What is the target keyword phrase and how to use it to improve SEO

If you use any SEO plugin for WordPress or at least one of the best ones, you will have seen that there is a tool that almost all of them incorporate, the target keyphrase(or keyword), which I find daily that it’s not well understood what it is for, or not used correctly.

Here’s how the target keyword phrase tool is displayed in the main SEO plugins: Yoast SEO, Rank Math SEO and SEOPress.

And it’s a pity, because the target key phrase is usually the first step to improve the SEO of your content, and not only because it is a tool but because it is a fundamental part of what should be your search engine optimization strategy, why?

What is NOT the target keyphrase

First of all I would like to start by saying what the target keyword phrase is not…

  • The target keyword phrase, in WordPress SEO plugins, is not a magic box where you enter all the keywords or keyphrases for which you want Google to index your content.
  • The target keyword phrase does not generate any code or meta tags that search engine bots will read to rank you for that keyword phrase.
  • The target key phrases are not the keywords that Google will index you for.
  • The target key phrase is not the title of the page or post, you don’t need to repeat it.
  • The target keyword phrase is not something you have to change so that your plugin’s SEO analyzer shows you everything in green.

What is the target keyphrase?

  • The target keyword phrase is that phrase or keyword for which you want to index a particular piece of content in search engines.
  • It is the phrase or keyword that search engine users enter to find content like yours, and for which you want to provide the best possible search result in the SERP.
  • It is the phrase or keyword that you believe or have verified that users enter in the Google search box to find that specific information or product that you are going to publish on your website.
  • It is that phrase or keyword that, when the user enters it in the box of his favorite search engine, you want to appear in the first places of the results.

We could say that the target phrase is the search engine user’s search that you want to satisfy with your content.

For example, if you are going to publish a blog post in which you are going to explain what are the 4 best free themes for WooCommerce, some of the target keyphrases you could choose would be:

  • “best free themes for WooCommerce”.
  • “free themes for WooCommerce”
  • “free WooCommerce themes”
  • “best free themes”

And I don’t mean that you should put all those phrases in the box that the SEO plugin offers you, but – usually – you should choose one of them, but which one?

How to choose the target keyphrase

One of the most common mistakes when using SEO plugins, when it comes to using the target keyword phrase tool, is to introduce it at the end of the content editing, writing it in such a way that the SEO score of the plugin tells us that everything is perfect. That’s cheating the SEO plugin, which is the same as cheating ourselves, and SEO plugins don’t make you rank better.

In fact, the correct sequence of using the target keyphrase tool would be this:

  • Research which keyphrase(s) search engine users use the most to find the content or product you are going to publish.
  • Open the editor and enter in the SEO plugin box the target keyphrase you are going to satisfy with your content.
  • Write your content.
  • Review the SEO improvement tips from the SEO plugin, to deliver the best possible content for that target keyword phrase.

Yes, you guessed it! The SEO scoring engine of the top SEO plugins performs the analysis based on which target keyword phrase you want to rank for, giving you specific optimization tips for that specific target keyword phrase.

In fact, except for some generic parameters, such as the amount of text and some others, which do not require a specific target keyword phrase, the SEO scoring engine of your plugin will not perform any analysis, it will not give you improvement tips, as long as you do not enter a target keyword phrase, on which to analyze your content.

The idea behind the plugins’ SEO analysis engines is to check if your content will satisfy users who have entered the target keyword phrase in the box of their favorite search engine.

Based on this, the SEO plugin will offer you recommendations for possible improvements, to achieve several goals:

  • Display the best and most attractive snippet possible in the search engine, the one that gets the most clicks from users who have performed the specific search for the chosen target keyword phrase.
  • Show the images of your content in the image search engine, to users who have used that target keyword phrase.
  • Satisfy the search engine user once they reach your content after clicking on the search engine result.

Is it possible to choose more than one target keyphrase?

Yes, most SEO plugins offer it in their paid version. What this multiple target keyphrase tool does is allow you to analyze your content to satisfy different possible searches.

SEOPress deserves a separate mention, which offers this feature for free, you simply have to put your target key phrases separated by commas.

When analyzing your content to satisfy several target keyphrases you should always keep in mind several things:

  • Always keep in mind what your main target keyphrase is, which is the one you should subject to a deeper analysis.
  • Satisfy as much as possible the rest of the target key phrases, by means of headings, paragraphs, etc.

If it is already difficult to position content for a single target keyphrase, let alone how complicated it will be to do it for several search objectives, so don’t go crazy and measure your resources and objectives well, never better said.

How to use the target keyphrase correctly

Although I have already advanced before on the principles of the correct use of the target keyphrase tool, let’s get a little more specific, shall we?

Where to find the target keyphrases

There are several tools – free of charge – that you can use to find the target keyphrases that users use to search for the content you want to position, such as….

