What you’re ultimately going to want to do when refining your keyphrase strategy is to create a list of no fewer than two and no more than eight keywords for your page, the single most relevant of which will be your primary keyword, and the remainder of which will be supporting keywords.
Let’s talk about how to get from your full list of potential keywords down to the few that are perfect.
SEO Keyword Strategy Refinement
The 3 Kinds of Keywords That You Should Never Choose for SEO
1. The ones that don’t sound like a naturally occurring English phrase.
The prevailing rule here is that, unlike in PPC, SEO keywords will ultimately need to be integrated into page copy, and page copy will always need to sound natural.
Therefore, you don’t want to choose keywords that it would be difficult to construct copy around.
“Cookies oatmeal” has some search volume — chances are, you yourself have entered backwards queries like it before — but it would be a disastrous choice to optimize for because of how tortured any phrase built around it would have to appear.
Your keywords need to “disappear” into your page copy, so don’t set yourself up for certain failure this early in the game.
Now that you’ve gotten rid of the truly hopeless ones, you’re likely left with nothing but honest contenders.
The next essential step will be to pick your primary keyword; all selection of supporting keywords will follow naturally from that task.
2. The ones that sound like adspeak.
This is another rule that is much more about the principles of good copywriting than about SEO per se: the copy that you write describing your product or service will sound like used car salesman chatter if you optimize it for keywords including touts like “best” or desperate pleas like “for sale”.
As with the above example, people do indeed search that way, but the copy will suffer if you play to those search queries explicitly.
Keep your keywords purely descriptive.
3. The ones that mention a competing brand by name.
Another common practice in PPC is to bid on competitors’ names for impressions, and this too will not fly in SEO.
The only way in which you could reasonably mention a competing brand in your page copy is pejoratively, and that kind of ill will only puts people off.
Keep it classy.
Determining Your Primary Keyword
A page’s primary keyword is the one that does the single best job of standing for the page as a whole.
Though you’ll strive to include as many keywords as you can in the copy of this page, the following section below will demonstrate that many of the most important locations on a page for keywords won’t easily accommodate more than one, so it behooves you to pick the most valuable in the bunch.
Your primary keyword should always be the one that is the most precisely relevant to that page’s content, i.e. the one that captures the most dimensions or nuances of the idea.
In most cases, this will not be the keyword that shows the highest search volume in the lot.
As noted above, “gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe” gets an estimated 20 global searches per month to the 110,000 that “oatmeal cookies” gets, but if your page is about a gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe, then the former, more precise keyword is the one you’ll want to choose.
Why Relevance Over Search Volume?
It goes without saying that it would serve search engines better, as it would give them a richer wealth of information about the page, but that alone is no reason to favor a lower-volume term.
How would it benefit you to do this?
As a matter of fact, it would benefit you in up to three ways:
1. Even though many more people search “oatmeal cookies” than “gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe”, the ones who search the latter are all but guaranteed to want exactly what your page offers, which cannot necessarily be said of everyone searching the former.
Your Albany business potentially loses out on some visitor quantity by targeting the longer-tail keyword, but you gain immensely in average potential visitor quality; the searchers that you will attract on that more precise keyword are in a sense already moving through the conversion funnel before they even touch down on your page.
And besides, losing out on quantity isn’t even a sure thing, because…
2. …you have to succeed in ranking highly for a high-volume keyword in order to capture its traffic, and a keyword with higher search volume is almost invariably one for which it is more difficult to rank.
You likely won’t have to wage nearly as fierce a battle to rank for a keyword of such comparatively little volume because there are fewer and smaller fish going after its search traffic.
And finally, the search volume numbers you’re working from are far from completely trustworthy, because…
3. …Google has reported that approximately 70% of its daily queries are very-long-tail, not one of them popular enough on its own to show as having more than zero average searches per month, but almost of them variations of kernels that do.
By choosing the extremely precise and relevant keyword “gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe”, you qualify the site not only for searches on that exact phrase, but on the millions of possible but undocumented variations that are even longer and still likely to be relevant, e.g.:
- “gluten-free iced oatmeal cookie recipe”
- “tasty gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe”
- “gluten-free oatmeal cookie recipe for kids”
…and so forth.
Google has even said that 20% of its daily queries are unique and brand new, i.e. queries it had never seen in its history until that day.
This is every day we’re talking about. Every single day.
It is plain to see that the full diversity of searched keywords is staggeringly greater than this tool could ever convey.
So don’t think that going after the keyword next to the largest number in Keyword Planner is the answer.
The answer is to describe your page as carefully as you can, building on kernels that demonstrate search volume whenever possible but never making volume your first consideration.
Determining Your Supporting SEO Keywords
Now that you’ve chosen one primary keyword for your page, the next task will be to choose a handful of
Supporting keywords should expand the range of queries to which the page could be considered relevant, without sacrificing its focus.
This is every bit the tightrope walk that it sounds like.
Generally speaking, there are two approaches, depending on how narrow the focus of the page is.
If the page covers a breadth of topics — as is usually the case for a homepage or a page that describes a whole range of products or services — then the primary keyword is likely something speaking to that full breadth, which means the supporting keywords can be more narrowly focused and speak to more granular sub-topics.
For instance, if the page describes the company’s entire slate of services, then the supporting keywords could spotlight each service individually, and could set up subsections of content on the page that describe them all in greater detail.
If the page has a narrow focus, as is the case for a page that describes one single product or service, then the primary keyword was probably something fittingly narrow and long-tail.
In this instance, you can invert the above paradigm and choose broader head terms for your supporting
keywords, to cast a wider net.
What if I have to Pick Keywords for My Entire Website?
Do not assign the same primary keyword to more than one page.
Those of you who are tasked with writing an entire site dedicated to Albany, New York are now wondering:
“What do I do if I’m writing the broad page that describes all the services as well as the granular pages that describe each service individually?
How do I make it so that these various pages help each other in search rather than undermining each other?”
All you must be sure of is that you do not assign the same primary keyword to more than one page.
That is the only scenario that would foster true and mutually destructive competition between pages.
It is perfectly all right to select a primary keyword for one page that you also use as a supporting keyword on one other page, as long as the keyword in question can fairly be called relevant to both.
If you’re lucky, search engines might return both in results for that keyword (that’s what we’re gunning for, anyway).
You can also get added mileage by cross-linking between these related pages and using the primary keyword of each destination page within the anchor text of your links.