How many keywords do I need?
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, we would suggest almost all organizations should monitor a bare minimum of 50 distinct keywords, just to cover their brand, primary intents (see below), and competition.
A good rule of thumb is to consider the number of distinct propositions your website makes (e.g. products or services) and multiply that number by 25. For example, a University might target 25 keywords per course they offer, as a first approximation.
Choosing your campaigns
We highly recommend you divide your keywords into multiple campaigns, and then consider appropriate keywords for each. Here are some common campaigns we recommend:
Brand – company and product names that you own. For example, if your company was called “MegaWidgets” you would include that here. You should usually rank 1st for all of these, and if you fail to do so, that is usually a priority to fix.
Products / services – for each publicly facing product or service you offer, we recommend creating a distinct campaign. Within this campaign, include neutral descriptions of what that product or service does, in they way that they might be searched for. For example: “Pizza”, “Nursing degree”, “Inflatable mattress”. Include common variations, e.g. “web design” and “website design” are likely to rank differently and both need measuring.
Intents – consider your potential customer at all points in time before they are ready to buy. For example, someone who might enrol on your law degree might, years earlier, conduct searches for “how to become a lawyer”, “law career prospects” and “best universities for law”. Profiling these are an excellent start to a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy.
Competitors – include your competitors brand names, and optionally a prefix or suffix like “alternative”, e.g. “alternative to MyCompetitor”. You may or may not wish to target these competitors directly, but adding these keywords allows you to measure who already does.
Although their name suggests otherwise, a keyword is not actually a single word. Keywords are complete phrases of text which will be searched for.
Consider how contested any given keyword is, by simply performing a Google search and checking the number of results that return. Consider whether you have any realistic chance of ranking highly against the top websites. For example, most websites will have little chance of ranking in the top ten for the keyword “news”.
Consider that most users will actually adopt more specific terms where lots of results are returned. Instead of targeting a keyword like “news”, consider a more specific variation, such as “London news” or “construction news”.
Especially specific variations – often known as ‘long tail keywords’ – are comparatively easy to rank for, and can be an excellent stepping stone towards ranking for more competitive terms.