What do I do after keyword research? How to rank for your target keywords

Haley Carroll

  | Published on  

September 29, 2023

You've got a big list of keywords, now what?

This is a question we get all the time.

Most SEO guides out there are great at helping you find high-quality keywords to target, but once you manage to build a list of keywords what do you do next?

Maybe you have a clear vision in mind: your website is ranking on the first page of Google and you're getting new visitors every day - that's a pretty good goal to have! What do you need to do to turn this vision into reality? What do you do after keyword research? And how do you know if all your SEO efforts are paying off?

We're going to answer these questions and share examples of how we do SEO for our clients and ourselves to help you beat your SEO goals and rank higher on Google.

Before we dive in, it all starts with effective keyword research. If you haven’t conducted keyword research yet and you’re feeling unsure on how to find the best keywords to target on your site, you might want to check out our complete starter’s guide to keyword research first, and then come back here.

What is keyword research?

To summarize our starter guide, keyword research is the practice of finding queries you want your site to appear front and center for on Google. This means that identifying the  words and phrases that your target customers are typing into Google.

To find these target keywords, start with the broad topics that are the most relevant to your website. Type those topics into the Google search bar, and notice what the suggested searches are. This is how you can find what your target customers are searching for. (Always keep in mind the search intent of your target users as well.)

Pick out those words and phrases that appear in the searches, and you are  compiling a list of highly targeted keywords..

You can also use tools to help find keywords. There are plenty of great ones available online, such as Centori, Google Keyword Planner, etc. These resources will make the process of gathering keywords more efficient, and it will help you stay organized, too.

Keyword research may seem like a lot of work, but trust us, it pays off.

Why is keyword research important?

Keyword research is the bedrock of your SEO strategy.

Your keywords dictate the direction your content will go, and where you will focus your efforts. Focusing on the right keywords is the difference between appearing consistently on the first two pages of Google and being stuck down on the 10th, or the 100th.  

Now that we’ve shown you  how important keyword research is, and you’ve settled on your keyword list, we can focus on what to do next. The short answer is that you need to take these keywords and turn them into pieces of rich content that will provide value to your target customers. However, it’s not actually that simple. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into what words are included in which types of posts, which words are prioritized, and so on.

Don’t worry if you’re a little stressed right now, a long list of keywords can make you wonder how you’re ever going to rank for them. Ranking on the first page for your target keywords is entirely possible as long as you’ve got proper planning and proper reporting.

So how can you ensure that you’re doing both of these things?

Following this five step process will guarantee that you’re doing the most you can to ensure your posts are set up for SERP success. Use this process to turn a list of keywords into an actionable plan of attack for your website to rank above your competitors.

How to rank for your keywords, and turn them into valuable content

A big list of keywords does nothing for you if you aren't actually using the keywords in your content and tracking your performance for them. Here's our full process for turning a keyword list into valuable content, and how to actually rank for your target keywords.

1) Organize your keywords into lists and map them to content on your website

Keywords are useless if you are not using them in your content.

Like the spices sitting in the back of your kitchen cabinet, they're not doing much for you on the shelf - you need to use them.

We recommend organizing your keywords into lists, grouping theme by topic, query type, or persona - it all depends on what you wish to target for your SEO strategy. For example, a customer we coach sells shoe insoles online. We ran a survey with their customers to find out why people buy insoles and we found that people buy insoles for three reasons:

  1. For an activity
  2. For a condition/for treatment
  3. For a type of shoe

So we recommended they build lists around these three areas to better understand how well they are covering these keywords on their website.

Now it's your turn!

So it’s time to take a look at your content and see what keywords you’re already using on your website, or should be using, into your website’s pages.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you actually using these keywords in any content?
  2. Are there pages or blog posts that are actually optimized for them?
  3. What gaps in your content exist for your keywords?

To answer these questions, it’s helpful to take your list and create a keyword map. A keyword map is a framework that mimics the structure of your website, and keyword mapping is the process of assigning keywords to specific pages on the website.

You want to assign keywords to the pages that are most relevant to that word or phrase. You’ll want to consider “relevancy” in terms of human users and robot search engines. It’s important to look at both sides, because they work together to determine your ranking.

Keyword mapping allows you to optimize the content on a page with a strong focus on its assigned keyword, which will greatly improve the page’s chances for ranking for that particular keyword.

It also allows you to compare pages and which keywords they’re targeting. If you find that all of your pages are targeting the same keyword, a.k.a. keyword cannibalization, you’ll want to fix this.

Lastly, keyword mapping helps you identify target keywords that have no relevant pages to be matched to on your website. This alerts you to new opportunities for ranking, and will let you know what you should be making content for next.

Keeping a spreadsheet of all this information is usually how people organize their keyword maps. These spreadsheets can be long, with tens to hundreds of keywords to possibly target, so how can you know which ones to go after first?

2) Prioritize your keywords by your best opportunity to rank

Now that your keywords are mapped to your pages, you should have a strong sense of how well your content covers your target keywords and what content you should be creating.

Before you create any content, we need to first decide the order of the keywords you are going to focus on.

A lot of this decision has to do with search engines. At its core, Google is on a mission to return the best content for the best keyword. In turn, that means that every time you create a piece of content, you need to be on a mission to create the best piece of content out there.

However, creating the kind of quality, authoritative content that ranks takes time. Sometimes a lot of it. Whether you’ve got a 20-person content team or a 2-person content team, there is only so much time you can spend on creating really good content.

So how do you decide which content to create or optimize first? This is where keyword prioritization comes in.

How to prioritize keywords

Some people like to focus on search volume, but we find that's only part of the story. One individual keyword/key phrase might have '10 searches per month', but could be typed into Google 10 different times - doing the math turns that '10 searches per month' keyword into 100 searches per month.

