Keyphrase Targeting - Methodology

Lindsay Wassell's picture

Before I get into how I review Keyphrase Targeting in my SEO Audits, I need to cover my methodology. Keyphrase Targeting  is one of those artsy aspects of SEO. It requires gut, creative thinking, and un-common* sense. Today, I'm going to try to describe the mess that goes on in my head on this front. I'll get into how I put my thoughts and findings on paper for a client audit in my next post. * Am I the only one bothered by the phrase 'common sense'? If good sense was 'common', wouldn't we all have it? Uncommon sense FTW! Keyphrase Targeting is the art of identifying appropriate keyphrases and implementing them effectively.  I'd say that kick @$$ keyphrase identification is based on three core elements;

3 Core Elements in Identifying Keyphrases

Kick @$$ Keyphrases Lets chat about each.

Defining a Topic: What is your content about?

I'm going to use a website that I have no affiliation with,, to illustrate some of my points today. is a for-profit social media machine that helps raise awareness for the causes of non-profit clients. One of the causes they focus on is 'human trafficking' and they do so on a sub-domain at This section of the website is about human trafficking and more importantly, putting an end to human trafficking. They get deep into the topic with news pages which capture the long tail, but the focus on human trafficking of this hub page  makes good sense. There is room, however, to better define the topic for improved SEO. I try to pull myself away from the domain  I'm assessing, because I don't want to trap yourself in the same box that they are stuck in. I take a 'break' and grab a coffee. I think hard about the topic without distraction. I try to ask myself questions to inspire creative and free-flowing thought. Here are a few questions that I'd explore for this topic.

  • What is human trafficking, anyway?
  • Do I have any personal experience here? Do I know anybody who has?
  • Have I see any movies/TV shows that depict this topic?
  • What has been on the news lately?
  • What things would be included in category of human trafficking? What would be excluded?
  • For what purposes are humans trafficked?
  • Is this a domestic issue or an international issue?
  • What motivates the criminals who engage in human trafficking?
  • What demographic groups (sex, age, race, etc) are most susceptible?

The result would be a scribbled mess of notes and keyphrases. human trafficking notes I take those ideas/concepts and explore them further with tools like Quintura. (I may be the only SEO that uses this tool, but it is one of my favorites for brainstorming and discovering related terms. Try it out.) Just so we're clear, the process I'm taking you through here is not 'keyword research'. This is simply the high level assessment that helps me understand if they are in the ball park with keyphrases targeting. Do they get the concept? Do they speak about their topic in a way that it is spoken about by their target audience? Once I feel like I have a good sense of the topic and the keyphrase neighborhood in which it resides, I take a quick look at actual search traffic.

Query Demand:  Is anybody interested in that?

In general, there seems to be a healthy search volume for the keyphrases surrounding human trafficking. That is a good start, and speaks to the awareness already established. In my next post on keyphrase targeting, I'll get into an assessment and determination of what the keyphrase target for this page is. Today, for our purposes, I will simply say that there are two equal keyphrase targets.

  • Human Trafficking
  • End Human Trafficking

Based on some quick keyword research, people seem to be looking for the general term 'human trafficking' plus 'statistics', 'victims', 'stories', 'facts', and even and action word... 'stop'. These guys are on the right track. This page is on target, yet so far from it's potential search traffic. Here is a screenshot of the data for human trafficking. human trafficking keyphrases I'd recommend that they try to target human trafficking as their primary target, purely for the volume it represents, then target a couple of the other terms in the above list. Go ahead and brand the page VISUALLY with "End Human Trafficking" or perhaps "Stop Human Trafficking" (which is the more popular synomym phrase) as they already do, but use heavier hitting terms for the search engine influencing parts of the page. This is a quick look at what they do now for the visual branding. There is also a lot of interest in the related or subset topic of slavery, another possible targeting area. slavery keyphrases All in all, yeah... people are interested in the topic and the site covers it well. They do need to do some work on keyword research and keyphrase targeting on a page-by-page basis.

SERP Competition: Who else is trying to eat your pie?

The first place to look for competition in the search engine results is Google. Who is ranking? Why? Do they deserve to be there, or does your client have a stronger claim to the position (from a content and intent perspective)? human trafficking search results The above is just one query example. I've dug into the pages and feel like deserves to rank higher than some of the other folks. I also look at the competitive SEO metrics (at a high level) and see how possible it is from a keyphrase targeting perspective.

What on earth was that, Lindsay? :)

In order to show you how I evaluate a website's Keyphrase Targeting, assign it a score in the SEO Scorecard and document it in an SEO Audit, I first had to share some of my methodology. In the next post, I'll show you what to do with the mess of brainstorming we've done here today. In the meantime, happy auditing!

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