keyword research screen shot by Columbus website design firm

The question of how many keywords should you focus on for your homepage wouldn't even occur to most business owners. Or Marketing Directors. Or Sales Managers.

As a matter of fact, as a Columbus website design firm, we've never even had one  person ask us about it. So why are we writing about it? To educate our clients.

Because while they might not think to ask about the number  of keywords (or even actual  keywords) they should focus on for their website, they DO ask if we're going to get them to page one on a Google search. And we believe the more they know about what goes into their question, the more they'll understand what it takes to get there. They'll understand the role we play in that process, as well as the role they  play in that process.

Of course, the question "Can we get to page one of Google?" is a much larger question that isn't the focus of this blog. There are so many different elements that need to be addressed for companies in competitive industries to show up on page one of Google, addressing that question would the subject for another blog.

african american man arms crossed blooknig boredSo is there is no simple answer to how many keywords should you focus on?

As you might imagine, there isn't really one. It's like asking a home builder "What's the best number of square feet to get in a home?" Ask 10 different home builders that question, and you might get 10 different answers.

Ask 10 different Columbus website design firms "How many keywords should you focus on for your homepage" and the answers you'd get might range from "Huh?..." to "15 to 20."

But if you ask us, we'd say 3 or 4. Then, your next comment might be:

  • OK, I'm bored. Gotta go...
  • Why only 3 or 4?
  • Wait... I've heard we can use 100s of keywords for our website.

All three of those comments are legitimate, and we'll address them below.

OK, I'm bored. Gotta go.

We can understand this comment! This type of SEO geek-speak is too detailed for most people who aren't SEO folks.

We understand you have 100 more important things to do than worry about this stuff. And that's why you hire an SEO firm to do this for you. You WANT a Columbus website design company who really likes (and understands) this type of stuff.

bored looking people in a conference on keyword research by Columbus Oh website deisgn firm

Why focus on only 3 or 4 keywords on your homepage?

Two reasons.

First, Page Titles.

These are the words that search engines read before anything else on your website. The area in the red box is the Page Title for our website's homepage:

screen shot of Page Title for Columbus website design firm Sevell

To see how Google uses your Page Titles, watch the first 40 seconds of this video. (The blue type on the screen shot below are the actual Page Titles Google displays from our website.)

SEO experts agree Page Titles should only be 65 - 70 characters and  spaces. Why is that? Because that's all the characters that show up in Google's search results page, like this:

Screen shot of Google results for Columbus website design search

Since the content on any page is supposed to reflect the Page Title of that page (and vice versa), using 3 or 4 keywords on your home page makes sense.

An recent article by Quora says you should use one or two keywords per page, depending on the page.

Wait... I've heard we can use 100s of keywords for our website.

This is also a true statement. However, using 100 (or 500) keywords for your site is what happens when you're running Google AdWords, opposed to using them as keywords on your website. You can run Google AdWords with the cost-per-click being $32.00, or 32 cents. The more popular keywords for your industry might cost you $3 or $5, while more obscure ones might be pennies per click.

As you can see from the screenshot below, for one of our main keywords: Columbus web design, Google recommends we pay $32.42 per click in order to be in the number one position in the Ads on page 1 for that keyword. Not cheap, but if it gets you a project, worth it.

screenshot of the cost-per-click for the keyword Columbus web design

For 95% of the websites out there, if you used 50 or 100 keywords throughout your website, you wouldn't be able to use them often enough for search engines to make the connection between those keywords and your website. You'd just be spreading your keywords too thin.

Imagine having to write for your website, or blog, that incorporates 50 keywords naturally into the content. It's tough, if not impossible, to do. But by focusing on 4 or 5 keywords regularly, the synapses of the internet will start to make the connection between those keywords and your website. The critical thing is to use them often enough so they appear on every blog you write going forward. We blog every week and use just 2 or 3 sets of keywords in each blog post.

And that's the key: how often you use those keywords.

Writing the content for your website for the initial launch, and not writing regular blogs, you'll never get your website to rank in search engines.

That's because the more often to update your website (ie: blogging) the more often search engines re-index your website. And the more often you use those 3 or 4 (or 6 or 7, depends on your product or service) keywords, the more likely it is you'll show up in a Google (or other search engine) search.

We write 100+ word blog posts every week using our keywords, and also post them on 4 social media platforms. This way, we show up on page one for Google searches part of the time (no, not always) for our keywords. Ours is a very competitive industry, so it's tough to be on page one every day.

Here's what not to do

An article on Tactical SEO by Moz had an excellent example of what not to do: overstuff and repeat keywords. Their example was for a clothing store. And if we were to use a fictitious clothing store in Columbus, our example of what not to do for keywords on the Page Title, would be:

{ Sam's Clothing, Sam's Clothing Columbus, Sam's Clothing Short North, Sam's Clothing for Men, Sam's Clothing Collection }

This practice makes your SEO:

  • not trustworthy from Google's perspective (it's called "keyword stuffing" and is a red flag),
  • viewed with suspicion by for those shoppers sophisticated to know what they're looking at on Google's search results page, and
  • seen skeptically by other websites that might link back to Sam's Clothing Store.

Once you do have your keywords, the next step is to know where to place them in your website. To see a blog about what to look for in an SEO plan here.

Good luck with the exciting world of keyword research!