Keyword Mapping For SEO: Templates, Tools & Examples

Keyword mapping for SEO: our tools & templates!

In this article you'll find what keyword mapping is, what it should look like, and how to create one yourself with our tools and templates.


- Keyword mapping is the part of your SEO strategy where you assign keywords to pages on your site, grouped by targeted topics. - A pillar page is an important page on your website with important keywords assigned to it. - Blog articles target related topics, linking to the pillar page it supports. - We grew the organic traffic to a client's website with 566% with keyword mapping - Our preferred tools are SEMRush (paid) and AnswerThePublic (free), plus our own content calendar and keyword mapping spreadsheet (links in article). - We share our 7 steps to creating a solid keyword map: from keyword ideas to content calendar

Let's dig in!

What is keyword mapping?

Keyword mapping is the part of your SEO strategy where you assign target keywords to pages on your site.

It is what defines the overall architecture of your website and SEO strategy. Without it, you’re on a mapless road trip. You might get to your end destination, but you’ll miss the best sights (users + conversions) along the way. Let's get started with why it's so important to have a keyword plan ready to go.

The benefits of keyword mapping

Keyword mapping is a strategy to make sure your website is targeting all the right keywords. It helps you build a structure with articles and landing pages that together support your SEO efforts. Here are some benefits of keyword mapping:

Improves your SEO

Mapping keywords to the correct user intent drastically increases your chances of ranking in SERPs. By organizing your pages and assigning the right keywords to them, you're not only making it easier for your readers to find the helpful content that they're looking for, but you're also making it easier for Google crawlers to understand your website and index/rank it.

Better UX for readers

Readers will be happy knowing they have come to the right spot. Imagine showing up to that new restaurant you’ve been dying to try to be informed that the menu you expected is completely different. Yeah, no bueno.

Boosts your CR

Because people have landed on what they're looking for, your click-through rates should positively reflect this as well. Better aligned content = higher chances of content success.

Finding new opportunities

Keyword mapping shows you opportunities to create new content. The process of creating a keyword map includes thorough keyword research, and you might just stumble upon keywords you haven't thought of yet.

So, what does a keyword map look like?

To fully grasp the idea of this concept, let’s imagine you’re a Small Business Owner who sells Leather Goods and you want to rank for the following keywords:

  • Leather Belts
  • What to look for a in Leather Wallet
  • Leather Wallets

Although these keywords are somewhat similar, they should all be mapped to their own page to have the best chances of ranking. Here’s what that might look like:

For this instance we develop, ‘pillar pages’, for Leather Belts (pillar 1) and Leather Wallets (pillar 2). To strengthen their position in the SERPS, we build out supporting content around the topics. These posts would then link to the associated pillar page.

A pillar page for Leather Wallets will receive internal links from an article like “What to look for in a Leather Wallet” or “How are Leather Wallets made?”. These blog articles link to the pillar page and to each other.

visualization of keyword mapping

By building out a keyword mapping process, we can assign supporting content to our pillars to become as comprehensive as possible. Ideally, a thorough pillar will have at least 10 internal links.

Search engines will realize that you really are an expert/authority with a well-developed content strategy like this and end up ranking higher.

Note: we don't just randomly pick blog article topics. We perform keyword research and base our blog article choices based on that data. More about this further down this article.

Keyword Mapping Tools

If you’ve been in the SEO industry, you might be familiar with the marketing promises of “outranking the competition” or “exponential organic growth”. Promises these tools won’t immediately solve but will certainly help!

Before you get sticker shock from the price of some of these tools, here’s our favorite keyword mapping tools:

Ahrefs - One of our favorite tools for keyword research and mapping keywords. Plug your main keyword in and quickly get an idea of what other semantically related things you should also be considering for topic depth. Also extremely helpful is the ability to analyze keywords by page. Great tool if price isn’t an issue for you. ($99 cheapest monthly plan)

SEMRush - Like Ahrefs, SEMRush is another major player in the keyword research/mapping world. Though both have their differences, SEMRush is one of the most used tools and for many reasons. Easy to use. Comprehensive keyword data. Page by page breakouts. Top notch but does come with a higher price tag. ($130 cheapest monthly plan)

semrush keyword tool

There are plenty of other mapping tool options but these two are our tried and tested favorites!

Free tools:

There are several free SEO tools available that can help you with keyword research and keyword mapping. Here are some of the most effective ones:


This tool visualizes search queries and questions people are asking around a particular keyword. It's useful for content ideation and understanding user intent.

answer the public screenshot mind map


Ubersuggest offers keyword suggestions, search volume data, and SEO difficulty scores. It also provides insights into content ideas and backlink data.

ubersuggest for keyword research


Soovle aggregates keyword suggestions from multiple search engines, including Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, and more, making it useful for eCommerce and multi-channel marketing.

soovle - free tool for keyword mapping

Moz Keyword Explorer (Free version)

Moz's free tool offers keyword suggestions, search volume, and difficulty scores. You can use a limited number of queries per month without a subscription.

moz keyword explorer tool

Keyword Surfer (Chrome extension)

This is a Chrome extension that provides keyword search volume and related keyword data directly in the Google search results.

free keyword mapping tool - Keyword Surfer

How to create a keyword map

Let the fun begin! Creating your keyword map may sound like a big project to take on, so we divided the whole process into smaller steps for you.

But before you start, you might find it helpful to make a copy of our Keyword Research Template that counts as a base for your mapping strategy.

