The length of your focus keyphrase

The keyphrase length assessment checks whether the focus keyphrase is present and whether it is not too long. In this article, we’ll explain everything about the focus keyphrase. We’ll tell you why the length of the keyphrase is important for SEO, and we’ll give you a few basic tips on how to improve yours if you got an orange or red bullet for your keyphrase length.

What is a focus keyphrase?

The focus keyphrase is the phrase that you want your post or page to be found for. This can be one single word, but it usually consists of a few words, which is why it’s called a keyphrase. If you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you’re probably used to filling out your focus keyphrase.

If you want your blog post to rank for ‘healthy snacks’, you should optimize your post for that term. A focus keyphrase can be longer, though. For example, you could write an article about healthy snacks specifically for kids. Or a post about healthy snacks to eat after a workout. These posts could be optimized for ‘healthy snacks for kids’ and ‘healthy snacks after workout’. These longer focus keyphrases are called long tail keyphrases.

Why is the keyphrase length important for SEO?

There are different approaches to choosing a keyphrase for your posts or pages. You can choose to optimize your article for a short, generic keyword. These are the more common keyphrases that get a lot of search traffic, but also have a great deal of competition. A keyphrase like ‘snacks’ could be an example of such a keyphrase. A lot of people will search for this term, but there will also be many companies optimizing for this term. In the image below, the body of the mouse represents these less specific keyphrases.

Long tail graphic

You can also choose to optimize for a longer, more specific keyphrase, represented by the tail in the image above. These longer keyphrases are therefore also called long tail keyphrases. They get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they focus more on a specific product or topic. A keyphrase like ‘healthy snacks for children’ is a good example of a long tail keyphrase. There will be fewer people searching for this longer keyphrase than for the aforementioned ‘snacks’, but there’s also a higher chance people will find what they are looking for when searching for a more specific term like this.

However, that’s not to say you should make your keyphrase a whole sentence. We recommend a maximum of four relevant content words (in languages like English, Spanish, German and French, we filter out words like ‘what’, ‘and’, ‘the’ etc.) for your focus keyphrase. Longer keyphrases make it harder to optimize your post. Simply because you need to repeatedly use a large number of words close to each other, while still trying to create a readable copy. Of course, Yoast SEO Premium can help you solve that puzzle by letting you optimize for synonyms and related keyphrases as well.

Learn more about this check in Yoast SEO in our explanation of the keyphrase length assessment.

How to improve your focus keyphrase

The Yoast SEO plugin provides you with feedback on the length of your focus keyphrase. If you get an orange or red bullet for the length of your focus keyphrase, your keyphrase might be too long. It might even be missing. We’ll give you a few basic tips on how to improve your focus keyphrase.

  1. Don’t forget to set a focus keyphrase
    If you don’t set a focus keyphrase, the Yoast SEO plugin can’t calculate the SEO score of your page or post. So, if you want to know if your post or page is well-optimized for the keyphrase you want to rank for, you should make sure to set a focus keyphrase.
  2. Decide what you want to rank for
    Choosing what you want to rank for is hard. That’s where keyword research comes in. In your keyword strategy you should define what you want to rank for and how you want to achieve those rankings. Find out what you want to rank for and which terms, phrases and concepts are related to that. Find out what words people use to describe the product or service you’re offering. Decide if you want your page to rank for a short, generic keyword or a longer, more specific keyphrase. If you want to learn more about choosing the right keywords, our Keyword research training might be of help!
  3. Make sure it’s not too long
    Last but not least, it’s perfectly fine if you decide to go for a longer tail keyphrase, but you should make sure it’s not too long. We recommend a maximum of four content words for your focus keyphrase. If your keyphrase is longer, it’s harder to optimize your post or page, because you have to use a larger number of words close to each other repeatedly throughout your text.