Keyword Audit: an Essential Practice to Improve SEO

When it comes to building a strong SEO strategy for your website, keyword audit remains one of the most important and effective practices. You must consider many factors, such as the specific search terms your audience is using and the kind of content they are looking for. In turn, the process of keyword audit gives you insight into thoughts, desires and fears of your target audience, making it a truly valuable marketing tool.

The only downside is that the abundance of available data about keywords can sometimes be difficult to navigate. However, there is a way to organize all this information in order to draw out valuable conclusions that can eventually lead to actionable steps in improving SEO. There are a number of keyword audit tools out there – both free and paid. Today I will review the steps in conducting keyword audit using the tools Moz and Google Keyword Planner.

Current Rankings

1. Your Ranking
Using your keyword management tool, check to see how the keywords you’re already tracking are ranked. Most people take this step, which is a good start, but stop there. If you have the option to do so, it may be helpful to see historical data of how keywords used to perform versus how they do now. You may see how you’re ranked in your tool, but there’s a lot more to what determines a good or bad keyword. We use Moz to help us keep track of our keywords and improve SEO.

2. Competitor Ranking
In Moz for example, you are given the option to compare keyword use with your competitors. In order to do this, first determine who your competitors might be. This can include those who offer similar products and services, those in the same price range, those who are located nearby, and those who are in a similar business stage as you are (startup, mid-sized, large firm). If you are using a keyword management tool such as Moz, you can get competitor information in the tools itself. If not, simply browse through their website and content and see if you can pull out certain keywords and phrases that you think they may be vying for. Then compare the keywords that your competitors are doing really well in to how well you’re ranking in them. By keeping an eye on the successful keywords of competitors, you may find new opportunities that you originally thought were irrelevant. You may also find that a competitor is putting a lot of effort into getting ranked for a certain word, which could be a good indicator for you to start paying more attention to that keyword as well.

Your best keywords

Once you’ve figured out how well your current keywords are doing and compared it to competitors, you’ll want to take some time to determine a set of relevant keywords that you should start putting your efforts into. This includes words that you’re already ranking well in, the ones you want to improve on and new opportunities.

Here’s what you need to do to find your best keywords:

1. Relevant Keywords

Pull out all the words you are currently tracking from your SEO management tool. Generally they’ll have the option to export into a Excel spreadsheet, making it much easier to track. If you’re starting from scratch, list the most relevant words and phrases your customers might be searching for. Think about what kind of questions do they want answers for, and what kind of pain points are they trying to solve. Furthermore, consider your customer’s questions about your industry, best practices about certain processes, and how-to guides. Google Keyword Planner also has a specific search that allows you to plug in your website URL and receive suggested keywords for the content that already exists on your site. Keep in mind that this tool is housed in Google Adwords, so if you don’t already have an account you will need to create one. You don’t necessarily have to start an Adwords campaign in order to utilize the keyword planner. At this first stage of keyword auditing, simply brainstorm all the possible ideas that are highly relevant to your business. Over the next few steps, I’ll break this list down to the ones that are most likely to be effective in your SEO strategy.

2. Keyword Difficulty

Next, check the difficulty of the keyword you are trying to rank for. Moz allows you to see it in the keyword explorer tool. According to research done by Moz, generally speaking a ranking over 40% is difficult to rank in. Narrow down your initial list using this metric. There are also a number of free marketing tools to help your gauge keyword difficulty.

3. Keyword Search Volume

Finally, do some research on how many people are searching for each keyword. For this, you can use Google Keyword Planner tool as well. There is a specific search for keyword volume where you can manually input a list of keywords, or upload a CSV file. As a result, you will receive data on the number of searches conducted each month for each keyword. You can also add filters to you searches, so that you get the most relevant results for you. An example of this would be to change the setting from worldwide searches to national searches. In your results, you will also notice a column in Google Keyword Planner called “competition”. This is not an indication of keyword difficulty. It is instead the competition between Adwords bidders who are paying for that keyword. This is a helpful metric if you plan on using your keywords in Adwords campaigns.

Here’s an example of the keyword research process:

1. Brainstorm relevant keywords: marketing, sales, inbound marketing, lead generation.

2. Use Moz to determine keyword difficulty.

keyword audit

3. Use Google Keyword Planner to determine search volume.

Keyword results

When you combine these keyword qualities, you arrive at the formula that will ensure you’ve got a great list of keywords to build you content around. It is:

Relevant to company + low difficulty rating + high search volume = best keywords

If you can scale down your keywords to the ones that are most likely to get the best results, you will hopefully improve SEO more dramatically. Remember using the right keywords is only one aspect in having a successful SEO strategy, but it is an important one nonetheless.

The keyword auditing process isn’t just a one-time occurrence. There are a number of factors that can affect the ranking of certain keywords. For example, the changes in the search engine technology, new approaches from competitors, the addition of new products or services in your company, and the changing landscape of the industry in general. Depending on the scope of your business, you may way to conduct keyword research by the month, quarterly or yearly. Whichever frequency you choose, ensure that your research is thorough in order to have the best SEO moving forward.

Finally, it’s important to get a good understanding if why you’re going through the trouble of conducting a sometimes strenuous keyword research process. Once you have a solid list of keywords that are important to your business and that you have a likely chance of ranking for, it’s time to craft content that is related to those words. This can include anything from blog posts, to copy on your website, to video scripts, and infographics. Think about how you can use the keywords in your content that organically makes sense. Don’t try to over-stuff your keywords, for the sake of doing it. Integrate them in a way that flows naturally.

Keyword planning is an important process to undertake for both new businesses, as well as those that been in business for a number of years. It lays the foundation for SEO success. By choosing to take time to work through this process, you can ensure that you’re on the path to having the most effective SEO strategy and a successful website.

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