These should NOT be guessed. You don’t want to create content for a keyword you’ll never rank for. You also want to use keyword research tools to identify phrases for developing new content. Once you know your Yoast focus keywords, we’ll optimize content for green lights.
We need to know WHAT people are searching (keyword research) and whether your site is capable of ranking for it (keyword competition). A little research can greatly improve your chances of ranking on page 1. This should be done before writing content… writing about “how to get out of debt” vs. “how to get out of debt without bankruptcy” is much different.
Update: I wrote 1 definitive Yoast tutorial which includes (almost everything) about keywords. But it shows you how to configure the settings, fix crawl errors in Search Console, and add accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for faster mobile load times. Check it out when you’re done.
Table Of Contents
- Google Autocomplete
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Competitor Keywords
- Keyword Competition (MozBar)
- Localized Keywords
- Focus Keywords For Posts
- Content Optimization (Green Lights)
- Targeting Secondary Keywords
- Anatomy Of A Perfectly Optimized Page
1. Google Autocomplete
To find even more keywords, try using different variations like plurals…
You can even use different word ordering…
Autocomplete works with most search engines including Youtube for video SEO…
- Phrases on top usually have more searches
- No need to include keywords with adjectives like “best”
- Broad phrases have more searches but are also more competitive
- If you see more specific phrases in the dropdown, choose those
- Specific phrases have less searches but are much easier to rank for
- You may have multiple keywords per service (eg. Indian wedding photographer)
2. Moz Keyword Explorer
Next, use Moz Keyword Explorer to make sure you don’t miss any keywords. This is similar to Google Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords), plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the exact same ones.
After it runs the analysis, click on keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions.
Moz Keyword Explorer Tips
- Start building a keyword list
- Group related keywords with low lexical similarity
- Write down keywords you didn’t find in Autocomplete
- Start with a broad phrase, then look for very specific phrases
3. Competitor Keywords
Use HubShout WebGrader to see a full list of competitor keywords, or your own. Just run a website through it, let it process, and click ‘see full keyword analysis.’ Here are some of mine.
4. Keyword Competition (MozBar)
The MozBar Chrome Extension lets you Google any keyword to see how competitive it is. Instead of hoping a page will rank high when you publish it, simply Google the keyword with MozBar. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the harder it is to rank. You’ll want to compete with keywords within your own DA/PA range.
- Broad phrases usually have higher DA + PA
- Learn your own DA using OSE and compete for keywords within your range
- Build your DA by getting more links to your site (through awesome content)
- Websites (especially new ones) will have low DA, so target very specific phrases
- If you’re targeting competitive keywords in Google Maps, see my local SEO guide
- You can build PA by improving the content and pointing internal links to the page
- Avoid competing with large, authority websites and high quality content
- Click on the top results and ask yourself whether you can create better content
Other ways to tell if a keyword is competitive…
Instead of targeting ‘how to get out of debt’ which I can assume is a competitive phrase (and if you Google it, it is), I would choose a more specific phrase in the Autocomplete dropdown:
5. Localized Keywords
The larger the area, the more specific your keywords will be – and the more you will have. Smaller towns will have broad keywords while larger cities will have more specific phrases…
When I was doing web design in Chicago, I knew I wasn’t going to compete for “Chicago Web Design” against large companies who also knew SEO. Instead, I found the keyword “Chicago WordPress Design” which had a good amount of searches and was much less competitive. I was able to rank #1 (back when I did web design) which actually got me a ton of business.
Whether you target these specific phrases or just “Chicago Web Design” depends on the population of your city and how much time you’re willing to invest trying to compete for a high value keyword. Same concept with SEO consulting… no way I’m going to rank for “SEO Consultant” but I’m currently ranked #2 for “WordPress SEO Consultant” (behind Yoast).
