Prioritize keywords for a keyword analysis

Search engine optimization is all about prioritizing. It helps you focus on the most important tasks and goals, and thus use your time and resources in the most efficient way possible. But you can also be data-driven when you prioritize what you want to increase visibility on in Google.

When you are data driven you need data that comes in and data that comes out on the other end. The formula that I use is this one

Keyword priority = (search volume + relevance) - Search competition   

Easy right? Let’s take a step back and see why this is important at all. 

Why prioritize keywords  

Before you can do this, you need something to prioritize from. You need to do a thorough keyword analysis, where the result is a long list of keyword candidates with the process I have mapped out here. It sort of is a “yes-yes”, the threshold should be low in order to use a keyword, and it’s better to include a few to many than a few too little. You should be able to do a list with 50-100 keywords when using your SEO tool of choice.  (e.g. Semrush)

But you can't increase visibility for 100 keywords at once. Search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to prioritize and find the most "low-hanging fruit", where you can get the best possible result as quickly as possible, with the least amount of effort. You want to be in the upper left quadrant of the picture: Low stakes, high value.


Source: Mind the product

When you prioritize, you enter a "No" phase.

Or perhaps it is correct to call it a "No, not yet" phase. You can (and should) reprioritize regularly.

Even if some of the keyword candidates fall outside of the "high priority" list this time, this may change for the next review, if any of the three parameters have changed.

What is a good number of high priority keywords?

Between 5 and 10 keywords is a good number.

You can choose several, if you have several content producers working on different things. In that case, you can have 5-10 keywords per content section on the website.

Read also: A practical guide to defining SMART goals for your website

Which parameters are important?

The three parameters that should be taken into account when prioritizing keywords are search volume, search competition and relevance.

Search volume is the number of searches made in the search engines for this keyword or search phrase each month. Search volume says something about the total  traffic that will be distributed to you and your competitors for this search. You should obtain this figure from an SEO tool such as Semrush

Search competition is a number that estimates how difficult it will be to rank highly for this keyword or search phrase. This is often also called "Keyword Difficulty" or degree of difficulty. Here you hvae to use an SEO tool such as Semrush.

Relevance is about how relevant the search term or search phrase is to your business. How likely are you to make money from this type of search? Here you cannot rely on an SEO tool, you have to acquire domain-specific knowledge. The closest thing is the competence of the project group or your website team.

Blank diagram - Page 2

Search volume and degree of difficulty are purely data-driven, here you have to rely on the data you get from your tool. The numbers will not be exact, but they will be far better than assumptions. You can also read more about how Semrush calculates volume and degree of difficulty.

Can’t you just use Google Search Console for this? The answer is: No, not really. Google search console has no unit of measure for difficulty or volume. You can, however, to a certain extent find volume based on the unit of measurement “Views” in Google Search Console, but this will be relatively inaccurate.

Read also: How SEO Has Changed In The Recent Years & What That Means For You

Rate the relevance of each keyword

My recommended approach is to make this process as data-driven as possible by structuring an online effort ("crowdsourcing"). Put all the keyword candidates in a survey, and get everyone in the content department to give their subjective assessments. This is how you can formulate it in the survey.

""How likely is it that someone applying for this could be a potentially good customer for us? How well are they a good fit for our services?"

Where you want more control and don't want to leave everything to the data, you can make it easier by sitting together in a room and setting up the assessment from 1-5 together.

What can be difficult about this exercise is that the keyword candidates will like to be a mixture of "Long-tail", "Fat-head" and "Chunky Middle" search phrases. "Fat-Head" are general terms with high traffic, and "Long-tail" are pointed searches with less traffic. 

Case study: Read about how Sikt created a successfull content production system for their new website

Practical process for prioritizing the keywords

You now have three numbers for all the keyword candidates from the keyword analysis. Now you have to put these into a formula and get the keyword's priority.

The formula is:
(Search volume + Relevance) - Search competition

NB: All data must be standardized. Data standardization is a method of making the data in a data set consistent and easy to compare.

Spreadsheet programs usually have a built-in function for this: STANDARDIZE(). If you use that function on all the parameters, you will get a value that you can put into the formula.

A contrived example: 

Screenshot 2022-12-08 at 09.47.36

Here I have entered 4 search phrases, which are in column B. In columns C, D I have manually entered numbers from Semrush, and in column E (Relevance) I have entered the average score this search phrase has received from the project group. Red platform shoes have gained the highest relevance, presumably because this store specializes in them. " shoes" may be too general to have very high relevance, while "cool platform shoes" nobody wants, so it gets the lowest relevance of all.

 Columns F, G, H are the same numbers from C, D, E run through the STANDARDIZE() function, and column I (Priority) the formula (Search volume + Relevance) - Search competition.

"shoes" is the one that clearly has the highest search volume, but also much higher search competition, and in addition lower relevance, as assessed by the project group. Based on the formula, the search competition is so high that it does not come first out of the four. "Red platform shoes" seems to be a better place to start, as it has the highest relevance, and also a higher volume than the others that have the same search competition.

When we sort on the last column, it turns out that "red platform shoes" should be the highest priority in order to rank higher on Google, with "cool platform shoes" as number two.

Here I have only entered 4 keywords, but if you enter all the keywords from your initial keyword analysis here, and prioritize according to the last column, you will get a full prioritized list. You can then choose the top 5-10 and let them be your priority keywords.

A practical way to show which ones are high priority in your SEO tool is to use tags. Tag your priority keywords with "high priority", and you can create reports filtered on this tag.

image (1)-1

Ok, so now you have your 5-10 keywords, but now what? This is when the fun/work begins of course, and now you have to do the work to start climbing the charts. You haven't changed any of the content on your website yet! But now you've set your sights.

Activities that you must consider for search engine optimization are writing and optimizing content, strategic link building, optimization technical SEO and several other things.

Have a project in mind?


Henrik is the Head of Insights and Analysis in Frontkom. He has 15+ years of experience as a CMS consultant, developer and web analyst. Henrik is almost obsessed in finding out what works on web and how to get there with content strategy and data analysis tools.

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