As soon as you start your keyword research for your site, you realize that there are literally thousands of keywords that you could target to rank in search and attract the target audience you want.

You enter one keyword, and you get dozens of suggestions back for related terms. Then you put in variations of keywords and strings of two, three and more keywords, and the work spirals out from there.

When you have a list of hundreds or thousands of keywords that you want to target, how will your SEO work ever be done?

Instead of wasting a lot of time and money on chasing a comprehensive strategy that won’t give you a comparable return on your investment, it is important that you focus on a narrow group of terms that will make the most impact. When it comes to quantity vs. quality in SEO, there is no contest – quality keywords and thoughtful strategies will win out every time.

Here’s what you need to do:

Find the Balance between Volume and Competition

You will focus on two key metrics when you are determining which keywords to target: The global and local search volume for those terms and the competition for them.

Unfortunately, you don’t get hard numbers about how many people are targeting those keywords, but you can see whether competition is “low” or “high” and what the estimated bid is for PPC campaigns.

Search terms that have a high search volume almost always have high competition, as well. Other brands are going to chase that higher search volume, so if you choose those terms, you are going to be battling to be seen.

However, if you focus on terms with lower competition, you are likely to find that the search volume isn’t there to get you the traffic you want. You might try a strategy that plucks all the low-hanging fruit, so to speak, ranking for all those low-competition terms and getting the traffic through volume.

It is more effective to find a good balance between search volume and competition. That might mean that you focus on terms that have a little less search volume but that only have medium competition. You have a better chance of ranking, and there is still decent search volume to be had.

Get Niche

The more niche you are, the more easily you will rank in search.

For example, you probably know that opening up an online jewelry store is not a good choice. If you search “jewelry,” you will get millions of hits. Ditto for terms like “gold jewelry,” “men’s jewelry” or “fashion jewelry.”

If you want to compete, you need to narrow your focus. Selling just necklaces is a start. Selling just cross necklaces is better. Selling just birthstone cross necklaces is niche.

Think about how you can make your business more niche. Even if you have a business model that is not niche, you can create sites that parse out your products to appeal to more niche audiences. Doing so will give you much better results with your SEO.

Limit Keywords Per Page

Once you have the list of keywords for your site, you may be tempted to use as many of them as you can in each of your pages.

Use only one main keyword for each page that you can use in headers and the meta description.

You can use a couple more keywords on the page, but they should be used only in the body content, and they should be limited to using less than a handful of times each.

Be mindful of using variations of the keyword on your page, as well, such as the plural of the word or other tenses of the verb.

Run a PPC Campaign

A paid search campaign can give you a short cut to ranking.

With a successful campaign, you can send more traffic to your site for a particular keyword or phrase. That traffic will help to boost your site’s overall ranking, which will then help it perform better in organic search for those same terms.

Paid and organic search create a feedback loop that helps to reinforce both.

If you have a limited budget, you should focus on the most important keywords on your list first and then move down the list as you get additional resources.

If your budget is really limited, you will have to strike that same balance between search volume and competition like you did with organic search. The more competition there is, the more you will have to spend. But spending more might also result in higher search volume.

Take a hard look at the numbers to make the right decision to reach your goals.

SEO can sometimes seem like a numbers game, but chasing those big numbers can sometimes waste your time and resources without giving you that return. Focus on quality and you will get a better return on your investment and meet your goals faster.