This question gets asked a lot. What is the optimum number of keywords you want to use on a page.
Writing content without using keywords is unlikely to get you much traffic. It’s like playing a game of chess by making random moves, you are not likely to win the game.
Most content writers know they should be using keywords but what isn’t obvious is how many to use? And how many different keywords to use within an article?
First, let’s explain what a keyword is and then we can discuss the right number of keywords for SEO purposes afterwards.
Table of Contents
- What is a keyword?
- What is the main purpose of using keywords in SEO?
- How many words in a keyword phrase?
- How many keywords per page?
- Keywords Strategy
- Determining keyword value
- Tracking your keywords
- Final Thoughts
What is a keyword?
A keyword is a word that best describes the content on a page.
If you had to describe all the content on a page with one word, what word would you use?
Of course, you are not limited to one word, we will talk about how many words to use later in this article.
The reason we use keywords is because people searching for content using Google will type a query – a keyword – to find answers to questions they have.
The better the content matches the keyword, the higher your content will rank for that keyword – in theory at least. Good writing, SEO and formatting are also important.
What is a focus keyword?
Your content can rank for many keywords so the focus keyword is what you want to rank for most.
It’s what the articles focuses on. You will also rank for many other keywords in the content, perhaps accidentally or maybe you are writing for multiple keywords on purpose.
Your focus keyword will be in the header of the article, in the meta description and the body of your content (if you are following SEO best practises).
What is a keyphrase?
A keyphrase has the same meaning for SEO purposes as keyword. Keyphrase is better in a way because it suggests multiple words rather than a single word.
In practise, your keyword or keyphrase, will be multiple words so keyphrase is more descriptive.
What is the main purpose of using keywords in SEO?
The main purpose of using keywords in SEO is to rank well in search engines for those keywords. To do that you need your content to be focused on the keywords you are targeting.
Focus your article on the keywords you have selected
The keywords are what your article is focused on. It’s the topic of the article.
Ranking for a keyword means Google has determined your article is, to some extent, about that keyword.
Google determines this by looking at:
- The title of the article
- The headings used in the article
- The url of the article
- The content of the article
Your content will appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) for search queries for those keywords or similar, related queries.
How many words in a keyword phrase?
How long should you keyphrases be? A longer keyphrase is more specific but has lower search volume, shorter keyphrases lack context but have higher monthly search volume.
You almost never want to target a single word. One word doesn’t provide enough context to write anything meaningful. How would you write an article about “money”? How was money invented? What is money used for? How to make money? You need more words to make a meaningful article.
Although an article focused on a two word keyphrase could be useful and informative you are unlikely to rank for it unless it’s an obscure phrase or you have a high traffic site. Two words are usually far too competitive to rank for.
Three words then?
Three words is much better. You can try to rank for 4, 5 or more words but you will start to get really low search volumes the longer the keyword phrase you are trying to rank for.
How many keywords per page?
Next, let’s talk about how many different keyword phrases you can try to rank for on a single page.
A single page of content can rank for hundreds or even thousands of keywords. Ahrefs did a study of 3 million random search queries and looked at the top ranking pages and what other keywords those pages ranked for.
You can see from the graph that the top performing pages ranked for a huge number of other keywords as well. Most of those keywords are accidental rankings, the author wasn’t trying to rank for a thousand keywords!
Most of the keywords you accidentally rank for are long tail, e.g. uncommon search queries that have low volume.
Think about traffic potential
You want to choose your focus keyword on a popular topic. The reason is that you can then rank for multiple related keywords in that topic. These related keywords can be sub-headings in your article.
Each related keyword you rank for will give you additional traffic for that page.
Choosing a low volume topic means you will not find many related keywords you can rank for within the topic. This will result in lower potential traffic for your content.
Longer articles can rank for more keywords
Longer articles are good for SEO. To rank on the first page of Google you typically need articles that are 2000+ words.
One of the reasons these longer articles rank higher is you can more comprehensively answer queries or explain a topic.
Another advantage of longer articles is you can target additional keywords to rank for, as long as these additional keywords are related to the focus keyword.
First you should choose your primary keywords or your focus keywords. Then select multiple secondary keywords you want to rank for.
These keywords should be discovered using a keyword research tool. I wrote previously about a number of affordable keyword research tools.
To see the kind of results you get from a keyword research tool you can use this free widget from SE Ranking, just type some keywords to see the report:
Choose your primary keywords
Write content that is focused on your primary keywords.
You can include related content to your primary keywords, just ensure that you comprehensively address the main topic in your content.
It can be easy to get diverted from your main topic into other areas – resist this. Tightly focused articles are better for the reader and for SEO.
Choose secondary keywords related to your primary keywords
In addition to your main keyword you can add different, but related, keywords to rank for in the same article. It’s important they are related though.
You will probably make your additional keywords sub-headings although they can appear in the body of the article as well.
Try not to use keywords you have used in other articles because you will likely suffer keyword cannibalization. This occurs when you have multiple pages on your website ranking for the same keyword, you will likely suffer in your rankings because of this.
It’s natural to rank for many more keywords than you are trying for. That’s okay, it may give you ideas on other articles you can write that will target those keywords more directly. You should then add internal links to your new article so Google knows the most important page on your website for each topic.
Don’t worry about trying to find the perfect keyword for an article, just do your keyword research and once you find a keyword that has some search volume and isn’t too competitive go with that.
Determining keyword value
You might think that the keywords that have the highest monthly search volume have the highest value. Generally, this is not true.
High monthly search volume have some disadvantages such as:
- Google Ads
- High competition
- Not specific (usually 2 or 3 words only)
Unless you have a high traffic website you are probably better off targeting low competition keywords with a clear buyer intent.
Visitors who are near to making a purchasing decision will give you a higher conversion rate than buyers further up the funnel who haven’t decided to make a purchase yet.
Tracking your keywords
Of course, you will want to track how well you are doing and for that you need to track all the keywords you are trying to rank for.
You could manually type in the keywords into Google and look to see what page your article appears. But that’s not practical, realistically you will need to invest in a SEO tool that will track your rankings for you over time.
I wrote a review on SE Ranking tool previously, it’s what I use to do keyword research, on-page SEO checks and keyword tracking.
What matters the most is you write high quality content that’s aimed at providing value to your readers.
Good content combined with keyword research and SEO will bring you good results!
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