If you have a website, there’s a high chance it’s built on WordPress because WordPress runs 4.5% of the entire internet and is used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites, as of January 2015. And if you do, your choice for dealing with SEO issues and improvements has probably fallen between All In One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast.
In my early days as a blogger, I was all for AIOSP. When I became a digital consultant and started to use my website as a way of building authority and visibility, I switched to WordPress SEO because it’s really a powerful yet easy to use tool for my SEO concerns.
If you haven’t seen it in action, it’s a WordPress plugin that, once activated, brings in a new area below each of your post/page where you’re able to add some important SEO elements like SEO title, focus keyword and meta description.
What most bloggers and WordPress users still don’t get is how the focus keyword is related to their SEO. Let me clear every doubt you have on it and give you crystal clear answers to your questions about the focus keyword field so you can use it at its full potential.
So the problem here is that many WordPress users use on a regularly basis WordPress SEO plugin, but few really know how the focus keyword works.
What’s The Focus Keyword?
First of all let’s clear things up on what is a focus keyword in Yoast’s plugin. Have you ever noticed that when you start typing anything in Google search box, you immediately get complementary words and suggestions based on your search? Those are the most common searches users performed on Google.
In a SEO view, those are useful insights when developing editorial ideas and listing keywords to rank for (also know as keyword strategy).
In your SEO strategy, there should be a list of keywords you would like to rank for on Google and other search engines. Whether they’re generic or long tail keywords (also known as key phrases), you need to keep them in mind when creating content because you should use them in your pages and blog posts. What I mean is that if you aim for “content marketing tips” to be ranked well, you’ll need to create a bunch of pages, blog posts, infographics and other contents containing that expression in a natural flow of words.
WordPress SEO plugin’s focus keyword does that: it helps you stay “focused” on that specific expression and brings you the Google instant experience conveniently right below your post/page in WordPress. This way when you’re filling up all the other fields in the plugin, you don’t have to jump back and forth on Google to see which keywords users search for and your writing process runs smoothly.
What’s The Goal Of A Focus Keyword?
The focus keyword is nothing else than a writing tool you can exploit to improve your writing while creating a page or a blog post. Even though I was sure about this, the other day I said “Hey why not ask directly to Yoast team, just to be super-duper sure about it?” So I did and Michiel, who’s in charge of site reviews at Yoast’s, confirmed it all:
— Michiel Heijmans (@michielheijmans) March 3, 2015
How Does The Focus Keyword Affect Your SEO?
This is one of the bigest misunderstanding WordPress users and SEOs have: the focus keyword in WordPress SEO plugin doesn’t affect SEO at all, nor it modifies the code on your entire website. The SEO title field and the meta description do, as you can see in the image below showing the meta description for my guide on image optimization best practices:
Again, I asked Yoast team and got it confirmed:
How Many Focus Keywords Can You Use?
Since it’s a way to support your writing process, the focus keyword can only be 1. That’s to say you can’t create a list of terms and separate them with punctuation (like commas) to insert more than 1. If you think about this carefully, you really shouldn’t need more than one keyword, since you’re trying to write copy to rank a specific keyword not a bunch of them.
Do All My Pages And Posts Need A Focus Keyword?
No, you aren’t asked to find a focus keyword for each of your page and blog post because the sole purpose of it is to help you in staying focused on your writing, aligning the wording, copy and information with the keyword you’re aiming for. In Yoast’s words:
The answer is easy: not every page needs a focus keyword. Your contact page should be easily reachable, it might for instance need to rank for “ address”. That probably doesn’t make sense as a focus keyword though and it’s perfectly fine to leave it empty.
Focus Keywords vs Meta keywords
Focus keywords aren’t to be confused with meta keywords, those words and phrases SEO “gurus” used to insert in a website to trick search engines back in the days. Those should have been an additional way for webmasters to provide search engines with even more descriptive information about their site, thus rank better. But guess what, webmasters started filling up their website with “free mp3”, “free porn videos” or other huge online searches and results where crap. Today Google and other search engines don’t evaluate them anymore.
By default WordPress SEO by Yoast doesn’t allow meta keywords (for this very good reason), but still some users want the possibility to use them within their SEO strategy. If you’d like to waste some of your time and stuff your WordPress site with meta keywords, you can still enable them.
How To Use The Focus Keyword Field
As I said before, the sole purpose of the focus keyword is to make your writing process, wording and writing depth align with a target keyword you’d like to rank for. With this in mind, don’t over-use it within your copy, nor force sentences containing your focus keyword if that’s not the case. Write like you speak, in plain English, following a natural flow, using everyday words.
Of course you should take into consideration the keyword density aspect, which is the number your very keyword has been used on your page. Yoast plugin gives you this number in the “Page Analysis” tab and you can take action accordingly.
As content marketing is living a new life, SEO is gaining attention too. But be warned: search engines are smarter nowadays and creating a list of generic keywords you would like to rank for is like flushing your time and money down the toilet. WordPress SEO by Yoast is a great plugin that can help you improve your SEO efforts because it has all the main elements a page or blog post needs to have.
Picking the perfect focus keyword isn’t easy and now that you know what’s all about, it’s your turn to use it effectively for your next post!