Keyphrase Length

Does Keyphrase Length Matter for SEO?

Optimized pages and posts with a keyphrase make finding your content online easier. This post explores a specific aspect of the keyphrase – its length. We’ll also dive into how the length of your keyphrase relates to SEO. Lastly, we’ll review a handful of essential tips on when to employ short and long keyphrases. Ready? Let’s go!

What is a Focus Keyphrase?

The focus keyphrase is the series of words you want your post or page to be found via search engines. Sometimes, a keyphrase is only a single word, but it usually consists of a few words. This is why we call it a keyphrase. For instance, if you want your post to rank for “health food,” you need to tailor your content to optimize for that pair of terms. Your keyphrase can be longer if you want. For instance, you could write a post about healthy food specifically for athletes. In this case, you could optimize your post for “health food for athletes.”

Why Does Keyphrase Length Matter for SEO?

There are a number of ways to select a keyphrase for your posts or pages. You can optimize your post for generic terms that are typically short and garner a lot of traffic. Due to the high traffic nature of short terms, there is often a lot of competition for these terms. Let’s use “football,” as an example. A lot of people search for this term and there will be just as many companies optimizing for it. The body of the mouse in the image below represents these less specific keyphrases.  Keyphrase Length Matter Longtail Keywords

On the other hand, you can elect to optimize for longer, more specific keyphrases, represented by the mouse’s tail above. These longer keyphrases are called longtail keyphrases. While these longer keyphrases typically get less traffic, they often have a higher conversion rate. The reason for the higher conversion rate is that longtail keyphrases are extremely focused on a particular product or topic. Let’s revisit the generic term we touched on earlier – “football”. A lot of people will search for the generic term “football” and only a few people will search for the longtail search keyphrase, “football playoff divisional standings.” Again, the overall traffic volume for the more specific longtail keyphrase will be a fraction of the generic term, the small number of visitors will likely carry more value since they have a better idea of what they’re looking for via their search.

Naturally, optimizing your content for longtail keyphrases is more difficult than optimizing for generic terms. Since optimizing for longtail keyphrases requires you to repeatedly use many words, it is difficult to keep your copy reader-friendly. Yoast SEO is one of my favorite tools to help tackle this challenge. Yoast recognizes word forms and allows you to optimize for synonyms and related keyphrases.

Why Use Yoast?

Does Keyphrase Length Matte Yoast

Yoast is an all-around awesome tool that helps you write content that will rank on the SERPs and please your audience too. One of the primary features of the Yoast SEO plugin is the keyphrase length assessment tool. It checks whether the focus keyphrase is present and whether it is too long. Hold up, did the previous sentence just say that the keyphrase can be too long? Yup, it sure did! Before we dive into that question, we need to discuss what the Yoast SEO plugin does with your keyphrase, and which words in the keyphrase count when assessing your keyphrase length.

Yoast Mimics Google

The algorithm that Google uses is both powerful and complex. In fact, it can recognize the separate words from longer search terms, even if the words are not in the exact same order as the user query.

For instance, if you enter the following query, “easy to use and short site structure guide,” you’ll get the following results:

Keyphrase Length Matter Google Search Results

If you notice, Google highlights the words and different word forms of the search phrase in the search results, even though they’re not in the same order as the initial query.

While it’s not Google, Yoast goes to great lengths to mimic Google’s behavior. It divides your keyphrase into chunks and then uses these words in an array of SEO assessments. For example, the keyphrase density checker determines if the components of your keyphrase are too close to each other throughout your copy. The real beauty is that Yoast doesn’t look for an exact match of the focus keyphrase because you’ll change up the order of the keyphrase words if you write naturally.

What Are the Boundaries?

Let’s shift back to the length of your keyphrase. Yoast checks the length of your keyphrase and will provide feedback if it’s too long. A lengthy keyphrase can threaten the readability of your copy. Imagine using “easy to use internal linking guide” more often in your copy. Even if you don’t use the exact words in the same order, the resulting copy will likely sound strange and unnatural. Yoast’s boundaries for this assessment vary depending on whether it can remove any function words. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to limit your keyphrase to four words.

Closing Thoughts

Keywords and keyphrases help you rank, so you need to use them wisely. Once you’ve completed your research and selected your ideal keyphrase, it’s all about grinding out prime copy with Yoast by your side.

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