Don’t make your focus keywords too long

It can be a great strategy to focus on long tail keywords. But don’t go overboard there. Trying to rank for very long keyphrases usually makes your text a terrible read. Why is that? And what should be your strategy for those long keywords? Let me tell you all about long focus keywords in this post!

Focus keywords and focus keyphrases

If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin to optimize your posts and pages, you’re probably used to filling out your focus keyword. That’s the word you want that specific post to be found for. A focus keyword hardly ever is a single word though. It usually consists of a few words: it probably should be called a keyphrase.

If you want your blog post to rank for the term [longtail keywords], you should optimize your post for that term. If you want it to be found for the term [keyword research tools], you’ll optimize for that term. Choosing what terms you want to be found for is hard, and you’ll need to do some proper keyword research to come up with those terms.

Read more: How to start with keyword research »

Why long keyphrases?

Using long keyphrases can be a great strategy. The longer the keyword you’re optimizing for, the fewer competitors you’ll have. Focusing on a lot of long tail (specific) keywords could generate lots of traffic to your website. Combining such a strategy with cornerstone content and a great internal linking structure is a very smart SEO strategy. Nevertheless, if key phrases become too long, the readability of your text will suffer.

Keep reading: How to incorporate cornerstone content »

Readability and long keyphrases

Optimizing your text for a very long focus keyword will jeopardize the readability of your text. I would strongly advise against the use of very long focus keywords: optimizing for more than 6 words is incredibly hard. Optimizing your text for a keyphrase like [keyword research tools that are easy to use] is very hard. If you want to use that exact phrase multiple times in your text, you’ll need to make an effort. Furthermore, your text can easily become rather awkward, and seem overoptimized if you use such a phrase too often.

Google and long keyphrases

Google is very capable of recognizing longer keyphrases, even if the words are not in the exact same order. If you Google for [keyword research tools that are easy to use] you’ll get these kinds of results:

Google highlights words in the search query, and recognizes the words in the query, even though they’re not in that exact order. In almost all cases, Google can do that. 

Use multiple focus keywords for those long key phrases

If you want to optimize for long key phrases, you should use the multiple focus keyword functionality in Yoast SEO premium. For example, if you want to rank for the keyphrase [keyword research tools that are easy to use], I would advise you to optimize your post for [keyword research tools] and for [easy to use]. If you optimize your posts this way, you make sure you’re optimizing for all the specifics of your long tail focus keyword.

The multiple keyword functionality of Yoast SEO Premium enables you to focus on multiple aspects of a long tail keyword. The readability of your text will not suffer, and you’ll still make sure you cover all the aspects of a long search term in your writing.

Of course, in the ideal situation, Yoast SEO would recognize the terms in the same way Google does. That’s still work in progress though. In Yoast SEO Premium 7.8, we’ve released a new feature: synonyms. And in the next months, you can expect even more updates making our SEO analysis smarter and more advanced. These changes will help you to write awesome, engaging content that’ll rank in the search engines. Read what’s on the road map in Marieke’s post.

Read on: Keyword Research: the ultimate guide »

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28 Responses to Don’t make your focus keywords too long

  1. hkhons
    hkhons  • 2 years ago

    I have a question about meta description. Is it better to empty the yoast meta description fill up so that search engine automatically collect the description from the article or it’s better to fill yoast plugin meta description field?

  2. Utsav Srinet
    Utsav Srinet  • 2 years ago

    I have installed the Yoast SEO plugin and noticed that the plugin always encourages you to choose a different set of focus keyword. Let suppose focus keyword is “beautiful lakes “, wouldn’t that be my focus keyword each time I had that type of post? How should I choose my focus keyword for that type of post?

  3. Ibrahim Olalekan
    Ibrahim Olalekan  • 2 years ago

    Thanks a lot for this, this is my first time hearing about this, i really appreciate and this is a very useful article for me and my friends here, gratitude.

  4. Dax
    Dax  • 2 years ago

    Thanks Marieke.

    This post is helpful. I am relatively new to Yoast SEO Premium and am happy with it so far…

  5. John
    John  • 2 years ago

    I strongly agree with you,
    Using such focus keywords can have a direct effect on the readability of your article. Thanks for making sense in this regard.