Hint: if you see a lot of autocomplete results, that keyword is probably competitive…
Multiple Locations – you’ll need to research keywords for each city since some cities are larger than others. Small towns will probably just have 1 broad keyword (Pinecrest Dentist) while more populated cities will likely have more specific keywords (Boynton Beach Dental Implants). That means you should have a landing page for each city, sometimes multiple. You’ll also want to create a separate Google My Business page and citations (directories) for each city, which is exactly what my WordPress local SEO guide shows you how to do.
6. Focus Keywords For Posts
Getting traffic to your blog is all fine and dandy, but how do you use non-promotional blog material to get more customers? Here’s what I did…
I offer WordPress speed optimization as part of my SEO services. I wanted more of these projects so I learned what phrases people Google when they have a slow WordPress site. I looked at Google Autocomplete for “slow WordPress…” and saw some results. Then I really put myself in my searcher’s position when I Googled “why is wordpress” and saw it completed the phrase with “why is wordpress so slow” with that keyword on top. There are plenty of variations below it in Autocomplete, indicating it has a good amount of searches. It’s also within my competition when you Google the keyword using MozBar. Bingo!
And so my blog post was born: Why Is WordPress Slow And How To Get .39s Load Times
People read my guide, realize they don’t have the technical skills to do everything, and some inquire. Completely coincidental that this happened while I was writing this post (seriously, I haven’t gotten one of these for weeks) but I just got this comment 3 hours ago:
What kind of phrases can you do this with? Update: that guide has now been viewed over 15,000 times with 125 comments – many from people who were able to get a 1s load time. If you need help reducing your page load time in GTmetrix or Google Page Speed, check it out.
7. Content Optimization
After you chose a Yoast focus keyword, it needs to be targeted on it’s own separate page (or post). Similar keywords can be targeted on the same page if search intent is the same (people expect to find the same information whether they search Keyword A or Keyword B). If the intent is different and you can create unique content for both, create a page for each.
Each of your services will have it’s own page – sometimes multiple pages. I have separates pages for WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit, etc.
Once you created a new page, the first step is to design an awesome landing page. You can get green lights all you want but if your content sucks, it’s not going to rank. People spend too much time thinking about image alt tags and forget what makes their content valuable: nice graphics, videos, infographics, and helpful blog tutorials. WHY would Google rank your content over everyone else’s? Why would anyone in their right mind link to you?
Page Title – include your keyword here, self-explanatory. If it’ an article make sure you’ve written a kick-ass headline, preferably with your exact match keyword in front.
URL – use short permalinks that read well. I shortened mine to /yoast-focus-keywords/.
Keyword Density – include your keyword in the first couple sentences and a few times in your content body. Use LSI keywords (synonyms) instead of using the same keyword over and over. These can be secondary keywords you want to rank for. Make these sound natural.
Image Alt Text – when you upload an image to WordPress, the visual editor automatically uses the image file name as the alt text. This mean you need to label images before uploading them! The file name should simply describe the image – don’t stuff keywords. If it the image describes your keyword, you can use it here, but don’t stuff keywords in your alt text.
Image Speed Optimization – you can run any page through GTmetrix to see all unoptimized images on a page. Make sure are images are resized to fit the correct dimensions. If your content body is 680(w), you should be using images that are resized to 680(w). Also use a plugin like Imagify to losslessly compress your images. Images with the “specify image dimensions” error means you need to specify a width + height in that image’s HTML or CSS:
<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Why-Is-WordPress-So-Slow.jpg” alt=”Why Is WordPress So Slow” width=”680” height=”380” />
Internal / External Links – Google uses links to determine the relevancy of a page. You want to link to useful content people will click on. In this tutorial I link to Yoast’s article on focus keywords, the Yoast plugin, MozBar, and other helpful pages. I also use internal links about how to configure the Yoast settings, or make your WordPress site load faster. The link text should be descriptive – don’t use use “click here.” Internal links are good because they’re a natural way to build links to your pages – plus they keep visitors on your website. External links are good because they’re kind of like citing sources for the article, which Google likes.
