This post and template was created in collaboration with Alex Johnson, Director of User Experience at Churchill Mortgage, a former client contact, and longtime friend of Gray Dot Company. Alex is the brainchild behind the utilization of Airtable for content planning, and the template itself.
Most SEOs and content marketers will agree that it's essential to have templates and structure in place to keep keyword data, ideas, and content organized. Some of the most common templates include keyword matrices or mapping docs and content calendars.
While these templates serve their purpose, they’re often one-dimensional spreadsheets that lack strategic depth and cross-data data unification. Critical considerations like a brand’s audience personas, its products/services, and the search intent behind its keyword data often go overlooked.
This is why we love platforms like Airtable. Broadly described as a "spreadsheet-database hybrid," Airtable is a data-driven tool that helps advance your content production flow while maintaining a dynamic keyword matrix to keep your SEO strategy organized.
In this resourceful post, we explore the capabilities of Airtable in greater detail and show you how you can elevate your SEO content and keyword matrix template using this tool. You’re welcome to download and use the template that’s referenced throughout the post as a launching pad for your projects. The existing example data is mortgage lender-focused and intended as an illustration of how you can use it. As with all templates, you’ll want to tailor it to fit your needs.
Consider it an intuitive, multi-faced spreadsheet on steroids. Airtable is a customizable and versatile platform that unifies both data and strategy. Need an appetizer? Here are the key benefits we see in using this tool as an SEO keyword matrix.
What's also nice about Airtable is that it’s cloud-based (as any good matrix should be!) which seamlessly enables concurrent users and editing. We also find it more accessible and easy to share with outside vendors, freelancers, and agencies compared to Google Suite, which can sometimes be blocked by IT teams.
This is just a cursory punchlist of the many benefits that Airtable offers. Let’s have an in-depth look at some of its features.
You’ll probably hear us rave about Airtable’s cross-data capabilities more than once because that’s the underlying aspect of this tool that makes it so powerful. In addition to standard keyword metrics, like monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and cost per click, the tool offers a higher caliber of customizability and flexibility in your data.
As an example, let’s start with one of our favorite inputs for personas. These audience personas are based on your internal research and the type of individuals we’re targeting. Take a look at the sample table below and the various fields it comprises.
Each target persona has a name with tags setup up (under “Persona Name”) that can be used in other tables, like content. Further, we can include additional inputs, like whether they’re an experienced buyer or tags based on specific characteristics that are critical to your business.
In essence, personas facilitate context setting for content planning, keyword targeting, and other data inputs discussed below. This table reflects the “who” behind your strategic efforts. You can even expand upon your persona records by including percent of revenue, go-to-market targets, or cost per acquisition for each persona, which provides great depth and context for planning.
Another table that we find useful is dedicated to the core products and services that make up the business. In the case of mortgage lending, these involve various types of loans as well as handy tools the business offers.
Like personas, we’ll want to tag each product/service in its own column, that way it can be referenced as a data point in other more important tables. We also recommend assigning keywords that are relevant to each product/service. Keep in mind that this table can evolve as you continue to explore and target new keywords.
Creating a dedicated table for content is another way you can level up your data inputs and create cohesion between your keywords, audiences, products/services, and content planning efforts. In short, it’s what truly makes Airtable the hybrid keyword matrix/content planning tool that we know and love.
As you can see in the example below, we can house both new and existing content ideas, their URLs, and content format types. We can also include tags for product alignment (which are connected to our product/services table) and assign products/services to each piece of content.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As with any table in Airtable, you can fully customize each column to reflect the data inputs that matter most to you. With SEO keyword mapping in mind, we’ve also included keyword data for our content, as well as a purpose field to set the primary intention for each piece.
To give a wider scope to our content planning, we broke down our keyword data as it correlates to content into “Target” and “Supporting” keywords. This follows the hub and spoke model of content clusters and has been helpful when passing content ideas off to copywriters. We can prioritize the target keyword as the main focus of the content, but supplement and beef up that content piece with supporting keyword variables.
Although not shown in the figures, we also have columns to reference the Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, and content format for each URL. This allows us to keep our content optimization, keyword mapping, and overall inventory all organized under one roof.
The last and perhaps most important table in calling this a true keyword matrix template is for your keywords. Now that we’ve defined our audience personas, products/services, and other data inputs, it’s worth drawing our intention to the meat of our Airtable.
