How many keywords should an SEO campaign target?


How many Keywords do you target?

This is easy to ask but difficult to answer, other than it depends upon many factors such as:

  1. the search market
  2. the client's priorities
  3. the website content
  4. the level of SEO required.

In general when selecting keywords, number of keywords is not the main consideration - instead we select those keywords most likely to give the best return on investment (ROI) for the client. This may just be 5 very important keywords, or it may be 50 significant keywords, or it may be many hundreds (even thousands) of important keyword phrases.

So the answer to the question "how many keywords do you target?" would have to be between 5 and 10,000.

Is number of keywords affected by the SEO budget?

Not significantly, no. Whereas we cannot optimise a website for many thousands of keywords under our entry level search engine optimisation service, our standard or enterprise levels of search engine optimisation work place no condition on numbers of keywords optimised. This is mostly dependent on the search market and website, but also on the level of existing optimisation.

What are the numbers of keywords being optimised in your current SEO campaigns?

Cornish WebServices have many SEO clients in business to business market sectors where the aim is lead generation rather than sales. Many of these clients have been with us as clients for between two and six years.  Example number of keywords for these clients would be:

  • Optimising for over 500 keywords across 4 websites. Keyword numbers being optimised for are currently growing rapidly for a new website, and we expect the number of keyword phrases being optimised for to exceed 2,000 within the year.
  • Optimising just 5 main keywords per website for one client. In 2007 we tried different keywords but as the visitor quality was poor we have returned to just considering 5 main keywords
  • Optimising about 100 keywords across two websites for another client.

What is the highest and lowest number of keywords you have optimised for?

Highest in 2008 was over 6,000 keywords and lowest was 3 keywords

What positions do you aim for?

With longer phrase keywords we are only interested in positions 1-3 on  When dealing with large number of keywords, measuring keyword ranking position on pages 2 onwards is a waste of time and unreliable. Google's personalised search has made the old 'keyword ranking position spreadsheets' totally unreliable and meaningless.

For the shortest main keywords we will record rankings positions in the initial 100 positions whilst the keywords are attaining page one positions. But from then on we mainly only consider top 10 positions.

Much more important is how many people click on the search results. This is our main criteria for measuring our search engine optimisation work. We aim to get the maximum numbers of natural visitors from relevant keyword phrases. This is the key to deciding how many keywords to target. Which will give the biggest rise in natural search traffic?

  • a) Improving the rankings of the main keyword with many searches from (say) position 2 to position 1 in Google
  • b) Optimising large numbers of keyword phrases (with small numbers of searches each) up to the top 3 positions in Google

Increasingly Cornish WebServices are finding that optimising very large numbers of keyword phrases is more effective than just optimising the 'main keywords'.

And remember, keyword research is skewed by SEO professionals and marketing staff searching for their main 'short' keywords. Search volumes for these keywords are inflated.

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