential keywords relevant to their niche, but less saturated with search competitors.


In addition, sourcing keywords through interactions with your customers (particularly sales and customer service calls) is an often underrated technique. These conversations are goldmines for discovering the exact queries and questions your audience uses when searching Google. By tuning into these conversations, you can uncover valuable long tail keywords that are highly specific and often closer to the point of purchase in the customer journey. Incorporating the terms you discover into your content strategy can help improve various SEO metrics and ensures your content resonates more deeply with your audience’s needs and search terms.


Organize your keywords into clusters

Clustering allows websites to organize their keywords into meaningful groups (clusters) that reflect various topics or themes. This method enhances the relevance and focus of your website’s content to better satisfy user queries and rank higher in search results.


Not to mention, keyword clustering can save you a lot of time! If you carefully craft clusters before creating or optimizing content, you reduce the risk of developing underperforming or duplicate content (i.e., content that does not need to be made).


When clustering keywords, the goal is to group terms that are thematically similar or related to a common user intent. For example, keywords like [best running shoes], [running shoe reviews], and [durable running shoes] can be clustered under a broader category, such as [running shoes]. This clustering will help you create more focused content and also aid in structuring your website more logically, ensuring that related topics are interlinked and easy to navigate.


A screenshot of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Similarity tool with a pie chart showing a 50.00% similarity between the search queries 'seo testing' and 'what is seo testing'. Below the chart, there's a section titled 'URLs comparison' listing 4 common URLs. The interface includes options for adding more sets, selecting keywords, and has a location set to United Kingdom and language to English.
The SERP similarity between the keywords [SEO testing] and [what is SEO testing]. As you can see, 50% of the keywords within the top 10 positions are identical, showing relatively high similarity.

There is also another way to think about keyword clustering: in terms of how Google processes the term. Google treats certain specific (but often similar) search terms identically. For example, take [SEO testing] as a keyword. Google treats all of the below keywords as the same keyword:


  • [SEO testing]

  • [What is SEO testing]

  • [SEO testing approach]

  • [Testing SEO tactics]

  • [SEO testing agency]


This means that I can create one authoritative guide based on the [SEO testing] keyword, include all of the keywords within this grouping and target all of these queries with one web page. This technique can help your website cover more search terms relevant to your industry, especially when you’re creating a lot of content regularly. And, even if you’re not creating much content, you can still make content management easier for yourself using this technique, as you’ll have fewer pages to maintain and update.


Keyword Insights can be a valuable tool for this purpose. It assists with keyword clustering process by analyzing the relationship between different keywords (based on search data). 


A screenshot of a spreadsheet with keyword analysis for running shoes. It includes columns for Cluster, Keyword, SUM of Search Volume, AVERAGE of Article, AVERAGE of Product/Category, and AVERAGE of Other Page Type. Keywords are grouped into clusters such as 'running shoes', 'on running shoes', and 'best running shoes for women', with associated search volumes and average content types.
A keyword cluster document provided by Keyword Insights and exported into Google Sheets. The tool provides you with pivot tables to allow you to see clusters easily.

The tool identifies patterns and commonalities among keywords, suggesting clusters that might not be obvious. This can significantly streamline the clustering process, ensuring your keyword groups are data-driven and aligned with actual search behavior. 


Create your keyword mapping document

Screenshot of a Keyword Mapping Document Template in a spreadsheet application displaying multiple columns and rows. Columns are titled 'Cluster Name', 'Primary Keyword', 'Secondary Keywords', 'Total Volume', 'Highest KD%', 'Target URL', 'Status', and 'Last Updated'. The rows are filled with various keyword combinations related to running shoes, with total search volumes and keyword difficulties. Most cells under 'Status' are marked 'To create' with a date '1/30/2024' in the 'Last Updated' column. The spreadsheet's interface shows tabs for 'File', 'Edit', 'View', 'Insert', 'Format', 'Data', 'Tools', 'Extensions', 'Help', and a search bar at the top.
An example keyword mapping document.

Creating a keyword mapping document is the final step that lays the foundation for your entire SEO strategy going forward. This document details how you will use each keyword across your website.


To begin, start by listing your keywords and keyword clusters. Then, assign each cluster and keyword to your website’s pages or sections. The goal is to ensure that every page targets a distinct set of keywords aligned with the content and the user’s search intent.


Your keyword map should include headings (columns) like:


Keyword cluster (if appropriate)

This will list the group of related keywords.

Target page

This column identifies the specific page on your site that will target these keywords.

