Just as with other SEO factors like link building, how, when, and what keywords we use has changed a lot since the early days. In years gone by, search engines like Google considered plurals or even the same words in a different order to be completely separate keywords, so sites would be stuffed with dozens of variants of the same phrase.
Thankfully, updates like Hummingbird made searching for anything on the internet much more natural and have removed the need to cram as many different keywords into a page as possible. You’ve probably become accustomed to how intuitive Googling something is today, but if you ever try to use an older website’s search tool you’ll quickly remember how clunky searching used to be.
So, if you don’t need to cram in as many as possible, how many SEO keywords should you use?
What Do We Mean by a “Keyword”?
For clarity, keywords can be both single words or a string of several. They help to signify the ideas and topics in your content and are the words and phrases that your users will be typing into Google or Bing when they’re searching for answers.
Why Are Keywords Important?
Keywords are important as they help to connect you to the people searching for your content. Your aim is to drive traffic from search results to your website and then convert it into a lead or a sale, so the keywords are one of the earliest connections you make to potential customers.
Let’s say you run a business that sells domestic fire safety equipment. You might produce a piece of content that helps to explain the different categories of fire extinguisher and when you would use each one.
In this instance, you’ll want to connect with consumers that are looking to understand which fire extinguishers they should buy for their home and, therefore, choose keywords that these people are likely to be using in their search.
There are plenty of keyword research tools you can use to help you find the ones you need, and you’ll likely want to spend some time doing this. Be sure to read our blog on the subject to find which tool is right for you.
How Many Keywords Should I Target?
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as suggesting a magic number that everyone should rigidly stick to. It is, like with everything in SEO, nuanced and dependent on several different factors.
That said, one thing that SEO experts do agree on is that you shouldn’t just choose one. Even if you have a tiny budget for SEO, ranking for just a single keyword is unlikely to attract enough visitors.
For small businesses, many suggest that you should initially target around five keywords that have a monthly search volume of 100 or more. If you have a bigger budget and more resources, then you may wish to choose more than five.
Being selective in the number of keywords you target, at least initially, allows you to focus your resources on ranking well for those rather than spreading yourself too thinly.
It’s also worth noting that if you choose five keywords, that doesn’t mean you’ll only rank for the exact match of those five. You’ll also be able to rank with different word orders, with “stop words” (the, for, a, etc.), and in long-tail keywords.
For example, you might choose to target “home fire extinguishers”, but this should also naturally rank you for other search terms like:
- Fire extinguishers home (different word order)
- Fire extinguishers for the home (with stop words)
- What fire extinguishers should I use at home? (long-tail)
Very long-tail keywords that get just a couple of searches every few months but are hyper-relevant could also rank and deliver highly qualified traffic. So, in this example, this could be someone searching for something like “what type of extinguisher should I use for grease fires in my kitchen?”
As you start to see good results with your first five, you can begin to slowly add further keywords to your list.
Assign Your Keywords to Pages
There is no hard limit on the number of keywords you choose for your site, but you should be aiming to have each page focus on a single topic and lead with a primary keyword that’s supported by other secondary keywords that relate to it.
You should be careful not to cannibalize your keywords too. This happens when you have multiple pages or articles that target the same keywords and end up competing with each other.
Therefore, by assigning a keyword to a page and building some good content around it, you’ll focus all the search traffic on a single place.
Overwhelmed by keywords? Sympler has a team of SEO experts that can help you get the most from your digital marketing. Get in touch today and let’s see how far we can take your business.