SEO Keyword Strategy – How to do SEO Keyword Research & Analysis

The SEO Keyword Strategy decides & informs your keyword selection decisions. Brainstorm candidate keywords, analyze and research SEO keywords, and then evaluate keywords to create a evaluate opportunities.
September 9, 2012

1.  Overview of SEO Keyword Strategy

Video 1.0 – an overview of SEO Keyword Strategy. What is a keyword strategy? Why you need one? The strategy formulation process.

SEO Keyword Strategy is a technique for determining the keywords that you should target with your SEO efforts. By performing a series of SEO keyword research and analysis steps, you can identify the keywords that will provide the best return on your investment. By targeting your SEO efforts toward keywords that provide the most attractive return, you can maximize your SEO spend. For example, an SEO strategy might tell a furniture store that the keyword side table is a better bet than coffee table because it has more traffic, each visitor results in more profit, and the competition is lower.

“Keyword strategy helps us focus energy on the keywords where the reward-to-work ratio is highest.”

Think of the keyword strategy as the battle plan for your SEO campaign. While there are thousands of potentially relevant keywords you could attempt to win, each keyword has a very different reward attached. In addition, significantly different levels of work are required to win each keyword. Keyword strategy helps us focus energy on the keywords where the reward-to-work ratio is highest.

Developing a keyword strategy requires the following three steps:

Figure 1 – Overview of the Keyword Strategy Process.

keyword strategy process

Step 1: Generate Candidate Keywords

keyword strategy process

Begin by developing a broad list of keywords that are relevant to the business. During the brainstorming stage, cast your net broadly as you will refine the list of keywords in the next two stages. It is more important to be over-inclusive while brainstorming to ensure we find all the relevant keywords. Generate candidate keywords using the following techniques:

  • Keyword Brainstorming – using our knowledge of the business and the customer, we brainstorm keywords. We want to put ourselves in the mind of our customer and think about the words they would use to describe their search. Consider product searches, problem searches, and complimentary searches. More …
  • Competitor Keyword Reconnaissance – piggy back off the work of competitors and examine the keywords that they have chosen. Find competitor keywords by examining their headings, meta tags, on-site content, and perform an analysis on their rankings and keyword traffic sources. More …
  • Customer Interactions – assess customer interactions to get inside the mind of the customer to generate keyword ideas. Interview customer service representatives, examine onsite searches, utilize customer generated content, and check online forums. More …
  • Machine Keyword Generation – using software tools, check that you are not missing any pockets of relevant keywords. This acts as a final check on the keyword generation phase, telling us that we have covered all the major keywords or that we need to do a little more work. More …

For more detailed information on generating candidate keywords, see here.

Step 2: Analyze Keywords

Analyze the keywords we generated in Step One. We perform traffic and the conversion analyses on each keyword to determine the value of the traffic we will obtain by earning a top ranking for each keyword. Then, we look at the level of competition to determine the cost of obtaining this ranking.

Step 2a: Traffic Analysis

keyword strategy process

To predict the amount of visitors we will attract to our site with a number one listing, we examine traffic data associated with each keyword. We score the keywords along five dimensions:

  1. Volume – the number of visitors searching for a keyword. Using Google traffic data, we can determine how many searches are performed for each of the keywords being analyzed. Based on this data we can perform a preliminary screen and remove keywords that are unlikely to prove valuable, thus avoiding additional analysis on these unsuitable keywords. More …
  2. Long Tail – the distribution of searches among searches for an exact keyword, and variations of that keyword. We determine whether traffic is concentrated in an exact phrase like slide, or fragmented among thousands of low volume variations such as children’s slide, playground slide, and portable backyard slide. More …
  3. Click Through – the rate at which searchers exposed to your search listing, click on the listing and become visitors to your site. This information tells us whether your site is relevant to searchers, or if searchers are looking for something else when they perform the search. More …
  4. Trends – the temporal distribution of visitors. We examine whether there are patterns associated with the traffic, such as seasonal traffic patterns, event based traffic spikes, and long term growth or decline. More …
  5. Strategic Importance – keywords whose importance extends beyond the business metrics. Some keywords assume a special significance to your business beyond what is reflected in the data. We examine drivers of strategic significance and use it to guide keyword selection. More …

We use the traffic data to make predictions about the amount of traffic you are likely to acquire as a result of winning a top ranking for each keyword.

