Keyword analysis is one of those SEO skills that never go out of style.
As long as people are using words to search for information, keyword analysis will remain an essential skill for you to master.
If you want to get ahead in SEO, you need to ask the right questions—and provide the right answers.
That’s what good keyword analysis will help you find out.
It gives you fresh ideas to leverage and put into action, and often leads to faster SEO results.
So, follow this eight-step plan to turn your keywords into new backlinks, more traffic and improved SEO—and become a keyword analysis pro!
Why You Still Need to Pay Attention to Keywords
Keywords remain core to search, and are a key component to building effective backlinks.
With well-thought-out keyword analysis, you can focus your link building and SEO strategy on the best keywords for your goals, and improve your rankings for those keywords.
Here’s a practical example.
Keyword analysis can show you which keywords have the potential to drive the most traffic to your site. For a tool like Monitor Backlinks, that might be “backlink software” or “SEO software.”
If those are the keywords you know you should focus on, you can suggest those keywords as the anchor text when you’re building backlinks. This will give them an added boost, especially if the backlinks come from strong, authoritative sites in your industry or niche.
Suggesting anchor text for a link is important for two reasons.
First, “on message” anchor text increases your SEO rankings by signaling to Google what your webpage is about. Second, an unfocused or generic anchor text in a link is less likely to convince website visitors to click through to your website.
So, in the context of outreach emails, instead of asking “Can you please link to our site on your SEO resources page?,” you’d simply make a more specific request such as “Can you please link to our site with the phrase “SEO software” on your SEO resources page?.”
Good keyword analysis will inform your link building approach, and make sure it aligns with your ultimate goal: higher rankings for those keywords, and the traffic that comes with them.
Now, let’s dive into how to analyze your current keywords and turn that analysis into an actionable SEO plan.
Keyword Analysis Success: Your 8-Step Plan to Turn Analysis into Action
1) Look at How Your Keywords Are Currently Performing
The first step is to find out where your website currently sits in SERPs. With Monitor Backlinks, you can track your keyword rankings against your competitors to get a thorough look at how your site is performing.
If you haven’t already added your target keywords to Monitor Backlinks for tracking, that’s where you’ll start. Go to the Keywords tab and click on the “Add Keywords” button as shown in the below screenshot.
You can add as many keywords for monitoring as you want. I recommend researching and developing at least 50 keywords. If you have a large website with a lot of products, go for 100 keywords.
Once you’ve added keywords for rank tracking, Monitor Backlinks will start to gather the current data and populate your keyword list.
In the screenshot below, you can see that we’re currently tracking a number of keywords like “content marketing,” “keyword research tool” and “trello review.” At a glance, you can quickly determine the monthly search volume for the keyword and your current ranking.
Search volume and current ranking are helpful data points to start your analysis, because they tell you how your site is performing in terms of visibility.
In this example, you can see that the website is doing reasonably well, with two pages showing for the high-volume keywords “keyword research tool” and “trello review.”
As a general rule, you want to be ranking for keywords that are closely related to your business, and keywords with high buyer intent (we’ll cover this more in the next steps).
2) Identify Keywords with Traffic Potential
When you start getting into extensive keyword analysis, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Use the sorting and filter options in Monitor Backlinks to keep your analysis focused on the information that can help you make the biggest impact: search traffic.
Look closely at global search volume. Sort from highest to lowest to see which keywords have the potential to bring in the most traffic:
Or use the filters on the right to show keywords within a specific search volume range.
Ideally, I like to see a monthly search volume of at least 1,000 searches for any keyword that I’m interested in targeting. A high-value keyword with minimal traffic won’t do much for your business.
But, there are some situations where it might make sense to consider lower traffic keywords below the 1,000 monthly search volume. For example:
- Too much competition. You might find that all of the keywords with higher search volumes are just too competitive. In that situation, I suggest seeking out long-tail keywords with lower search volume for a greater chance of ranking.
