A Primary on Secondary Keywords: What They Are and How to Use Them
In an SEO world where marketers focus on keywords, metadata, and backlinks, secondary keywords aren’t getting the attention they deserve.
While not the star of your content show, secondary keywords can play a strong supporting role in helping you rank higher and improve the reader experience. Let’s look at what secondary keywords are, why they’re valuable to your SEO strategy, and how you can put their benefits to work.
What Are Secondary Keywords?
Once you’ve chosen a primary keyword you hope to rank for, your keyword research isn’t quite done. Rather, your content quality and SEO can benefit from choosing a few semantically related terms to support the content within.
These terms are known as secondary keywords. These should be closely related to your primary keyword and could logically be found alongside your primary term in context.
For example, if you are trying to rank for laptop covers, a potential secondary keyword could be laptop skins. In this case, someone may use these terms interchangeably in a search.
The Value of Secondary Keywords
Secondary keywords aren’t the most important element of your SEO strategy but they do hold enough value to warrant inclusion. Think of them as the ketchup to your French fries: they taste fine without it, but ketchup adds that little something extra to improve the final product.
They Add Context to Content
First and foremost, secondary keywords add context to content. Google continually ups its efforts in delivering the most relevant and highest quality content, especially as it pertains to user intent. Sprinkling in a few secondary keywords to support your primary term can help search engines to better understand your content in the right context.
They May Help Your Page Rank Faster
When you make it easy for search engines to figure out what you’re talking about, your rankings may receive the biggest benefit. Google is better able to place your content in front of the right users when it can combine your context with their search intent.
Where to Find Secondary Keywords
Just as you conduct research for primary keywords, you can also take the guesswork out of selecting secondary keywords. Here are a couple of places to look that will help you find the best-supporting terms:
Keyword Research Tools
Use the same tools you use to find your primary keywords but look for different criteria. SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz offer top-notch tools that give you tons of data and insight into keywords.
Or, if you’re on a budget, there are a few free keyword tools worth exploring. Google Keyword Planner, and WordStream all offer keyword tools that are comparable to the pay-for versions.
For example, when sourcing a primary keyword, you want to choose low difficulty terms with high search volume. But for secondary keywords, you’ll want to choose terms that are closely related with your primary keyword but have a lower search volume.
When you start typing a search query into Google, Google tries to guess what you’re searching and will drop down a list of potential queries.
Take their suggestions to heart when sourcing secondary keywords, as these options don’t just appear by accident. Rather, they’re real searches that other users have made and will give you a glimpse into what people are looking for online.
Type your keyword into Google and see what suggestions appear. Select a few that are semantically relevant to use as your secondary keywords.
Secondary Keyword Best Practices
Ready to put your secondary keywords to work in your content? Follow these best practices to maximize your results:
Stick With Four to Five Relevant Secondary Terms
Keyword stuffing rules do apply to secondary keywords. You don’t want to force them into your content, but rather pepper them in wherever they make sense. This is hard to do if you’re focusing on quantity, and your overall content quality may suffer as a result.
Instead, opt for four to five relevant secondary keywords that will best support your content.
Remember, the goal here is for all primary and secondary keywords to work together to create content that resonates with user intent.
Use Each Secondary Keyword At Least Once
Make a list of the secondary terms you want to use, then make sure you use each one at least once. More is fine, as long as they make sense within the content and the quality doesn’t suffer.
Use CTRL + F to open a search box that will help you locate each term in your content before you publish it. This little step only takes a minute and will ensure all of your secondary terms were used.
Overlap a Secondary Keyword with a Primary Keyword
Having a primary word that’s part of a secondary term makes it easy to incorporate both into your writing with little effort.
For example, if your primary keyword is keyword research, an easy secondary term would be keyword research tips. Once you inject your secondary term, you’ve automatically used your primary term, too.
Just don’t overuse this technique to the point it results in keyword stuffing. Many SEOs recommend you stick to 1-2% keyword density as a guideline for your primary term. You can use CTRL + F to find all instances of your primary keyword to ensure you haven’t gone overboard.
Content Quality Is Still King
Adding secondary keywords to your content may give you a boost in rankings, but no amount of secondary terms can be a substitute for content quality.
Google uses secondary terms to get a better understanding for your content, but that content will need to be well-written, well-structured, match the user intent, and provide the answers your readers came looking for.
Only then will you be able to reap the biggest benefits of your SEO strategy.
To make the most of your keywords, make sure you’re also following other SEO best practices, such as formatting your piece for readability, optimizing your content for mobile, and offering an outstanding user experience.