Step 2b: Conversion Analysis

keyword strategy process

We predict the impact of keyword visitors on fulfilling our site objectives. In ecommerce sites, we are concerned with the fraction of visitors that will buy something and the lifetime profit of those customers. We focus on two metrics:

  1. Conversion Rate – the fraction of visitors to the site that make a purchase (or some other defined action). More …
  2. Conversion Value – the lifetime benefit that this conversion is likely to yield to the business. We calculate the profit that we can expect from a customer, aggregating the impact of the initial purchase and any subsequent purchases that are likely as a result of the initial transaction. More …

Combining these two metrics we find the conversion factor. The conversion factor is an average value for each visitor from a particular keyword. Together with the traffic metric, the conversion factor enables us to place a total value on winning a keyword.

Step 2c: Competition Analysis

keyword strategy process

To determine the resource commitment necessary to outrank competitors, audit your site and benchmark it against competitors on three key SEO metrics:

  1. Unique Links – the number of links to the webpage from unique websites. We compare our score on this metric against our competitors to calculate a link deficit. Link deficit is a measure of how far we lag the leading competitor. More …
  2. Page Authority – the degree to which a webpage is trusted by virtue of having links from other trusted web pages. Using our page authority and our competitor’s page authority, we calculate the authority deficit. More …
  3. Anchor Text – the number of the competitors’ links that contain anchor text relevant to the targeted keyword. Comparing our site’s anchor text to that of our competitor’s we calculate the . . . you guessed it authority deficit. More …

Combining the three competition metrics we can create an estimate of the amount of work required to outrank our competitors and the expense this is likely to entail.

Step 3: Evaluate Keywords

keyword strategy process

We calculate an SEO payback period for each keyword. Using the results from the previous three analyses, we compare the forecast profits and the forecast costs that are likely to accrue from engaging in an SEO campaign to win the top spot for the keyword. Using the calculated payback period, we prioritize certain keywords and discard others. More …

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Where can I get your Keyword Strategy Book?
Answer: Use this link to download our SEO Keyword Strategy Book (PDF 6MB) (Right-click and select save as). You can purchase a hard copy on Amazon for $29.95.

Question: Why do I need a keyword strategy? Why not just jump straight into the real SEO?
Answer: SEO Keyword Strategy is your battle plan for SEO. It helps you choose which keywords are worth winning and can be won at a reasonable price. You most likely don’t have enough resources to target every possible keyword, and even if you had unlimited resources you would find for some keywords the prize is not worth the fight. Your Keyword Strategy helps you prioritize your SEO opportunities and makes sure you only get in value-added fights.

Question: How long will all this take?
Answer: For a small to medium enterprise the hands-on time for doing a keyword strategy is in the order of 20-50 hours.

Question: How often should I redo the keyword strategy?
Answer: Once every two years is sufficient in stable industries. In rapidly changing segments where the industry is still formulating its vocabulary and keywords are in-flux, an annual re-evaluation may be more appropriate.


SEO Keyword Strategy Book – SEOmap’s own comprehensive guide to creating keyword strategy.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

DAVID SMITH August 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Very good impressive content on keywords.


Tait September 26, 2012 at 1:58 am

Another step that can be taken to generate keywords is to run a pay per click campaign. You can get a lot of data from that: keywords, more accurate search volumes, CTR and conversion evaluation data. If it’s a big SEO campaign, a smaller PPC campaign in the initial stages can provide a helluva lot of useful data.

This whole keyword strategy is very well organized. Looks like great training material!


panda Update November 10, 2012 at 12:36 am

It is awesome to see all this information on keyword selection organized and collected together in one place.


mack November 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

Great piece of article on SEO Keywords. Thank you.


Mark Canning August 2, 2013 at 11:15 am

Hi, I recently purchased your keyword strategy book. It’s great. As I am sure you know Google are planning to retire the Google External Keyword Tool. Will you be launching a fresh version of the book in response to these changes? Thanks.

ADMIN – Hi Mark,

I haven’t been following it closely, but my understanding is that they are simply getting rid of the external keyword tool, and that the Adwords Keyword Tool (that you get when you are logged into Adwords) will still work (it will be renamed Keyword Planner).

So to get the data, you will just need to create an Adwords account (if you don’t have one already) and log in, then select Tools & Analysis –> Keyword Planner from the dropdown.

Glad you found the book useful.


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