If one keyword is good, are more better?
Keywords are a critical factor for improving your search rankings. Knowing what word or phrase you want to target helps you craft your content in such a way that it appears in search results. A good keyword, when used appropriately, brings order and alignment to your pages. But sometimes, in your quest for the perfect keyword, you find more than one. What should you do?
If you’re using Yoast’s SEO analysis plugin, you’ve probably noticed an option to add more keywords (available in their premium edition). But before you jump onboard, it’s important to think about what your keywords are supposed to accomplish. Then you can decide whether adding more is going to be worthwhile.
Choose a unique focus keyword.
First of all, you can only ever have one focus keyword. This keyword directly relate to the prime thrust of your article. You should do this before you start writing, because sometimes your choice of keyword can influence your topic, or how you write about it.
For instance, let’s say you’re starting a website all about the tiny house movement. You want to write a long piece of cornerstone content for your site discussing what tiny houses are, the benefits of living in one, and some of the most important considerations for some interested in building their own.
After looking at keywords, you decide that “tiny house” is too broad and too difficult to rank for. Instead, you choose to target “tiny house movement” for your main information page. Your title might be something like “8 Reasons to Join the Tiny House Movement,” or “Tiny House Movement FAQs.” Then you’ll craft a post that provides those reasons or answers those questions.
However, having chosen this topic, you realize that, given the breadth and depth of your page content, it could stand to use some added optimization. This is where multiple keywords can be useful. The trick is knowing which ones you can successfully optimize for without turning your page into a disordered mess.
The easiest and most obvious choice for multiple keywords are synonyms. So, let’s start by looking there.
Does your focus keyword have synonyms?
As it so happens, the term “tiny house” has a pretty specific meaning. It doesn’t just mean “small house,” but more specifically “a house of less than 400 square feet,” and most commonly, one not built on a permanent foundation. This is important, because if you try to use “small house” as a secondary keyword, you’re likely to draw in the wrong audience.
But as it turns out, key phrases such as “micro dwellings,” “tiny apartments,” and “micro homes” are often used synonymously. This isn’t just good for your keywords—it’s good for your writing. Using the same phrase repeatedly eventually sounds boring or redundant. By using similar phrases, you not only cast a wider net, you also avoid repetition.
If you’re writing a short post, it’s likely you won’t have the space to include any keyword variations. But for a post of 1000 words or more, it’s not a bad idea to start looking for synonyms.
Are there meaningful alterations of your phrase?
Google is usually pretty good at understanding what you mean when you type searches into a box. It doesn’t care too much if you type in “tiny house building plans” or “building plans tiny house.” But it will care about “how to build a tiny home.” Small words make a big difference.
Similarly, it’s good to look for ways in which your key phrase could be confused with something else. In context, “tiny house movement” pretty obviously refers to a social movement. But by coincidence, tiny houses are often movable. Targeting other phrases such as “tiny house community” can help clarify your intent.
But what if, father down the road, you want to write a post about moving your tiny house. Now you might look at phrases such as “tiny house transportation” or “how to move a tiny house.”
Do you cover sub topics?
In our example page about the tiny house movement, it’s easy to see how this article would cover multiple topics. The ethos behind tiny house living is one topic, but so are practical concerns like where to buy a tiny house, how to build one yourself, and various zoning and building code regulations a tiny house dweller may have to follow.
With so much to cover, it may be wiser to write several pages, each focusing on a different aspect. But if you want to cover it all in one place, using multiple keywords to target some of these sub topics is a wise decision.
Is it worth upgrading to premium for the added analysis of multiple keywords?
The multiple keywords tool Yoast provides can provide a convenient check for your in-depth content pages. But most small websites only have a handful of cornerstone content pieces that might require this level of analysis. And in that case, you can probably work it out on your own by being intentional in your incorporation of extra keywords.
On the other hand, if you’re a major content source, and you regularly run in-depth pieces, the multiple keyword tool can help you improve your keyword use. Just remember that the analysis can provide some good guidelines, but it shouldn’t override your common sense.
Content before keywords.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to say this too many times, so I’ll go ahead and say it again. Your content matters more than your keywords. You can’t tell Google what your keywords are, you can only write content in such a way that it aligns with the keywords you hope to rank for.
If you have a page on your site devoted to tiny houses, there’s a lot you can do to help it rank for associated keywords. But if you try to also rank for phrases like “prefab subdivision home” in the hopes of luring in unsuspecting visitors and converting them to your tiny house utopia, you’re likely to just end up with a higher bounce rate.