Creating a keyword pyramid to increase organic traffic
Connected dots

Written by Bartek Bezemer

About the author
I want you to get more out of your online marketing by helping you learn from the greats and give you practical tips.

SEO

May 2, 2020

What do you do when you have done the basics and laid a solid SEO foundation for your business, but you feel there is more traffic to tap into or your organic growth is slowing down? Meet the keyword pyramid. 

I heard the keyword pyramid coined a few years ago and implemented this technique with good results to match. Unfortunately, as time of writing, within the online marketing community there’s not much that can be found about this SEO-strategy. There were articles back in the day, but I felt they weren’t doing the topic justice and could need some more clarification and examples. 

In this post I want to take a deeper look into the keyword pyramid and create a fictional case where we run down the technique, so you can implement it for your own business.

What is a keyword pyramid?

The keyword pyramid is as the name suggests, a multilayered structure with a solid foundation, a supporting middle and a peak to work towards. The three layers consist of low, average and high traffic volume keywords which vary in difficulty in terms of ranking.

The foundation, or bottom of the pyramid, is made out of long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are keywords that are very specific, with high search intent and with low competition. The average search volume for long tail keywords is low and therefore often ignored by competition because standalone they do not generate significant traffic, but combined can generate serious search traffic. Long tail keywords take less time to rank for than any other keyword category. Long tail keywords are mostly targeted through dedicated product pages, landing pages or in-depth blog posts which serve as evergreen content. Your foundation consists of six to ten keywords. 

The middle of the pyramid is filled with medium competition keywords and average traffic volumes. These keywords are harder to rank for as they are the first to be targeted after SEO professionals realize the high volume keywords are nearly impossible to rank for. I would say medium keywords generate on average 50% more search volume than long tail keywords, but your mileage may vary. Medium competition keywords are often targeted through dedicated product pages, landing pages and more general blog posts. Your middle consists of three to five mid competition keywords. 

The peak of the pyramid is filled with high competition keywords with high traffic volumes. As the name suggests, these keywords are really hard to rank for and can take several years to reach. There are cases in which websites needed a decade to get to page one for high competition keywords. High competition keywords are incorporated on your home page, the most important product pages in terms of revenue or goal completions. Content such as blog posts can be used to support high competition keywords. The top of the pyramid consists of one or two keywords which will generate the highest amount of traffic to your website and act as an umbrella for your complete product portfolio. 

It’s important you have all the necessary web analytics installed before you start or else you’ll never be able to determine whether the content you’ve been creating generates new business.

Combining all elements of the pyramid will create an ‘upwards stream’ of traffic to the peak, signaling to the search engine content is ready to be indexed and of a high enough value to the user. All the keywords in the layered approach of the keyword pyramid will act as different steps within the funnel. At the bottom you have the users who have a high buying intention, at the middle users who have a shopping behaviour and at the top are just browsing. 

Identifying which keywords to rank for

It’s important you validate the layers by their volume and competition. You can do this by running the top, middle and bottom of your keyword pyramid through the Google Ads Keyword Planner. The Google Keyword Planner ranks keywords by the amount of competition with indicators such as low, medium and high. It also gives the average cost per click and the average amount of impressions by device category. 

Your top and middle should already be known to you and will form the core for further keyword exploration. But make sure they are indeed medium and high on the competition scale. If you don’t know what your middle and top are ask yourself: what products do I sell and what business or industry am I in? This should give you a good indication of what your most profitable and valuable keywords are. 

The bottom of the pyramid is an exercise of finding the most valuable keywords among low competition through keyword suggestions. You can find new keyword opportunities to rank for with keywoordtool.io which gives a multitude of variants that can be exported and imported into the Keyword Planner. You can export the keywords through a .csv or Excel-file or simply copy and paste them. Do not integrate them yet as the variations can run into the hundreds and we only want the most valuable ones. Insert the keywords you’ve explored in the Google Ads keyword planner. 

In the following table I’ve created a few examples in which I’ve already broken down the types of keywords to rank for. You can also see a small recap of the previous paragraph how the different elements of the pyramid stack up. 

LayerBuying intentionSearch VolumeCompetitionMen’s Apparel store PC Store
TopLowHighHighMen’s fashion
Men’s apparel
PC Laptop
MiddleMediumMediumMediumMen’s sweaters
Men’s shoes 
Men’s underwear
HP PC
Macbook ProiPad Mini
BottomHighLowLowMen Polo Ralph Lauren sweater 
Men Bjorn Borg Underwear
Men Burberry woolen scarf 
Men Nike Sneakers Air Max 97
Men Buddha to Buddha metal bracelet
HP Omen Gaming PC
Macbook Pro 15 inch
iPad Mini WiFi 128 GB
Asus ROG Laptop I9
Turtlebeach Gaming Headset
Logitech Wireless Keyboard

Integrating keywords with a content plan

Once you have analyzed which keywords you are targeting and want to target, it’s important to create a content strategy. Past experience has proven that a lot of content strategy plans remain just that, plans. The main reason behind this is that within a lot of companies the moral exists that content is not important as there is no direct return on investment. That’s the sales mentality, which you are not. Content is the cornerstone of every business, and it’s your case to defend it. Great content is indexed by search engines, discovered and shared. Your potential reach is endless. In the long run. 

A content plan consists of the following elements :
Introduction 
Introduce what you will be presenting and the reason why this project has been initiated. 

Current situation 
Which keywords are used on which page. This exercise can be a painstaking endeavor when you have thousands of product pages. I would recommend optimizing your top pages by traffic and working your way through the website. 

Desired situation
Which keywords should be used on which page. Be as specific as possible on which keywords pages should rank for. 

Content calendar 
Plan your optimization starting by on-page optimization and working towards content marketing such as blogs and other types of content. For my own content calendars for items such as blog posts I like to use the following columns with Excel or Google Spreadsheets; title tag, title tag length, meta description, meta description length, img alt tag. Social media columns such as; twitter text, twitter text length, twitter hashtags. 

Depending on the social media channels you use, you can keep adding more websites into your content calendar and their respective aspects for updates. 

Content creation 
Formulate which content will feed which keyword. We’ll look at how to use content for keywords later in the post. Be as specific as possible for the content. Formulate minimum content length, whether it is only accessible after sign-up or needs additional budget.

Budget needed 
No marketing is ever free. Reserve budget to promote your content, write your content or hire a consultant who can further investigate how the website can be optimized. 

Key performance indicators 
No improvement plan is complete without a goal. You need to write clear and realistic objectives. Examples of key performance indicators are:

  • Increase organic traffic with 20% within 1 year
  • Increase organic revenue with 10% within 1 year
  • Increase organic traffic for low volume keywords with 15%
  • Increase organic search impressions with 35% within 1 year

There are many more indicators that you can use depending on the maturity of your SEO strategy.

Measurement plan
A lot of times not all measurement tools are in place to validate your key performance indicators. It’s important you have all the necessary web analytics installed before you start or else you’ll never be able to determine whether the content you’ve been creating generates new business. 

Summary

The core of the keyword pyramid is finding keywords, and therefore, traffic opportunities in the low volume bottom section. Those are the areas where competitors won’t focus on as they alone don’t drive traffic. But you as an versatile online marketer knows that all those small efforts can drive major results for your business. The bottom of the pyramid focuses on low competition low volume keywords, the mid section of the pyramid on mid volume and mild competition keywords and the top is the high traffic and high competition keywords. 

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