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How to Build Website Navigation Using Keyword Research

keywords in navigation

Keyword research isn’t just for on-page optimization anymore!

If that’s all you’re using keyword research for, you’re missing out on a whole lot of value and opportunity for your website. In fact, other than writing content, a great use for keyword research is building your website’s navigation.

Any keyword research you’ve done should include core/topic phrases, separate from your larger list of phrases. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the keyword research process–especially the part about core terms–before you go any further.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

OK, all caught up?  Good! Now, the core terms will give you all of the relevant high-level topics for your site. Many of these core terms will translate into the topics for existing or new pages for your website. Pages that will be part of your navigation and site structure.

We recently performed keyword research for a winery. The existing site was less than 10 pages. However using what we found in the core term research phase we were able to map out 30 additional pages that can be used to meet the needs of just about every possible winery related search.

It’s not about the number of pages, though. It’s about providing value to your audience. In this case, the audience searches for a number of winery-related events. We matched those searches with events offered by this particular winery and can now create several pages that not only satisfy that need but can also be optimized to rank for those phrases.

One of the keys to using keywords for building your site navigation is figuring out the best way to present the content that searchers are looking for. In some cases, you may have to present the same information targeting different search patterns.

A good example of this is seen with a site that sells clothing. The topics searched might be pants, tops, and dresses. But your keyword research also uncover searchers looking for clothing based on seasons, such as summer clothes, winter clothes, and evening wear. Or they may prefer to shop by their favorite brand, as the store Forever 21 allows shoppers to do on their website.

Shop by brand option

That means you want more than just top-level categories for the types of clothes. You may also benefit by having a “shop by season” option with a sub-category for each season. You can take that even further. Instead of just offering a category for winter clothes you can thin that out further by offering pages targeting women’s winter clothes or women’s winter jackets.

Just don’t get too granular. Stick to the more likely search terms. Once you get down to pink women’s jackets or bedazzled women’s winter jackets, you’re probably getting too narrow, and it’s not worth creating pages, or building a navigation around them.

Remember, you’re looking for all potential ways that searchers look for your products or services on the topical level. If the official name of your product is electrical circuit toggle, make sure you also account that some searchers are looking for a light switch.

Checklist for Turning Keywords into Website Navigation


  • Segment out our topical “core” keywords from the rest.

  • Figure out which core pages are relevant to your site and ditch the rest.

  • Any core terms that mean the same thing can be combined into one,, Don’t try to target variations that are indistinguishable.

  • Write each core term on a post-it note.

  • Segment out the top-level terms from those that are a fine-tuning of another phrase (i.e. “winery festivals” is a sub-set of “winery events”)

  • Begin placing all remaining core term post-it notes into the relevant category segments you just created.

  • Review, and don’t be afraid to move things around. Getting it right here makes it easier later.

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

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