Keywords are crucial. If you know anything about search engine optimisation, you’re already well aware of keywords and their impact. If you came across this very blog post due to a quick Google search, guess what: you got here due to the keywords present on this page.
Keywords are essentially a way to make contact with search engines, letting them know exactly what your web pages are about. With this information, they can then present users with the most relevant pages following their search queries. Furthermore, keywords are useful for discovering new subjects to build content around and refine your SEO efforts.
What’s less clear about keywords is how many should be included per page.
After all, there are no specific guidelines from Google about how many SEO keywords to incorporate. All we have is that websites will be penalised for keyword stuffing, which the search giant describes as “the practice of filling a web page with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate rankings in Google Search results.”
That said, we have done enough work in this field to have a strong idea about the number of keywords to add for maximum performance. The following guide will go over what we’ve learnt, including our recommendations, the difference between primary and secondary keywords, how to optimise content, and much more.
The Need for Primary and Secondary Keywords
When producing content, there are two types of keywords that need to be focused on: primary and secondary. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two:
- Primary keyword: Also known as the target keyword, the primary keyword – as the name suggests – is the page’s main focus. This is the subject matter the rest of the content is built around. Only a single primary keyword is used per page.
- Secondary keyword: A secondary keyword is one that closely relates to the primary keyword. For example, if the primary keyword is “SEO for beginners”, a secondary keyword could be “backlinks for SEO”. Various secondary keywords can be incorporated into one page, and these can be everything from synonyms to long-tail keyword variations.
Think of it like writing a book. The primary keyword is the title of the book. The secondary keywords can then be used as the chapters and to flesh out the book’s content.
Why Only Use One Primary Keyword?
Sticking to a single primary keyword may seem restrictive. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on a number of primary keywords to expand the reach of your webpage? The answer: No. Let us go over the main reasons below:
Each page requires a clearly defined subject
Every page you create must have a defined subject. This may sound obvious, but it’s not all that uncommon for beginners to try and pack in as much content onto a single page, and that includes covering multiple subjects in one go. That’s not good, particularly from an SEO perspective.
When people turn to Google, they are searching for something specific. They don’t want to come across a page that covers multiple topics, and the answer they seek is found buried in the middle of the content. Google feels the same way. The search giant’s job is to supply their users with the most relevant content to match their requirements. That means if a page has a specific focus, it is going to jump to the front of the line in the search results.
Optimise one keyword to rank for hundreds
It’s true. If you manage to be the top-ranking page for your primary keyword, it’s likely this will result in it showing up on the first page of Google for hundreds of other relevant keywords. It can even result in certain keywords, ones that don’t seem all that similar at first, being guests at the party. Simply put, if Google feels your page can best serve up the answers for various search terms, it will present this to their users.
The added bonus is you receive additional traffic from each independent keyword. For instance, the primary keyword might generate 1,000 clicks each month, but the additional ranking keywords could multiply that number by two, five, ten, or more for your page. Not bad at all.
Variations are covered
Extending on from the previous point, you don’t have to worry about covering variations of your primary keyword. This is because Google has you covered in that regard. If a search term has the same general intent or meaning as your primary keyword, they will still prop up your pages for their users. Google realises people search for the same general answer, but they can get there in different ways.
For example, if your primary keyword is “Air Jordan shoes for sale” and your page is ranking high, it’s likely your content would also show up prominently if someone searched “Air Jordan shoes buy”.
It’s not just variations and synonyms. Even if someone misspells their search term, Google will correct this and suggest what they likely had in mind. That, again, means your content can still show up even when mistakes are made.
How Many Secondary Keywords Should You Use?
Yes, you should stick with only a single primary keyword. That is nice and easy to follow. However, it gets a little trickier in terms of secondary keywords and how many should be included on a single page. So, how many should be used?
The answer: as many as it takes.
Ultimately, there is no set limit on how many secondary keywords you integrate into your content. As long as it fits in naturally and doesn’t venture into the ‘keyword stuffing’ territory, you are good to go. You don’t want to throw in keywords for the sake of it, of course, but it can be wise to have a list of terms that could be added.
For example, say you are writing a 1,000-word blog post and want to insert around 10 secondary keywords. That is a reasonable number for that length of content. However, don’t feel you are chained to that keyword list. If you can only fit in, say, seven of those secondary keywords, stick at that number.
