Keywords are the lifeblood of SEO.
Forget backlinks, forget technical SEO, and forget everything else.
Every SEO campaign starts and ends with keywords.
Which begs the question: how many keywords should you use?
Pop over to any SEO tool and search for some keywords: you’ll probably get hundreds, if not thousands of results.
While that’s good of the SEO tool(Rank Tracker, hint hint) to give you so many results to work with, it can also be overwhelming to sift through the vast number of keywords to plan your content strategy.
In this post, we’ll explain how many keywords you should use and what the best way to go about it is.
Keywords are words and phrases that people use to search for something. If you wanted to make pancakes for breakfast, you may head over to Google and search for something like:
“Easy pancake recipe”
In this case, “easy pancake recipe” is a keyword.
As a website owner, your job is to create content that people are looking for. Keywords give you ideas to create content around, and using keywords in your content signals to search engines what your content is actually about.
For example, you could have a KILLER pancake recipe published on your blog, but if you don’t mention the phrase “pancake recipe” anywhere in your content, how would search engines know what your content is about?
One piece of content(or page) on your website should focus on a single keyword or topic.
To continue the earlier example, your recipe blog would have one page about a pancake recipe and another page about a waffle recipe.
This is because a pancake recipe and a waffle recipe are two unique things that people search for differently.
However, if the phrase you were targeting was “brunch recipes”, it would make sense to include both pancake and waffle recipes on the same page, since your topic here is brunch, which is yet another unique thing.
In this context, it would not make sense to have a single page target “brunch recipes” and “dinner recipes”.
The best way to figure out what to actually target is to find keywords that people use and then see what Google is showing for those keywords.
[ranktracker keyword finder]
Back in the good ol’ days of SEO, you could create individual pieces of content around topics like “best camera for moms,” “best mom camera”, and “best cameras for moms” and manage to rank all three pages.
Today, search engines are much smarter and they understand that the search intent behind those three keywords is the same.
As a result, you could create a single piece of content that targets “best camera for moms” and use the other variations of the keyword in your content where it makes sense.
If you were to rank for this topic, you’d probably show up for all of those keywords, since the end-result the searcher wants to see is the same.
Next time you do keyword research and find keywords that are similar in nature, just pop each one into Google search and see what kind of pages are showing up.
Are the same pages showing up for different keywords?
If so, Google thinks that the intent behind all of these keywords is the same, and you just need to create a single piece of content.
If different pages are showing up, then the intent is different, and you’ll need separate pieces of content.
If you were searching for information about Sony digital cameras, which page would you find more useful:
- A page that lists 10 Sony digital cameras with their tech specs, description, and reviews
- A page that lists 10 Sony digital cameras along with 10 Fuji digital cameras and 10 Canon digital cameras
You’ll probably go with option one, right?
That’s because you’re already looking for targeted information: the brand of your choice is Sony, and all you care about in this query is Sony cameras.
So any page that talks about other cameras is providing information that is irrelevant to you.
There used to be a paradigm in search engine optimization where longer content used to rank better because it was considered to be more “thorough”, but as of Google’s more recent updates, it seems that longer content doesn’t always prove to be advantageous.
For some queries, a simple 500 word article does the job just fine!
It all depends on the keyword you’re targeting and how much content is required to cover that topic.
The best way to determine this is to search for the phrase on Google and see what kind of content the top 10 sites are ranking with.
When you target multiple keywords in a single piece of content, or worse, when you target the same keyword across many pieces of content, you’re committing a grave SEO sin called keyword cannibalization.
In keyword cannibalization, search engines get confused as to which page should rank for a particular keyword.
When your keyword targeting is on point and you’re targeting a single topic on a single page, you’ll make it easier for search engines to understand what your content is about.
It’s not unusual for a single page to rank for thousands of keywords.
Nearly all of these keywords will be topically related, but because each Google search is so unique, you end up ranking for and getting traffic from phrases you didn’t even know existed.
The key to remember here is that you must target a single topic. Pages that cover broader(or higher-volume) topics will naturally rank for more keywords whereas pages that target narrow topics(or lower-volume ones) will rank for fewer keywords.
[screenshot from rank tracker]
Yes, you can have too many keywords on a page.
Remember, you’re writing for users, not search engines, so you have to strike a balance between including keywords but not to the point that it looks like keyword stuffing.
For example, this post talks about “how many SEO keywords should I use”. If you’re wondering how many SEO keywords you should use, the answer to how many SEO keywords you should use is 10.
Do you see how difficult that was to read?
The reality is that there’s no sweet spot for the number of keywords (or the number of times to use a keyword).
At the very least, you must use your target keyword in four places:
- The title of your page
- Your page’s URL
- Your page’s H1 tag
- At least once in the page’s introduction body content
How many times you use the keyword after that must be gauged from how frequently your competitors that are already ranking in the top 10 do so.
Search engines are so good nowadays that just using the keyword naturally throughout the post will suffice to get you the results you’re looking for.
Your homepage should also target a single keyword or topic.
In the case of many websites, the homepage does not really target any particular keyword except for the brand name.
Service-oriented businesses may target a specific keyword on their homepage: for example, a dentist office in Sacramento may use “Dr. Khan: Sacramento Dental Clinic” as the keyword their home page is targeting.
Keyword density varies from page to page and it’s difficult to ascertain what the ideal density is without looking at the top 10 results first.
Hubspot suggests using 1-2 keywords for every 100 words, which works out to be 1-2%.
In reality, when you write naturally and for readers, you’ll end up using the keyword itself as well as variations throughout your content.
So, how many SEO keywords should you use? The answer is: it depends. You want to make sure that the keywords you target are relevant to your business and audience, while also making sure that your content is high quality and engaging.
If you’re not sure where to start, try using a keyword density tool to help you find the right balance for your website. What other techniques have you used to improve your SEO ranking? Let us know in the comments!