How to Create A Keyword Matrix For SEO And PPC: A Step By Step Guide

To get your business in front of your target audience, you need to help people find you.

Unfortunately, many marketers make the mistake of only going after keywords that exactly match or relate to what they are selling.

Most searchers are not looking to buy something. They’re gathering information and options before making a buying decision.

Going after only keywords that relate to buying won’t work – unless you’re selling something no one else is.

To increase your visibility, you need to target search terms and create content around keywords or phrases that people are typing into the search box.

To find them, employ the power of keyword research and a keyword matrix.

With these weapons at your side, you’ll be to attract a much larger audience and face less competition along the way.

In this post, I’ll teach you how to identify keywords worth planning your marketing campaigns and content around.

What’s In A Keyword?

Keywords are words or phrases searchers input into search engines.

This information is used by search algorithms to show results that best match user intent.

For example, typing problems with fiberglass pools” leads to results that include these keywords in the body of content.

what is a keyword

This is critical for a positive user experience.

Intent isn’t relevant for algorithms only. Keyword intent also reveals the likelihood of an individual searching for that term to engage in a particular action, such as making a purchase.

Imagine receiving 100k unique monthly visitors but only making $500 from that traffic.

That’s not a scenario you want to find yourself in.

When planning your ad campaigns and content, it’s important to take into account both search volume and intent levels that hint at the likelihood of purchase.

Here’s a breakdown of the different categories of keywords found in the sales funnel you can use to gauge purchase readiness:


At the top of the funnel are head keywords.

These are broad keywords with large search volumes but very little to no intent.

“Cameras” is a great example of a head keyword. These types of keywords are frequently used when people are unsure of what they’re looking for (research phase).

As people take a specific direction and become engaged, they end up mid funnel.

In this stage, body keywords are utilized. These are similar in nature to head keywords with the exception that intent is more clearly demonstrated.

For example, “camera under $800” hints that a searcher is looking to buy a camera.

Near the end of the funnel, long-tail keywords reveal the exact goal of the searcher.

Continuing with our camera example, they might search for “best dslr cameras under $800”. At this point, there’s no mystery as to what the end goal is.

When it comes to search volume and conversion rate of each of these of keywords, there is a clear relationship between the two variables.

keyword volume graph

As intent becomes more defined, conversion rate increases at the expense of search volume.

Another way to organize keywords using intent is by placing them in the following categories:

types of keywords

These keywords simply act as a means to an end.

The search engine is used as a navigational aid to help users get where they want.

For example, “facebook login” indicates what the searcher is hoping to accomplish. It’s nearly impossible to convert this audience.

People’s desire to uncover answers leads them to utilize informational keywords.

Such keywords with healthy search volumes not obvious to your competition make ideal targets.

For example, if you’re selling SEO software, your audience is also likely to be looking up “on-page seo” or “link building” instead of just “best seo tools.”

Transactional keywords are pretty straightforward.

They represent a searcher’s desire to carry out an action. For example, “buy 2014 toyota corolla” clearly reveals what the searcher hopes to achieve.

These keywords are highly competitive and hard to rank for.

Branded keywords are often overlooked.

These are searches that seek a specific brand, website, or individual. For example, “Microsoft Office” is a branded keyword.

Branded keywords demonstrate a high level of intent. When someone types in “Microsoft Office,” they are either considering purchasing or en route to buy it.

While it’s possible to siphon traffic from these keywords, it’s no easy feat.

You’ll have tons of competition from other brands creating product comparisons or targeting ads on SERPs by going after the same branded keywords.

This strategy is worth investigating if you’re targeting smaller brands or options that are widely known but not particularly popular. It’s not as likely to pan out targeting brands like Amazon or Facebook.

The Blueprint To Finding The Right Keywords

Keyword research is an ongoing process.

As you build and maintain your website, you need to constantly look out for potential keywords to base your content around.

There’s no faster way to lose traffic than uploading content that is not relevant or helpful to either the search term that leads to it or to your customer’s intent.

Think of keyword research as a roadmap for how your website looks and reads.

The entire process can be visually represented by breaking it down into the following tasks.

keyword research process

We can condense this further into the following three steps.

Let’s dive in:

Keyword Discovery: Speak The Same Language As Your Audience

Your first task is to uncover as many keywords as possible relating to your website, business, products or industry.

This helps you visualize how people are searching for the information, products, or services that you offer.

How do you find these terms?

Step 1: Identify who your customers are

Most people skip this step and rush straight to typing in keywords that they believe people in their industry are looking for.

The problem with this approach is that your competitors are doing the exact same thing.