- Long-term potential. Did you know that 15% of daily Google searches have never occurred before? As a result, historical search volume has limitations. With your own judgment, you may see long-term potential in trends (e.g. think about the “sharing economy” as a phrase five years ago). In that situation, it makes sense to invest SEO effort in ranking for the low-volume keyword now, and hope that the bet pays off in the future.
- High-ticket products. Are you marketing a website for a high-ticket service like management consulting? In that case, a handful of qualified leads per month might be all you need. In that situation, go for lower volume keywords that relate to your experience. For example, an accounting firm might aim to rank for arcane parts of the tax code that cause challenges for high net worth clients.
- Supports branding goals. Do you have branded solutions like Stash Wealth’s “Stash Plan” for financial planning? In that case, it makes sense to create content to rank for those branded keywords (e.g. “stash plan”) even if the search volume is low.
3) Assess the Competition
While we’d all love to rank for keywords with monthly search volumes in the hundred thousands, it’s important to be realistic. It’s not easy to do, because the competition for those high-traffic keywords is typically much higher.
Look at the competition column to get an idea of the competitiveness of each keyword, in a difficulty level percentage. The higher the percentage, the more competitive the keyword.
Another way to check how easily you can outrank competitors is by assessing how strong their website is, which you can measure by looking at their backlink profile.
Take the top three SERP results for the keyword and run them through the Free Backlink Checker. If those websites have less than 100 backlinks, you’ll be able to displace them with a well-thought-out and targeted SEO strategy.
But if those websites have more that 100 backlinks, and especially if they have more backlinks than your website, then you’re in for some hard work to outrank them. You’ll need to think more deeply about fighting for this keyword and whether you might have better opportunities elsewhere.
4) Identify Keywords with Backlink Potential
Pay attention to which keywords are already receiving backlinks and which aren’t.
You can find this out easily with Monitor Backlinks—just click over to the Reports tab, and scroll down to the “Top Linked Pages” report.
This tells you which pages on your site are receiving the most backlinks. You can then determine which keywords those pages are targeting, and whether they’re the keywords you want to be ranking for.
For example, you might find that your blog pages are ranking well, but product pages are ranking poorly. In a situation like that, you might want to look at putting conversion strategies in place on your blog (such as a prompt to sign up to an email list, which sends information about new products and directs them to your product pages).
5) Segment Keywords by Buying Interest
Some keyword phrases are highly valuable while others are a complete waste of time. The difference? Buyer intent.
To see return on your investment in SEO and link building, you should focus on “buyer interest” keywords. It’s possible that you may have some high keyword rankings right now that will do little to nothing to actually advance your business.
Let’s illustrate this intent with an example. Credit to Backlinko’s excellent guide “How to Determine a Keyword’s Commercial Intent” for its framework.
If you were an e-commerce store selling weight lifting equipment, these are the kinds of keywords you should focus on, because they show that the customer has an intent to buy:
- Buy-Now-Style Keywords. This category tends to include keyword phrases that include words like shipping, deals, discounts and sale. For this weight lifting e-commerce store, good choices might include “barbell discounts” or “5 KG plate deals.” Searchers using these keywords are ready to buy right now if they find something that meets their needs.
- Product Keywords. This keyword segment signals that a customer is comparing options. Typically, you’ll see searches with words such as reviews, best, top 10 and so forth, and more long-tail keywords are common. This type of SEO content is a popular strategy for affiliate marketers. For the store in our example, a product keyword would be something like “best weights for men over 50.”
- Informational Keywords. This keyword segment represents a lower level of buyer interest. Instead of searching for a product such as “barbells,” informational keywords are more open-ended, usually long-tail and sometimes asking a question—such as “how do I get started with weight lifting?” If a user is seeking general information like this, they’re probably not ready to buy. However, you can still make marketing progress by encouraging them to join an email list or subscribe to your blog.
When analyzing your keywords, you can use the tagging feature in Monitor Backlinks to organize your keyword list and classify them into these segments.
Here, you can see that I’ve tagged the keyword “improve SEO” with the tag “Informational,” because it’s an informational keyword.
