The 8 dimensions of a perfect keyword

Octagonal SEO

Ever wonder how to pick the perfect keyword topic for your blog or website, or find one that will have the most value? Most SEO strategists and content creators focus on, at best, two of the eight dimensions they should analyze when creating a keyword strategy for a website. Much like other SEO strategies, keyword research has evolved to a level that goes well beyond “how many people are searching for a topic.” It now includes many more variables that help define how much value a topic will bring to a website.

Here are the eight dimensions of a perfect keyword, which when combined and consistently executed upon, earn search rankings, drive traffic and goal completions, and build brands.

1. Search volume

This is the variable that has been around the longest. It’s what most search optimizers use to determine the value of a keyword or key phrase. They go to a keyword tool (we love SEMrush) that gives them a basic representation of how many people are searching for a topic, and then they target those keywords which have the highest search volume.

This might be a great place to start for some initial analysis and direction, but when defining the value of a keyword or topic, this dimension only tells a small part of a much larger picture.

2. Conversion value

When determining the value of a keyword, you also need to look at its potential conversion value — one of many measurable points that define progress towards a sale. A few measurable conversion points include:

  • Email signup
  • Product sale
  • Ad click
  • Social share

3. Brand value

One of the challenges that business have when they start to scale is keeping the original brand values intact, and making sure that each team member is representing the brand in a consistent way.

The content on your blog or website is the digital salesperson in the organization, and should follow the same brand values and guidelines.

A few questions you might use to determine if the topic is “on-brand” include:

  • Does the keyword represent the brand in a positive way?
  • Would you talk about the product or brand using this keyword?
  • Does it align with the brand positioning and tone of voice?

4. Persona value

If you’re unfamiliar with personas or how they’re used to better understand users, you can check out How to Build Personas to Understand and Meet User Needs. But in short, traditional advertising (print, radio, TV) uses simple demographic data to define and target audiences. In the online world, marketers dive deeper into the psychographics of the user to define what we call personas to help sculpt targeted content experiences that speak directly to the interests of the audience.

At a minimum, you should ask yourself if the keyword or topic aligns with your target audience in the following ways:

  • Is it what they like to read?
  • Are they interested in the topic?
  • Is it written in words they use, and not in your “marketing lingo?”
  • Would they find the information inclusive enough, or would they need to go to another website to learn more?
  • Would they be likely to share this information in their social circles?

5. Trending value

When we analyze a keyword we like to determine if it’s an “evergreen topic” or a “timely topic.”

Evergreen topics have long lasting value, so when looking at the trend, it should be pretty consistent throughout the year. Traditionally, these tend to be slightly more competitive, but have a much longer lifespan for being relevant.

Timely topics are seasonal (like holiday recipes) or more focused on current events or news coverage. Timely topics have a much shorter lifespan, but can drive large bursts of traffic if done well.

You can use Google Trends to gain insights into what type of topic it might be. Once in Google Trends, try to answer the following basic questions about the topic:

  • Is this topic currently trending?
  • Does it show consistent trend growth?
  • Does it have a seasonality?
  • Is it a topic that would require little updating six months from now?

This variable is important when setting up your editorial or content calendar to align with search and social trends. Having a good mix of evergreen content topics and timely content topics is important for long-term growth, while still staying relevant with your personas.

6. Competitive value

When determining the value of a keyword topic it’s important to understand what it will take to drive traffic for that keyword. We like to try and answer the following questions:

  • What are others doing to compete for this keyword?
  • What type of content are they creating?
  • Are they bigger, faster or stronger than you, or do you have a chance to compete on the target keyword?

When thinking about the importance of competitive value, I often think of this anecdote:

Two guys are in the jungle when they see a lion running towards them.

Frantically, one of the men starts putting on his running shoes.

Surprised, the other man says, “What are you thinking, you can’t outrun a lion!”

“I don’t have to outrun the lion,” said the man. “I just have to outrun you.”

There are a couple types of competitive SEO audits that we like to perform when determining keyword value —  experience-based audits and search-based audits.

Experience-based competitive audits analyze variables that would affect the experience someone has on your website compared to that of your competitors.

Search-based competitive audits uncover the competitive landscape within the search results for a defined set of high-value topics.

When combined, these audits will provide insight into what it will take to compete for the keyword that you’re trying to rank for.

7. Funnel value

When creating an asset, it’s important to understand which part of the user journey you’re trying to target. Are you trying to inform and drive familiarity of your business, drive a single purchase, build loyalty, or simply become part of the consideration set? Funnel value can play an important role in not only defining the topic, but also defining the type of asset that would work best to accomplish your goal.

8. Social value

Since Google is starting to include social signals in its ranking algorithm, it’s important to know whether the topic has social value. Questions you want to answer when trying to determine if a topic has social value include:

  • Do people like sharing content like what you’re creating?
  • Do they like talking about the topic on social media?
  • Has other content about this topic been shared often on social media?

Now we wouldn’t expect someone to go from using one or two of these targets to using all eight overnight; it takes time to evolve your keyword research process. What we would suggest is that when you’re searching for your next keyword topic for a blog post or product, try to include some of these other variables in your analysis to strengthen the keyword value.


Also published on Medium.

Image by: Adam Franco via Compfight cc

Bill Ross
Bill is the founder of Linchpin, a Digital Strategy and Web Design Agency, and Epik Interactive, a design agency built to help small businesses create great online experiences. He started both agencies on the core belief that all companies, irregardless of size, should have the same opportunities in regards to quality of work and access to senior-level digital marketers. Bill’s 10-year background in digital marketing and building online companies has helped him rise to strategic lead for some of the largest online brands and content websites in the world. With a degree in psychology, Bill believes the priority to understand the user surpasses most others; the end product must provide value through engaging content assets that drive traffic, engagement, search rankings, and ultimately conversions.