Why you shouldn’t use a focus keyword more than once

Your focus keyword is the keyword – or keyphrase – you want your post or page to rank for. If you’re aiming to rank for a particular keyword, there’s a temptation to use it over and over again across many articles, but, that’s not what a focus keyword is for! You should only ever use a focus keyword once. But why? And what do you do if you desperately want to rank for that one particular keyword? Don’t despair: I’ll tell you all about it in this post.

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If you want to optimize your posts for multiple focus keywords, use Yoast SEO Premium! You can add up to five focus keywords so you can optimize your articles for different terms. What’s more, Yoast SEO Premium also lets you define synonyms, to make optimizing even easier!

Don’t compete with your own articles

The main reason why you shouldn’t use your focus keyword more than once is that you don’t want to compete with yourself for a position in Google. If you optimize two different articles for the same focus keyword, you’re telling Google that both are suitable for people searching for that keyword, and you want both of them to appear in a search. While that’s not necessarily impossible to do, you’ll find it very hard.

You need to have a site with quite a lot of authority to rank two articles in the top ten search results. If one of your articles already ranks with that term in the search results, you’ll maybe have enough authority to try and rank with a second one. If you’re not already ranking on a focus keyword, never use it twice! Update and improve your original article and write another post that covers a slight variation of the keyword.

Ranking for your most desired keyword

What do you do if you want to rank for that particular keyword you’ve set your heart on? Imagine you’re starting a webshop selling clothes for dogs. You probably want to rank for ‘dog clothes,’ but as you’re just starting out, that’ll be pretty hard. Optimizing all of your posts for ‘dog clothes’ is not the right strategy. So what should you do? Your keyword research will give you some ideas about which other terms to target.

Your most valuable keyword ‘dog clothes’ is what’s known as a ‘head’ keyword, because it’ll be highly competitive and difficult to rank for. You should write an awesome, long cornerstone article about dog clothes and optimize it for the term ‘dog clothes’ using our Yoast SEO plugin. Then mark this article as cornerstone content in our plugin.

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Your next step towards ranking for your most desired keyword is to make sure your site structure is flawless. You’ll need to write a lot of posts, each covering a different aspect of your ‘head’ keyword. You could write an article and optimize it for focus keywords like ‘clothes for small dogs,’ ‘clothes for big dogs,’ ‘dog clothes for rainy days’ and so on. These focus keywords are called long tail keywords. If you link from these long tail articles to your ‘head term’ article, you’ll be telling Google which of your articles is the most important, and that’ll help with the ranking of your most valuable article. At the same time, you’ll also be attracting traffic for those long tail articles.

Should I use a keyword more than once?

Unless you’re a high authority site and already ranking well for a particular keyword, you should NEVER use a focus keyword more than once. Ranking for a focus keyword is possible if you write an awesome cornerstone article about that particular focus keyword, but don’t forget you’ll need a kickass site structure around it to make sure that article will start ranking!

Read more: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

36 Responses to Why you shouldn’t use a focus keyword more than once

  1. Gracious Store
    Gracious Store  • 9 months ago

    How many keywords do you put in the focus keywords space? One? What if you are uploading tens of products? Do you use a single focus keyword for each product page?

  2. Kapil Garg
    Kapil Garg  • 9 months ago

    I was using same keyword many times. Thanks for the information.

  3. Matin
    Matin  • 9 months ago

    what if i wanna use my woocommerce category as a keyword? for ex. i wanna sell my cellphones , i wanna show them both in google when ever people search for cellphones. it is not so important which product of mine shows up first in the “cellphone” google list . what matters is both of them should be high in google rank.

  4. Abhishek Kumawat
    Abhishek Kumawat  • 9 months ago

    Seriously! I’ve been doing it wrong until now. Thank you so much for mentioning this tip! Hopefully, this will affect my SEO in a positive way. :)

  5. Peter Buckwalter
    Peter Buckwalter  • 9 months ago

    From a standard post/page perspective it is relativly easy to ensure that keywords remain unique. where product titles are concerned it can be a little more challenging.

    Is it just as important to remain unique where products are concerned?

  6. Victor
    Victor  • 9 months ago

    well-researched article, thought and inspiration provoking! Loaded with great info. I’m in the process of taking a different approach to my coaching, and this is a perfect resource to save. Thank you for the perfection!

  7. Empowermented
    Empowermented  • 9 months ago

    I think this is a great point, not to spread your keyword targeting across multiple pages. If you have the same focus keyword for many different pages on your site, are you really hoping to rank all of those pages for the same keyword? Google likely wouldn’t allow this, and it’s better for you to focus down on a specific page.