  6. Ogbe Emmanuel
    Ogbe Emmanuel  • 2 years ago

    This is so true about going overboard when it comes to the use of longtail keywords. Though I have ranked with most of my keywords at the same time, I have reduced the rate of using the longtails. Thanks for the tips.

  7. Justin
    Justin  • 2 years ago

    so useful for me thank you .

  8. Alison
    Alison  • 2 years ago

    Thanks for that great post, Marieke.
    I have a question for you. I have been experimenting. When I use a keyphrase and take out any extra words (e.g. improve your IBS symptoms becomes “improve IBS symptoms”), Yoast says my keyword density is 0%. So I keep the “your”. What should I do in this case please?

    • Melina Reintjens
      Melina Reintjens  • 2 years ago

      Hi Alison! Great to hear that you’re experimenting, that’s always a good way to figure out what works best for you! What you should do in this case really depends. You may find this post helpful, in which Marieke gives two steps to take before deciding on the exact formulation of your focus keyword:
      You could also try the strategy described in this post, using multiple focus keywords. Good luck!

  9. Browp
    Browp  • 2 years ago

    Thanks for the great tips. I am using Yoast for almost 7 years and still very attached to it. Whenever I started any wordpress blog or site, the first plugin I have ever installed is Yoast.

    Using a long tail keyword lower your competition and give you more conversion. The readability score with focus keyword are the top features of Yoast.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 2 years ago

      Awesome, thanks for your support!

  10. Stalyn
    Stalyn  • 2 years ago

    Will keep this info handy next time I’m crafting my next post.

  11. Rod Thomas
    Rod Thomas  • 2 years ago

    As always Marieke, wonderful post. You consistently present valuable information to help us make sense out of Yoast SEO. I never gave longtail keywords any thought until reading your post here today. I’ve always focused on single keywords which in most cases (as you brilliantly mentioned in this article) I would rank rather poorly–much to my chagrin.

    With that, I will immediately begin experimenting with longtail keywords and see where this journey takes me.

    Stay awesome Marieke.

  12. yuva
    yuva  • 2 years ago

    What great resources, marieke. very informative article on focus keyword formation in seo

  13. Basit Ansari
    Basit Ansari  • 2 years ago

    I am always use long keyword but after read your blog post, I am never use long keyword.

  14. Judi BandarQ Ceme
    Judi BandarQ Ceme  • 2 years ago

    omg , this is very helpful , thanks for the information . I’d like to learn more about SEO . very helpful article

  15. Sam Distribution
    Sam Distribution  • 2 years ago

    An AWESOME Guide about keywords! I usually focus on longtail keyword. Thanks for sharing Marieke

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 2 years ago

      You’re welcome, Sam.

  16. Umasankar
    Umasankar  • 2 years ago

    Hey Marieke, Nice write up.
    Great help for a beginner like me.

  17. Jackson Rubem
    Jackson Rubem  • 2 years ago

    Congratulations Marieke van de Rakt for your excelent article. I learned very much wit it. Thank you.

  18. Jamiel
    Jamiel  • 2 years ago

    yeah, I learned a lot from your writing. Thank you very much. I am currently building a wordpress site using YOAST and it just so happens to appear this information on my dashboard.

  19. Victor Ikani
    Victor Ikani  • 2 years ago

    Awesome! Thanks for this great tips

  20. Ashwani
    Ashwani  • 2 years ago

    Thanks a lot for clarification………

  21. Toudjidoum
    Toudjidoum  • 2 years ago

    keyword as underlined in your number of texts is the keyword constituents of resaerch in the website. therefore I truly thank you for everything you to do in order to develop my knowledge.

  22. Alex Sanfilippo
    Alex Sanfilippo  • 2 years ago

    Very insightful! Thank you. This was something that I didn’t really understand – glad to be expanding my knowledge!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 2 years ago

      Glad to have made it somewhat clearer for you, Alex.

  23. koemsiely
    koemsiely  • 2 years ago

    Nice article, Thank you so much! I never know about this before, I usually focus on longtail keyword.

  24. Smuf
    Smuf  • 2 years ago

    Oh thank you so much for sharing this amazing article with us.