How Many Keywords Should You Use in Your Website?

Image of the word 'SEO' from the dictionaryThe keywords you choose for your business website are crucial to the site’s success, as these play such an important part in optimising your website, allowing the search engines to find and index it. In previous posts, we have discussed researching these keywords to make sure they are relevant to your audience and that they are searched for by many people, without being too competitive and hard to rank with.

Researching and choosing keywords

But how many should you use? When choosing which to use, especially when choosing phrases of four or five words, there can be hundreds of variations to choose from. The temptation can be to use as many as possible, to ensure you are covering all potential search terms that your customers could use. A quick search with the Google Keyword Tool for the term ‘florist in London’ shows me 100 different related keywords, many of them being searched thousands of times a month. Surely by using all of these, your site will do extremely well in the search engine rankings?

Too many keywords?

In practice, however, using a large number of keywords is not practical and could actually end up harming the website’s search engine optimisation (SEO). The words you choose need to be included in your website’s content, and your content is ultimately intended for your customers. While you need to make sure that the site is accessible and understandable for the search engine crawlers, it is important to remember that the search engines are not your audience, the customers are. After all, what good is a high ranking business website if it doesn’t appeal to the customers and encourage them to spend money with you?

‘Keyword stuffing’

Overuse of similar keywords or repeating a keyword very often will be picked up by the search engines. They may even flag your website as a spam site (one which deliberately tries to ‘cheat’ the ranking system by using too many keywords, often unrelated to the site’s intention, to mislead web users – a tactic commonly employed by online scammers) and lower its search ranking. The search engines build their reputation on delivering relevant, good quality sites to their customers, and so sites that appear to be of very poor quality and are overusing keywords will be lowered in or even omitted from the index.

Trying to fit too many keywords into your content, even if they are all completely different, can also have negative effects. You may find yourself filling your page with far too much information, making it hard for visitors to find the part they need. The content can also sound unnatural and unappealing: if customers aren’t quickly engaged, they will move on to another website , so you need to catch their eye with what they need right away. Popular, good quality sites are favoured by search engines, so draw in the customers with content that is snappy and straight to the point.

Keeping it simple

Ideally, each page of your website will use three to five keyword phrases, and these will be specific to that page. All of your web pages are indexed, not just your home page, so each can be individually optimised for a small number of keywords. The words will be much easier to fit into your website content naturally, reducing the risk of being viewed as spam or penalised for poor quality by the search engines, and your customers will find your site far more relevant and easy to use when they find and visit you.

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