  8. nihanweb
    nihanweb  • 9 months ago

    my all post have two focus keyword.you think change them to one keyword?

  9. Rahul Taneja
    Rahul Taneja  • 9 months ago

    Thanks for Wonderful Article Marieke, great information on making such mistakes with our blog.

  10. Qamar Zaman
    Qamar Zaman  • 9 months ago

    To be clear: if my focus keyword is about Seo expert for lawyers I should write a cornerstone 5000-word article with lot of facts consisting if stats, some curated authority conten, tetc.
    The publish it. Then I should write long tail thematic relevant post that support my main post example / you tube video to prove your Seo expertise in legal marketing et. cand do internal link do follow to main.
    Now my question?
    1) What should focus keyword in case of these short blogs
    2) content lenght of these short blogs
    3) what should be anchor percentage for focus keywords. You said once, but that does not declare authority?
    4) why does Yoast Seo premium plugin support multiple focus keywords?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      1) the focus keywords for these short blogs should be long tail keywords …. seo experts in legal marketing could be one (i’m no expert in that field, sorry)
      2) at least 300 words
      3) more than once! try to come to a keyword density of 1 to 2,5 %
      4) multiple focus keyword is a nice feature if you want to optimize for more than one keyword. Especially if you want to rank for similar keywords. Read: https://yoast.com/focus-multiple-keywords/

  11. Kumar
    Kumar  • 9 months ago

    Very informative post, I will make sure to not to target the same keyword on other internal pages. Hopefully, this will improve individual page’s ranking.

  12. sugandha chejara
    sugandha chejara  • 9 months ago

    Thanks for warn me. I am making this mistake on my blog. Now I am going to make changes in my articles. Thanks for sharing this info.

  13. allxy
    allxy  • 9 months ago

    It was another great article.
    This Blog is really useful and great place.

  14. Peter
    Peter  • 9 months ago

    Great blog. What I learned from it that my historical blogs are not the best strategy. Focus on just 1 keyword on 1 website in stead of multiple blogposts on the website.

  15. Ashley
    Ashley  • 9 months ago

    Hi Marieke
    As usual a great article. Has answered some questions about improving ranking potential.

  16. Lyn
    Lyn  • 9 months ago

    Hi Marieke,
    Thanks for reminding us why it is such a bad idea to use focus keywords twice. There is enough competition, we do not need to compete with ourselves too. The site structure tips are very useful suggestions as well.

  17. Tom
    Tom  • 9 months ago

    I don’t believe in cornerstone content anymore. What I think is that when you are want to rank for ‘dog clothes’ and you write 5.000 words about it. Then your article gets very broad and Google will not understand the main topic. Because you talk about all kinds of topics related to ‘dog clothes’. I see over and over again that Google ranks pages on my sites for keywords that I wasn’t optimizing for. In this example, a random article will show up for ‘dog clothes’, while my optimized page I want to rank it for will not show up. My advise is. Just do some SEO but write for your visitors. If you want to write 5 articles about ‘dog clothes’, just write them. Like it is forbidden to write more than one article about a certain topic. Who is the boss here? Not Google, not SEO company’s but you. You are making a site, you make content to help visitors out. Just write helpful pages and it will just work.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Of course you can write 5 articles for dog clothes!But these articles all have a different angel, right? Make sure to optimize them for that angle and use those words your audience is searching for! And I would choose my favorite dog clothes article. With a nice internal linking structure you can influence which one you want to rank with highest. You should take control over that situation! Because you’re the boss and not Google!

  18. Kat
    Kat  • 9 months ago

    Is a ” lengthy cornerstone article about dog clothes” the best strategy here? When you look at top 10 results, none of them is a page with an article but rather pages with lists of products. That’s what probably Google want to rank, right? I think this query intent is being overlooked very often, what does user want to see on a page for a specific query…

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Maybe my example wasn’t the best one here. I think you’re correct and that Google is very much into the intent of a user!

  19. Eve Jones
    Eve Jones  • 9 months ago

    What if i’m mentioning my focus keyword 3 times in my overall article, say for example in articles or website blog but my website is under top 50 SERP, not ranking high or is not high authority one as you stated above? What am I supposed to do?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Perhaps your focus keyword is a bit too competitive and you should try a less competitive keyword? You should also check whether your technical SEO is up to scratch. Read this article for more information: https://yoast.com/green-bullets-post-doesnt-rank/

  20. Lotta Odelius
    Lotta Odelius  • 9 months ago

    Last question from Lotta:
    3. Category pages vs cornerstone articles.
    I had decided to have a category page as a landing page for each categoriy. BUT – I have also prepared cornerstone articles for each category as well.
    The cornerstone articles are now blogposts, but I CAN change those to pages of course (I read in one of your posts that you would recommend to put the cornerstone article on an own PAGE, not a post).

