Last week in this space, I urged organic search marketers to focus on optimizing for one keyword per page, rather than taking a scatter shot approach where they are trying to shoehorn many keywords into the same landing page. I knew that it wasn't the normal advice that people hear, but I wasn't prepared for how many comments and questions I got, so I thought it was worth revisiting the topic this week. If you're still unpersuaded about the approach of targeting one keyword per page, I want to take another shot at it.
I got lots of questions about this stark advice, most along the lines of, "Yeah, but can't I target several keywords effectively with the same page?" The short answer is that you can, but I can't guarantee how successful you'll be.
Let's take an example. Suppose you own a shoe store in Sheboygan, where you feature expensive women's fashion shoes. You could decide that you want your home page to come up when your customers search for "women's fashion shoes in Sheboygan" and I bet you'd have a good chance of your site coming up high in the rankings. And maybe you'd also get high rankings for "shoe store In Sheboygan." And maybe "women's shoes in Sheboygan."
It could happen. And it's just fine. But most people that I talk to think that they can also get rankings on that page for "women's shoes"--you won't. Or even "women's fashion shoes"--fat chance. Or worse, they think that you can stuff in "women's sandals" and "high heels" and you think you'll be able to squeeze all those terms onto the page and just keep optimizing the hell out of the page and it will all come up roses.
I think it's the wrong approach. I am not saying that you won't have pages that will rank well for multiple keywords. You will. But you are better off shooting for one keyword for page and getting lucky than thinking you can target five different keywords on a page--you'll probably end up with a page about nothing.
Now understand, I am not telling you that you have to avoid using other keywords on the page. You don't. Write naturally. Write to persuade people. Make sure that you use the keyword you are looking to optimize but don't avoid other words that naturally crop up. But, I advise, make one keyword the primary focus of the page.
Lots of smart people disagree with me. Jill Whalen, a copywriting expert, offered a comment disagreeing vehemently. And it's fine with me that she can target 3-5 keywords per page and it works. I'm not giving her advice--she doesn't need it.
I'm giving advice to the average person out there. I run across far more people who try to target many keywords on a page and fail than people who target one keyword and fail. It's that simple. Professionals like Jill understand which kinds of keywords are related to each other and can be combined on the same page. Most people don't and get themselves into more trouble by doing so.
Feel free to try it the other way. I won't be upset. But when people ask me for advice, I find that they end up doing the right thing more often when they try for one keyword on a page rather than three or five. And they are pleasantly surprised when the page ranks for multiple keywords rather than upset when it ranks for none.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, Web personalization, 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 the Biznology newsletter and blog, 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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