SEO Title – these are your page’s headline you see in search results and are the FIRST thing people see. If it’s a page, don’t just use “Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” Use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on it… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” For posts, you can usually leave these since your headline will do just fine. Make sure you have a decent length (bars below should be green).
Meta Description – the main purpose of this is to get people to click on your link. This and the SEO title are the first thing people see in search results so spend time writing these. It should also include your Yoast focus keyword, plus a secondary keyword if you have one.
Post Long Content – short, crappy content doesn’t rank. Long content that covers the topic extensively (especially content that includes a video or infographic), will. Google measures “average time on page” so your primary goal is to increase the dwell time of your visitor.
Social Media Optimization – this ensures your page will display a properly formatted image when shared on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “share” link in Yoast and upload custom images where it tells you to. If you don’t see the tabs, check your Yoast social settings to enable Facebook and Twitter meta data. Yes, this means you need to design 2 separate images for Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). I leave the other fields blank which let you write a custom headline and description for Facebook/Twitter.
Rich Snippets – this isn’t part of Yoast, be you should be aware of it. You can use the WP Rich Snippets plugin to enhance your snippets and stand out in search results. This can be done with reviews, recipes, articles, products, organizations, and restaurants. You can also do this with videos and events, but those are not supported by this plugin (try Yoast Video SEO). Remember, snippets are the first thing people see, so this can give you a huge advantage.
Basic Rules Of Yoast:
You are only allowed to set 1 focus keyword. The premium version allows 2, but if you don’t have success with 1 keyword then don’t try 2. However it’s not that hard (just make sure the secondary keyword is very similar to your primary) then see the section on similar keywords.
Yoast only detects exact keyword matches so if you’re using synonyms, your Yoast lights will be red (which is OK). If my focus keyword is SEO Consultant and I use SEO Consulting in the content, Yoast will not pick it up. But I can assume keyword density is higher than Yoast says.
It doesn’t always have to be an exact match. There is a fine line between writing a nice headline, and writing a headline so it includes your exact keyword. Find the right balance.
Yoast only detects keywords in the main content body and search engine snippet. Not the sidebars, not the footer, just those two areas. This is also good since search engines analyze content in blocks and your content body/search engine snippets are the important areas.
Focus keyword for homepage – since there’s no permalink used on your homepage, we can’t use a keyword there. And if you have a widgetized homepage there’s not even a section to enter your focus keyword in the meta box. That’s OK. Just use the same on-page SEO strategies as your the other pages, you just won’t have the Yoast SEO checklist to help you.
You usually do want to target a focus keyword for these pages…
- Product/service pages
- Location pages
- Blog posts (non-promotional keywords)
You usually don’t want to target a focus keyword for these pages…
- Contact page
- People pages (unless your name is being searched for)
- Testimonial pages
- Main blog page
8. Targeting Secondary Keywords
You can target a secondary, very similar keyword by using it (or at least a partial match) in your page title, SEO title, meta description, content body, alt text, etc. Here’s an example:
Primary Keyword: SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes
Secondary Keyword: SEO-Optimized WordPress Themes
Page Title / SEO Title: 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes For Everyone
Meta Description: Browse over 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes which have mobile responsive and HTML5 design, all of which are SEO optimized via the Genesis Framework.
Then sprinkle your secondary keyword (or partial match) in your content. Your permalink should usually just include your primary keyword: /seo-friendly-wordpress-themes/. You do not need to purchase the premium version of Yoast to use secondary keywords – just use the tools I went over to find a secondary keyword, then sprinkle it. And if you can’t rank high for your primary, don’t even try a secondary until you have content optimization basics down.
9. Anatomy Of A Perfectly Optimized Page
I borrowed this from Backlinko which incorporates more than just “green lights”…
If you found this post helpful, please share – I would appreciate it. And if you have any questions about Yoast focus keywords or Yoast in general, drop me a line in the comments. And if you need a WordPress seo consultant who clearly knows what they’re doing, I’ll be here.