  • Google Suggest – Yes, the search engine itself, when you start typing a keyphrase, suggests common searches that contain the words you have entered.
  • Google Trends – This tool allows you to compare the search trends of different keyphrases, and thus choose the most popular.
  • Keyword Planner – Yes, also from Google, Ads in this case. To find relevant keyphrases for your content, as well as their popularity.

How to improve SEO using target keyphrases

Once you have already chosen the target keyword phrase for the content you are going to publish, the first step is to enter it in the SEO plugin box for the target keyword phrase (keyword in Rank Math) and the SEO plugin engine will start analyzing your content to satisfy that chosen keyword phrase.

In the SEO analysis results, you will find a series of parameters and results, usually separated between:

  • Good results (in green) – Those parameters that your content meets to rank for that keyphrase.
  • Needs improvement (in orange) – Optional or partially applied parameters, such as more text, improving keyphrase density, etc.
  • Problems (in red) – SEO parameters that you are not applying in your content or are applying incorrectly.

Each SEO plugin uses a different artificial intelligence, and different parameters, to analyze the SEO of your content.

They all agree on some parameters and results but differ in the analysis of others, and some even differ in the result, as surprisingly in the word count, where the only one that counts them well is Rank Math.

Haven’t I already told you that SEO plugins don’t improve your SEO? What they offer is suggestions, and possibilities for improvement, but they will never replace an experienced Internet copywriter or a good professional, or SEO course, content expert.

That said, there are some tips/recommendations from the SEO analysis offered by SEO plugins for WordPress that are useful, as they are not meaningless, in the face of search engine optimization:

  • Target keyword phrase in the SEO title – It makes perfect sense that what the search engine user has typed appears in the snippet of the result, confirming that in your content they will find exactly what they were looking for.
  • Target keyphrase in the SEO description – Likewise, and in addition Google highlights in bold in the description all the words that the user has typed in the search box.
  • Target keyword phrase in the content / Keyword density – Without overdoing it, it is logical that somewhere in your text the target keyword phrase appears, especially considering that Google is increasingly offering as search results phrases of the content even if they are not titles, in paragraphs.
  • Target keyphrase (or variations) in headings – The headings, or subheadings of your content, are great places to offer alternative or similar keyphrases, to cater to other possible variations of the same search intent.
  • Target keyword phrase in images – To get good results in Google’s image search engine, it’s also a good idea to title images with the target keyword phrase. However, contrary to what is recommended by SEO plugins engines, do not do it with the ALT text, this should be descriptive of the image, because its target is people with accessibility needs. The alt text (ALT) should describe what you see in the image, and this will also end up being a positive SEO factor, no matter what the SEO plugin’s (automatic) analysis tells you.
  • Text length – Although it is true that long (very long) texts almost always rank better than short ones, this is not always the case. Sometimes copywriters tend to write for SEO and, taking into account this parameter, fill their texts with chaff, ending up annoying users, and causing them to leave the page and return to the search engine, which damages other SEO parameters that affect, in this case negatively, the positioning, such as a high bounce rate, and a short dwell time. If something is clearly answered with a paragraph, do not invent, reinforce the answer (to the search engine user’s need), expand it with relevant information, but do not fill it with unnecessary data or irrelevant text.
  • Previously used (or not) keyphrase – It makes sense, to avoid SEO cannibalization, that is, that several of your contents compete with each other, confusing the search engine about which is your best “offer” for a specific search keyphrase.
  • Internal links – It is highly recommended, always, to take advantage of good content to link to your own content, and thus improve internal linking, which improves the natural positioning of your other content. However, don’t go crazy and link left and right every sentence. Use internal linking to satisfy the need for more information on the same topic of the current content, not links to gain clicks.
  • Last modified date (SEOPress) – This matters, basically because you should keep your best content as up to date as possible, because nobody likes to come from the search engine to a content that is outdated, with old images, you know.
  • External links (follow, nofollow) – Also SEO plugin analyzers like to give advice on whether you should link to external sites and whether these links should be follow or nofollow. In my experience none of them make clear the reason for their results, but my advice is to follow a simple logic: if the external link is related to the content it should be follow; if the external link does not complement the content, but is sponsored or just a reference, then nofollow, and even sponsored or ugc if applicable.
  • Length of the meta title and description – Also described as SEO title and description, it is important to pay attention to this parameter, because a good snippet in the SERP must be seen, and it is useless to put a very long title or description, with lots of keyphrases or

My most important recommendation on the use of target keyphrases, SEO analysis and SEO plugins

Apart from all of the above, and although you can always learn something by using SEO plugins, and even improve the SEO of your content by rationally applying some of their suggestions, my best advice when it comes to creating content that satisfies user searches is, and always will be, this:

Always think about satisfying the user’s need, and respond with your content to the request for information or doubt raised in the search engine box.

All the rest are just tools, aids to achieve this goal, which should not divert you from it.

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