Search intent

Typically navigational, informational, commercial, or transactional, this classification helps clarify the purpose behind the user’s search, guiding your content creation to meet these needs.

Current ranking

This provides a benchmark for existing content and your content when it is first created.

Notes

This can include, for example, additional insights or strategies for each keyword cluster.


Depending on your needs, you might also want to add columns for search volume, keyword difficulty, or a status field to indicate whether optimization is in progress.


Once your keyword mapping document is complete, it becomes an excellent content creation and optimization guide: 


  • For new content, it informs the topics and keywords to focus on, ensuring that your efforts are aligned with your SEO goals.

  • For existing content, it helps identify areas to optimize, whether it’s updating keywords, enhancing content, or improving on-page elements.


Create and optimize content according to your keyword map

Now that your keyword map is actionable, it’s time to start creating and optimizing content. 


Content creation is its own separate topic, so I will not go into detail here as there are already many great articles online about producing and optimizing fantastic content.


Maintain and update your keyword map

Understand that your keyword map is never finished (that is, unless you stop working on your website). There will never be a time when your mapping document should not be worked on and improved and updated with new keywords.


As your business grows, expands into new areas, and generally gets bigger and better, there will be more topics you need to create content about, more audiences that need to be satisfied, and more keywords that correspond to them.


As these new topics and keywords come into play, your keyword mapping document will constantly expand. The map will grow more extensive as time goes on to keep supporting your website’s SEO.


Keyword cannibalization: Don’t let it hold your SEO back


Over the better part of a decade spent working in digital marketing and SEO, I have seen first-hand how the industry constantly moves forward. However, certain principles remain consistent, one of which is the importance of correct keyword mapping.


Done correctly, keyword mapping is a powerful tool for superior website visibility and traffic. Done incorrectly, it can lead to keyword cannibalization, which occurs when multiple pages on your website compete for the same keywords, confusing search engines and diluting your SEO efforts.


Keyword cannibalization isn’t just a technical issue. It’s also a strategic misstep that can significantly hamper your website’s ranking ability. 

When multiple pages target the same keyword, they inadvertently compete against each other. This internal competition can lead to search ranking fluctuations, with different pages alternating for the same spot, hindering your SEO strategy’s overall effectiveness in addition to your website’s visibility.


A screenshot of a Google search results page for "durable running shoes," featuring a selection of articles and product listings from various websites such as Runner's World, Reddit, and LetsRun.com, with images of different running shoes.
Runner’s World has two different articles ranking for the keyword [durable running shoes] but the top result is listed at position 5. If the website removed and redirected one of these articles into the other, it may have better ranking potential.

How to avoid keyword cannibalization

Avoiding keyword cannibalization starts with a robust keyword mapping strategy. Hopefully, this article has pointed you in the right direction so far! Keyword mapping ensures that each page on your site is assigned unique primary and secondary keywords to target, reducing the potential for overlap and cannibalization.


Regular content audits using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console are crucial to identify potential cannibalization issues. In cases where pages are too similar, consolidating them can resolve cannibalization and enhance the overall value of the content. If consolidation isn’t viable, using canonical tags helps direct search engines to see a specific page as the “primary” destination for a keyword.


Additionally, a strategic internal linking approach, emphasizing links to the most relevant page for each keyword, reinforces which page search engines should view as the primary page.


Tools to help your keyword mapping


To round off this article, I will talk about some of the SEO tools you should use to make the keyword mapping process easier for you and your website.


Keyword research tools

Proper keyword research lies at the heart of keyword mapping. This is where keyword research tools come into play, serving as the “market intelligence” of your mapping toolkit. These tools are crucial for discovering new target keywords, allowing you to create a comprehensive map covering all aspects of your content’s needs!


Some tools you can consider include:


  • Ahrefs

  • Semrush

  • Google Search Console

  • Google Keyword Planner


These tools provide keyword metrics like search volume, competition, and relevance. You can use them to identify the primary and secondary keywords that are most relevant to your content and audience, forming the basis of your keyword map.


AlsoAsked is another excellent keyword research tool, although it differs from the ones listed above in that it offers the People Also Ask output from Google search results for your given keyword (instead of keyword metrics).


Regardless of what tool you choose, bear in mind that the metrics they provide are estimates, based on their own data (unless they’re Google’s own tools). You should accept that these figures can vary depending on source.


