Last week, I was talking with a client about SEO strategy, and she asked me a simple question: “Why should we focus on just a few keywords? Why don’t we target hundreds of keywords?”
A web site can target as many keywords as you can add content for. But each individual web page should focus on no more than 2-3 keywords – and ideally, only 1-2 keywords. Too many keywords on a web page confuses Google. Tightly focused web pages see better results.
Let’s explore this in more detail.
How Google sees your website
A search engine is a computer program that trolls the internet, looking for new web pages. It analyzes each page it finds and indexes the page according to the keywords on the page.
When someone types a search into the search engine, the computer program/search engine goes through its index and looks for web pages that most closely match the keywords that person is searching for.
The keywords you use on each web page tell Google what that page is about – whether it’s loose leaf organic green tea or the Battle of Gettysburg – so that Google can decide whether that web page will be relevant to the person conducting the search.
Fewer keywords gives Google a clearer focus
If you’ve focused your page on just one or two strong keywords, then Google gets a clear picture of the content on your page. But if you’ve thrown a bunch of keywords onto that single page, you’ve utterly confused Google.
To illustrate, let’s say you sell Civil War memorabilia. That’s a fairly broad topic; you might sell Civil War uniforms, Civil War weapons, Civil War photographs, or even Civil War maps. Suppose on your website you have one
Products page where you list everything you sell. Google finds this web page, and it tries to index this page according to the keywords you’ve used. Let’s see: Civil War uniforms, Civil War weapons, Civil War photographs, Civil War maps. Hmmm.
Now imagine your top competitor also sells the same memorabilia, but he has given each category of product its own web page. He has one page about Civil War uniforms, one page about Civil War weapons, and so forth. Google finds each of these pages and indexes them individually by keyword.
And finally, imagine someone is looking to buy a Civil War uniform. The person types “Civil War uniform” into Google, and now Google has to decide which web pages that person most likely wants to see.
So Google goes back to its index and looks for a web page that’s about “Civil War uniforms.”
First, Google comes across your Products page in its index. But Google sees that the page is about Civil War uniforms. And weapons. And photographs. And maps.
Next in its index, Google finds your competitor’s series of web pages. And Google quickly finds the one page that is just about Civil War uniforms.
Which page will Google think is more relevant to the person searching for Civil War uniforms? The competitor’s page that’s just about Civil War uniforms? Or your page that’s about a whole bunch of Civil War stuff?
Remember, Google looks from the perspective of the searcher. It wants to provide highly relevant search results. A more tightly focused web page will always appear to be more relevant, in Google’s eye.
The cumulative power of many focused pages
This doesn’t mean that you have to limit the overall number of keywords in your SEO strategy. It just means you have to keep each page focused. In fact, smart SEO strategy is to add as many tightly focused pages as you can.
Even though each individual page might not see huge amounts of traffic, the strength comes from the number of pages Google can find. More pages equal more opportunity for traffic.
Data backs this up, too. Marketing Sherpa recently surveyed more than 1,500 search marketers about the effectiveness of their top SEO tactics. A full 50% reported that content creation is a very effective SEO tool. The second SEO tool they identified was keyword research, with 43% finding the tactic very effective.
So it bears repeating: The most effective SEO tactic is to create lots of content – but keep each piece of content tightly focused on one or two keywords.
What does this mean for your website?
The most common SEO mistake I see on websites is on the Services or the Products page. Please, resist the urge to list all your services or products on a single page! Each one of your services or products is its own keyword. And just like our Civil War uniform example, using too many keywords on a single page dilutes the SEO strength of that page.
Instead, give each service or product its own page.
Incidentally, this is why search marketers love blogs. Each blog post is a single web page, and each post should focus on a unique keyword. Google loves this kind of targeted content, and you gain lots of opportunity to bring in loads of new traffic.
So go ahead – add that content! Just keep it focused and use a smart keyword strategy, and soon enough you’ll be seeing the SEO results that you want.