Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
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SEO Planning

Consider Your Audience

Before you start your keyword planning, you need to have a good sense of your audience and how they will be searching for your pages. All Feinberg websites should put student and research audiences first. Patient audiences may find themselves on our sites through search, but we link them to affiliated hospital and care sites through Patient Care bridge pages rather than hosting original, patient-focused content.

Brainstorm Keywords

A good keyword is one you know your target audience is using to search for content like yours. Consider both long-tail keywords (e.g., “how to apply to Feinberg medical school”) and short-tail keywords (e.g., “medical school”). Long-tail keywords tend to be searched less often, but they also tend to have less competition and signify a more engaged user.

Follow these steps to create a working list of potential keywords:

  • Brainstorm: Write down words representing what you think are the most important concepts on your page. Ask your team to do the same, and compare lists. Eliminate any keywords that include marketing jargon. People don’t take the time type “world-class” or “industry-leading” into a search field, so marketing-speak doesn’t have value to search engines.
  • Use autosuggest to expand your list: When you type a keyword into the search box, a drop-down menu of related long-tail keywords will appear. Add any appropriate terms to your list, but remember that these suggestions are not related to search volume.
  • Review Google Analytics: If your site is already being analyzed by Google, you can use this tool to see what terms some of your users are already using to find your site.

Narrow Your List

Once you’ve got your list of potential keywords, you can use Google AdWords to analyze their popularity. Don’t let the paid search information on AdWords scare you — it’s free to use the keyword tool. Look for the Keyword Planner under the Tools drop-down menu and add your list of terms into the “Get search volume data and trends” section. You can also add some more basic keyword terms to the “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category” section.

A traditionally desirable keyword is one that has low competition and a good amount of average monthly searches. Content with this information is something users want but not many other sites are providing.

Keywords with low or no results means that people aren’t searching for content using that combination of words. Before you cross them off your list, play with the terms to see if another combination works. For example, “Chicago MD program” has no associated metrics, but “MD programs” does.

Make sure your final list includes a mix of long-tail and short-tail keywords. Using “Chicago cardiology” in addition to “cardiology” may not result in a lot of additional traffic, but will result in traffic of a higher quality. Also try adding prefixes, suffixes and pluralizing your keywords (dog: doggy, doggie, dogs, puppy).

Don’t forget to include related words. For example, if there is a page about cardiology, you’d expect to see words like “heart” and “cardiovascular.” Search engines like to see those relationships on a page, as it suggests that the content is truly relevant to what the user wants.

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