To tag and organize your keywords, simply click the checkbox beside any keyword you want to tag. Then, hit the “With selected” button and choose the “Add tags” option.
Enter the tag name in the box, click “Add tags” and you’re done.
These handy tags make it easy to see how your website is performing with each keyword type.
Just keep in mind that you need to customize this segmentation based on your website’s business goals.
If your marketing focus is on lead generation rather than sales, you probably won’t have much luck with buy-now-style keywords. Instead, you should focus your keyword analysis on finding product and informational keywords.
6) Prioritize Keywords to Target
Based on the factors considered above, it’s time to make some decisions about which keywords matter for your business now.
A good way to go about taking action is to find 5-10 keywords to focus on each month. Once you’ve made some progress on those keywords (such as increased traffic or more backlinks), focus your SEO work on other keywords.
How do you know which keywords to focus your effort on for the best return? Use the following criteria to prioritize your keywords.
- Does the keyword have relevance to your business? Does the keyword relate strongly to your business’s current goals? For example, ranking for keywords related to your products is desirable whereas ranking for an arcane acronym probably won’t help. When in doubt about a keyword’s relevance, I recommend leaving it out.
- Does the keyword have strong customer intent? Put yourself in the customer’s position—does a given keyword signal that they’re in a buying frame of mind? Focus on keywords that signal high levels of buyer intent, as well as brand-oriented keywords.
- Does the keyword have reasonable traffic and competitiveness? Reasonable in this context depends on your market. If you’re selling a high-ticket service, you don’t need many transactions to make a profit so you might be comfortable targeting keywords with traffic below 1,000 searches per month.
Now, let’s turn all this analysis into action. It’s time to use what you’ve just discovered to get more backlinks to your website and improve your on-page SEO.
7) Get More Backlinks
There are a few ways you can use your keywords to successfully obtain backlinks to your site and improve your rankings at the same time.
- Create new content. Sometimes your keyword analysis might highlight promising keywords that you haven’t been targeting. In that case, you should start creating new, high-quality content to pull in that chunk of traffic and target relevant backlinks.
- Identify high-performing backlink URLs. Go back to your “Top Linked Pages” report in Monitor Backlinks to see which pages are your most popular from a backlink perspective. These would be excellent pages to build on and improve, to attract even more links.
- Start a customized outreach plan. Use the prior steps to inform your outreach strategy. Remember that when it comes to outreach, high authority websites will give you more bang for your buck—and you can even suggest the anchor text you want for an added boost.
8) Improve Your On-page SEO
On-page SEO needs to be informed by your keyword analysis efforts. It might have been months or years since you last did on-page SEO. It’s important and worthwhile to periodically refresh this data based on your latest analysis.
Use the following steps to verify your on-page SEO is up to date.
- Make sure your on-page SEO reflects your most valuable keywords. Your most popular pages are the most important to be optimized for on-page SEO. If you have a large number of pages, start by focusing your efforts on the top 20 pages that received the most pageviews in the past three months, and then go on from there. You can find this information by checking Google Analytics.
- Create a project plan. Based on the step above, you’ll probably find some out-of-date pages. If you have a small website with a handful of pages, simply get to work and update the on-page SEO for each one (e.g. title pages, image SEO and so forth). Otherwise, you’ll need a project plan. I suggest updating 10 pages per week and gradually make your way through the list.
For more insight regarding on-page SEO opportunities, read “The Definitive Onsite SEO Checklist for Publishing Optimized Content.”
There you have it—eight steps to analyze your keywords and put the analysis into action.
Now, it’s up to you.
Sign up for a free trial of Monitor Backlinks to get in-depth keyword analysis and backlink research for 30 days, and watch your rankings rise and your link profile grow!
Bruce Harpham provides content marketing for software companies so they can grow faster. He is also the author of “Project Managers At Work.” His work has appeared on CIO.com, InfoWorld and Profit Guide. Read his B2B SaaS marketing case studies from ClickFunnels, Close.io and other companies.