Keyword research provides you with specific search data that can help you answer questions like:
- What are people searching for?
- How many people are searching for it?
- What are they expecting to find when they enter those search terms?
Keyword research allows you to determine how your target audience is searching for your products and services so that you can better reach them by speaking their language. We wrote a whole blog about how essential this research is for your company’s digital strategy, if you want to check it out.
And while you may have your own way of describing what you do, it may or may not align with how your target audience understands or describes what you do. And at the end of the day, the language that your audience uses is more important than your internal terminology, because they are the ones who will be keying in searches.
So you know that you should be optimizing for certain keywords on your company’s website, but you may be asking yourself: how many keywords can I choose? Before we talk about how many keywords to choose, let’s talk about what keywords you should be targeting in the first place.
Choosing Target Keywords
Target keywords should be chosen by order of importance:
Step 1: Brand terms
These are first in the order of importance. Before you can get more creative, you have to make sure you’re showing up for your company or organization’s name. Other brand terms could include any branded products that only you carry.
Step 2: Product Terms
These are the names of the specific products and services offered. Note: Pages that are optimized for these keywords should include loads of education, since the information gathering phase of the funnel aligns with product and service searches.
Step 3: Competitor Terms
Find out what keywords your direct competitors are ranking for, and make sure to include those in your website copy and metadata.
Step 4: Audience Terms
The impression volume on this category is vast—HUGE. This will be the most broad category, but will be a catchall for terms your audience might be using when they are just starting out on their search journey.
SEO vs. PPC Keywords: What’s the Difference?
With paid search, the keywords you want to be found for can be input on the backend of AdWords. From there, you bid on the top spots in the search results pages for your chosen keywords. This means that you could show up in the search results for keywords that don’t appear in the copy of your site at all. You could pay to appear when people search for your competitor’s name, or when someone searches something related to what you do, for example.
Not only does this mean that you don’t have to incorporate these keywords on your site in any way—it also means that ranking for these keywords could be immediate. As long as you’re footing the bill, Google will put your ad on the results page.
And where PPC is like going through the fast food drive thru window, SEO is like cultivating a field of crops. It’s slower, requires a lot of attention and care, but reaps some of the healthiest and long-lasting benefits.
So unlike PPC keywords, SEO or “organic” keywords have to be included in the copy of your site for Google to know what you’re all about. And you can include your organic keywords in two ways: on the pages themselves and in your metadata.
Here, we’re talking about the title listed in blue and the description listed in black below.
The most relevant, or the “favorite,” target keyword for a specific page should appear in the metadata for the page as well as throughout the on-page content. But take note: Be cautious to avoid keyword stuffing, or overloading a page with keywords in an attempt to manipulate your site’s ranking on Google.
So… How Many Keywords Should I Optimize For?
We’ve got your favorite answer…which is that it depends. But we’ll elaborate further:
Just like Goldilocks, you’re tasked with finding what’s just right—for your business objectives and your target audience—but generally speaking, you should tailor your optimization strategy to the size of your site and the capacity of your team.
Let’s say you’ve got four unique service pages, a home page, two location pages, and a contact page that you’d like to optimize. Your service and location pages have a generous amount of copy, and your home and contact pages have the expected elements like quality images, maps, as well as your business name, address, and phone number.
So depending on the exact word count on these pages, your site has the capacity to be optimized for about 40 keywords at the very most. But instead of thinking of keyword optimization in terms of numbers, we recommend that you approach it as topic optimization, or the practice of optimizing your web content around specific topics and concepts relevant to your business. Because unless each of your products and services are wildly different, there will definitely be some overlap in the keywords you choose for each page.
As a second filter in deciding where exactly you land in the amount of keywords you choose, you have to look at the capacity of your team. How much time do you and your people have to devote to optimizing, tracking, tweaking, and repeating? The more time you have, the more keywords you can choose.
Start Small, and Partner with an Experienced Team
As with most new endeavors in life, your best bet is to start small and work your way up. Always look to the size of your website to determine your expectations for keyword rankings. Evaluate your keywords in order of the four levels of importance that we mentioned earlier.