The great thing about secondary keywords is that, as you’re producing content, you’ll naturally add more without even realising. This gives your pages even more search relevancy. The result: it improves your SEO efforts and, ultimately, boosts the chances of your website appearing high up in the Google Search rankings.
How to Find a Primary Keyword
Right, you are ready to create a new page for your website. You want to produce a well-researched, well-constructed piece of content that hits the mark with both your audience and Google. The starting point for this goal involves selecting a primary keyword.
As mentioned, the primary keyword is the foundation for your page. It’s the subject you base the content around, the main goal of your SEO strategy. As a result, you want to get it right with your primary keyword. This starts by doing your research.
Keyword research is always recommended before you craft any page for your website. Even if you have a primary keyword in mind, it’s still wise to put time into the research. The last thing you want is to put in all the effort of targeting a primary keyword that receives little to no traffic.
The good news is there are plenty of methods to find the right primary keyword. Here are the main ones:
- Keyword research tool: It’s an obvious starting point. However, a keyword research tool should be your first port of call when on the hunt for a primary keyword. With this type of tool, you can discover a wealth of keyword ideas, as well as benefit from actionable SEO metrics. Simply add a seed keyword, and you’ll get a list of useable options for your primary keyword. Highly rated keyword research tools include Google Trends, Ahrefs, and Semrush.
- Content gap analysis: An alternative to a keyword research tool is a content gap analysis tool. As you can likely gather from the name, this tool helps you to uncover topics to cover within a specific niche. If you’re struggling to think of new subjects to discuss within your niche, or it’s a niche you are entering with limited knowledge, this content gap tool can make a difference – supplying you with those all-important primary keywords.
- Analyse the competition: You never want to directly copy the competition. After all, you’re attempting to stand out from the crowd. Yet, analysing your competitors can be helpful in finding keywords that are proven to generate results. By seeing what they’re ranking with, you can take this as inspiration for your own content. Assuming you produce pages that are of a higher standard, you could aim to usurp the competition and take their place in the search rankings.
How to Find Secondary Keywords
The primary keyword is, pardon the pun, your primary focus. Nevertheless, you must supplement this with a healthy collection of secondary keywords. These can be used to create relevant subtopics that flesh out your content and turn pages into SEO gold.
Understandably, locating secondary keywords is not too different from the methods listed in the previous section. However, let us cover what to do when finding the right secondary keywords:
- Analyse your primary keyword: Arguably, the easiest way to detect relevant secondary keywords is to take a step back to your primary keyword. You can run this primary keyword through a specialist content optimisation tool, and it will fire out a list of secondary terms relevant to that subject.
- Check the top-ranking pages: Another way to analyse the subject is by, again, taking a glance at the competition. Input your primary keyword into Google. Now, put together a small list of the top search results. You can take these results, input them into an SEO tool, and extract valuable data, including what other terms these pages are ranking for with the search engines.
The Reasons to Limit the Volume of Keywords
Yes, you might have a collection of keywords you want to target for a specific page. However, the phrase ‘less is more’ is often applicable when it comes to keyword implementation. Here are the main reasons to limit the number of keywords you use for each page:
- More targeted: By sticking to one primary keyword, you remain laser-focused on your chosen topic. This prevents you from going off on tangents that only confuse both your audience and Google.
- Avoids keyword dilution: Imagine if you did attempt to target two or three primary keywords. This could, in effect, split the power of your keyword ranking across these terms, which can see them being “diluted” and reduce the chance of reaching the first page of search results.
- Reduces confusion: This doesn’t mean for consumers and the search engines. It reduces confusion for you or whoever is producing the content. When faced with a large list of keywords, it can quickly turn a relatively straightforward task into a difficult one where you feel like you’re spinning multiple plates at the same time. Less keywords make it easier to remain focused on the main task of producing quality content.
How to Use Optimise Content with Keywords
Having a list of keywords is all well and good. It can help you to come up with topic ideas and structure your content. However, it is crucial you know exactly how to use your primary and secondary keywords correctly. Here are some key tips to optimise content by using keywords.
Understand the intent
The search intent is determined by your primary keyword. With this keyword, you can see what type of content is hitting the top page of Google and appealing most to your target audience. There are three aspects to consider when analysing these top-ranking pages: type, format, and angles.
- Content type: There are various content types. Articles might be the most standard pages that appear at the top of search results, but you may also have to factor in product pages or landing pages. Additionally, video-based content can be the predominant result at the top of search results.
