Keywords and how to choose ’em

I ran out of time to write a blog post today, but did manage to answer a reader question over at SiteProNews so I thought I’d point you all to that as I know many of you are interested in keyword research.

William wrote to me asking two questions about keywords:

1) How do you know if a keyword merits time and energy?

2) How do you know which keywords your competitors are using?

I answered both of these in my post titled  How Do I Choose What Keywords to Target?.

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Copywriting for PPC course now available at Search Engine College

Just a quick heads up that we have recently added another course to our curriculum at Search Engine College.

After years of running PPC campaigns, I’ve come to realize that writing copy for PPC ads requires a completely different mindset to writing copy for web pages or writing articles. The same rules simply don’t apply. Not only do you have to try to hook your audience, but you have an extremely limited number of characters to do it in.

Copywriting for Pay Per Click is a new course designed to help you craft PPC ads that speak to your individual markets like you do. In simple, direct, everyday language that explains why they need your product/service without the hype or the shouting. It will remove any writer’s block or marketing bias you might have when it comes to promoting your service and help you embrace the limited advertising format that you’re faced with when drafting PPC ads.

Here’s a sample excerpt from Chapter 1:

“It’s usually very important to include a keyphrase in the headline of these ads.  The keyphrase helps the site visitor instantly know that your ad has what s/he’s looking for.  I don’t believe it’s nearly as important to use a keyphrase in the description/body copy of PPC ads.

Depending on the length of the keyphrase, it can hog all the available space that should be used for differentiating yourself, explaining a special or limited-time offer or otherwise enticing the searcher to click your ad as opposed to the dozens of others they’ll see.”

Written and tutored by copywriting whizz Karon Thackston, Copywriting for PPC is an ideal companion to our PPC 101 and PPC 201 courses or as a stand-alone course if you’re already running PPC campaigns and want to achieve higher conversion rates.

So what are you waiting for? Enroll now and join our first round of graduates.

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Q and A: Is it true that a web page can only be optimized for one target keyword?

QuestionDear Kalena

Our search person at work insists that a Web page can only be optimized for one target keyword. He says that if you try to optimize for more than one, the page loses keyword density and won’t rank as well. He was saying that if we had 3 keywords, we should create 3 pages to catch all searches.

What do you think works better, or would be more efficient?



Hi Harrison

It is very possible to optimize a page for only 1 keyword/phrase, but not always practical. I generally aim for 3 or 4.

Most web sites have hundreds of keywords and phrases they are targeting but not the ability (or content!) to create a page for each one. Pages that are focused on a single keyword can often look spammy or lack quality if the content is too thin, particularly if a keyword is repeated too often.

Also, the home page of a site is usually the most important in terms of ranking potential, link popularity and Google PageRank. Just optimizing the home page for a single keyword or phrase is a waste of valuable keyword real estate!

When it comes to targeting multiple keywords, I always recommend choosing keywords/phrases that are closely related, use variations or perhaps word stemming, for example:

24 kt yellow gold
gold chains
yellow gold chains

So you could easily target these 3 individual terms with the single sentence:

“We sell the finest quality 24 kt yellow gold chains importe from italy”

Therefore targeting them a few times on a single page would be a breeze. But each case is different in SEO and you should weigh up all the options before deciding on a way forward.

A lot will depend on the competitiveness of your keywords, how many other pages are optimized for the same keyword/s, how many links point to the page, the content on your page and the amount of text used (impacting your keyword density).

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Q and A: How involved should the client be with optimized home page copy?

QuestionDear Kalena

To what level would you typically involve a client in the production of the copy for the home page when you are optimizing their site?

I assume they would at least typically have review authority to approve what could be considered a first impression of their business? I’m curious how any past experiences you’ve had would have panned out.




Dear Dan

I typically ask the client to provide several pages of copy – either that which is already used online or perhaps in offline brochures etc. and then I rework that copy into several logical web pages.

Copy for the home page starts with the most important target keywords and expands from there, using the most appropriate parts of the copy that was provided by the client. Then I usually have a professional copywriter re-write the copy, integrating the target keywords seamlessly, while implementing call-to-actions and guiding the site visitors to the goal the client wants them to achieve (e.g. sign up, purchase, bookmark etc).

Sometimes I hit a brick wall with the marketing staff of larger clients or sometimes with their advertising agencies during the copywriting stage, but once they’re educated about the process and the end-goal, they generally allow me to have final say over the copy content.

You have to find a happy medium between searchability and convincing copy, but you also have to satisfy a range of stakeholders. It’s always a balancing act! No matter what, don’t be tempted to hijack the project. Make sure your client feels an integral part of the journey.

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Q and A: What are the search engine preferred limits for keyword density?

QuestionDear Kalena

I have been following you for some time now; your articles are awesome and I usually find in them the necessary info to boost my website. It has now a PR of 5 and is very reputed in its niche. We do not do business through it (only Google Adsense but it does not pay the rent); it is only an information service, but we are very happy with its performance.

The question is, I have been reading lately about keyword density, and I find the information a bit messy. In some articles a KD of 1-2% is recommended, while others advise for a KD of 8-12%, with anything in between (1-3%, 3-7%…). I reckon that Google has a narrower margin for this factor, and it does not like it to be higher than 4%.

I have been optimizing my pages for a KD of 1-5%, but if some authors recommend it to be between 8% and 12%, I feel that my entire work is useless!

You are one of the most reputable SEO specialists I read, and I have looked for your opinion on KD in previous articles but could not find a fringe you recommended. So I am asking desperately: Which are the preferred limits?

Oh, btw, I am buying you a cup of coffee. A big one!

Warm regards from snowy Spain,



Hi Marcela

Thanks for the generous donation to my coffee fund.

Regarding your question, you won’t find much from me about keyword density percentages, because I don’t place much faith in KD at all. I tend to go by my gut, but having been in this biz for 12 years I have a pretty good sense for what’s going to work and what isn’t. I have a benchmark of no more than 3 repetitions of a keyword or keyword phrase per optimized page, not including contractions or variations.

That said, I held a poll on Twitter to see what my peers do and many have the same attitude to KD that I do. Percentage responses ranged between 3 and 8 percent. Others said that it depends on:

  • the site niche
  • the search engine
  • the competition
  • the number of words on the page
  • the number of other pages optimized
  • keyword proximity and prominence

Personally, if I was you I would develop a few versions of your page that contains different density levels of your target keywords and run each one for a test period to see which one ranks better in Google.

Don’t forget that keyword density may impact the usability of your site and your conversion rate as well as your site’s search engine ranking. You could run an experiment using Google Website Optimizer to test which page version gets the best reaction from your target audience.

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