In my SEO coaching and consulting work, students and clients often ask me: “How many SEO keywords should I use?”

The short answer is: you should target one main SEO keyword with each page or post.

But the long answer is more nuanced, which is why I put together this guide.

I’ve been working in SEO for over four years now, with 10 years in total as a blogger and content consultant. I’ve built two profitable blogs using only the power of SEO.

Keywords 101

If you’re new to SEO, keywords can seem a bit confusing at first. Simply put, keywords are the words and phrases that users type into search engines like Google when they’re looking for information on a topic.

When creating content to rank in organic search, you want to identify keywords that are relevant to your website, product, or service. These are the search queries you want to show up for and have users find your content for.

Keywords come in a few main forms:

  • Head keywords – Short, typically high-volume search terms, usually 1-2 words long. Usually not very specific, e.g. “yoga”.
  • Long-tail keywords – More specific and longer keyword phrases, often lower volume and usually over 4 words long. These help attract more targeted, niche searches to your content (and they’re often easier to rank for)
  • ‘Zero volume’ keywords – Show up as zero volume in SEO tools, but bring in a respectable amount of traffic. Remember, SEO tools can be misleading.
  • Semantic keywords – Related words and synonyms that are relevant to your head keywords. These help search engines make connections between your content and searches.

Each post or page you publish should target one primary keyword, while also incorporating related long-tail and semantic keywords. This provides the right balance to attract search traffic.

You’ll find that if you write naturally about a topic, the keywords will fall into place without needing to force anything.

I’ll explain more about optimal keyword usage and density later in this guide. For now, remember that keywords are essentially the search phrases you want to rank for. The rest of SEO involves optimizing your pages around these core terms.

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How Many SEO Keywords Should I Use?

You should use one primary keyword for each page of your site. For example, this blog post targets the main keyword “How Many SEO Keywords Should I Use?” which is a long-tail keyword. Each new blog post you write should focus on a specific keyword.

In addition to the main keyword, you also want to incorporate some semantic keywords. Semantic keywords are words and phrases related in meaning and context to your primary keyword. These help search engines make connections between your content and user searches.

Some examples of semantic keywords related to my main keyword here could include:

  • seo keyword research
  • ideal number of seo keywords
  • seo keyword targeting
  • seo keyword density

Using semantic keywords allows you to reach more searches related to your primary focus keyword while keeping the content focused. Proper use of semantic keywords is important for good on-page optimization.

Aim to incorporate 2-4 semantic keywords in each piece of content, in addition to the main primary keyword. This strikes the right balance for search engines. Use these related keywords naturally within your content as well – don’t just cram random keywords in!

So in summary – one primary keyword, plus 2-4 related semantic keywords per page or blog post. This will help you rank for a nice cluster of relevant searches.

If you’d prefer a tool that does most of the heavy lifting for you, then RankIQ is well worth a try for its extensive handpicked Keyword Library. Here’s my latest review of the RankIQ tool.

The Benefits of Using Keywords

Here are some of the main benefits of using keywords in your content:

  1. Increased chance of ranking in search engines – By targeting relevant keywords that match user intent, you can greatly improve your pages’ ability to rank for those searches. Carefully matching keywords to queries is key for SEO.
  2. Attract targeted traffic – Ranking for keywords drives visitors who are seeking the products, information, or services you offer. This traffic converts better vs random/general visitors.
  3. Guide user experience – Incorporating keywords naturally into things like titles, headers, and page content helps indicate relevancy and improves user experience.
  4. Allows tracking performance – Keywords serve as specific benchmarks to track over time for visibility and traffic driven. Changes in rankings signal issues to address or successes to replicate.
  5. Outperform competitors – Researching keywords with good volume that competitors haven’t targeted yet allows you to rank well. Continually expanding your keyword scope fuels growth.

Structuring Your Articles With SEO Keywords

To make sure Google knows what your page is about, it’s important to place your main target keyword in specific locations on the page.

Here’s where you should include your primary keyword:

  • Title or H1
  • One H2 header
  • First 10% of your content (I like to use it as early as possible) 
  • Meta description
  • URL slug
  • 2-3 times throughout the text body

That’s generally enough. If you use the main keyword too many times you risk being seen as “keyword stuffing”, which is bad news and can risk a Google penalty. Just include it in the key places as listed above, and write naturally for the rest.

You can also use an optimization tool like Frase or Surfer SEO to easily see how your keyword use compares to other articles competing for the same keyword.

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Optimizing Keyword Density

Now that you know what keywords to target, a key question is: how often should you use them in your content? This is known as keyword density.

Keyword density refers to the percentage of words on a page that match your target keywords. If a page has 300 words and uses a keyword 6 times, that’s 2% density (6 divided by 300).

According to Semrush, keyword density is no longer a ranking factor, so you don’t need to worry about it overly much.