- Content format: Similarly, content can take on different formats. It could be an in-depth product review or a comparison of various products within the same category. It may be an opinion-based piece, a listicle, or a how-to guide. By analysing the top results of the search results, you get a clearer idea about what content format works best for your primary keyword.
- Content angles: Angles are in reference to the unique selling point – aka the component that convinces someone to click – of the highest-ranking pages. Think about angles like “Top 10”, “free”, “best”, “in 2023”, and “fast”. They give content an identity and a further reason for people to see what a page has to offer.
The right secondary keyword implementation
You know about the importance of the primary keyword. However, don’t underestimate the amount of work done by secondary keywords. To fully cover a chosen topic, you require these secondary keywords to come up with relevant subtopics, the type that your audience wants to consume the most.
Just remember that keyword research may not necessarily uncover every relevant subtopic for an article. To get an even better idea about what type of content searchers are on the hunt for, take a closer look at those top-ranking pages. See how these pages are structured and what subjects are covered.
For instance, this might uncover subtopics that are not directly referenced by your secondary keywords. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, these subtopics should still present you with opportunities to add these keywords within the body of content.
Think about the word count
If you have a list of keywords you want to incorporate into a piece of content, this can be tricky if you are working with a restricted word count. Say you have 20 secondary keywords to include but only want to produce a 500-word article. Trying to squeeze in all of those keywords is going to be tough, particularly when trying to ensure the content remains coherent and naturally flows.
Rather than be restricted in that way, consider bumping up the word count. Those 20 keywords can be much easier to sprinkle through your content if you’re producing a 2,000 or 3,000-word article. Additionally, this can assist when following the recommended number to include a certain keyword.
With keyword research tools, they will often suggest you try to add a specific keyword a certain number of times. If you have a keyword like “keyword research tips” and it’s suggested you add this ten times, good luck trying to make that natural across a 500-word article. Over 2,000 words, however, and you have a much easier task.
Note: don’t feel you have to follow volume suggestions to the letter. While they can be a helpful guide, you want to avoid compromising the quality of your work to match those numbers.
There’s another added benefit of increasing the word count: it benefits your SEO strategy. Google approves of long-form content. The more effort you put into producing an info-packed slice of content, the more likely Google will gobble it up, particularly if a healthy collection of keywords are part of the ingredients.
Don’t force it
It is essential you don’t become consumed by the idea of adding keywords. As we have referenced previously, Google doesn’t appreciate keyword stuffing. Yes, it can be recommended to add certain keywords more than once, but you don’t have to aim for some sort of unnatural keyword density.
Say you want to add a keyword like “SEO tactics” with a 5% density in a 1,000-word article. That doesn’t sound too bad on the surface. However, that is 50 words in total, which is using the keyword 25 times throughout the article. That type of volume is going to kill the flow and natural-sounding nature of the content. Oh, and Google will likely penalise the page.
On the topic of not forcing it, this also applies to certain secondary keywords. Yes, it can be helpful to add closely related keywords and synonyms to increase the potential reach of your page. However, Google isn’t going to rank your page any higher just because you have used a higher number of keywords than other content covering the same subject.
Think about the structure
The structure of your content is always essential. It not only helps with organising content across your page but is also great for retaining the attention of users. This isn’t all. There’s another key point in that regard – it helps Google to better crawl and understand your page. That’s why, when putting together the structure of your content, you have to think about how to add keywords the right way.
Firstly, you must use your primary keyword within the title. This is the main target of your content, and that has to be clearly spelt out. Along with the title, the primary keyword should be included in the H1 tag. This can be done with ease by simply aligning the title and H1 tags so they’re identical.
With your other heading tags – aka, H2, H3, and all the way down to H6 if you go in-depth enough – try and include those secondary keywords. This should only be done if it’s natural to do so. However, it assists your SEO in more ways than one. As well as ensuring these secondary keywords get the spotlight, it also helps Google to better understand your content – that’s necessary for it to be propelled up the search results.
Another small yet effective tip is to include the primary keyword in the page’s URL. This will be done automatically if the URL settings are to simply copy the page’s headline. By doing this, it supplies added context for both searchers and Google.
Although there is no defined answer to how many SEO keywords to include per page, there is a general guideline to follow, as highlighted in this guide. With a single primary keyword and a sprinkling of secondary keywords, you can give a page the SEO treatment it deserves, and push it further up the Google Search results.
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