How To Choose Yoast Focus Keywords: A Guide To Keyword Research And Learning The Competition In Google Search Results

Need help finding better Yoast focus keywords?

Researching Yoast focus keywords is done by selecting specific, long-tail keywords in tools like Google Autocomplete which have a nice balance of monthly searches and low competition. Google the keyword and review the top results to see the content you’re competing with. After that, it’s all about creating a strong, optimized piece of content around that keyword and topic.

These should not be guessed. You don’t want to create content for a keyword you’ll never rank for, or rank for a keyword with no search volume. 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 easily get you on page 1, and should be done before writing content. Writing about how to get out of debt vs. how to get out of debt on one income can make the difference.

I wrote a definitive Yoast tutorial that shows you how to configure the ideal settings, verify Google Search Console and fix crawl errors, optimize content (there’s more to it than green lights), and add accelerated mobile pages (AMP). Be sure to check it out when you’re done.

At the end of the day, keywords are just topics. If the topic is being searched a lot and already has strong content in search results, it’s probably competitive (especially if your site has low authority without many backlinks). If two topics are different enough, create a page for each.

Yoast-Focus-Keywords

 

1. Keyword Research Tools

  • Answer The Public – visual keyword map broken down into questions, prepositions, and comparisons. Keywords are pulled from Google Autocomplete. The greener the circle, the more searches the keyword has.
  • Keywords Everywhere – Chrome Extension that shows you the monthly volume, CPC, and organic competition when searching keywords in Google, Google Autocomplete, YouTube, Amazon, Moz, and other popular websites.
  • MozBar – Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority) which are core indicators of how competitive a keyword is. Try competing with websites who have similar domain authority.
  • Google Autocomplete – cool tricks like using the underline character _ to have Google fill-in-the-blank. If you search Chicago _ Photographer, you will see wedding, newborn, photography, and other types of photography services.
  • Moz Keyword Explorer – similar to Google Keyword Planner (only better) as it’s designed specifically for SEO while Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords. Moz Keyword Planner shows you the competition for organic results based on each result’s links, domain authority, etc. While Keyword Planner mainly uses CPC (cost per click) based on their advertising data.
  • HubShout WebGrader – see all keywords you (and competitors) rank for. Includes other metrics like each website’s domain authority and # of backlinks.
  • Google Trends – shows history of keyword volume for Google, YouTube, other mediums. See trends for specific geographies, and questions people are asking.

 

1.1. Answer The Public

The coolest keyword research tool is definitely Answer The Public. Search a keyword and it generates a map of keywords being searched in Google Autocomplete. The greener the circle, the more searches that keyword has. It also breaks keywords down into specific categories (questions, prepositions, comparisons). Then it breaks them down even further (below is an example of “question keywords” about “Yoast” and I can see all the whats, hows, wheres, etc).

Question keywords (great way to make sure your content answers people’s questions)…

Yoast-Keywords-AnswerThePublic

Preposition keywords…

Preposition Keywords – Answer The Public

Comparison keywords…

Comparison Keywords – Answer The Public

 

1.2. Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere lets you Google any keyword (in Google, YouTube, Amazon, Etsy and other search engines), while showing each keyword’s monthly searches, cost-per-click (CPC) and competition. Combine this with MozBar (the next tool I cover) and it’s a killer combination.

Keywords Everywhere Autocomplete

YouTube Keyword Competition

Amazon Keywords

Etsy Keywords

 

1.3. MozBar

MozBar’s 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 that have similar domain authority – check yours here. You can increase domain authority by getting more quality links (eg. by creating awesome content).

Mozbar Keyword Competition

MozBar Tips

  • Learn your DA using Link Explorer and compete for keywords in your range
  • Broad phrases usually have high DA + PA, long-tail phrases have low DA + PA
  • Build your DA by getting more links to your site (through awesome content)
  • Websites (especially new ones) will have low DA, so target very specific phrases
  • You can build PA by improving the content and pointing internal links to the page

Combine Keywords Everywhere with MozBar to see a nice glimpse of your competition…

Keyword Competition

Avoid Keywords That Show Strong Content
The best opportunities are when you Google a keyword, weak or irrelevant content appears in the top results. Just Google the keyword and skim through the top results to see if people cover the topic extensively. If not, that means it’s the perfect opportunity for you to rank high.

Weak Search Results

Avoid Competing With Authority Websites

  • amazon.com
  • wikipedia.com
  • yelp.com
  • credit.com
  • and so forth…

 

1.4. Google Autocomplete

Go to google.com and start typing in a keyword to have Google complete the phrase (remember, you’re looking for long-tail phrases usually with 3+ words since those are much less competitive). You can also use an underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase and Google will fill in the blank. You will need to END on the underscore character for that method. If you don’t see the full dropdown menu with all the keywords, try using an Incognito tab.

