I'm sometimes asked this question, usually by someone savvy in search marketing. After all, it's expensive to create and optimize pages for search, so you'd want to amortize that investment over as many keywords as possible right? Actually, no. The number of organic search keywords I recommend you target per page is one.
Surprised? A lot of people are, and I admit to perhaps being more extreme than some on this issue. Still, I will stick to this advice because I think it's the right way to approach the problem, even if you end up compromising later.
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Now, understand, it's not possible for you to optimize for one keyword without having other words on the page. I'm not advocating pages that contain one word, but I am advising you to have one primary focus on the page, one concept that the page is about.
Of course, sometimes you have two words that mean absolutely the same thing. If you are trying to optimize the same page for "certified public accountant" and "CPA" then I have no issue with that--essentially they are the same word. I might also be talked into sharing landing pages between "sofa" and "couch" if you really think there is no distinction in the searchers. Obviously doing so saves time.
But if you told me that you think that people who type in "CPA" are more sophisticated than those that type in "certified public accountant" and that you want to target different types of messages to those two groups, I wouldn't fight you over having two distinct pages for those audiences.
I know it would be fantastic if you could use the same page as the search landing page for "CPA" and "certified public accountant" and "tax accountant" and "tax services" and "Income tax filing" but it won't work. Even though those concepts are related to each other, you're not going to get the number one result in Google with that approach. You won't have the absolute best page if you are all over the map.
It's fine for you to use all those phrases on the same page. It's also fine for you make some of those phrases secondary targets, and there are situations, when keywords are not highly competitive, when the same page will be #1 for multiple terms. It happens.
But your best approach is to think of highly targeted pages with a single primary goal. You don't need to avoid talking about those other concepts on the page as long as they fit into your primary concept. But you shouldn't think of pages as a catch-all where you can optimize for several concepts at once--that usually results in confusing the search engine about the purpose of the page, lowering its ranking.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "This means I will have to create a LOT of landing pages." Bingo.
I know it's a lot of work. I know that you'd rather find a shortcut. I understand that you don't have time to do this much work. So, start with the ones that are the absolute best matches for your site and move on from there. Every week, do a couple more. You gradually cover more and more of your target markets, because that's what keywords are.
Not everyone agrees with me. Lots of smart people believe that you can target multiple keywords on each page easily. I think it's not so easy, and that you are better off targeting one keyword and finding yourself lucky that sometimes you get another one along for the ride, rather than trying to target several and finding you get none.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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