Fundamentals of SEO – Part 2: Developing a Killer Keyword Plan

In our previous post on the basics of using Google Analytics to define successful searches, we talked about how to use site analytics to determine which search terms brought visitors to a website. In this post, help you capture more of the kinds of visitors you want by creating an effective keyword plan:

1.     Define your website strategy

2.     Set clear, measurable goals

3.     Evaluate possible terms

4.     Choose the best place on your website for each term (coming up in Part 3!)


1. Define Website Strategy

At KW2, we typically serve two types of clients: those with goals to incite long-term behavior or social change, and those with sales or conversion goals. To develop a successful keyword plan, our approach is to first define the high-level strategy of this website or service: conversions, or “brand-building.” Brand-building is best used in quotes here because the term also incorporates things along the lines of public health, public safety and education.

Conversion Strategy

Conversion goals include things like purchases, form completions, calls, downloads, and other measurable on-site interactions.

Brand-Building Strategy

Branding goals include awareness, perception change, or off-site behavior change such as reduced rates of obesity, tobacco-related deaths and traffic incidents.


Clearly outlining the purpose of this strategy will help with keyword research in terms of how much context is needed, how direct or strong to be with language, and how certain phrases should be prioritized.

Some clients will want to pursue both of these strategies. In those cases it’s important to define what success will look like, to the benefit of all parties involved. It’s also important to define a clear priority between the two. A strategy that’s 80% brand and 20% conversion will look quite different than a strategy with the opposite priority.


2. Set Clear, Measurable Goals

Along those lines, defining goals of this SEO exercise is extremely important. Clearly defining measurable goals makes it possible to assess the efficacy of an SEO strategy, and it provides a baseline from which to optimize.

At KW2, we take a collaborative approach to helping a client define the success metrics of a campaign or website. Possible goals for a conversion-based website include:

  • Increase the number of purchases
  • Increase the average monetary value of purchases
  • Increase the number of on-site communication conversions (form completions, calls, etc.)

Possible goals for a brand-building project include:

  • Increase search engine ranking for our goal keywords
  • Increase page ranking for our goal keywords
  • Increase awareness of the campaign/product/service/issue among the target audience

We place great value not only on developing solid plans, but also on consistent and frequent evaluation of these plans. Secondary research can go a long way in informing a great SEO strategy, but in the end we hold ourselves accountable for optimizing toward our client’s goals. More on that in Part 3 on SEO fundamentals, which covers ways to optimize and evaluate your on-site SEO.


3.   Evaluate Possible Terms

The final step in creating a great keyword strategy is to evaluate how well proposed terms fit the goals outlined above. We look at many criteria, but we grade each keyword or phrase on the following components:

  • Average monthly searches in the geography in question (this is also known as search volume).
  • Competition score – How many others are vying for the top rank for this word? Is the competition using paid methods or organic? Do we stand a chance at a higher ranking?
  • Relevance – Is the phrase relevant in context of what the business or organization actually does and offers? Also, does the site currently talk about this topic anywhere? If not, should we consider creating a space where you can do so?
  • Specificity – Does this person know exactly what they are looking for, or are they browsing options?  For example, “Madison ad” and “Madison Wi advertising agency” are both relevant to KW2, but the second is a more specific search.
  • Intent  – Does the term indicate the person is far down the purchase funnel, or is he or she in the information-gathering process? For example, a person searching for “what do ad agencies do” would likely be looking for broad information, while someone who searched for “how to hire an ad agency” could presumably be closer to making a decision.

Taking the time to truly assess the purpose of your SEO strategy – brand/issue awareness, conversions, or both – and the defined goals for the finished product and a clear plan for evaluating performance based on those goals, and finally evaluating possible terms, is a proven process for building a great keyword strategy. This method is based on industry best practices and published processes from SEO’s finest. It’s also our way of doing things, because we’ve found it to be the most striking way to accommodate our wide variety of clients’ needs in terms of on-site SEO.

In the next part of this series we’ll discuss how to map keywords to the right landing pages, key on-site places to make sure your SEO is solid, and a few tips on optimization.


Next up in our series on building great SEO strategies:

  • Fundamentals of SEO – Part Three: Keyword Optimization and On-Site Implementation

Or, check out our previous post:


Desktop to mobile responsive design illustration

Mobile Website Traffic Makes the Case for Responsive Design

The need for your website to display responsively to smartphone and tablet traffic is increasing month over month and the trend isn’t going away anytime soon, or dare I say, ever. So, how do you respond to responsive? When it comes time to redesign or start your new website, what steps do you take to assess whether or not you should design responsively? Here at KW2, we assume responsive design on most projects but we’ll also do a more detailed business needs analysis during our Discovery phase to determine whether we should plan and design a responsive website.

First, we establish the need, if your analytics hasn’t done the job for you. According to the quarterly mobile traffic report from Walker Sands Communications, almost a third of global internet traffic – 31.3% – to North American sites in Q4 2013 came from smartphones and tablets. That’s up 34% from the Q4 2012 report. These numbers will only continue to increase over time.

Your analytics is telling you to pay attention to mobile traffic.
Your customers are accessing your site more and more through mobile devices.
So, how do you tackle this responsive design need? Here are a few steps to get you headed in the right direction.

During the Discovery phase, it’s crucial to make sure all key stakeholders understand what responsive design is and the impact it will have on the design of your website. Sometimes, our clients ask about responsive design without understanding what it means and the implications responsive design can have on process, timing and budget. A thorough Discovery process will give you clear documentation on how the site will be built – responsive or otherwise.

Planning and Concepting Process
Responsive design projects tend to take on more of an agile workflow as opposed to a traditional waterfall process. Collaboration amongst the UX designer, art director, strategist, marketing and technical folks is essential to making this work efficiently and effectively. At KW2, we like to establish a conceptual design framework for the website before delving too deeply into the responsive menu and display structures. Once we have client approval on a concept, we can quickly create the mobile display menus and designs to move onto programmers.

QA Testing Time
Testing time will increase a bit when putting a website through its paces on not only the browsers and OS desktop platforms but the mobile devices as well. It’s key to identify and agree on the devices you will use in testing your website. Neither you nor your agency can test on all devices – it’s just not possible. Agree on the most important ones. Your analytics can tell you what devices access your site most frequently. Obviously, test on the devices you and your marketing team use as well. You will be spending a lot of time on your own site during the process so make sure it’s looking good on your own device. Oh, and don’t forget your boss. Make sure the site looks good on his or her device because that’s probably the only device they will view it on. Gotta make sure it looks good for them!

Device Testing
One piece of advice having been through many QA testing projects here: test on real devices. While some websites and services can help you get a topline look at how your site looks when accessed by the most popular devices on the market, the rubber meets the road when you actually access the site using the device and its native OS platform.

Put your site to the responsive test right now
If you’d like to see how your site looks when being accessed by many of the top mobile devices on the market, you might find the following tools handy – Responsive Design Checker, Responsinator. Just punch in your site URL and the results will show you how you look to multiple devices without having to actually hold those devices in your hands. This internet thing is pretty neat, right?

Here’s a topline summary to get you up and running on responsive design for your site:

Do your homework to determine the need for responsive design – data, analytics
Create planning documents with the mobile experience in the forefront
Appropriately plan time for QA testing

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