In 2022, I would say NONE! Don’t use any keywords.
Instead, use topics and sub-topics.
I tried to explain my approach to this very common SEO question in 2022 with the following sections.
- Evolution of my research process from keywords to topics
- How many sub-topics/keywords do I choose in an article?
Evolution of My Keyword Research Process? (2018-2022)
On a generic level, the number of keywords to use per page has been changing over time.
Google or, for that matter, every other search engine is researching big time on understanding content with human intent. And as a result, the number of keywords used as a factor has been constantly changing.
For instance, I used to have a very traditional approach for this factor back in 2018.
Number of Keywords I Used To Use In 2018-19
- Targeting one main keyword and 2 sub keywords per page specifically (using them twice or more in the articles)
- Using all the high-volume keywords of competitors and from keyword research tools.
- Listing relevant long tail keywords
- Using keywords in the side headings and with decent spacing between them.
- Trying to use 70-80% of keywords collected in the research phase
During this period, I used to list over 40 to 50+ keywords for a 2000-2500 words article.
There were a lot of repetition-based keywords then. For instance, best web hosting, best web host were two different keywords.
Very crude and basic approach. But it worked then. (Though I don’t attribute the success to just the number of keywords factor).
Later in 2020, this changed substantially. LSIs took over the scene.
The Research Process in 2020-2021
It looks something like this:
- Target one main keyword +
- 4-6 high-volume keywords that are topically relevant but semantically different concepts from the main keyword in side headings
- List all the relevant long tail keywords
- 40-60 LSI for every 2000-2500 words article
- Use 2-5 very high volume keyword variations or synonyms of the main keyword.
- Also, I would use at least 1 high-volume variation or synonym of the side heading keyword.
For instance, for best web hosting as the main keyword, I would still use best web host, and best web hosting provider though semantically they are the same. Just considering the volume, I would use them both as keywords
During this time, I would end up with 10-15 keywords and 50-60 LSIs for every 2000-2500 word article.
Deoptimization made quite some rounds in 2021 – I have seen quite a few SEO biggies opting to deoptimize completely in 2021.
So, I tried it on a few articles in 2021. It didn’t help much. But it did lay the foundation for my topics-not-keywords concept.
So, now, I almost believe using keywords based on volumes is an obsolete concept.
What Do I Do Now in 2022?
- In the place of keyword research, I do user intent research and topic and sub-topics research.
- I also include the traditional 2020-21 steps of using LSI and long tails in my 2022
Step 1: Most of my sub-topic hunting work is done directly on the Google SERP page titles and meta descriptions.
Step 2: If I can’t find enough meat there, I dig into to top 2- 4 ranking websites. Read the first one and skim through the rest to list down my sub-topics
Step 3: For LSIs I use wikepedia.
Step 4: Currently, all my long tails come from the Google SERP’s people ask section and top 20 site titles.
How many keywords/topics do I use in my articles?
There is no simple equation for this.
I usually consider these two factors to get an estimation of the number of sub-topics to use
- Length of the article – it can be 100, 500,1000, or 5000 words
- Competitors’ articles.
Length of the article
There is still a considerable debate going on how long-form content WINS. It is still a thing in some niches, but I have seen quite a few cases where 100, 200-word articles rank for volume-rich competitive informational keywords.
So, I am inclined more towards user search intent.
I use chrome extensions to check the word counts of the top 5 competitor articles and get an aggregate word count to decide the length.
Once I have that number, I use the following table to decide the number of keywords or sub-topics I should use.
No sub-topics – 100-500 words article
1-3 sub-topics – 500-1000 words article
3-6 sub-topics – 1000-2000 words articles
6-10 sub-topics – 2000-3500 words articles
Note: This table is based on my research data of 100+ successful articles I worked on in 2022. The following table might not be right all the time.
2. Competitors’ Articles
After the Google SERP page, the top 2 organic results are the best resources for topic research.
For basic informational blog posts, I usually scan through the side headings of the top 2 results. More than often, I see repetitions of things, So I kill them and have a format ready in less than 20 minutes.
If the length of the article seems too crude of an approach, this processed list of sub-topics from competitors could be a very good approach.
Note: I curated my article sub-topics vs. length table based on this simple yet tedious research. Since I do things at scale, I stick to my table.
I hope I made myself clear with the explanation of my process. Let me know if this makes any sense 🙂