If you make sure to include your main keyword in the places I’ve listed above, then that should be enough. For the rest, just focus on writing naturally for humans, not robots, while giving the reader all the relevant information to answer their query.

Using Synonyms and LSI Keywords

LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. In simple terms, these are similar words and relevant phrases for your topics. For example:

Primary keyword: benefits of yoga

Synonyms: advantages, gains

LSI keywords: stress relief, improved flexibility, mindfulness

Sprinkling synonyms and LSI keywords through your content helps to vary your wording. This keeps things natural while still signaling to Google what your focus is about. It’s a delicate balance though – don’t overdo it.

Use a content optimization tool like Frase, Surfer SEO, or Rank Math to track keyword density as you write. Shoot for the guidelines above, tweak over time, and you’ll be on your way to SEO success.

Troubleshooting Issues

Even with the best keyword research and optimization, you may encounter problems down the road. Here are some common issues and fixes.

Keyword Cannibalization

This refers to when you have multiple pages targeting the same main keyword. For example:

  • Blog post: “Benefits of Yoga”
  • Category page: “Benefits of Yoga”

Since they are almost identical, Google doesn’t know which page is most relevant to rank. So it may alternate ranking one over the other, or not rank either page well.

The fix is to differentiate the pages so there’s clear relevance. For example, make the blog focused on mental health benefits with unique content, while the category targets physical benefits. Now Google can determine relevance.

Low Rankings

If your content is well-optimized and indexed but doesn’t climb the ranks, there could be higher authority sites dominating. Improving backlinks and domain authority over time can help.

You may also have to bite the bullet and refresh old content, or create new pages targeting secondary keywords where you can outrank existing sites. Don’t chase highly competitive keywords with major publications targeting them already.

Tracking ranks weekly provides data to diagnose issues early. Use organic research and adjustments to pages to counter declines. Patience pays off too – rankings fluctuate before settling over ~6 months.

FAQs

Are too many keywords bad for SEO?

Yes, using too many keywords risks confusing Google and diluting the focus of your content. You should always select one main target keyword for each page on your site. Semantic keywords will usually find their way into the content naturally during the process of writing about your topic.

Should I always target a specific keyword?

For SEO purposes, yes. But you can also go ‘off-piste’ and write articles around topics that don’t necessarily have associated keywords, such as thought leadership pieces or content about the latest trends.

What are the best keyword research tools?

My top pick is Semrush, but you can also try Ahrefs, Moz, Ubersuggest, or Keysearch. AI optimization tools like Frase and Surfer are useful for evaluating your on-page keyword use against that of your competitors, including semantic keywords.

Actionable Next Steps

Now that you understand the basics of keyword research and optimization, here are some actionable next steps to put your knowledge into practice:

  1. Identify your core topics – Determine the 1-3 main topics your website will focus on. This forms the foundation for your keyword research.
  2. Find primary keywords – Use the Google Keyword Planner tool or a Semrush free trial to search for basic keywords related to your topics. Look for those with at least 100 monthly searches.
  3. Expand to long-tail keywords – Build on the core keywords by adding more words to them. For example “yoga benefits” -> “benefits of yoga for flexibility”. Volume can be lower.
  4. Optimize pages – Choose one primary + 2-3 secondary keywords to target per piece of content. Structure your pages using the optimization tips I shared earlier.
  5. Promote content – Share your content on social channels, submit it to directories, and tell friends. Getting early links and views will help with your rankings.
  6. Review analytics – Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to view search queries driving traffic. See which are working and improve pages targeting ones that aren’t.

The key for beginners is starting simple – optimize pages around a small group of easy-to-rank-for keywords in a narrow content focus area before expanding from there.

My Profitable Blogging Toolkit

👉 Semrush – My top SEO tool for keyword research, competitor analysis, backlink auditing, site audits, and much more. Get my 14-day free trial here.

👉 RankIQ – The best content optimizer tool for easy content revamps, a vast handpicked keyword library (great for beginners!), and intelligent ranking auditing. Try it with a 50% discount here.

👉 WPX – Fast web hosting with the best customer support I’ve ever had. The team will do almost everything for you, saving you a ton of time and energy.

👉 Claude – The best AI writing tool I’ve tried (and I’ve tried loads). 100% better than ChatGPT. If you’re sick of the fluffy robo-text, give Claude a try.

👉 ShortPixel – Speed up your site with the best image compressing and optimizing plugin. Super easy to use. You can also buy credits to pay as you go.

👉 Kadence – My WordPress theme of choice. Fast, clean, and easy to set up. Their start templates let you build out a new site in minutes.

👉 Lasso – Managing lots of affiliate links? Then you need Lasso to keep track of everything. They also have stunning product boxes to spruce up your affiliate content.

👉 ConvertKit – Every profitable blogger needs an email list working for them behind the scenes. ConvertKit is the most user-friendly and comprehensive email list tool I’ve found.

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