This translates into incredible competition for a handful of keywords.

Here’s how you can solve this:

Spend some time identifying who your top or most common customers are. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine the world from their eyes.

Think of their objectives, fears, and challenges and how this may translate into search terms when they turn to the Internet for help.

Take a look at your social communities. Your fans and followers are likely representatives of customers that have engaged with your brand.

We recommend a detailed approach in which you analyze your existing audience to create search personas. When completed, it may look something like this.

search persona

For a super handy fill-in-the-blanks persona builder, click HERE.

Step 2: Find topics your customers care about

You don’t want to rely on educated guesses to drive content strategy.

Wrong guesses are expensive. If you hire a content creator at $20/hr, a 5,000-word blog post that roughly takes 25 hours to complete will set you back $500.

Repeat this for a dozen or so mistargeted keywords and you’ll waste thousands of dollars and countless man hours.

And we haven’t even accounted for the cost of content promotion yet.

To find the exact topics your potential customers care about and the language they use to describe it, hang out in the same online communities they do.

This may differ from industry to industry but these are great places to start:

Let’s take a look at an example on how you can do this on Reddit.

Start off by searching for your niche using Reddit’s search option.


For example, if I’m interested in “cameras” I will type into search.

The results show a list of relevant subreddits (communities) of interest. Since the top result looks promising with over 13k subscribers I decided to go with this one.

reddit search

After clicking through, you’ll be shown a list of discussions taking place.

To find the most popular or best discussions, click on “Top” and then select “Past Week” from the drop-down menu on the left.

reddit search organized

If you want to select a longer time frame to analyze, consider going with “Past Month”, “Past Year”, or “All Time”.

Since I selected “Past Week”, here are the results I’m shown:

reddit keyword ideas

A quick glance reveals a bunch of potential keyword and content ideas.

While this process is great, it inevitably leads to many keywords which demonstrate low intent.

Remember that the best keywords are conversion-focused in nature.

Fortunately, Reddit is again helpful. It’s likely that many users come to the camera subreddit to find purchase-related advice or information.

Simply type in an action oriented word such as “buying” and limit the results to the subreddit in question.

conversion focused reddit

Go through the results to see the language people use when they’re looking to buy a camera.

buyers keywords

Based on this information, you can come up with content ideas such as:

As these long-tail keywords relate to purchases that people are actually searching for, converting this audience into customers is relatively easy.

If you’re pressed for time, you can speed this process up by using scrapers like Keyworddit.

Just type in the subreddit you’re interested in and you’ll get a list of keywords organized by search volume.

Check out what happens when I search the camera subreddit:


Keep digging for content ideas or topics using these methods until you have at least 5 that are popular amongst your target audience.

Step 3: Identifying keywords from your topics

With a list of topics to choose from, it’s time to start filtering for the right keyword.

Here’s how you can go about this:

Head over to Google and type in a topic into the search box but don’t actually hit enter. Instead, wait for Google to populate a list of suggestions of related keywords of interest.

For example, notice what happens when I type in “on-page seo”.

google suggestion

Google suggests a list of related keywords I may be interested in.

Note these down and re-enter Google’s suggestions back into the search box to see if Google provides even more recommendations.

Take this as far as possible until you start seeing the same suggestions.

Remember that putting a few spaces before your keyword in search may unlock a brand new set of suggestions. Make sure to try this before you call it quits.

Also, don’t forget to check out Google’s ‘related to’ feature.

Like before, type in your topic in the search and go to the results page.

Scroll down to the bottom to find a list of related keyword searches that you may find of interest.

google related-to

Besides Google, there are plenty of other tools on the market such as Google Keyword Planner, UberSuggest, and to help you find popular keywords in your niche.

For a complete list of tools that can help generate keyword ideas your competition doesn’t know about, click here.

Build A Keyword Matrix By Grouping Your Keywords Into Themes And Concepts

With a list of target keywords, you’re ready to move on to the next phase.

Grouping keywords into groups based on recurring themes or concepts is important for two reasons.

When setting up or maintaining your website, you want it to be organized. Otherwise, crawlers won’t be able to accurately index your content (leads to lower rankings).

Since we’re targeting keywords with favorable search volumes and high commercial intent, grouping keywords helps us select or eliminate keywords in a single swoop.

Here’s a sample keyword matrix organized through grouping:

keyword matrix

Notice how keywords are separated by categories such as social media and web design.

Each category is then populated with several keywords based on intent (head, body, and long-tail keywords).

If you only have head or body keywords, you can easily make longer iterations of them.

