Andrea Lehr

A Four-Step Guide on Keyword Mapping to Improve Your SEO and Content Strategy

The most effective search campaigns all require one essential ingredient: keywords. As the foundation for your SEO efforts , keywords serve as an outline for both your site’s structure and potential content. Capitalizing on different points of entry is a smart way to increase traffic and expand your site’s sphere of influence – particularly because visitors aren’t always going to take the front entrance. 

For instance, a new study by HigherVisibility took a closer look at five of the most searched terms within six competitive industries to identify trends among the top-ranking URLs. The results revealed that a site’s homepage doesn’t always land within one of the top-ranked spots (e.g. within the wedding vertical, only one query – “wedding dresses” – produced a ranking homepage). 

In other words, your backlink portfolio should include more than links to your homepage, but how can you identify opportunities to expand your subdirectories? One solution is keyword mapping.

For those unfamiliar with this strategy, we will start by looking at how to generate keywords, walk through a basic map template, and identify a few ways in which keywords can also be useful when brainstorming on-site content so that even those familiar with this technique can walk away with at least one new trick.

What is a keyword map?

In its simplest form, a keyword map is a framework for the keywords you have chosen to target that mirrors your site’s structure. Driven by research, the ultimate goals of the map are to help you discover where to optimize, what content to build, and where you can add new pages to attract more traffic. 

So where should you start? 

1. Begin by using one query to identify a larger set of keywords.

Your goal in the first phase of research is to gather as many keywords as possible that you want your site to appear for. Think outside the structure of your current site, and look beyond keywords you currently rank for – specifically those that your competitors are using for their SEO efforts.

Given that it is summer in South Florida, I’ll use “Delray Beach hotel” as our example query for this exercise. Using SEMrush, enter the query in the search bar and click on the section that offers “related keywords” (see below).

SEMrush related keywords tool

This particular query has more than 780 related keywords, so for the sake of simplicity, we will take a closer look at the top 50. Export these keywords into a spreadsheet (see below). 

Export keyword spreadsheet

Pro tip: I only left “search volume” and “keyword difficulty” to keep things simple, but SEMrush offers additional metrics like CPC and the number of URLs in organic search results.

2. Group keywords that answer the same question.

Once you have your set of keywords, the next thing you want to do is think about searcher intent – the goal being to bucket keywords that answer the same question. Begin by duplicating your spreadsheet and going line by line to pair similar keywords.

For example, when we take a closer look at the keywords generated from “Delray Beach hotel,” the first three phrases – “Delray Beach hotels,” “hotels in Delray Beach,” and “hotels Delray Beach” – are all very similar to our initial query. These would make ideal homepage terms, so they should be grouped together. 

The next keyword is a specific hotel in the area, and after scanning through the rest of the list, I noticed there are several specific hotels that made it onto the list. I grouped them together in red (see below).

By the end of this process, I had eight categories, including one miscellaneous group.

Groups of keywords

Pro tip: SEMrush also offers an advanced filter setting that allows users to easily eliminate words they don’t want included. In the instance above, any mentions of a potential competitor like “Marriott” could easily be filtered out.

3. Create potential URLs and bucket keywords accordingly.

One of your have organized keywords, you will want to focus on using each set of keywords to help visualize the structure of your site and potential pages.

Continuing with the hotel example, create subdirectories based on groups of three or more keywords (e.g. “oceanfront” or “beachfront”). This will help you design a logical path that is both visitor and search-friendly, ultimately improving your chances of ranking for these keywords (see below).

Potential URL buckets

Once completed, your template should look something like this:

Final keyword bucket spreadsheet

Pro tip: If you have already got a site up and running with set URLs, don’t focus on whether or not you’ll need to rewrite any content or setup any redirects – simply ask yourself, “Can my audience use these phrases to find my site?” and rework anything later.

4. Finally, use the buckets to create potential URLs and brainstorm content.

One of the best things about keyword mapping is that it makes you think about your pages in terms of themes – helping you distinguish between which words would make great URLs and those that should be saved for something like a blog post or downloadable asset.

