Need help choosing better focus keywords in WordPress?
The perfect focus keyword usually has a balance of high monthly searches, high profitability, and low competition (usually it’s “pick two”). Google’s Autocomplete suggestions are a great place to start keyword research, then review content in the top results to see your competition.
Since Google Autocomplete doesn’t show you monthly searches or SEO competition, you can use Chrome Extensions like Ubersuggest, MozBar, and Keywords Everywhere to see data. I like using PA (page authority), DA (domain authority), and content quality as competition indicators.
New websites should create a well-researched keyword list and usually start with low competition keywords until they build domain authority. Established sites can use their Search Results report to find keywords they rank on the 1st page for, then bump them to the top 1-3 results where most traffic is. This can be done by improving content and building internal links.
Keywords shouldn’t be guessed. You don’t want to create content for a keyword you’ll never rank for, or rank for a keyword with no searches. We need to know what people are searching (keyword research) and whether your site is capable of ranking for it (keyword competition). A little research can make all the difference. Writing about how to get out of debt vs. how to get out of debt on one income is different in terms of content, competition, and monthly searches.
How To Research Focus Keywords In WordPress
- What is a focus keyword?
- Find a keyword in Google Autocomplete
- Use Ubersuggest to see monthly searches + competition
- Use Keywords Everywhere to see keyword data while searching
- Google the keyword and learn the competition
- Use Answer The Public to find question keywords
- Use Semify Web Grader to see competitor keywords
- Use Google Trends to see the keyword’s historical growth
- Use the Search Results report to monitor keyword performance
- Blog keywords
- Local keywords
- Long-tail keywords
- Multiple keywords
- Optimize content for the focus keyword
- Keyword research tools
1. What is a focus keyword?
A focus keyword is the topic a page or post is about. Usually, it’s selected using keyword research tools, then set in your SEO plugin which provides on-page SEO recommendations.
2. Find a keyword in Google Autocomplete
Go to google.com and start typing a broad version of your keyword.
Google will usually show you long-tail (3+ word) phrases which are less competitive and more targeted. Google can show suggestions for both the end of a phrase as well as the beginning or middle using the “fill in the blank” method. Keywords on top generally have more searches, and the more Autocomplete suggestions there are, the more competitive that keyword probably is.
Just by looking through Autocomplete and trying different variations of the keyword, you can learn what people are searching and get a general idea of each one’s popularity + competition.
Google Autocomplete Tips
- Choose specific (long-tail) phrases which are less competitive.
- No need to include “best” or other non-descriptive adjectives.
- Synonyms can be targeted on the same page as secondary keywords.
- Most businesses have multiple keywords for each service (I have WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit… all of which are different enough that I have a separate page for each and ranked in the top 3 results for all three).
- Getting more specific can mean choosing Chicago WordPress Designer instead of Chicago Web Designer, or WordPress SEO Consultant instead of SEO Consultant. Targeting a specific city/location or type of service is one way of getting more specific.
3. Use Ubersuggest to see monthly searches + competition
Google Autocomplete doesn’t show you keyword data.
That’s what Ubersuggest is for. It’s a free keyword tool that shows you monthly searches, estimated SEO difficulty, and a keyword’s trends. They also have a Chrome Extension that lets you see data directly in Google’s search results and check each result’s domain authority (DA), estimated visits, social shares, and referring domains. All can be used as competition indicators.
4. Use Keywords Everywhere to see keyword data while searching
Keywords Everywhere is a paid, credit-based Chrome Extension that shows you each keyword’s monthly searches, CPC (cost-per-click) and estimated competition. It can be used in most search engines like Google, YouTube, Amazon, and Etsy. I paid for the minimum amount of credits ($10) and only use it with Google Autocomplete. I don’t believe this counts towards credits. It can be a cheaper way to see monthly searches + competition than many paid tools.
5. Google the keyword and learn the competition
The next step is to Google the keyword and manually look through the content in the top 3 results or so. Try to avoid competing with strong, in-depth content written by authority sites.
A keyword is more competitive if:
- It’s broad.
- Top results have strong, in-depth content.
- Top results have lots of links and social signals.
- Top results have high domain and page authority.