Spreadsheet software

Screenshot of an SEO keyword clustering spreadsheet with columns for Cluster Name, Primary Keyword, Secondary Keywords, Total Volume, Highest KD%, Target URL, Status, and Last Updated. The clusters are categorized under 'SEO Testing Online' and 'SEO Testing', with various SEO-related keywords and corresponding data.
An example of a keyword map document. This shows the content that has already been produced and the content that is still left to produce.

Creating a spreadsheet is a necessary step of the keyword mapping process. Compared to a Word document or third-party software, a spreadsheet’s clarity and organization are unparalleled, especially when dealing with hundreds of keywords and their alignments to your web pages.


This format offers a structured and visually clear way to categorize, track, and analyze keywords. A well-maintained spreadsheet enables SEO professionals to update and modify their keyword map easily, accommodating the dynamic nature of search trends and website development. Moreover, the ability to analyze keyword data through various functions like sorting and filtering streamlines any decisions that you may need to make.


Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel are popular choices, each with unique strengths and weaknesses.


Google Sheets for keyword mapping

Microsoft Excel for keyword mapping

  • Highly collaborative

  • Real-time editing and sharing

  • Ideal for teams

  • Advanced analytical capabilities

  • Better for complex data sets (such as a keyword map for a very large website)


The choice of spreadsheet software often depends on your company’s existing practices and requirements. But if it’s up to you, the tool you select should align with your team’s needs and the specific demands of your keyword map.


Web crawling software

Web crawlers, like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb, provide a competitive advantage when you need to create an excellent keyword mapping document.


A screenshot of the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool interface displaying a list of URLs from a website crawl, with corresponding H1 tags and their occurrences, and various tabs and options for SEO analysis. The interface shows a highlighted 'Overview' tab indicating issues with H1 tags such as 'Missing', 'Duplicate', and 'Over 70 Characters', with a bar chart summarizing these issues. The bottom part of the screen indicates the tool is not configured to store HTTP Headers.
A crawl done via Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. For this example I extracted all the H1 tags for the SEOTesting website.

These tools crawl through your website, like search engine bots, gathering detailed insights about your site’s structure, content, and keyword usage. This information is invaluable for identifying gaps in your keyword coverage and discovering areas of your site to optimize for better SERP visibility.


By providing a comprehensive view of how your content is currently aligned with your target keywords, web crawlers enable you to precisely refine your keyword map, ensuring that each page is well-positioned to rank in search results.


The detailed analysis these tools offer can make the difference between a good SEO strategy and a great one, setting your site apart in highly competitive verticals.


Keyword tracking software

A keyword tracker is vital when mapping because it allows you to monitor and evaluate keyword performance over time. Keyword trackers provide essential data on how well your intentionally targeted keywords (and other keywords) rank, offering a view into the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. This real-time feedback helps you understand the impact of your keyword choices and make necessary adjustments. 


By closely monitoring your keyword performance, you can quickly identify trends, capitalize on successful keywords, and adjust or replace those not performing as expected, ensuring your website stays competitive and relevant.


When it comes to choosing a keyword tracker, there are many excellent options: 


  • Ahrefs is known for its extensive database and detailed keyword analysis, making it popular amongst SEO professionals. 

  • Semrush offers a comprehensive suite of SEO tools with great keyword-tracking features.

  • SE Ranking is generally praised for its user-friendly interface and the accuracy of its tracking.


Each platform offers unique features and benefits, making them suitable for various business needs and SEO objectives. Using them can significantly contribute to the refinement and success of a keyword mapping campaign.


Successful SEO is never just “one and done”


Keyword mapping transcends word-to-page alignment. It’s about strategically creating content that resonates with the intent of searchers (i.e., your audience). It’s a dynamic and ongoing process, continually evolving with your business and the ever-changing SERP landscape.


Remember that keyword mapping shouldn’t be treated as a one-time deal! You must continually choose to change, re-format, and evolve your keyword map as your business evolves. Every time your business expands into a new area, think of this as a new “branch” of content to be created and add it to your map! Don’t let new business opportunities go to waste because of a static document.


Whilst using tools can give you a small edge, especially when it comes to the speed of your work, and, sometimes, accuracy, using tools is not vital! It’s certainly possible to complete a great keyword mapping document completely manually, without any tools’ input! This is especially true if you’re an expert in your field.


 

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones - Marketing Manager at SEOTesting Approaching a decade in marketing, Ryan has worked in-house and agency side. From scaling an eCommerce business from £400K to over £1.4M in annual revenue to increasing conversion rates for small, family businesses, Ryan loves making marketing work for the masses. Twitter | Linkedin

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