Keyword Mapping. A practical guide for the curious

Deciding whether a keyword should be targeted from a separate page or grouped with other keywords is a common problem in SEO. Keyword mapping is a process aimed at solving this problem.

Keyword mapping is commonly referred to as assigning keywords to pages. But what you really need to fix the problem is assignment themes TO content types.

In this article I will explain the benefits of this approach and most importantly show you the process. No pattern required.

Benefits of Keyword Mapping (The Alternative Way)

Fact 1. Google may see seemingly different keywords as the same topic.

For example, let’s rank these keywords in the top 10 with a single page:

  • seo basics”
  • how to use seo”
  • beginner’s guide to seo
  • start with seo”
  • seo knowledge”

Fact 2. Conversely, Google may see seemingly similar keywords as different topics.

For example, let’s compare “digital marketing” with “online marketing”. I would say these two keywords are pretty close to each other. Google disagrees.

A low SERP similarity score signals potentially different topics
Everywhere you look, the same story. The top-ranked pages and our SERP similarity score (100-point scale; the higher the more similarity) say that these are completely different topics SEO-wise.

The above two facts are also reasons why keyword mapping based on keywords alone is not the optimal way. You won’t know if you’re wasting your time targeting the same topic with different keywords or just “confusing” Google.

But why content types instead of pages or even URLs? Because before deciding which page will be used to target the keyword, you will need to identify the search intent of the keyword. And a good place to start is by identifying the dominant content type on the first page of Google.

To summarize, the benefits of keyword mapping using topics and content types are:

  • See keywords the same way Google sees them: as topics and subtopics.
  • Incorporate search intent into the process.
  • Keeping an organized list of topics, which also helps prevent duplication of content.


Keyword mapping cannot replace keyword research. While keyword mapping is basically a form of organize keywords, keyword search provides the keywords and the certainty that:

  • Your keywords have traffic potential.
  • You can match the search intent behind your keywords.
  • Your keywords will bring valuable traffic.
  • You can rank for those keywords.

Learn how to choose the right keywords with our comprehensive guide.

Going further, we’ll look at two levels of using this method: the fast lane and the more thorough one.

Learn more: What is Semantic Search? How it affects SEO

Level 1 – Fast and reasonable work

You’ll need a keyword research tool that can group keywords based on what’s in the SERP, like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. In the case of this tool:

  1. Enter your keywords
  2. Open Matching terms relationship
  3. Go to Main topics form
Three steps to find your main topics using Keywords Explorer

If you click into a parent topic, you’ll find separate topics “distilled” from your keywords. So, for example, you’ll see keywords like “children can get covid” and “infants and covid” grouped under the same topic.

Keywords grouped under the same main topic

Side note.

To identify the Parent Topic, let’s take ranking page no. 1 for your keyword and we find the keyword responsible for sending the most traffic to that page.

At this level of keyword mapping, the target keyword is the parent topic (not the keywords within that parent topic).

The next step is to identify the content type. The easiest way to do this is to see what type of content dominates the top three or five results on Google.

Typical content types are:

  • Articles
  • Video
  • Product pages
  • Product category pages
  • Landing pages
High-ranking pages with a dominant content type
For example, the dominant content type for “early symptoms” is the article.

As a result, assigning topics to content types will give you a super simple yet highly usable database.

Subject Content type
Symptoms of teething Item
When the kids turn around Item
Formula for children Mixed (product pages above)
When children can have water Item

Side note.

What about secondary or supporting keywords? We recommend that you choose them at the content creation stage as subtopics needed to cover a topic in full. Check out some ways to find them here.

So this is the fast method. The great thing is that it automates keyword grouping using real SERP data (and not just semantics).

However, it also has its downsides. Sometimes, it “hides” less popular topics that could potentially be targeted with a separate page. Here because.

The parent keyword comes from the top ranking page in the SERP. If Google thinks the best answer to the question is on a page that targets a broader topic, it will still use that. This could result in a confusing SERP like this:

Confusing SERP example
The best result is a featured snippet from a page with a broader topic. Hence the Parent Topic (here seen as “Top keyword”) in Ahrefs. But pretty much every other page in the SERP directly targets keywords.

This type of situation probably won’t happen too often. But if you want to squeeze everything out of your keyword mapping process, you need to step up to level 2.

Level 2 – Complete but takes time

In level 2, we’ll take a closer look at parenting topics to see what’s in them.

  1. First, you should choose a Main topic.
  2. Sort keywords within the topic by KD extension (Keyword difficulty). Large differences in KD will be an indication of a different set of pages on the SERP.
  3. If you see a keyword with a significantly different KD than the main topic, click SERPs button.
  4. See if the top-ranked pages, excluding the first result, are talking about the keyword instead of the main topic. You can use the Compare with function for a quick overview of the situation. The lower the SERP similarity score, the more likely you are looking at two different topics.
How to look into parental arguments

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

In the first example, we have a keyword that has a KD score 20 higher than its main topic. After investigating, we see that we may be dealing with two separate arguments: SERP similarity is quite low. Also, there is only one common result, while other pages directly target the keyword.

Keywords grouped under the same topic but with different SERPs

Next example. Here we have “teething symptoms” (KD 65) and “when babies get molars” (KD 28). Looking at SERP similarity, we see that this, again, could be the case for two arguments.

Low SERP similarity between two keywords

But there’s more. Only the lowest results directly target the keyword. Others talk about initial timelines, phases, charts, etc. This is a suggestion for another way to rank for your keyword.

Only the lower results directly target the keyword

In general, when you see that you are dealing with a separate topic “in disguise”, the decision boils down to:

  1. Targeting the main topic anyway. For example, if the top result is a featured snippet, you might be able to win it with a page on a broader relevant topic.
  2. Mark the keyword as a separate topic and target it directly with a separate page. In this case, add that keyword as a topic to target and note the content type.
  3. Moving on to SERP analysis in the more difficult cases (like our example above).

Final thoughts

Feel free to customize the process and add your own data points. If you feel like going a step further and assigning your website URLs, folders, or introducing some kind of priority (e.g., business potential), this won’t hurt.

However, keep in mind that keyword mapping is not a good way to design the entire structure of your website. Quite often, not all pages on your site should be research based.

What are the next steps after keyword mapping?

Have any comments or questions? ping me on Twitter or Mastodon.

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