Alright, let's go. Here’s an idea of how your keyword mapping process should look:

1. Define main topics to target

You gotta start somewhere. Decide on your seed keyword or parent topic. This is your most important keyword and it probably has a lot of search volume per month. Your website probably already has dedicated pages for these keywords.

Now let’s see what the data is showing.

Action: brainstorm and use your common sense to list all keywords you think could be interesting.

2. Perform keyword research

Once you’ve settled on your topics, research the keywords and the related topics. There are two ways to go about this: free and paid tools.

Let's start with the free tools

A GREAT starting point for this would be to do a live search on Google and analyze what’s showing and what’s related:

related keywords for keyword mapping strategy

Note: your Google results could be influenced by your location and search history. So the results you see and most likely different from what your target audience sees when they google for your keyword.

Another free tool you can use for keyword research is Keywords Everywhere:

free keyword mapping tool: keywords everywhere

In case you want more detailed info, like keyword difficulty, intent and CPC, we recommend you work with a paid tool like SEMRush.

SEMrush is an exceptional tool for keyword mapping due to its extensive keyword database, detailed analysis, and variety of research tools.

For example, the Keyword Magic Tool and Keyword Gap Tool help discover new opportunities and compare against competitors. You can organize and map keywords into logical groups, supported by a user-friendly interface.

Action: create a spreadsheet and list all your keywords in one column. You can add more info per keyword (volume, intent, etc) if you like.

3. Create keyword groups

Because the idea of mapping keywords is to avoid keyword cannibalization, we are going to group keywords that belong together.

For example, the following keywords came out of your keyword research:

  • how to clean leather belt
  • how to cut leather belt
  • how to soften leather belt
  • how to tighten leather wallet
  • make own leather wallet

You can clearly divide these keywords into two groups: Leather Belts and Leather Wallets.

Creating content clusters around these semantically related ideas will help show authority in the eyes of search engines and your readers.

Action: add "pillar page" in the second column of your spreadsheet.

Note: we increased our client's traffic with 566% by using our keyword mapping strategy.

4. Check which keywords match with existing content

Before creating new content or updating older content, we always recommend checking what keywords you already rank for. This ensures you aren’t cannibalizing existing content and more importantly, it allows you to find any low-hanging fruit that might need just a slight improvement on page to rank higher.

Action: are you already ranking for certain keywords in your list? Add the URLs of those pages in the third column of your spreadsheet.

5. Blog title creation

Now, for the keywords that don't have a blog article or page assigned to them yet, we're going to create blog article titles for those.

6. Optimize existing content

For the keywords that do have a blog article or page assigned to them, optimize those pages so that they increase in their rankings. Read about how to optimize by learning about EEAT.

7. Content Calendar

Now that you know which pages or blog articles need to be created, we're going to add them to a content calendar.

Having a content calendar is incredibly helpful, especially when resources are limited to clearly define what work needs to be completed.

Action: Choose your content calendar tool. This can be in your spreadsheet (you only need to add dates), but we recommend using a tool like ClickUp, Trello, Asana or similar.

Screenshot of our content calendar in Clickup, our preferred tool for keyword mapping

Our content calendar in ClickUp (partly)

8. Create Content

Now that you know what your content strategy is, it’s time to actually execute on it! Build out your content calendar and fill up your content strategy for the month.

Make sure that blog articles within the same cluster are linking to each other and that they all link to the same pillar page! Without internal linking, your keyword map will fail.

9. Monitor and keep updating

Once your content is published, keep an eye out for your analytics and monitor the performance of your newest published pieces. We can learn a lot from our newly published works to see what needs adjustments or some internal linking help.

Pro Tip: We understand that sometimes content isn’t picked up by Google and therefore has some indexing issues. To finalize your keyword mapping process, ensure your content is being indexed by monitoring its status in Google Search Console:

- Go to GSC

- Copy/paste your new URL in "inspect URL" bar on top of the page

- Click "request indexing" if page is not found

Keyword mapping mistakes to avoid

We touched on it earlier, but one of the biggest keyword mapping mistakes to avoid is creating misaligned content. Before new content is created or optimized, it’s imperative to match keyword intent correctly.

The best way to avoid any keyword mapping mistakes is to check real time search results (SERPs) and craft a plan around that. You’d be shocked how many SEO teams forget this critical step.

This not only shows you what search engines want, but helps you craft your next piece of content. Draw inspiration from your competitors and see how you can make yours even better than what’s ranking high.

Keyword mapping templates

Ready to get your keyword mapping going? Here are some keyword-structuring templates you can utilize today to start your journey.

Or use our own extensive Google Spreadsheet for keyword research and keyword mapping:

keyword mapping template spreadsheet

Bottom line

If you’re serious about your content's success, you’ll lean into keyword mapping for you and your business. This strategy is more than just a checkbox; it’s a fundamental part of your SEO and content planning.

By mapping keywords effectively, you can ensure your content aligns with user intent, improves visibility, and enhances user experience.

And if time is of the essence, or you’re still unsure how to handle it, Operation Nation is here to help you develop a bulletproof SEO content strategy.

Josien Nation profile picture

Josien Nation


Co-Founder & Head of Marketing

Josien Nation is a co-founder and partner at Operation Nation. She is the leader of all things SEO at Operation Nation. She has 6+ years experience helping businesses grow their audience and get found on search engines.

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08 March 2024