    Now is the question: Should I NOT have the category page as a landing page, but have the cornerstone article as a landing page instead?
    It’s easy for me to link to the cornerstone articles from the less important articles further down in the pyramid.
    Or could I have both: BOTH a catagory landing page AND a cornerstone article with great content?
    And if so – can the cornerstone article be a POST, not a page?

    I guess this is the longest comment you’ve received ever.
    I hope you will have the time and opportunity to help me out here, I simply can’t figure it out on my own!

    Thank you so much and kind regards,
    Lotta :)

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      You’re putting much thought into this! Great! A cornerstone article can be a post. We have cornerstone posts as well at Yoast. You should make a decision which post or page you want to rank for highest (your category or your cornerstone) and link your blogpost in that certain category to that page. You can only put one article highest in your piramid. I cannot decide for you which one is the most important for your business. You should read some more on internal linking and definitely use our internal linking functionality (I linked to one of our articles in an answer to one of your other questions!)

  21. Lotta Odelius
    Lotta Odelius  • 9 months ago

    More questions from Lotta:
    2. Categories vs tags.
    My blog is on Green Design. I have two categories: “Design” and “Fashion”. In both categories there will be multiple articles on “upcycling”. Question is: should I put all the upcycling articles in a THIRD category (named “Upcycling”) (that category should then be about equally big as the other two categories about Design and Fashion), or should I just TAG articles in the Design och Fashion categories with “Upcycling”?
    There will be plenty of articles on upcycling and it fits well in my “mission statement”, so perhaps it should have it’s own category instead of a only a tag? I have already prepared cornerstone articles for each of those subjects: design, fashion and upcycling.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      There’s no real right and wrong here. Is there room in your menu for a third category? You say upcycling is important to your business and fits your mission statement. If your not focussing on too many things in your menu, I think you should make a new category.

      • Lotta Odelius
        Lotta Odelius  • 9 months ago

        Thanks for all your answers Marieke, and all your great articles.
        You’ve given me a lot to think about! (In a good way!!) :)

  22. Lotta Odelius
    Lotta Odelius  • 9 months ago

    Hi Marieke,
    I think I have read nearly all your posts and they are a great an invaluable help to me. I am about to launch my own blog on green design but there’s a few things I simply can’t figure out.
    Perhaps you could help?!

    1. Those keywords.
    Great article and I get it: I should only focus on a keyword once. It’s easy to understand how it works in your example above. But how does it work in more complicated cases? Like in the Yoast blog: you have several articles on the subject of “keywords”. How do you manage to separate those articles, and make sure only one ranks for the keyword “KEYWORD”?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Even for Yoast the word ‘keyword’ is too competitive to rank for. We have a post about long tail keywords, about competitive keywords, about keyword research tools, about keyword research strategy, about keyword research mistakes, about keyword research do’s and don’ts. These are all terms people search for. And we’ll get traffic because we have written posts about these keywords. These different posts all link to our ultimate guide to keyword research. That’s our most important one. By linking to this article, you’re telling Google: this is the most important one! Read more information: https://yoast.com/internal-linking-for-seo-why-and-how/

  23. Howard Olsen
    Howard Olsen  • 9 months ago

    Thank you for not just a great tool, but also all the incredible value added information. Another great article. I’m just building a replacement site for one that got seriously hacked. Your tools will help me get the SEO and even the content strategy right! I really appreciate you.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 9 months ago

      That’s good to hear, Howard. Thanks and good luck on your endeavors!

  24. Gurjit Singh
    Gurjit Singh  • 9 months ago

    Thanks for this good and useful information

  25. Yahjam
    Yahjam  • 9 months ago

    I am a little confused here. When you say: “You should use a focus keyword only once,” is that saying only once in an article? That means in writing the post, the keyword is in there only once?

    Or are you saying we should only use it once in a title, meaning there will only be one title on the blog/website that contains the keyword?

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 9 months ago

      Hi Yahjam. You should only optimize one page or post for your main focus keyword, this should be your most important article. In that article, it’s ok to use the keyword more than once of course, but you should not use that same keyword to optimize other articles with. Those articles should be optimized for a related keyword and linked to the main article with your main focus keyword.

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