Frankly, most people ignore low-volume keywords so often we'll target them explicitly.

Ultimately, target keywords your customers are using/would use and that you have a chance at ranking for.

There are plenty of ways you can find keywords to target (such as Google Autosuggest for some free keyword research) though we'd recommend our own keyword research tool which allows you to find hundreds of keyword suggestions based off of a root keyword and then save them to your account. If you ask me, I like filtering by "keyword difficulty" which allows you to find keywords that are less competitive and easier to rank for.

The added bonus here is Centori shows your rank for every keyword you save (yep, we do not limit how many keywords you can track) and updates your rank weekly.

This leads us to the next part of keyword prioritization: picking out the keywords that you are already close to ranking for.

For example, if you have two high search volume keywords and you are ranking 25th for one and 50th for the other, you’ll want to focus on optimizing the 25th ranked piece of content before the other.

Why would you do this?

You are already closer to ranking on the first page with the post ranked 25th (which would be the third page of Google), so it would be much more feasible to optimize the content to reach the first page. You want to take advantage of the spots where you already have a leg up.

Having most of your content consistently on the third or fourth page of Google won’t help you as much as having a smaller number of pieces on the first page.

And when it comes to those pieces on the first page of Google, it helps us to look at the pages that are top-ranking in order to improve our own content and strategy. This takes us to step 3.

3) Analyze the content that is already ranking for your keywords

You can learn a lot from the content that already ranks on the first page of Google. Enter in the keyword that you want to create (or optimize existing) content for, and pay attention to what you find on the SERP.

This is also called a SERP analysis. If you’ve read our post on our secret to getting any blog post to rank, then you’re probably familiar with the SERP analysis.

If you haven’t heard of a SERP analysis before, here is a list of what you should be looking for after you’ve hit enter on a search for your keyword:

  • What is the type of content that’s currently ranking? Take note if it’s blog posts, landing pages, or product pages. Notice the specifics of the posts, like whether they are list articles or in depth case studies
  • What other components are included on the top-ranked pages? Look to see if the pages have infographics, videos, pdf downloads, or the ability to listen to the post on an audio recording.
  • How long is the content that is ranking? Try to estimate the posts’ word counts: are they around 500 words, 2000 words, or more?
  • Who is it that’s ranking? Are any of them your competitors, or is it an unexpected website? Do some digging to see if any of these websites overlap with you in other ways, because this is a great way to come up with new blog post ideas to match your competitors..
  • What related topics are the most successful posts including in the content? These related topics will most likely appear in the form of LSI keywords within the pieces.

Why do you want all of this information? These pieces can be a model for how you craft your own content. If a certain type of content, such as a list article, is consistently performing highly for that keyword, you’ll most likely want to make a list article for that keyword as well.

You want to format your content after those pieces which have proven to be worth ranking on the first page of search results You should add your own spin on it of course, and make it unique and authoritative in its own way, but these basic details that you’ve gleaned from research will help you begin to structure your piece.

Centori makes it super easy to spot how your content performs for your target keywords with our in-depth reports for each keyword list. Simply view your performance for your keyword list to see search impressions, clicks, and rank over time as well as breakdown on the pages on your website that rank for your keywords.

4) Track your performance for your target keywords

How are you supposed to improve your rankings if you don’t know how your posts are performing in search results? This is why it’s absolutely critical to track your results, and to continuously analyze how your site is doing.

SEO is iterative; it’s a process of simple steps, fine tuning, and making adjustments so that your website gets better with every cycle. All of this attention to detail goes out the window if you are not tracking your results.

So how can you make sure you’re doing SEO the proper way? You can track your results using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Centori actually makes this process automatic, making it even easier for you to manage your website’s history and information in the long run. These online programs allow you to easily track how much traffic key pages are getting from Google, and how those pages are performing for target keywords.

Here’s a quick example of what tracking your progress could look like.

At Centori we've automated the same reporting process we've used before with our SEO clients. We break up our keywords into keyword lists (usually by topic, or to separate our target keywords for the month/quarter) and then we are able to see how our website is performing for these keywords over time thanks to our Google Search Console integration:

In the above chart you can see our search impressions over time as well as a table of data showing each keyword, it's impressions, clicks, and where it appears in Google search results. Centori backs this data up automatically, taking a new snapshot every week or month to give us a high level overview of where we stand with each keyword and how well our content optimization and creation efforts are paying off.

We also track how well our content is performing in search by looking to which pages are getting organic traffic and whether the pages we are optimizing or creating are  actually getting more traffic from Google.

If the strategies you’re implementing show to generate more traffic, then you know you’re on the path to SEO success. However, if you’ve been working on your content and you see your traffic decreasing, you may want to rethink your SEO implementations.

5) Optimize existing content and create new content

With all four of the previous steps complete, you are finally ready to create content.

You have your top priority target keywords with high search volume and the greatest chance for your website to rank, and you know how other ranking content for those keywords is formatted. Now it’s time to buckle down, use your expertise, and create valuable posts and pages for your target users.

Above all, keep your user’s search intent in mind when forming your content and create pieces that your target users will find useful, interesting, and engaging.

Here's what's next after keyword research

Once you finish keyword research, it’s easy to feel lost on what to do next. However, there’s actually a process that marketers should go through in order to turn those long lists into valuable content that ranks.

The process goes like this: Map your keywords to content, prioritize them by your best opportunity to rank, analyze the top content for your chosen keywords, track your website’s results, and then update your existing content or create new content.

Focus on doing the things that your website that will get you closest to your goals, within the limited time that you have. Working strategically is key to efficient SEO success.

Remember, online tools can make the SEO process even more efficient, and help you get more done for your website. Check out Centori’s software to see all the ways you can streamline the SEO process.

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