Can’t seem to get your SEO game on point? If you’ve ever struggled to rank well for certain keywords, then you know exactly how frustrating it can be. And even if you don’t struggle ranking at all, you still might want to improve your rankings. After all, who wants to spend their time working on something they can’t see results from? Unfortunately, some common keyword research mistakes cause a lot of problems for businesses.
Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of SEO. This task plays a significant role in determining where your site ranks on Google Search Results pages (SERPs). The reason being is that Google relies heavily on the keywords you choose when optimizing your pages.
Whether you’re looking for new or current customers, it makes sense to optimize your pages around keywords and topics that interest those potential clients. This way, your efforts will eventually increase traffic to your site and raise your chances of winning them over.
There are common mistakes that tend to show up for many SEO professionals, and then there are some not-so-common ones. When it comes to keyword research, it’s very easy to make mistakes that will ultimately cost you rankings and your traffic.
Never Doing Any Keyword Research At All
The biggest mistake made most by SEO professionals is not doing any keyword research at all. It’s publishing content and publishing content, without any context or targeting to go after higher search volume phrases.
This is a huge mistake because it leaves you open to competitors who have done their homework.
They may already have identified what people are searching for and are using this information to create content that targets these searches.
If you don’t do any keyword research, you could be missing out on a ton of opportunities.
If you’re just starting out with SEO, you should definitely start off with keyword research. You need to understand the basics before moving forward. Once you learn about the different types of keywords, you’ll be able to use them effectively.
Using Keywords That Aren’t Relevant
Choosing irrelevant keywords is yet another mistake that can cost you in your SEO efforts.
You need to find keywords that are relevant to the overall broadly-arching topic of your blog post. These keywords should be related to your product or service, and they should help support the main topic.
For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce website selling motorcycles.
Your goal would be to find keywords that are related to motorcycles and motorcycle parts.
These are two highly competitive markets so you’d want to avoid choosing keywords like “how to repair my motorcycle” or “motorcycle repair.” Instead, you should look for specific words that are used by consumers when searching for motorcycles.
For example, most people would probably end up searching for the specific motorcycle brand that they own, followed by their problem. Such as “Yamaha motorcycle repair.” Or “how to replace my Yamaha (model #) motorcycle engine.” More specific keywords can target a more specific user intent.
Once you identify these keywords, you can write blog posts and other content that target these phrases.
By creating high value content that answers questions and solves problems, you’ll attract visitors from organic search results.
Competition is Too Difficult for Your Chosen Keywords
You may have chosen a keyword list already. Perhaps you have already started using it to create content. But, you’ve run into a problem: your competition is way too high for these keywords, and your site has low authority, so you can’t really do anything about your rankings because it would be too difficult to do so.
In such cases, you might want to consider changing your strategy. If you’re struggling to rank well for certain keywords, it might be time to try something new.
Instead of trying to compete against big brands, you might want to focus on smaller niche sites. This will allow you to get much better traction and build trust with potential customers.
Creating smaller niche sites also allows you to zero in on more specificity with your topics, and to really flesh out your blog with the maximum high-quality content.
Ignoring Keywords with Long-Tail Possibilities
Although you should target high-volume keywords, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore longtail keywords. In fact, you should make sure that you include at least some longtail keywords in your keyword research.
Longtail keywords are those that don’t necessarily have a lot of searches per month but still have relevance because people are actually searching for them. I realize this may sound contradictory, but it’s actually not. These types of keywords include keywords like seasonal keywords, more brand and model-specific keywords when dealing with certain e-commerce products, and other types of keywords.
They tend to be less competitive than short-tail keywords, which means that you’ll have a higher chance of ranking for them.
But, if you choose to use only short-tail keywords, then you’ll miss out on a lot of traffic. Conversely, if you choose to just focus on long-tail keywords, then your content won’t be optimized for the right audience. So, you need to strike a balance between both.
Not Thinking About User Intent of the Search Results You Are Targeting
When you’re doing keyword research, you need to think about what users are looking for when they type in a query. You also need to think about the search intent (also known as user intent) behind that query.
There are several different types of user intent:
Informational Intent – these are keywords that have a research component baked into them, and these keywords are generally informative and have high-quality research-based articles.
Navigational Intent – Navigational intent-based keywords are those types of keywords that people use when trying to get to your website from the search results.
Transactional Intent – These types of keywords primarily have a buyer intent behind them, and these are filled with people who are at the final stages of the buying funnel, getting ready to purchase your product or service. These are also known as high conversion keywords.
Commercial Investigative Intent – These are keywords that are primarily a part of searches that people do to research a product or service. They aren’t strictly informational, because they are not research-only. And, they aren’t strictly transactional, because they aren’t at the last stage of the funnel.
