Tracking Primary Keyword Phrases with Three Uniquely Different Tools

How do you find your primary keyword phrases?

A Keyword Universe is comprised of every word that can bring awareness to your website. These keywords need to be the phrases your potential audience is searching for, and ones that categorize the content on your website. If you add a keyword phrase into your Keyword Universe then you should have corresponding content about it on your website.

The phrases in your Keyword Universe consist of two main types, which are known as primary keyword phrases and secondary keyword phrases.

Your primary keyword phrases, also known as keyword clusters, are typically based on your most broad keyword phrases. These keywords are usually topics or main categories on your website.

For example, a primary keyword for the Mequoda Daily is “Online Publishing.” It’s one of the topics that we have filled with keyword-rich posts. Our “Online Publishing” topic currently has 252 articles within it that use “online publishing” as a keyword phrase.

Your primary keyword phrases or clusters could have hundreds of related secondary keyword phrases.

Secondary keyword phrases are usually between three to five words long and are more specific than primary keyword phrases. Secondary keyword phrases will typically have smaller search volumes and less competition and will be more direct to your specific niche.

The more specific your secondary keyword phrase is, the better chance of getting ranked in Google, which as mentioned earlier, will help gain more visibility for your website.

For example, let’s say you have a publication about music, and “Jazz” is a primary keyword phrase. Within that cluster, one of your secondary keyword phrases might be “Contemporary Vocal Jazz.” This would be a more specific phrase with a smaller search volume, and much less competition, than “Jazz” itself.

Use your keywords in articles, free report titles and any other medium used for building traffic, such as social media.


Tools for tracking primary keyword phrases

On the surface, aiming for the most popular SEO keywords seems like a good strategy. But in reality, it can be like trying to slay a dragon with a pea-shooter. The big guys with the bazookas may have you outgunned.

The little-known fact is, if your SEO keyword strategy is targeting only highly popular and competitive terms, your odds of SEO success are minimal. Alternatively, you might want to settle for aiming at smaller targets… and succeeding.

An effective SEO strategy begins with extensive research. Before you even get started, find out the keyword phrases searched most frequently by customers in your market.

You can do this by using tools that will tell you what keywords web visitors used to arrive at your website.

Google Analytics (or the tool that you use for analytics) is your first go-to because it’s the most accurate. We use Google Analytics and it’s pretty easy to find your top keywords. Start with Standard Reporting > Traffic Sources > Overview. Our current top keyword is “webmaster job description” and another, oddly enough, is “cash register”. We do have better top keyword phrases though, like “subscriber centric” and “what is relationship marketing?”

Both of these refer to blog posts that exist on our website. Many times, when it makes sense, we’ll turn a popular post into a free white paper that turns all of that traffic into a list full of subscribers.

That’s when they become “primary keyword phrases.”

In some ways, these next two tools are even more valuable than Google Analytics.

All of the lists, albeit slightly different, can be valuable in giving you a big picture look at what search engines and data-driven sites consider your top content.

Alexa offers a list of your top keywords, measured by how impactful they are to your website. For example, Alexa says one of our top keywords is “newsletter design best practices,” which corresponds to a white paper landing page. So this page is definitely impactful for us because it’s a funnel that turns visitors into subscribers.

Alexa also tells us whether our top keywords are increasing in search volume, or if they’re dying off. A news organization that posts more timely content is likely to see much steeper decline rates as some news gets old and new stories gain traction. gives you top keywords that drive traffic to your site from the perspective of PPC. This is valuable because you can see how much the keywords you’re ranking for organically (free) are worth as paid ads placing a sort of monetary value on your SEO efforts.

There are also lots of paid tools like that can give you other unique perspectives.

This information alone is not enough to guide your SEO efforts and create the right keyword-rich editorial content, but it’s the first playground for figuring out what you’re already successful at. If you haven’t been big into search optimization yet, these results may shock you; either you’re already doing a great job, or your searchers are coming from out of left field.

When you get too many people who arrive on your site from keywords unrelated to your content, your bounce rate skyrockets. When your bounce rate skyrockets, Google starts to think that your content isn’t that valuable to the people who click on it.

This can have disastrous effects on your rankings. Instead of letting it go, take charge of your Keyword Universe and pick primary keyword phrases that can easily turn into your new top keywords list on all of the above sites.

Want to discuss your keyword strategy with us? Contact Ann-Marie Sullivan, our member services manager, to set up a no-obligation call with Don Nicholas, Mequoda’s CEO and lead consultant.


    Norann, this is a very comprehensive post on keyword phrases. Being relatively new to SEO, it’s always good to find new ways to use familiar tools. Thanks for this article.


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