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Primary and Secondary Keywords in SEO

A lot of people make the mistake of only focusing on one keyword in their search engine optimization (SEO) content. But, by doing so, they miss out on opportunities to take advantage of contextual search and rank for new queries.

When doing keyword research, I like to divide my list of keywords into two types: primary and secondary. This can help to create more natural keyword placement and also improve the overall quality of the writing.

In this resource, I’ll go over how to separate keywords, when to use which, and what the benefits of separating them are.

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What is a primary keyword in SEO?

A primary keyword is the main keyword for the product, service, or topic you are writing about. Ideally, it’s the most searched name of a product or service or the most common iteration of a question.

For example, if you sell custom unicorn onesies, the primary keyword for your product landing page would be “custom unicorn onesies”.

You may choose to have multiple primary keywords on one page if your keyword research shows there are multiple alternate names for your target subject and they all have high search volume. For example:

  • Personalized unicorn onesies
  • Made-to-order unicorn onesies

Primary keywords can change based on the landing page you are writing for, so if you add a product or service to your website, that content should focus on the main keyword for that topic.

What is a secondary keyword in SEO?

A secondary keyword in SEO is a keyword that you can use to customize your primary keyword. Secondary keywords can be places, colors, people, actions, or anything in between.

For example, potential secondary keywords for “custom unicorn onesies” could include:

  • Specific colors (tie-dye, rainbow, etc.)
  • The specific city or country you sell in (custom unicorn onesies in Canada)
  • Potential purchasers (custom unicorn onesies for children, adults, parents)
  • Holiday-specific content (unicorn Halloween costume)

Secondary keywords can be huge for improving the number of queries that you show up for in search results. Although many users do search for general terms, a lot of them search for specific things.

Think of your own search queries as an example. Personally, I tend to use detailed search queries so that I can get more accurate results. I would be much more likely to search “custom adult unicorn onesie Canada” than I would be to search “custom unicorn onesie”.

Using secondary keywords throughout your content can also help to improve readability and the overall flow of your content. Instead of repeating the same words over and over (and potentially having issues with black hat SEO practices like keyword stuffing or keyword cannibalization), you can use secondary keywords to differentiate your content and avoid repetition.

Are primary and secondary keywords the same thing?

Keywords, in general, are just words that you target in your online content that have the potential to direct organic traffic to your website.

Many people make the mistake of stopping there and treating all keywords as equals, while others focus on a single keyword in their content and miss out on optimizing for multiple opportunities.

To build a high-quality and well-rounded SEO strategy, you need to dig into your keyword research and get your hands dirty. You should strive to find a healthy balance between using primary keywords and secondary keywords throughout your content.

While it might mean you spend more time researching, writing, and editing, using primary and secondary keywords together could be what makes you stand out from the competition. Plus, the more that you expand your keyword use, the better quality your content will be, which makes Google happy.