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How The Focus Keyword Works On WordPress SEO By Yoast

The Focus Keywords In WP SEO Plugin by Yoast

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?

Focus keyword suggestions

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.

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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:

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:

WordPress SEO Plugin meta description code 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.

Conclusion

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!

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About Matteo Duò

Matteo Duò is a Content Strategist & Digital Consultant in love with Startups, WordPress and Storytelling. He's a freelancer who helps companies and young entrepreneurs communicate their own message in the most effective way toward their audience. You can reach him using this form.

Comments

  1. Matteo, we rely on the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast for every post that we share. Thanks for breaking down keyword focus into simple terms.

  2. I wrote a new blog post and my SEO Yoast plugin says I got the “Focus Keyword” already on another blog post but I have no idea if this would affect my overall rankings if I keep it this way. This helped though so I appreciate the advice.

  3. I use Yoast and I love it. I do have one issue and I can’t quite figure it out. For some reason when I pick a focus keyword, it takes forever to load? I’ll select it from the search box drop down, and the word appears, but just sits there and thinks. We’re not talking a minute or two either, more like 10. If I try to do an SEO check, it comes back with a message that I must chose a focus keyword. Any idea what I’m doing wrong? I’ve sent out a few emails, searched the issue, checked my personal email, and typed this up and it’s still loading the keyword/thinking. I don’t want to post it without, but I don’t want to wait all day once a week either.

  4. Hi Jordan,
    never heard of this issue but I’d suggest to:

    – check your internet connection (maybe it’s a single episode related to it)
    – save your post as draft and type the desired focus keyword again, since the feature for checking the focus keyword in real time not always works as charm.
    – if you’re still experiencing this issue, post a new thread on WordPress.org or contact via Twitter Yoast’s team.

    Let me know 🙂

  5. I wrote a new blog post and my SEO Yoast plugin says I got the “Focus Keyword” already on another blog post but I have no idea if this would affect my overall rankings if I keep it this way, How would i fix it or do i need to look for another keyword to use in each post?

  6. Hi Emmy,SEO Yoast plugin tells you when you’re using a focus keyword you previously used for another blog post because SEO used to “dictate” to target 1 keyword only for each page/post. My suggestion here is: don’t worry about it and spend time crafting good content. As I told in my blog post, the focus keyword doesn’t affect your SEO rankings at all. Think of it as writing tool that helps you staying focused on 1 concept but there’s no harm for your SEO if you use it on different pages.

  7. Hiiiii, I am not much clear about Focused Keyword in WordPress SEO by yoast. Can we write long Keyword in Focused Keyword section of WordPress seo by yoast.

  8. I have read whole article on focused Keyword in WordPress seo by yoast. Is there any helpful Article about this topic on your blog then plz suggest me.

  9. ubendem says:

    Very helpful and informative. I’m still very new at all of this but with the help of yoast and wordpress forums / users I’m getting there. Keep up the good work. Thanks, Eric.

  10. Hello..
    Does it mean I have to make focus keyword first before creating my blog?
    which part in yoast SEO then that affect the SEO in Google?

    Thank you 🙂

  11. Nice write-up. I also use Yoast SEO for my website CheesecakeTech
    I wanted to know if it hampers a blog/website if the owner uses more than 1 focus keyword?

  12. Hey Nisharo,
    thanks for commenting here.

    Website speed is not influenced by the number of focus keywords you decide to use. In fact, as I wrote in the post, the focus keyword doesn’t affect your SEO in any way.
    Since it’s only a tool to help users (like you) craft their copy and keep it “focused” around a specific topic, I don’t see how useful it would be to use more than one focus keyword when creating a page/blog post.

  13. thanks it is imformative

  14. yoast is ky favourite seo plugin.thanks for sharing detailed info.

  15. Well, I am working hard to improve my skills to find good keywords, because in a last month or so, I got to know, that keywords are the base of my blog, if I can’t find good ones, then there is no point blogging.

    So, that’s why working hard on it now. although finding it difficult, but will succeed soon.

  16. Matteo, thanks for this great article…I have been struggling with the focus keyword trying to understand its role etc and you clarified it but the question remains, since it is not that important for the SEO so only with their premium version you can have more than one focus keyword…that tells me it is important otherwise they allow it in the free version, your thoughts?

    • I’m not sure I quite understood your question, but I’ll try anyway 🙂

      The focus keyword is an important tool, a writing tool not an SEO tool. This means it helps us stay focused on our writing but it doesn’t affect directly the SEO of any page.

      Also, let’s not forget that not every page needs a focus keyword. As Yoast says:

      “Should every page have a focus keyword?”

      We often get this question: should our about page or our contact page have a focus keyword? What should it be?

      The answer is easy: not every page needs a focus keyword.

