Myth Busting: Optimize Your Pages For Multiple Keywords

As one of our previous tests, this myth has also come from Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday. He argues that when you are facing multiple variations on a target keyword, you shouldn’t create individual pages for each of those keywords, but instead, you should put them into one intelligently optimized page. The reasoning for it is that, the intent for all the searches is the same. 

This sort of scenario often comes up with clients, especially with e-commerce sites. Clients ask – if I have a product that comes in 4 different colors, should I have 1 page with a drop down that has the four colors or should I have 4 different pages, 1 for each color?

For this test, we set up two pages with the same number of words and keyword density on the page. However, because the control page was only optimized for 1 keyword, there was naturally more usage of that keyword on the page. 

Test page 1 was optimized for 1 target keyword, while test page 2 was optimized for that target keyword plus 3 other keywords. 


The page optimized for 1 keyword beat the page that was optimized for 4 keywords.


This myth is busted. The page optimized for 1 keyword beat the page with 4 keywords. However, you certainly don’t want individually optimized pages for every conceivable keyword variation. There isn’t enough time in the day or enough budget. Also, you will definitely win some keyword variations on a main target page. But if you really want to win a particular keyword or keyword phrase, if it is a must-win for a client or for you, then we would recommend that you have a page dedicated for it. 

Rand argues that the reason you don’t want to create separate pages for different variations is that the search intent is the same. His idea is that, by working those variations into the content on the page, you will win them. Not sure we agree with that at all, but as our mantra says – let’s test it.

To be completely fair to Rank and MOZ, we will try to simulate variations to be a little closer. For example, we’ll try to simulate the situation where a client wants to win “handmade widgets”, “unique handmade widgets”, “unique handmade blue windgets”, etc. Interested in the results for that test? Check out our other test articles.

Clint’s Feedback

In this video, Clint talks about this test and his insights on using multiple keywords and related keywords in content.

This test number 24 – Optimizing your Page for Multiple Keywords

Back when this test was done, I believe this is another summer 2016 test. Yeah, June 2016. The idea behind this and the growing trend was – oh, you can rank your page for multiple keywords and you can do it on purpose by optimizing for all of those keywords and you’ll be better off for it there.

And that came from the fact that Google is getting smarter and smarter, and being able to associate and do some keywords association stuff, and tie your keyword or what you optimize your page for with multiples.

The intent never on Google sides to have you optimize a page for three different keywords – it didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense, then and it still doesn’t make sense now because you’re optimizing a page for one keyword and you’re focusing on that one particular topic, then Google’s using machine learning and entities and NLP now, to tie in the meaning of your keyword in association with those topics, to formulate your page and say this is what your page is about. 

But as a result of that, you’re still getting optimization or you’re still ranking for other keywords. So, you optimize your page for blue widgets, motorcycles, and you might rank for widget motorcycles, or blue motorcycles, etc., depending on how Google sees your page and the search result that is being called on. 

So you get multiple rankings from your pages, even still today, without optimizing for them. And the reason is, at the end of the day, it’s going to be keyword density and this is probably one of the first tests that really triggered off the keyword density idea. 

Keyword density versus keyword frequency, frequency being the number of times you used that keyword to meet that density versus keyword density, where you can have a 2% keyword density and use your word, way less times than someone else versus a 2% density with a higher frequency. Makes sense? 

The control page was what we’re testing against. And the control page only was optimized for only one keyword and it was still at the same keyword density as the page that was optimized for four keywords. But because it’s the only one being used, it’s actually used more time. So same amount of words, same amount of keyword density, but it was used more to reach that keyword density, than what you were talking about when you’re optimizing for four keywords because yeah, eventually, ultimately, you have to reduce the keyword density for your target keyword in order to fit those supplemental terms in there. Right? It just kind of happens. 

Your frequency is down, your density is the same. 

What happened was the page that was optimized specifically for that keyword ranked higher than the one that was optimized for four keywords which is natural. When you’re writing naturally, you’re going to do that, especially if you’re optimizing for four keywords versus one, right? Because you’re going to get away from the primary topic, you’re gonna throw the supplemental topics in there, etc. 

How do you do that? How do you rank for multiple keywords while focusing on the same target keyword? 

Well, the answer is in Google and let’s look at wooden pipes.

So I want to rank for wooden pipes, that’s my primary keyword and I want to rank for multiple keywords and you see there’s a whole bunch of other sets of multiple keywords that actually have traffic and these related keywords can be ranked for by using them in your Htags. So wooden pipes is H1, wooden tobacco pipes is H2, Briar wooden pipes as H3 or H2, long wooden pipes as an H2, and you put those in your H2s and your H3s, depending on how they would fit in like wooden tobacco pipes Briar wooden pipes. And then maybe if you can find another brand name in here in this list with some traffic, you can do that right? So this would be an H2 and this would be an H3.

And by doing that, you naturally just worry about ranking for this. And the rest of these will come up on their own. You can also use the table of contents and actually create a hashtag, jump link, I just call them jump links. Other people have different names for him. But it’s really it’s just the URL hashtag will say Briar wooden pipes, that’s your wooden pipes. Right? So that hashtag is there and it links in the table of contents to the part of your content that has the Briar wooded pipes thing and you send some backlinks to that. And that will help boost that up and ultimately, if you’re boosting all of those other ones up, you’re boosting up all your H2s. And let’s say you did this one, you sent 10 links here, 10 links there, 10 links there, 10 links there, all 40 of those links will actually go towards your ranking of wooden pipes, because ultimately the page is meant for that. But those are easier to rank for, right? The competition is probably last for longtail terms, less people start going after them than this one. So it makes sense to get these rankings first, get some nice traffic, build some user signals, and some traffic etc. become really your pages, your site’s really well known for the wooden pipes, long tails versions of it and then you have a higher opportunity to rank for these wooden pipe broad terms. 

That’s how the multiple page optimization, optimizing for multiple keywords works. I’ve been teaching that outline process since 2016, at least. And I still use it to this day.

Yes, you can rank for multiple keywords while optimizing for one target keyword. Keep that in mind. Don’t get greedy and go in there and optimize for four different words. You’re just messing up your content and you’re reducing your keyword density and keyword density, it matters.

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