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

Try using different variations, like plurals

Google-Autocomplete-Plural-Keywords

Or different word ordering

Google Autocomplete Keyword Ordering

Autocomplete works with most search engines including YouTube for video SEO

Video Keywords

Autocomplete Tips

  • Choose specific (long-tail) phrases which are less competitive
  • No need to include “best” and other non-descriptive adjectives
  • Synonyms can be targeted on the same page (as secondary keywords)
  • Most businesses have multiple keywords per 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 I’m ranked in the top 3 for all them… it works)
  • Being more specific can mean choosing Chicago WordPress Designer (instead of Chicago Web Designer) or WordPress SEO Consultant (instead of SEO Consultant)… targeting a geography or a specific type of ‘web design’ is one way to get more specific

 

1.5. Moz Keyword Explorer

To make sure you don’t miss keywords, use Moz Keyword Explorer. This is similar to Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords) plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the same ones. Start with a broad keyword.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Click on keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Moz Keyword Explorer Tips

  • Group related keywords with low lexical similarity (use filter)
  • Start with a broad phrase, then look for specific, long-tail phrases

How Many Searches Should My Keywords Have?

Step 1: Check your domain authority in Moz Link Explorer.
Domain Authority

Step 2: Use this handy chart by Orbit Media.
Keyword Research Shortcut

But Can I Target More?
If you plan on creating strong content (ideally with 3,000+ words and lots of graphics/videos), you can target keywords with more monthly searches (my WordPress SEO tutorial will help as it has over 100 tips including 20 on content optimization). Use the chart as a general guideline.

 

1.6. HubShout WebGrader (Competitor Keywords)

HubShout WebGrader shows you:

  • All keywords you (and competitors) rank for
  • Each website’s estimated traffic value based on CPC
  • Top ranked content, domain authority, backlinks, and referring domains

HubShout WebGrader Report

See a full list of keywords you (and competitors rank for)…

My Keywords

 

Google Trends tells you whether a keyword is on the rise, or declining. It also filters for finding local keywords and YouTube keywords. This is especially helpful for finding what seasons are busiest, whether your market is declining, and where people are searching these keywords.

Ramen is on the rise!

Google Trends Keywords

Better publish that YouTube tutorial on gift wrapping before December :)

YouTube Keywords – Google Trends

 

1.8. Search Analytics

The Search Analytics feature in Google Search Console (which you can verify with Yoast) tells you your keywords, ranking position, CTR (click-through rate), top ranked pages, and the countries + devices of visitors. I hardly use Google Analytics for SEO – I use Search Analytics.

Cool Trick: find queries (keywords) where you already rank in the first 5 spots in Google, then improve those pages so you can get in the top 1-3 where all the traffic is.

Google Search Console Queries

 

1.9. Avoid Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is designed specifically for AdWords – don’t use it for SEO! The competition is not for organic results. Google Autocomplete, or keyword tools that pull keywords from Autocomplete (like Answer The Public) are better at categorizing keywords and showing you the organic competition. And for the record, no keyword tool is better at estimating a keyword’s competition than Googling the keyword yourself, and analyzing the top results to see what content is already out there – so you know what/who you’re up against.

Google Keyword Planner

 

2. Types Of Keywords

The following sections break down keywords into specific types.

 

2.1. Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for and usually have 3-7+ words in the phrase. They also attract a more targeted visitor. You can even target Chicago WordPress Design instead of Chicago Web Design since that is a more specific type of web design. As you saw in the chart by Orbit Media in section 1.5, websites with low domain authority (DA) should almost always target longer-tail keywords. As you build your DA, you can start targeting broader keywords.

Long-Tail 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

 

2.2. Date Keywords

Drive even more traffic by targeting date keywords (mainly for time sensitive content)…

Time Sensitive Keywords

When optimizing content, you should include the date (year) in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. Of course this requires me to keep the tutorial up to date, but this has already driven quite a bit of extra traffic during 2017 as I’m included as a featured snippet.

Dates In SEO Titles

 

2.3. Local Keywords (Small Town vs. Large City vs. National)

The larger the area, the more specific your keywords will be, and the more you will have. Smaller towns will have broad keywords while larger cities will have more specific phrases…

Local Keywords

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 them using keyword tools).

Small towns have a small number of broad keywords…

Small Town Keywords

Large cities tend to have multiple specific keywords…

Large City Keywords

National keywords are even more specific, and there’s more of them…

National Keywords

Don’t forget to use Google Trends to see local keywords and their popularity…

Local Keywords – Google Trends

Multiple Locationseach 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 Google My Business, Facebook Page, Yelp, Bing Places…) which is exactly what my WordPress local SEO guide walks you through.

 

3.4. Blog Post Keywords

Post-Focus-Keywords

Getting traffic to your blog is fine and dandy, but how does this get you clients?