- You see lots of ads from AdWords with a high CPC.
- There are a high number of results (shown when you Google a keyword).
SEOquake lets you Google any keyword and see it’s difficulty.
MozBar Chrome Extension lets you Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). Higher numbers = higher competition, and you want to try to compete with websites with similar domain authority (check yours here). You can increase domain authority by getting more quality links to your site – usually by creating great content.
- Google a keyword and learn the DA + PA of the top results.
- Choose a keyword where top results have a similar DA (domain authority).
- Build your DA by getting more links to your site (through awesome content).
- Broad phrases usually have high DA + PA, long-tail phrases have low DA + PA.
- New websites (or those lacking content) have low DA, so target specific phrases.
- You can build PA by improving the content and pointing internal links to the page.
6. Use Answer The Public to find question keywords
Answer The Public helps you find question, preposition, and comparison keywords.
Question keywords are great for FAQ rich snippets. Instead of guessing which FAQs are most popular, use Answer The Public and look for dark green circles (darker circles = more searches).
7. Use Semify Web Grader to see competitor keywords
Semify Web Grader shows you all keywords your competitors rank for.
You can compare up to 3 website’s keywords, including your own. However, I would only use Semify to compare yourself against other websites in the same niche, since the tool will generate each site’s full list of keywords and digging through them all can be time consuming.
8. Use Google Trends to see the keyword’s historical growth
Google Trends tells you whether a keyword is on the rise or declining. It also has filters to help you find local and YouTube keywords. This is especially helpful for finding which seasons are busiest, whether your market is declining, and where people are searching for those keywords.
For example, this tutorial you’re reading used to target “Yoast Focus Keywords.” But a lot of people in the WordPress industry switched from Yoast to Rank Math, so that keyword declined. Since noticing this, I changed it to “Focus Keywords” and am targeting people using WordPress.
9. Use the Search Results report to monitor keyword performance
Use the Search Results report in Google Search Console to track your keywords.
Click the “Queries” tab then compare a time period. You can see which keywords increased/decreased in clicks, ranking position, CTR, and impressions. A good trick is to find queries where you already rank in the top 5 results, then improve those pages so you can get in the top 1-3 where all the traffic is. I use the Search Results report more than Google Analytics.
10. Blog keywords
People who have a slow website can easily pay for services to make it faster:
- Faster page builders
- Premium cache plugins
- Asset unloading plugins
- Content delivery network
With this in mind, I target keywords related to “slow websites” and refer them to these services. I say this because profitable keywords aren’t always obvious. Look for keywords where people have a problem and try to solve it with a solution, whether that is a product, service, or affiliate.
11. Local keywords
Since larger cities have more people than a small town, there will be more searches (more keywords) with specific types of keywords. Small towns usually only have broad keywords.
|Location||Type Of Keywords||Number Of Keywords||Example|
|Small Town||Broad||Low||Lake Bluff Apple Repair|
|Large City||Specific||Medium||Chicago Macbook Pro Repair|
|National||Very Specific||High||Macbook Pro Water Damage Repair|
Unless you’re targeting a small town and have 1 primary keyword like “Lake Forest Divorce Lawyer” you probably have other keywords you can target – find those using keyword tools.
Multiple Locations – each location should have it’s own page (sometimes multiple pages) depending on whether multiple keywords are being searched in each area. Each location should also have it’s own citations (online directories like GMB, Facebook Page, Yelp, Bing Places, etc).
12. Long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords usually have 3-7+ words in the phrase. They’re easier to rank for and attract targeted visitors (they’re usually more profitable). You can even target Chicago WordPress Design instead of Chicago Web Design since it’s a more specific type of web design. Websites with low domain authority (DA) should almost always target longer-tail keywords. As you build your DA (by creating content and getting links), you can consider targeting broader keywords.
Examples Of When To Get More Specific
- Chicago Painter is competitive, Chicago Interior Painter is better
- Chicago Real Estate is competitive, Chicago Commercial Real Estate is better
- Chicago Computer Repair is competitive, Chicago Macbook Pro Repair is better
- Yoast SEO Plugin is competitive, Yoast SEO Plugin Settings is better
- SEO Consultant is competitive, WordPress SEO Consultant is better
- SiteGround Review is competitive, SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review is better
13. Multiple keywords
Targeting 2 keywords is all about synonyms and using partial matches.
