How Many Keywords Should I Be Targeting?

As you work to improve your website’s visibility in search engines, you may wonder just how many individual words and phrases you should be targeting. Should you go after just one or two really important keywords? Or should you develop a long list of keywords that you want to rank for?

Although the answer is a little different for everyone, let’s take a look at the advantage of targeting multiple keywords, and what you should know about identifying and attempting to rank for many long-tail keywords as opposed to a few broader ones.

The disadvantage of targeting a single keyword

Let’s say you sell laptops on an online store, and want to rank #1 for laptops. You may not care about ranking for other keywords, because laptops are almost the only thing you sell, and you know this keyword gets an immense amount of traffic from people using search engines.

However, there are a few big problems with targeting just this keyword:

  • It will cost you a lot of money (both in SEO and pay-per-click advertising expenses) to rank #1 for “laptops”
  • You have no way of knowing if people searching for “laptops” are ready to buy, are doing research, or are even just looking for photos
  • If you only rank for “laptops,” you won’t show up in search for “[manufacturer] laptops” or “new laptops,” which means that people looking for these keywords simply won’t find you if they don’t think to search for that broad phrase first

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t make some effort to target a broad keyword like this. However, if this is the only keyword you’re targeting, you’re going to run into problems.

Expanding into long-tail keywords

Instead of targeting just “laptops,” our theoretical store should expand to target keywords and longer phrases like:

  • buy new laptops
  • buy [manufacturer] laptops
  • laptops for sale
  • where to buy new laptops for cheap

… and so on.

This addresses not only the third issue above — the many ways that people think to look for stores like yours — but also the second one. If you run a store, you should be targeting keywords related to purchases. On the other hand, if you run a site that serves as a source of information, you can opt for something like “information about laptops” or “comparison between [manufacturer] laptops.”

How many keywords are needed?

Different industries need to target a different number of keywords. For example, there are many laptop sizes, manufacturers, configurations, and features. But on the other hand, if our theoretical store offers gardening supplies, there is really only a limited number of seeds. You’ll never run into a situation where you need to target “[manufacturer] sunflower seeds,” will you?

The number of keywords you need to target will depend on your industry, as well as your budget. If you can afford to be visible for broader keywords like “laptop,” even knowing that people looking for that keyword aren’t necessarily ready to make a purchase, go for it! But just be aware that you should also target many keywords that show clear intent, too.

Keyword targeting priority

To be perfectly clear, you should target as many keywords as you feel comfortable with, following this level of priority:

  1. Long-tail keywords showing clear intent, ex. “buy [manufacturer] laptop,” “SEO plans”
  2. Long-tail keywords where you can offer information, ex. “compare [manufacturer] laptops,” “why SEO is important”
  3. Broad keywords with no intent, ex. “laptops,” “SEO”

We hope this helps you understand a little more about keywords, and gives you a better idea of the number of keywords you should be targeting with your website’s SEO. For more information about long-tail keywords and the advantages of targeting them, we recommend reading the first part of this page: How Can I Get More Search Engine Traffic?

If you still have questions about keywords, or need any help with your website, don’t hesitate to let us know! We would be happy to lend you a hand. Feel free to contact us at any time for a quick response from one of our expert strategists.