Here’s what I did…

I offer WordPress speed optimization as part of my SEO services. I wanted more of these projects so I learned what phrases people Google when they have a slow WordPress site. I looked at Google Autocomplete for “slow WordPress…” and saw some results. Then I really put myself in my searcher’s position when I Googled “why is wordpress” and saw it completed the phrase with “why is wordpress so slow” with that keyword on top. There are plenty of variations below it in Autocomplete, indicating that keyword has a good amount of searches. It’s also within my competition if you Google the keyword using MozBar. We have a winner!

And so my blog post was born: Why Is WordPress Slow (And 7 Ways To Fix It)

People read my guide, realize they don’t have the technical skill to do everything, and some inquire. Completely coincidental that this happened while I was writing this post (seriously, I haven’t gotten one of these for weeks) but I literally just got this comment 3 hours ago:

Inquiry

Update (2018): That guide is now one of the most popular tutorials on my website!

 

2.5. Multiple Keywords (Synonyms)

All you have to do is research a synonym of your primary keyword then incorporate both of these in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. This is by FAR the most important part but you can also sprinkle your secondary keyword 1-2 times in your content. You do NOT have to incorporate both as full keywords (exact matches) otherwise your headline will look spammy. Crafting a headline that sounds nice AND includes partial matches is the way to go.

Here’s an example:

Step 1: Research your primary keyword…

Secondary Keywords

Step 2: Research your secondary keyword…

Secondary Focus Keyword
Step 3: Write a headline that incorporates both and still sounds nice…

Headline

Step 4: Rank for both keywords…

focus-keyword-1

focus-keyword-2

You can use the same strategy in your meta description and (sparingly) in the content body.

 

3. Content Optimization

Now that you have your Yoast focus keywords, you can start optimizing content! Including your keyword in “all the right places” is just 1 small part of it, you should really read the content optimization section of my WordPress SEO guide. I promise you will learn a lot.

 

Remember: Only Target 1 Keyword Per Page (Unless Synonyms)

Only synonyms can be targeted on the same page. This is because Google wants to show the most relevant results so keywords that mean 2 different things should have their own page.

Single Keywords

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚦 How do you find good focus keywords?

The best keywords have a balance between monthly searches, low competition, and high profitability. You can usually only pick two. For example, if a highly profitable keyword doesn't have a lot of searches but has low competition, go for it.

🚦 How do I learn how competitive a keyword is?

Google the keyword and look at the top results. Do they do a good job at covering the topic? Is it from an authority website? Do they have high domain + page authority (you can check this in MozBar's Chrome Extension)? If yes, that keyword may be too competitive.

🚦 What are the best keyword research tools?

My top 4 keyword research tools are Google Autocomplete, MozBar Chrome extension (for checking competition using each search result's domain and page authority), HubShout WebGrader (for finding competitor keywords), and Keywords Everywhere to learn a keyword's monthly searches and estimated competition.

🚦 How do I learn how many searches a keyword has?

Keywords Everywhere and Ahrefs tell you how many monthly searches a keyword has.

🚦 Should I target broad or specific (long-tail) keywords?

I recommended targeting specific, long-tail keywords 95% of the time. They are much less competitive and bring a more targeted visitor to your site. New websites, or those having trouble with SEO, should always start by targeting specific, long-tail keywords.

🚦 How do I target multiple keywords (synonyms)?

Find 2 keywords that are very similar. These can be synonyms or even date keywords that include the current year if it's a time-sensitive topic. Use the primary keyword in your page title, URL, SEO title, meta description, and a couple times in the content. The secondary keyword should be sprinkled in these areas as a partial match - it does not have to be an exact match!

🚦 What about Google Keyword Planner?

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: My Definitive Guide To Yoast SEO

If you found this post helpful, please share – I would appreciate it. And if you have any questions about Yoast focus keywords or Yoast in general, drop me a line in the comments.

Cheers,
Tom

How To Create A Keyword List For SEO (Apple Example)

A keyword list is the blueprint for SEO like a sitemap is for your website.

It outlines the keyword-targeted content that goes on your site, your URL structure, and it’s even used during link building. And if it’s not done right (you don’t choose right keywords) you will spend tons of time trying to “reoptimize” content or you just won’t get results. I will show you how to create an organized, well-researched keyword list so you can develop your content and URLs around those phrases – and have a better chance of ranking on page 1.

Now let’s create your keyword list…

 

Start With Your Targeted Location

local-vs-national-keywords

Small town – small towns have less people so there will be lower search volume. This means your keywords will be broad and you will likely have only 1 primary keyword in your list, which should be targeted on the homepage. Larger markets = more specific keywords.

Large city – in addition to including broad phrases in your list, you should also include more specific phrases – since there are more people in a city so the search volume is higher.