First, research 2 keywords (one is often a synonym of the primary keyword) then incorporate both in your page title and SEO title. Next, sprinkle your secondary keyword a few times in the content body. You do not have to use both keywords as exact matches, otherwise your headline will look spammy. Crafting a headline that sounds nice and has partial matches is the way to go.
Step 1: Research a primary keyword.
Step 2: Research a secondary keyword.
Step 3: Write a headline that incorporates both keywords and still sounds natural.
Step 4: Rank for both keywords.
14. Optimize content for the focus keyword
Once you find the perfect focus keyword, create a page or post for the topic, then add it in your SEO plugin (I use Rank Math).
SEO plugins tell you where to use your keyword as well as other on-page SEO tips. However, overusing your keyword can lead to spammy content especially if you use the exact keyword too much in your content (keyword density), in subheadings, and image alt text when it doesn’t accurately describe the image. Don’t obsess over green lights especially since SEO plugins may only detect exact matches. The SEO title, page title, and content relevance are most important.
Where to use your focus keyword
- Post title (ideally in front)
- SEO title (ideally in front)
- A few times in content body
- Permalink (usually shortened)
- Partial matches in subheadings + alt text (optional)
- Meta description (although Google usually uses an excerpt from the content)
15. Keyword research tools
- Google Autocomplete – clues you in on a keyword’s popularity and competition. Finding keywords in Google Autocomplete and manually looking through the top results is how I choose most of my keywords. Still my #1 most used keyword tool.
- Keywords Everywhere – paid Chrome Extension that shows you monthly searches, CPC, and estimated competition. Works with most search engines.
- Answer The Public – visual keyword map that shows you question, preposition, and comparison keywords. Keywords are pulled from Google Autocomplete.
- MozBar – Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). Try competing against sites with similar domain authority.
- Semify Web Grader – see a full list of your competitor keywords and compare them with your own. Mainly used for websites who are in the same niche as you.
- Google Trends – see a keyword’s historical growth or decline in Google and YouTube. Discover trends for specific geographies and FAQs about a keyword.
- Moz Keyword Explorer – similar to Google Keyword Planner but designed for SEO. See the competition in organic results based on each result’s links, DA, etc.
- Ubersuggest – free keyword tool by Neil Patel which shows you a keyword’s trend, monthly searches, estimated organic competition, and cost-per-click.
- SEMrush – great for advanced keyword research. Most people use SEMrush over Ahrefs for keyword research, while Ahrefs is better for backlink analysis.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find focus keywords to use in WordPress?
Google Autocomplete is a great place to research focus keywords for your WordPress site. Start typing a broad phrase, look at the Autocomplete results, and use free Chrome Extensions to learn a keyword's monthly searches and estimated SEO competition.
How do I know if a keyword is competitive?
Google the keyword and look at the top results. Strong content from authority websites can be difficult to outrank. Many keyword research tools show a keyword's estimated SEO difficulty. Or, install keyword research Chrome Extensions and look at each search result's PA (page authority), DA (domain authority), inbound links, and other SEO signals.
Which tools can I use to find focus keywords?
Google Autocomplete, Ubersuggest, Search Console, SEOquake, and Semify Web Grader are all free tools that can help you choose focus keywords.
How do I find a keyword's monthly searches?
Ubersuggest tells you how many monthly searches a keyword has which is pulled from SEMrush's data.
Should I target long-tail keywords?
Most websites, especially if they're new, should target long-tail keywords. While they don't have as many monthly searches as broad keywords, they are less competitive, more targeted, and usually more profitable.
How do I target multiple keywords?
Find two keywords that are very similar. They can be synonyms or even date keywords that include the current year. Use the primary keyword in your post title, URL, SEO title, and a couple times in the content. The secondary keyword are usually sprinkled in these areas as a partial match.
Is Google Keyword Planner a good place to find keywords?
Do not use Google Keyword Planner to research SEO keywords. It's designed specifically for AdWords and the competition is also reflected in Adwords, not organic search results.
See also: WordPress SEO Guide
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