Lesson 3:
How to Create a Growth-Maximizing Plan for Your Keywords

If you don’t plan out your keywords strategically, you’ll have a much harder time ranking and driving traffic to your site.

Now that you have your list of keywords, it’s time to organize them into an actionable content plan.

It’s tempting to jump straight from research into writing, but if you don’t plan out your keywords strategically, you’ll have a much harder time ranking and driving traffic to your site.

You need the right balance of high-volume, competitive keywords and simple foundational content that will develop your domain authority.

Today, you’re going to turn your keyword list into an actionable plan that will get you through the next 4-6 months of blogging.

Following this strategy, you’ll never run out of topics. Simply take a couple hours to repeat this process 2-4 times a year to keep the machine running.

Step 1: Select Your Top 50 Keywords

In the beginning, you want to focus on the keywords that offer the most bang for your buck. Those are the keywords with a high search volume and a relatively low keyword difficulty (KD) score.

Here’s how you find them. Start by sorting your keywords by volume.

1. Highlight columns A-E.

2. Select Data > Sort range.

3. Then check the “Data has header row” box.

4. Sort by Volume Z-A.

Now go down the list and evaluate each opportunity.

First, make sure it has a low enough difficulty score. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid anything with an ahrefs difficulty score greater than 20  for your first round of content.

You might have some keywords with a difficulty above 20 in your keyword list from the last lesson. That’s perfectly fine. But don’t schedule them yet. Since you’re just starting out, you’ll see results faster by focusing on these lower difficulty terms first.

For even faster ranking, try making this rule even stricter (under 15 or 10 difficulty) if you have enough low-difficulty keywords on your list.

You can also make infrequent exceptions for key terms that you absolutely want to rank for eventually. We included the term “black tea” in our initial shortlist of 50 keywords even though it had a difficulty of 36.

We knew it would take awhile for a brand new site to rank on a keyword with a difficulty of 36. But that it was important term for our business, so we wanted to get it published and give it time to rank.

And, since most of our keywords had much lower difficulty (and were ranking more quickly), we were comfortable waiting several months for this specific black tea article to rank.

Another reason to raise the threshold might be if you don’t have 50 keywords under difficulty 20. But keep in mind that it will probably take longer to rank and you’ll have to invest more time and effort up front before you see any ROI.

If you need to use more than 1 difficult term a week, it might be more effective to expand the scope of your keyword research in order to find additional low difficulty keywords to schedule.

Though you can make occasional exceptions, it is best to stick to KD <20 for the first 12 weeks. This will allow you to focus on building domain authority by targeting easier keywords that you can rank quicker.

You could also try finding more “long-tail keywords.” These are super-narrow terms like “is black tea good for an upset stomach.” The search volume is usually lower for these, but they can rank much quicker and help you establish your site.

Once you get some traction with articles ranking on Google’s top 10, you can start mixing in more challenging keywords.

If the keyword passes the difficulty test, you then need to make sure the keyword is relevant to your content plans for the upcoming 3-4 months.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Would my target customers be searching for this?
  • “Is this topic a priority for my site’s industry authority?”
  • Can this be related to the other content I want to publish in the next 3 months?”

This will help you avoid distracting topics that aren’t a priority, like loosely related topics or branded product names. You’ll have plenty of time to expand your horizons later. For now, focus on a specific niche.

When we planned out the first content for Cup & Leaf, we ruled out terms like “ginseng” and “polyphenols” because they weren’t central to our brand and industry authority.

If a keyword passes both the low-difficulty test and high-relevance test, put a “y” under the “Target?” column like the picture above. This will make it easy to filter all the content you want to include in your plan next.

Keep going until you have 50 keywords targeted.

(Pro tip: You can see how many cells have a “y” by highlighting the whole row and checking the “count” in the bottom right corner)

Once you have 50, apply a filter to display only your initial target keywords.

Highlight columns A-E again:

Then go to Data > Create a filter:  

Then click the downward triangle that appears next to “Target?” and deselect (Blanks) under “Filter by values…”

Then press OK to apply the filter:

Step 2: Schedule the Content

Now we’re going to take those 50 keywords and schedule them into an editorial calendar.

You should aim to post 2-3 articles each week. Getting into a consistent posting rhythm will help you build a regular audience and give you more opportunities to rank.

Since all of these keywords will be published in the near future, you shouldn’t worry too much about the volume of individual topics when planning.

But pay attention to the difficulty levels.

It’s best not to schedule multiple challenging keywords in the same week. So if you want target a broad keyword like “black tea benefits,” then make sure your other two articles are easier that week.

These lower difficulty articles tend to rank faster. This will bring your site organic traffic sooner and help establish your domain authority. This, in turn will make your site more competitive and help you rank for those broader high-volume keywords.

But you want to rank for those competitive, broad keywords eventually, so work on them along the way. Don’t leave them until the end — it will be a lot of work to publish. If you give them time to start ranking now, you’ll thank yourself (and hopefully us) down the road.

We’ll store this in the “Content Plan” tab.

As you schedule a keyword, enter it in this tab and assign it a week. The last column is a place you can store the outlines or drafts to your content when you start writing. Add any additional columns like an exact due date if that helps you stay organized and accountable.

Once you schedule a keyword here, make sure to mark it under the “Scheduled?” column of your keyword list so you don’t accidentally double schedule it later.

Here’s what two weeks of content for Cup & Leaf looks like:

If you can, plan your content around themes.

For example, after our “how to make tea” article is finished, the next four are related to black tea and it’s potential health benefits.

This helps us in two ways:

  1. It makes research and writing easier
  2. It provides clear internal linking opportunities

While researching the benefits of black tea, we’ll develop a pretty good understanding of who it’s good for and what to look for in the best black teas. It makes sense to write all these articles around the same time while the information is fresh in our minds.

This also provides a great opportunity for internal links. Since each article is about a similar topic, you can naturally reference them inside all of the other “black tea” posts.

Our “black tea benefits” article will also be a great resource to mention in our articles targeting “is black tea good for you” and “best black tea.”

When we discuss the “best black tea” options, we can link to the benefits article again and then recommend some specific varieties, like lapsang souchong, to our readers.

Internal links help keep visitors engaged with your site and improve your rankings on Google. We’ll talk more about how and why in our next lesson: Writing Great Content for SEO.

Wrapping Up

At three posts a week, 50 keywords will last you four months. If that sounds like a long time, start by scheduling the first month now and keep updating your schedule as you go.

As you start writing each post, you can add your outline to the spreadsheet. Add columns for any other information you want to track, like a due date or final URL once the post is published.

As you gain more experience from publishing, feel free to tweak and adjust your plan. The important thing is to have a plan so that you don’t lose track of your focus, deadlines, and goals.

And if you’re itching to start writing already, don’t worry. The next lesson will give you everything you need to create awesome content that ranks.


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