National – since you will have a larger pool of keywords to choose from, you need to research each keyword’s competition so you know which ones you can actually rank for.

 

1. Small Town (Choose Broad Keywords)

Local SEO Keywords

Go to google.com and use Google Autocomplete to learn what keywords people are searching. Type in your town name followed by any keywords describing what you offer. Try multiple variations (eg. lake bluff macbook…) to see if there are any others. However, chances are you will only have 1 primary keyword which will be targeted on the homepage.

If you want to target multiple towns, do the same thing in Google Autocomplete for each town to see it’s most popular phrases. Your keyword list should look something like this…

  • lake bluff apple repair (targeted on homepage)
  • lake forest apple repair (new location-targeted page)
  • highland park apple repair (new location-targeted page)

 

2. Large City (Choose Specific Keywords)

Use the same strategies described above only in addition to the broad phrases, also look for the more specific phrases that are more relevant to your specific products/services…

Keyword For Large Cities

Or use the “fill in the blank” method which gives you even more keyword ideas…

Google Autocomplete Fill In The Blank

Play with Google Autocomplete to find keywords for your different products/services…

Long-Tail Keywords

Write down ALL products/services you offer and learn keywords for each one…

Keyword List

Do the same thing for other Apple products. Each mini-list should include your different types of repair services, just like I did for the Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, Ipad 2, etc.

 

3. National (Choose Specific Keywords + Competitive Research)

Since there are a larger pool of keywords to choose from, we have to narrow down the best ones by learning how competitive each keyword is relative to it’s search volume. This will leave you with only the keywords that have the best ranking opportunities. Otherwise you will spend time creating content that targets keywords you may never even rank for.

Step 1: Write down ALL your products/services

Step 2: Find very specific (long-tail) keywords for each product/service…

National Keywords

A keyword like “macbook pro laptop repair” is going to be very competitive since it’s a broad (national) phrase – and common sense tells us there’s going to be tons of websites trying to rank for this. But a keyword like “macbook pro water damage repair” is going to be less competitive since it’s more specific. These are the type of keywords you want to target.

While broad keywords have more search volume, the specific keywords like “macbook pro water damage repair” usually yield a better opportunity. You’re better off on page 1 for a keyword with 100 searches than on page 13 for a keyword with 10,000 searches.

Step 3: Assign keywords to each product/service

Step 4: Filter out keywords that are too competitive. To do this, search each keyword in Google and look at the results. These indicators will tell you whether it’s too competitive…

Keyword Competition

So instead of choosing “how to get out of debt” we would choose a more specific phrase….

Long-Tail Keywords

Just because a keyword is too competitive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include it in your keyword list. If a general page outlining all your “apple repair services” improves user experience, don’t worry about the competition. Create the page for your visitors.

 

See Competitor Keywords With HubShout WebGrader

You can run multiple websites through HubShout WebGrader to view their keywords…

Competitor Keyword List

 

Create Your Keyword List

Now that you know how to create a keyword list – go ahead and do it! Here’s some tips:

Similar Keywords – if two keywords mean the same thing (synonyms, plurals, phrases with different word ordering), only select the 1 most relevant keyword that best aligns with the product/service. This is because you should only target 1 primary keyword per page. Plus, Google’s Algorithm does a good job of analyzing user intent and “automatically” ranking websites for related phrases, so unless you know how to target secondary keywords which doesn’t even work that well, just select the 1 keyword that makes the most sense.

Homepage Keyword – should usually target the 1 main keyword you want to rank for.

Blog Post Keywords – use Google Autocomplete to find 1 keyword for each article you write. These should be non-promotional (eg. a “how to” article) and should also be long-tail. A good example would be “how to fix a macbook pro with a white screen.”

 

Organize Your URL Structure (Bonus Step)

The keywords you choose can affect your URL structure and the content that goes on your site. This is why it’s it’s a good idea to create keyword list before building your site…

Here’s what your URL structure might look like:

  • website.com/ (homepage)
  • website.com/macbook-pro/ (outlines your Macbook Pro services)
  • website.com/macbook-pro/water-damage-repair (specific service)

And here is a URL structure for location-specific keywords:

  • website.com/locations/chicago/macbook-pro-laptop-repair
  • website.com/locations/springfield/macbook-pro-laptop-repair
  • website.com/locations/miami/macbook-pro-laptop-repair

 

Questions? Comments? Drop Me A Line!

Once you’ve created your keyword list, you can start organizing your permalinks, add the content to your site, then optimize the content by using your keyword in the page title, SEO title, meta description, content body, etc. You’ve just done the hardest part of on-page SEO!

If you have questions on how to create a keyword list, drop me a line in the comments. I’m glad to help with whatever questions you have. I hope you enjoyed the article!

Cheers,

Tom Signature