For instance, let’s take a closer look at the miscellaneous category, where “pet friendly hotels Delray Beach fl” ended up (see below). Although it has a higher keyword difficulty rating, you shouldn’t disregard the phrase entirely. Instead of devoting a subdirectory to it, use it as inspiration for a relevant blog post.

Keyword buckets for content inspiration

Pro tip: For even more content ideas, plug some of the miscellaneous keywords back into SEMrush

Once you have the URL buckets, start piecing your site together in a hierarchy that makes sense. Continuing with the hotel theme, start with the homepage on top followed by subdirectories (see below). 

Keyword mapping with hierarchy

After that, fill in each subdirectory with potential content pages (I’ve zoomed in below, so it’s easier to see). 

Closer look at a subdirectory

Pro tip: Create new sheets for individual subdirectories to keep things organized and make it easier to view individual pages.

Remember That Keyword Research (and Mapping) Doesn’t Stop

Once your keyword map is complete, start producing the more optimized pages you designed – and then set a calendar reminder to revisit this process all over again. Explore verticals you haven’t targeted before or figure out if there are additional questions you can answer for your audience. The mapping process is a great way to make sure visitors are entering your site at a point that provides the value they are looking for – which is something search engines will love, too.

And if you don't want to rewrite your content manually, you can always use miftolo's tools and do it in seconds.
Hey Andrea

A great article, really appreciate the efforts you have put in to explain keyword mapping and bucketing it as per pages and sub pages. Just wanted to clarify one thing that if i am using a focus keyword and with that if i use semantic keywords for the same page is this process correct.

1)Use the Focus Keyword in title tag, Meta description and H1 Tag.
2)Use Semantics keyword in the content and some of them in H2 tag.

Will this help me in ranking fast for a higher keyword difficulty or you want me to mix it with backlink creation as well.
Hi Andrea excellent post. However, can you clarify what the url structure would look like when using the url buckets to create pages for hotel, accommodations, offers?

Is there what you are referring to?

Also, when you say subdirectory, are you referring to the term "category?"

This is the common process but finally, select that keyword that ranks me easily.
Let me know at rush hour.
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Very helpful tool I got my website rank in page one thanks so much .. a happy customer
Hello Andrea, keyword is real a important thing a web growth.we will take more care about it , thank you .
Hey, Andrea. Keyword batching is a great idea, and liked the strategy of "making the best out of seasonal traffic". Considering similar keywords that could answer almost the same topic will help get a wider reach. It will be good to add 1 or two similar keywords in the sub-headings too. When I create keyword batching, I will create a small chart with primary and secondary keywords, That way I will be able to create a layout/ plan prior to writing. A good keyword mapping also gives us good content ideas and deeper insights into customer concerns like "pet friendly hotels".
Nishant Maliakel Oommen
Great points, Nishant! I love the idea of adding a primary and secondary keywords step into this strategy. It's a great way to identify the most effective internal/external linking opportunities, too.
Hi Andrea, great article! I will use this method in the future when setting up new websites.
The one part that confuses me a little is how you would set up pages (subpages) that include those keywords. Would you include all of the keywords (somehow making it look natural) in the text body, meta tags, etc; of each page?
Calum Hutcheon
Appreciate the positive feedback, Calum! And in regards to your question, you're correct in that you want to include the keyword phrase with the most potential in the most natural way possible throughout the page. Using 'delray beach hotels on the beach' as an example, let's say we earned an award as one of the best hotels on the beach in the area and want to write a blog post about it. An effective title tag could be, 'Editor's Pick: Top Delray Beach Hotels on the Beach' with an accompanying URL of '' plus a meta description of something like, 'Are you looking for one of the top Delray Beach hotels on the beach? Our hotel was recently named one of the best hotels on the beach in the area.' You could also include an external link in the blog post to the site where you received the award using 'Delray Beach hotels on the beach' as the anchor text. Hope this helps!
Andrea Lehr
This makes lots of sense! Thank you for the clarification :)
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