If you need some help, check out MergeWords.

Simply enter your root keyword and a few related phrases and the software will create lengthier permutations based on the fragments you provide.


Ranking Your Keywords Based On Potential

With keywords grouped and organized, it’s time to find the ‘gems’ in your list.

The last and final step is to go through your matrix and rank keywords based on their potential.

Step 4: Analyze each keyword’s potential

Keyword potential is determined by objectively looking at search volume and commercial intent.

Remember that commercial intent is an indication of how likely someone searching for that keyword is to buy or make a purchase.

When mapped together, we see the following relationship between the two variables.

volume intent relationship

We can see that as keywords get simpler (from long-tail to head), search volume increases.

This means as you sort and rank each keyword, priority should be given to keywords with high traffic and high intent.

Overlay your findings for each keyword into one of the following quadrants.

matrix sections

So how do you uncover search volume and determine intent?

Let’s take a look:

Search volume:

Up until last year, Google Keyword Planner displayed accurate search volumes for keywords for everyone.

That privilege is now reserved for individuals with a “high monthly spend” only.

Everyone else is shown a search volume range which is pretty much useless. A range of 100K-1M doesn’t give you much to go on.

Fortunately, there are plenty of freemium and paid tools available in the market that still show the exact search volume for a keyword.

Here are a few worth checking out:

Check out this sample search for “seo” on KWFinder.

Amongst the columns of information displayed, one is dedicated only to search volume.

kwfinder search volume

Going on search volume information from these tools alone is risky.

Most show average search volume per month at best for the past year. It’s hard to visualize whether search volume is increasing or decreasing.

This is why before picking a keyword, consider entering it into Google Trends.

Let’s look at an example to highlight why this is important. In mid-2015, Google decided to rebrand Webmaster Tools into Google Search Console.

google trends

If you decided to target one of these keywords 6 months post rebranding, Google Webmaster Tools seems to be the obvious choice.

It continues to command a higher average monthly search volume.

However, a quick glance at the trends data shows that rebranding was making an impact.

Search volume for Webmaster Tools was predictably decreasing while increasing for Search Console. If you connected the dots, the latter made the better keyword choice.

Unfortunately, such insight isn’t possible if you only look at average monthly search volume.

Commercial intent:

Head back to Google Keyword Planner and type in a keyword such as wordpress hosting and click on “Get Ideas”.

keyword planner

In the results section, direct your attention to the ‘Suggested Bid” column.

The value given here shows you how much advertisers are willing to spend per click for that keyword in Google Ads.

keyword planner bids

The higher the bid amount, the more valuable that keyword is.

An even easier method to determine commercial intent is to see the number of ads that show up for your keyword on the SERP page.

For “wordpress hosting”, here are the results:

ad value

If you see a ton of ads whether they’re above the fold or on the sidebar, you’re looking at a competitive (and in terms of PPC, expensive) keyword.

How To Disperse Keywords In Your Content

Once you’ve gone through your matrix and ranked everything, you’re ready to start populating your landing pages and website with content.

As a word of caution, don’t fall into the trap of keyword stuffing.

You may be tempted to repeatedly use your target or related keywords within your content in order to manipulate your site’s ranking.

This doesn’t work anymore. A page full of keywords but light on content/value will have a high bounce rate as visitors realize the page has no value.

And if you’re caught, you could be severely punished: Google could lower your page rank or delist it entirely.

A better option is to populate your content with LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords.
These are words or phrases people find of interest in relation to your target keyword.

Including them in your content increases provides a ranking boost.

For example, let’s say my target keyword is “email automation”. Head over to LSI Graph and type it into the search option and click “generate”.

lsi graph

The results provide a list of phrases that if included in your content helps increase relevancy.

These long-tail search terms are also less likely to be saturated, giving your relevant content a better chance of rising in the SERPs.


Whether you’re trying to rank organically through or SEO or run a successful PPC campaign, keywords are at the heart of your efforts.

Taking them lightly or ignoring them altogether sets you up for failure from the start.

A keyword matrix provides actionable insight that you can use to drive your ad and content strategy.

The best part? The process I’ve described is universally applicable, regardless of your niche.

A surefire way to drive relevant traffic to my site? Sign me up!

About The Author: Ryan Eldridge is Chief Strategist at Squirrel Digital Marketing, a data-driven growth marketing company and digital marketing agency. He is also CEO and Co-Founder of Nerds on Call, a computer repair company servicing clients throughout California and Oregon. He appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and Fox 2 in Oakland, offering viewers insight into tech news and marketing. See Ryan in action at