      Actually, I haven’t yet understood why we’d need to have more than one (as they enabled with their Premium version of their plugin), as I asked when they released it:

  17. bruwei says:

    I needed this, love your post

  18. Finally, I now know what Toast seemingly did not explain. Thank you Matteo for your time and giving!

  19. This article made me so clear about focus keywords. You explained a lot about it. The important thing is you explained a purpose of using it. I was thinking of those keywords helps to have a good SEO value and you proved me wrong.
    Thank you so much for writing this article and sharing to us.

  20. Glad it helped you out Sulabh, thanks for stopping by 🙂

  21. HELLO ALL, I”m using yoast seo plugin for my site, but can some one tell me a better alternative for it.. Or shall I should stick with yoast only..

    • Hey zipship,
      thanks for stopping by. Well I’m kinda happy with Yoast but, if you’re not, what I can suggest you is to give All In One SEO a try [https://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/].

  22. Thank you so much for this great article. But i am confused in meta keywords and focus keywords. Aftrer putting focus keyword Meta keywords required to put? or only focus keyword required? Because the focus keyword can only be 1 then when we put secondary keyword?
    Thank you in advance.

  23. Thank you so much for your useful article. I am using Yoast SEO and I gave alternative Focus Keyword and followed the Yoast SEO instructions to turn on the Red or Orange bullets to Green of the pages and posts and it perfectly turns on to Green. Now my problem is, Google dose not optimize my site by searching through Focus Keywords of mine, but google optimize my site by search using my url “a1gm.tk” perfectly.
    I am new to Yoast SEO. Can you tell me, I have any mistakes?
    Your answers will be most helpful to me.

  24. With this post, you completely changed my perception on focus keyword. I was under the perception that focus keyword help you to rank in the search rank.
    Regards
    Barnali

  25. Question. My yoast plugin tells me “Good SEO scoreThe images on this page contain alt attributes with the focus keyword” if I take the dashes out of my image alt tag title name. If I leave the dashes in it says “The images on this page do not have alt attributes containing your focus keyword”. Is this a glitch or are dashes not required in the alt tag anymore? The alt tags and my focus keyword match.

  26. very detailed and well explained article about Yoast SEO, but I am still confuse about the following topics in Yoast SEO, “Clean up the ” || “Add noodp meta robots tag sitewide” || “Redirect attachment URL’s to parent post URL”. These setting confuse me that what should i do for it and why so kindly explain these point’s of Yoast SEO.

    How to optimize Robots.txt file for WordPress ?? Is sitemap included is robots.txt file is important for SEO or Indexing or not ? Simple example of SEO Optimize Robots.txt file ?

  27. Hello Matt,
    I was always curious about this focus keyword thing on yoast seo. Your article explains every detail I needed to know

  28. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for sharing this article. The problem that I am having with my website jaywordpressdesign(dot)com is that the focus keywords that I have used for the website (and have actually written the content for those specific keywords) do not show up at all on google Web master Tools. Although my website is just 2 weeks old, should I wait longer to see those focused keywords?

  29. my website is related to deals and coupons. matt please tell me if i use focus keyword on every post then my post rank is hurt or not.
    i use focus keyword like “amazon” if people search other keyword like “amazon coupon” my website is show or not in this list

  30. Hi Matteo,
    I recently joined a digitall marketing company and working as an SEO guy there, and since their customers job is very specific, their created content are usually very close to each other and when I use yoast plugin to optimize their content before publishing online, sometimes I have to use previously used focus keyword again, is this a problem and if it is how serious is it?

  31. Thanks for writing this. I suspected that the Focus Keyword didn’t actually change anything. I think it is a great tool for what it is, but I also think Yoast’s presentation of the Focus Keyword is a little deceitful. They should say upfront that it is a writing tool.

    Thanks again for the clarity.

  32. Big thanks , i think keywords play a good role in seo .

  33. Focus Keyword is matters in seo.

  34. We rely heavily on YOAST seo plugin to stand out from others in search engines but did not know focus keyword dont really help a lot in real seo! Thank you for the information Matt!

  35. Sorry but the focus keyword section in Yoast is really set up to make pages easily over optimized. Where most people get messed up is attempting to target multiple keywords in one meta description and title and try to rank for every single term perfectly. Anytime this happensm keyword stuffing is almost expected to go down. You’d save tons of time just attempting to rank for 1 maybe 2 terms that are closely related and optimize your page based off that.

  36. prajakta says:

    I have used focus keyword in one of my website page and it yoast shows warning that your are linking to another page with the same keyword consider to change if your want to rank.and at the same time it shows you have never use this focus keyword before.
    What does that mean?
    The focus keyword i used i again used it in other page meta description and seo title only. is this the reason?
    Focus keyword of one page is “iot” and other page focus keyword is “iot training” so is this the reason why i am getting such warning?
    I need your help

  37. Wow, thank you so much Matteo for this great post! I am new to all of this (just started to have my own blog) 🙂 You are great! Thanks again 🙂

  38. Good article. Okay so the “focus keyword” does not directly influence SEO as far as Google is concerned (or bing etc etc) – So why does Yoast push multiple focus words as a benefit of going Premium?

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