Suppose you’ve been working to boost your site’s ranking and establish your search engine optimization process. In that case, you’ve likely been researching the best SEO practices regarding keyword usage and figuring out how many SEO keywords per page are optimal to land on the first page of the search results.
You know that showing up prominently (and organically) on the search engine results page (SERP) and being in the top 10 of the SERP is goals.
You desperately want to make it to that first page and generate traffic for your website. But how do you get there?
What does it take for Google to recognize your authority on a subject and promote your knowledge about it?
And, does it matter how many SEO keywords per page you use?
If so, how many keywords SHOULD you use? (The answers to that are yes, and we’ll get to that, by the way).
If these questions keep you up at night, this post is for you.
Establishing your keyword SEO strategy
This post will cover how to determine:
- How many keywords you should use per page,
- How to find related keywords and the right keywords for your page,
- What your keyword density should be, and
- How to avoid being penalized for “keyword stuffing.”
But first, what are keywords, and why are they important?
SEO keywords are the terms or phrases people type into search engines to discover relevant content. The keywords you choose to incorporate will define how search engines see your page and determine your site’s usefulness for a particular topic. It’s the primary way of helping your content reach its intended audience.
Keywords are the touch points that guide us through an infinite abyss of content on the internet.
They can be as simple as one word or involve a longer, more specific phrase (long tail keywords).
Both types help build up your content’s trustworthiness and reliability regarding search rankings.
You can integrate keywords not only into the text of your web page but also into your page’s HTML code through the meta description tag and the title tag.
So, how many SEO keywords per page do I need?
It would be a lie if I didn’t say that was a complicated question.
While there’s no correct answer to how many keywords you need, best practices suggest that you should target only one keyword per page. At maximum, two or three keywords per page is allowable but starting to get a bit claustrophobic.
Most SEO experts agree that any more than that is counterproductive.
In other words, the fewer keywords in play, the better.
Every page should have its own unique and specific keyword.
Once you decide your topic, establish one primary keyword for that particular page. If you have a secondary keyword, choose one that is related and offers more detail and substance to the primary keyword but has a lower search volume.
Ex: If your primary keyword is “horseback riding,” an appropriate secondary keyword phrase could be “horseback riding lessons” or “Western horseback riding.
Being overzealous with how many keywords you can cram into your text muddies the waters and splits your focus. It strips clarity from your content and makes your writing sound funny and unnatural. (Yes, it’s obvious when you’re overdoing it).
It’s a turn-off for your readers.
Readers don’t stick around for ideas that are difficult to track with, so they leave and increase your bounce rate.
In addition, it also inherently makes it harder for search engines to understand the focus and intent of your copy, further damaging your site ranking.
So, keep it simple. One topic and one keyword per page. Done.
Avoid keyword cannibalization
Using the same keywords on every page can lead to your pages competing against one another in the search engine rankings. This is called keyword cannibalization, where you lose your SERP ranking to other pages on your site.
To avoid this, once you assign a main keyword to a single page, retire it. Then, don’t use it again.
Create an Excel document, and every time you assign a keyword to a page, note it alongside the page’s URL. That way, you can keep track of what keywords you’ve utilized and plan accordingly for future pages.
How to conduct keyword research
It’s imperative to realize how effective keyword research can generate traffic for your page.
Keyword research helps us understand how people organically search for your products and services. No matter what you’re peddling, we want to figure out exactly what users are typing into the search bar when they want to know more about you and what you do.
The results might surprise you.
Which keywords should you target?
When choosing a keyword and phrase, you’ll want to look for those with high search volume but low competition. Words that meet this criterion will generally make it easier for your page to rank for the term.
Your niche will determine the details of what “high search volume” means for you. But essentially, they will be specific keywords that are relevant to your page’s topic AND have not been overutilized across the internet.
Keywords that will be difficult for your website to rank in the top 10 search results will be the ones you find that have widespread usage and are considered highly competitive. Everyone is already using them. They are saturated. So, leave them be and focus on other keyword phrases with less competition that are still frequently searched for.
A keyword case study
Let’s say you work in the flooring industry. You primarily install carpets, so you might think that when someone wants to get a new carpet and wants to find you, they will search for the term “carpet broker.”
But research says that even though that term is somewhat competitive and difficult to rank for (50/100, with 100 being the most difficult), it actually has a lower search volume, with only 140 search queries per month. So, no one is searching for that phrase. It’s not how they think about your business or what you do or offer. It’s not how your customers talk.
Your time would be better spent instead focusing on a different term – one that people are actually using to discover content that’s relevant to your niche.
“Flooring specialist” is slightly less difficult to rank for (48/100), but it has a relatively higher search volume (880 searches per month). So this is a term that people use much more frequently to search for information about your specialty.
And it’s a better investment of your time to follow that trail.
There are a lot of tools on the market, both free and paid, that can help you discover a variety of keyword phrases and how many keywords could potentially be used to market your brand.
So, the research you conduct has two benefits:
- It helps you see how many keywords you can use to organically improve your SERP rank, and
- It is valuable for identifying new ideas and opportunities for future blog posts (and how many keywords you have been missing out on).
Can you use too many keywords per page?
Yes, it is possible to use too many keywords on your page. Remember, you want to avoid using too many keywords on a page, especially if they lack proper context and relevance.
Trying to manipulate your search engine ranking by repeating the same words over and over throughout your text is called keyword stuffing. This practice negatively affects your overall performance in search engines and their algorithms. It’s seriously frowned upon.
Doing this can cause search engines to penalize your website and lower your ranking, which is the opposite of what you want to do.
What exactly is keyword stuffing?
We’ve all visited websites that utilize these keyword stuffing practices, where it seems that every other word is the main keyword:
“We sell women’s shoes at our store. Buy our newest women’s shoes from our women’s shoes department. We have leather, canvas, and suede women’s shoes at our store.”
The keyword “women’s shoes” is repeated ad nauseam. They are really trying to drive the point home, but it’s counterproductive. Written this way, the text does not flow – it feels stilted, unnatural, and comes off as salesy and forced. Frankly, it’s annoying to your site visitors.
And Google doesn’t like it, either.
It’s a prime example of what NOT to do when trying to boost your SEO.
Also Read: Introduction to Medium
Keyword density: How often your primary keyword should appear
Most SEO experts agree that your primary keyword should appear once or twice per 100 words – amounting to about 1-2% of your total content per page.
Being cognizant of your keyword placement and limiting its use is important because you want the messaging to be clear. Spacing out the usage in this way still allows search engines to understand what the page is about and contribute to your keyword rankings without having your web page dinged for repetitive use of your target words.
These standard keyword density guidelines will help you avoid being penalized and keep your site ranked well.
Targeting multiple keywords (or as many keywords) per page as possible is a poor SEO strategy. It detracts from the focus of your page and decreases the quality of your content.
It’s best to stick to the idea of dedicating one page to your topic and then choosing a main keyword or keyword phrase on which to focus.
Leave the other keywords for your next article or page.
And as you write your content, choose keywords that are directly related to your content. You want the keywords to direct readers to valuable content – offering them a bait-and-switch with unrelated keywords will not inspire them to become loyal followers or customers.