Let’s talk keyword research. It is almost impossible to mention search engine optimization without also discussing keyword research. Close to all SEO campaigns have to start with good keyword research. And what you choose truly counts.
Ahrefs highlights that 92.42% of all analyzed keywords only get 10 or under monthly searches. For the rest, the competition is huge. The internet is bigger than it ever was. And who really knows how many new websites are launched every day? All statistics are just estimates. There are most likely more than what is counted.
And the big problem is that finding the best keywords is becoming more complicated as time passes. So, it is very important to avoid the following common keyword research mistakes done right now by way too many SEO specialists, including SEO agencies. However, most of those who make mistakes are just beginners.
Not Taking Search Intent Into Account
A very common mistake is focusing too much on search volume. It is much more important to think about why people type in specific keywords in search engines. What does the Google user want to find out? You have to deliver that content if you optimize for the keyword used.
If you do SEO for a business, you do not want to be number 1 in results for keywords that do not generate sales. This is exactly what happens when you do not take search intent into account.
To keep it as simple as possible, search intent refers to why someone searches for something. You use that information in SEO for two main things:
- Understand why your visitors come to your site.
- Create content that delivers exactly what the visitor wants.
As an example, let’s say you sell computer keyboards. If you target a keyword like “how to clean a computer keyboard”, you waste resources. Those using this query do not want to buy a keyboard. Instead, a keyword like “buy office keyboards in Austin” would be a lot better for the business.
The only situation in which using keywords with another search intent makes sense is when you work on building authority and trust.
Letting Your Clients Choose Keywords
This is basically not doing any keyword research at all. You get a client and they want you to optimize for a specific keyword. Almost always, this leads to not making sales.
Business owners are inherently subjective. They think they know their business best, which also comes to the table with the arrogance of thinking they fully understand who would buy for them. Even if they do have knowledge about search engine optimization, the subjectivity leads them to choose the wrong keywords.
The keyword list of the client needs to be the starting point of the work you do. Gut instinct will not help. You have to choose keywords only based on data.
Using A Single Keyword Per Page
When you optimize your content, a big mistake is to only focus on a single keyword.
This most likely happens because of the common practice of the past of optimizing for any keyword you could imagine. The practice led to very bad content and the strategy does not work anymore. Just like it is a waste of resources to optimize for a single keyword.
Nowadays, Google is pretty good at understanding the context of the content it analyzes. It automatically assigns different topics the content is about.
You should target more keywords, preferably highly-related terms supporting the main you use.
As an example, if you write an article about “keyword research”, you can target related keywords, like “keyword research mistakes” or “keyword research tools”. However, you should never force this. Be careful with the extra terms you use since they have to fully make sense and be related.
Not Targeting Long-Tail Keywords
The debate of short-tail keywords vs long-tail keywords is a big one in the industry but only for those who do not fully understand SEO.
The long-tail keyword always has lower search volume. Marketers thus avoid them thinking that it is not worth it. In reality, these low-volume terms are valuable when it comes to making a sale because those using them tend to be closer to a buying intent.
Besides using long-tail keywords, you can also use several contextual keywords. This helps better cover the topic and makes it easier to convert a visitor.
A Failure To Talk To Customers
This is a very important one and I do not refer to the basic step of identifying the target audience, which is always important. When we identify the best target audience for the campaign we start, we have some ideas of what they look for and what they need. But, the words we naturally use might be completely different than what they usually use.
In marketing, you need to talk and listen to your customers. What is particularly important is paying attention to how they talk about the challenges they have and the products they use. Since we live in the digital age, you can look at social media posts, customer service feedback, online reviews, and several other sources to see how your target audience writes/talks. This can identify several new keywords you can use in your campaigns.
Not Looking At SERPs
You can use one or several of the keyword research tools available. By doing this, you get a lot of data to choose very good keywords for your campaigns. This includes things like historical trends, competition data, and search volumes.
Marketers often spend a lot of time looking at the data offered by the research tools. This can lead to the keyword research mistake of forgetting about SERPs, which practically means that they do not look at the actual results of the searches they want to target.
Before creating content for your campaign, look at the SERPs for all the keywords you plan to target. This gives you a lot of important information to use to create much better content.
Inserting New Keywords Into Content Already Created
This is a mistake that is done in two ways:
- Getting back to previously published content to insert new keywords.
- Creating the content and then inserting extra keywords.
Think about cooking. You do not add new ingredients after you finish cooking. SEO is like that. Once the writing is done, it is a very bad idea to add keywords.
You do keyword research before you start writing the content. You choose the best terms and then you use them naturally in what you create. If you go back to insert terms, the result will be sub-par.
Not Taking Keyword Difficulty Into Account
One of the really important pieces of data you get from great keyword research tools is Keyword Difficulty. But, this is often dismissed in favor of a focus on search volume. The belief is that if there are many people using a term, some will end up on the website. This is a bad way to look at things.
It is common knowledge in the industry that the top 3 search results for any query get the vast majority of clicks. If you are beyond that point, you will get little to none. And with very high keyword difficulty and search volume, it is close to impossible to reach that top 3.
In most cases, lower keyword difficulty and lower search volume lead to much better results for the business. But, do not blindly dismiss keyword difficulty. This is a stat that does not take into account several factors. When you rank very well for some similar terms and your traffic is high, there are chances that you could rank well for a very competitive keyword with a high difficulty.
The idea is to take keyword difficulty into account, just like you do search volume. But, do not blindly rely on these stats. The more data you use when you make your choices, the better the choices.
Not Taking Conversions Into Account
A big keyword research mistake is focusing on really broad terms. These are important in the industry but they tend to generate fewer conversions. For instance, for a shoe store, keywords related to boots or running shoes might not bring in the best possible traffic.
It is very common to see a website get a lot of traffic from some obviously great keywords. At the same time though, the conversion rate for that traffic is very low, like 0.5%. A keyword that is more specific might bring in a lot less traffic but with a conversion of 5%. The second option is actually the best one.
Using Exact Match Keywords
I will not mention the obvious keyword research mistake of not taking localization into account. By now, due to the countless articles written online about local SEO, it should be obvious that localization is very important. But, the one SEO mistake that should be highlighted is the aggressive pushing of exact match keywords.
Some examples of exact-match keywords are:
- Best shoe store New York
- Laptop repairs London
- Buy sim cards Chicago
This is a practice that absolutely needs to stop. There are not many things worse than reading articles with these exact keywords in them. They just break down the flow of the content and can easily make people leave.
Google now uses natural language processing. Basically, this means the search engine is quite good at understanding context. Naturally, we say and search things like “best shoe store in New York” or “laptop repairs in London”. Google knows that and takes it into account when ranking content.
Exact match keywords were very useful in the past but they can actually hurt your campaigns now.
Keyword research is not as simple as companies creating tools want you to think. There is no miracle way to choose the best keywords. Unfortunately, in most cases, we are talking about trial and error.
The keyword research mistakes I highlighted above are very common and this is why I focused on them. You could make so many others. Take all the information into account and keep learning. SEO keeps evolving and you need to keep learning.