As mentioned above, you’ll want to include the essential metrics to know the search popularity and difficulty of target keywords, as well as incorporate data inputs mentioned above. But where you can really elevate this matrix is by creating topic clusters for your keyword data, as shown in the far-right column.
You can import metrics based on whatever keyword tool you use, such as Semrush or Ahrefs. We use the former and like to include search intent, as this overlaps nicely with our content inputs as well as the personas we’re targeting and the product/services we’re offering.
Additionally, we like to include a field for customer funnel stage. This data input can add a layer of psychology to our matrix while helping us determine what type of content to prioritize and when based on trends and seasonality in the mortgage industry.
With Airtable, you can group each table into useful “views” based on various inputs that you assign your data. Views are helpful because they allow you to organize and segment/filter/sort your data in meaningful ways, similar to a pivot table in Excel.
For our Keywords table, we’ve defined several views based on keywords by cluster, intent, funnel stage, and persona. (Input view is the pivot table view of raw data.)
When you select certain views, you’ll see a different breakdown of your data as organized by the view type. For instance, viewing clusters is a good way to quantify and prioritize keyword clusters by seeing the total search volume across a collection of related keywords within a particular theme.
In this case, knowing the aggregate search popularity of each cluster helped us prioritize and plan content calendars based on potential traffic volume.
You can do the same to view breakdowns based on the customer funnel stage or search intent, as shown in the figure below. Using our example, we’ve produced a few top-of-funnel informational pieces of content. But where we need to allocate our attention is to mid-funnel and bottom-funnel topics, focusing on commercial and navigational content.
Views are a powerful way to see your data differently and reshape your strategic perspective. It’s a great tool for content ideation, planning, and prioritization, as well as internal link strategy, content auditing, and overall assessment of your content strategy as a whole.
What also elevates Airtable above standard spreadsheet-based templates is the customizability of fields. These are your columns where any given data input can be assigned.
With tagging, as with our examples for funnel stages and personas, fields like multiple select and single select are go-to options. But the possibilities are abundant, ranging from ratings and barcodes to formulas and rollups.
With customizing fields, Airtable provides in-depth (yet simple) capabilities in keeping data highly organized and intuitive.
The beauty of creating such a rich base layer of information is you can splice it in almost endless ways, giving you a 360-degree view of your site’s SEO footprint. When translating raw search metrics into actionable plans, we fall back on some standard strategy questions to dig into all the data.
Here are some questions this Airtable template can answer and how to find them:
To support the full customer experience, most brands would be smart to create content for every touchpoint along the way. By layering both the Funnel Stage and Persona fields in this Airtable template, you can see the larger picture of where you may be missing ideal content opportunities for each of your personas.
You can see in the photo below that First Time Homebuyer Fred has two pieces of content at the top of his funnel (Awareness and Intent) but none in the lower stages (Consideration, Purchase, Loyalty, and Advocacy).
Finding the balance in quality vs quantity in SEO strategy is an art. Going after all high-volume targets will make your wins few and far between. Only chasing those small volume long tails may give you a great CTR in Search Console, but only a handful of site visitors.
Having a way to see the proportion of primary to supporting keywords within each product (or cluster) can help you strike the right balance in your SEO plan.
Layering the Intent and Product allows you to see just how deep and broad your keyword research has been for each of your product categories. You’ll be able to tell which products lean towards informational or transactional intents vs those that rely heavily on navigational searches.
If there are glaring gaps in your keyword coverage, a view like this will help you define what’s missing and make a plan. Maybe that gap is better filled by more traditional advertising, a PPC campaign, or is a natural gap in your industry. It could be as simple as tipping you off to a new rabbit hole of keyword research you need to dig through.
Given the range of data inputs, tables, and views that make visualizing your matrix ultra-simple, it’s easier to see the bigger picture behind your SEO, keyword data, and content strategy as a whole. In turn, we can better prioritize our efforts by:
As part of seeing the bigger picture, we encourage you to experiment and explore database-ifying your SEO templates in general. For us, we’re just getting started.
With any SEO or content marketing program, organization is king. Call it an extension from the cliche "content is king," but SEO is really more about how well-organized and well-thought-out the content is that makes it truly "king."
Using Airtable as your template can significantly improve your SEO keyword mapping and content planning efforts. We encourage you to download and use our template as a starting place to better organize and advance your SEO-related templates.
And for more guidance and consulting on areas like these, hit us up.