Primary keywords are search terms that connect web users with the information they’re looking for. Google processes over 8 billion searches each day, and in each of those searches, someone enters a primary keyword like SEO tools or holiday shopping or weather tomorrow.
Search engines like Google use these keywords to locate relevant results from their search index. A search index is a giant database of websites, articles, videos, maps, books, films, and images. These pieces of information are organized and sorted according to different keywords.
When someone enters a keyword into Google, Bing, Amazon, or YouTube’s search bar, the search engine scans its index for the best results.
The most relevant results earn a top spot on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engines usually offer millions of results for a search term, but few people navigate past the first 5 or 10 choices.
That’s why keywords are so important to search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
What Are Primary Keywords
Primary keywords are a web page’s main keyword—the one they want to rank for the most. They’re usually just one or two words long.
Also known as a main or focus keyword, a primary keyword typically has a high search volume, which means lots of web users are entering it on Google. But that also means it’s harder to rank high on the SERPs with that keyword.
This is where secondary keywords come in. They work with the main keyword to add context that helps a search engine know if the page is relevant to a search query.
Why are Primary Keywords Important?
Focus keywords are crucial for visibility, rankings, and targeting the right web traffic. They give the search engine crawlers a broad idea of what your web page is about.
In the early days of the Internet, people could stuff the main keyword on a web page dozens of times.
For a while, keyword stuffing helped websites rank higher on SERPs. Search engines weren’t as refined as they are now. They leaned on keyword density to tell them whether a page was relevant to a search query.
This led many digital marketers and website owners to stuff keywords into meta tags, code, anchor text, and audience-facing content. The more a keyword appeared on a web page, the more relevant search engines took it to be.
However high keyword density does not automatically equal high relevance. By the mid-2010s, algorithms were trained to spot all forms of keyword stuffing.
While primary keywords in SEO are important, keyword stuffing is a bygone practice. Search engines even penalize people who pack keywords into their web pages.
Here’s what to do instead: optimize your page to support the focus keyword.
How to Optimize Your Page for the Primary Keyword
Optimize is a big word that can mean a lot of things when it comes to primary keywords in SEO. But the best practices for optimizing your web page for a main keyword boil down to five things. We’ll explore each one below.
To find your focus keyword, enter your topic into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs Keyword Generator.
Let’s imagine you’re creating a blog post about finding products to sell on Amazon for a website focused on helping Amazon FBA sellers thrive. You could enter a term like Amazon FBA products or find Amazon product to sell into a keyword generator tool.
Most keyword generators will display two or three core keyword metrics for each term:
- Keyword difficulty (KD): measured in a range from 1 (easy) to 100 (difficult). This metric tells you how easy or hard it is to rank for a keyword based on the competition.
- Search volume: the average number of searches this keyword appears in each month. Volume is an important metric for understanding if people are interested in the term or not.
- Cost per click (CPC): the amount of money it costs for you to buy a top spot in the SERPs. The higher the CPC, the more competition you face.
These metrics can help you understand the value of a main keyword, but you should pick the keyword that matches your page topic the best.
Secondary keywords are supporting terms that add nuance and detail to your primary keyword.
They should be a mix of questions and detailed search terms with a range of KD, CPC, and volume metrics. Ahrefs can help you here. So can tools like AnswerThePublic.
Overall, choose 1 focus keyword and 3-12 secondary keywords.
Now that you know how to find the right keywords for your website, it’s time to learn where to put them.
Here’s a breakdown of the best places to put your focus keyword:
- Article title/Header 1
- First 200 words of the content
- Last 200 words of the content
- Meta description
- Title tag
Secondary keywords should form some of your Header 2 and Header 3 subheadings. They should also be spread naturally throughout the content.
Keep in mind that in 1,000-word article, any one keyword should appear no more than once every 200 words.
Creating high-quality content is one of the most important SEO strategies you can follow. Google recommends following its E-E-A-T model, which says that each piece of content you publish should showcase four things:
- Experience: has the content creator personally experienced the topic at hand?
- Expertise: does the content reflect this personal experience with concrete examples?
- Authoritativeness: is the webpage or blog hosted or managed by a well-known player in the field? Does the rest of the website—including the domain name, branding, and additional content—support this authority?
- Trustworthiness: does the website show signs that it’s a trustworthy source of information on a topics.
The higher your E-E-A-T efforts, the more likely Google will be to like your web page.
Title tags are HTML components that tell readers and search engine crawlers what your web page is about. They act as the anchor text for a link to your web page in the SERPs.
Most content management systems (CMS) will automatically turn your web page title into a title tag. You won’t have to mess with the HTML at all. But here’s what a title tag looks like in HTML:
<title>Put Your Article or Webpage Title Here</title>
Google, Bing, and other search engines use title tags to help them understand if the content on a page is relevant to a search query. The title tag is often the same as the headline for a web page, blog post, or article, but it doesn’t have to be.
So what makes a good title tag?
It’s simple: a title that your readers will click on.
You should include your primary keyword, but that’s it. No other keywords.
Make sure you link to other pages within your website if they’re relevant to the content at hand. You should also link to high-quality external sites, as this builds your domain authority in Google’s eyes.
Backlinks are important, too, but they’re harder to get. A backlink is when a website in your industry links back to your website. One of the best ways to get backlinks is to seek out guest posting opportunities.
What’s the Difference Between Primary Keywords and Secondary Keywords?
Primary keywords paint the topic of your web page in broad strokes. Secondary keywords fill in the finer details. Together, these keywords tell Google whether your page is relevant to a search query.
Should I use synonyms or related keywords for SEO?
Yes. Using related keywords and synonyms helps you stay on topic without stuffing your content with keywords. These terms also help Google understand what your page is about and how relevant it might be to a search query.
Where should I place the primary keyword on my page?
The primary keyword should appear in the Header 1 (title) and within the first 200 words of the page. This tells your reader what the content is about right away. The focus keyword should appear roughly every 100 words after that.
What is keyword stuffing, and why should I avoid it?
Keyword stuffing is the practice of cramming as many keywords into a piece of content as you can. It’s a spammy SEO practice that Google and other search engines penalize.