Instead, these keywords are a part of the research one would be doing that leads to finding relevant keywords to include as part of your article.
Not identifying the proper user intent of your keywords can lead to choosing the wrong keyword, and you don’t want to do that. This is why finding the proper keyword is such an important part of any successful SEO strategy. Because it will dictate the type of content you are writing, and will greatly improve your content strategy as a result.
This is also why understanding user intent is critical to identifying keywords you would like to target, and why just publishing content to publish content can lead to failure.
For example, let’s say that you were selling a product called “X” and someone searched for “X.” What would you expect them to see? Would you expect them to find a page full of information about X or would you expect them to find a transactional page about X?
If you’re targeting informational pages, then you need to know what kind of information users are looking for. Is it product reviews? Or, is it technical support? Or, is it news articles?
The answer to this question will help you determine how best to optimize your content. It will also help you understand whether or not you should even bother optimizing for certain queries.
This is where a deeper search analysis will come in handy. Using a combination of searching the actual Google search results, as well as Google Trends, you can maximize the keywords you are targeting while balancing them with people who are actually searching for them.
And, you can also balance this with the user intent of that SERP. It’s pointless to write an informational article about a keyword that’s primarily transactional, because you may not rank because of that user-intent mismatch.
This is where doing a deeper dive into actual SERP analysis will help you improve your prospects for ranking.
Not Analyzing Your Competition
It seems like a really basic SEO 101-level thing: shouldn’t every SEO professional analyze their competition? Yes. But it’s not as common a basic task as you may think.
Some may not do competition analysis, because they have started just publishing content without much in the way of SEO considerations. Doing this means that you are leaving money on the table, because you are flying blind without being able to identify competitive keywords that would be worth targeting.
This is also why content can fail and why competitors could get ahead, because the content itself doesn’t take into consideration user intent, factors in the physical SERP, etc.
This is the exact reason why only focusing on keyword research tools is a mistake as well, because you miss the subtleties in the actual SERP. This can also affect your keyword strategy when you do the analysis correctly.
This is why competitor analysis should be a part of every SEO professional’s keyword research process. Not only will you uncover why your competitors are ranking above you, but you can also identify target keywords as part of your SEO strategy.
You should always do competitor analysis, but you should also look at your own site. This way, you can get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work.
Analyze your competitors’ websites. Look at their backlinks, their social media profiles, their website structure, and so on.
Also, do deeper keyword analysis and figure out what they are targeting. Find out what topics the site is writing about that targets those keywords, and understand how they are publishing their content.
Don’t forget to perform an SEO audit as well to keep tabs on what your keywords are doing for your website.
And, make sure you don’t choose such high competition keywords that you put yourself out of the running.
This is why competitor analysis in the beginning stages is so important.
Ignoring SERP Analysis
Have you ever actually analyzed the SERP (search engine results page) for the keyword you are targeting? Have you actually looked at what pages are ranking there?
If not, now would be a good time to start. Because keyword tools only tell you part of the story. They will tell you search volume, and may even tell you user intent. This is why focusing just on keyword tools is a recipe for disaster.
But, if you look at the physical SERP, you will see different aspects that are not reported by the SEO tool. You will see how a site optimizes its page titles, meta descriptions, and other elements.
You will also see the types of pages that are being shown. For example, if a user intent is being shown as informational, but some transactional pages are being shown in the SERP, this may still be a good SERP. But don’t expect to nail everything about that SERP in your article if it’s an informational article.
The same applies to the title tag. If you are optimizing for a specific keyword, then make sure that the title tags match up with that keyword. Don’t optimize for something else.
With deeper SERP analysis, you can figure out weaknesses in your existing SEO and improve on them.
Targeting One Keyword Per Individual Post
It used to be that you would target one keyword per post. But now, Google has improved its contextual and semantic understanding.
This means that supporting keywords and related keywords are all keywords you want to pay attention to when you are writing your content.
To do this, use a tool like Surfer SEO or Frase to help you optimize your content with these related keyword phrases.
Be careful about choosing single keywords. These are broad and have high search volume, which means they are very difficult to rank for.
Instead, make sure that your list of keywords includes a variety of keywords with a healthy search volume, as well as keywords that may not have a big search volume but could have a high probability of being searched. The reasoning behind this is because Google doesn’t report everything, but you can tip the scales in your favor by ensuring that you have things people are searching for.
Only Focusing Your Keyword Targeting on High Volume Keywords
Have you ever heard of the quote “earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”?
This could never be more true when applied to keyword research. Trying to go after only high volume keywords may impact your monthly search volume, but it could have a negative impact elsewhere.
For example, there are realistic keywords and unrealistic keywords. Unrealistic keywords target those keywords that are only high in search volume, meaning you will never rank for them until you build your authority up enough.
Realistic keywords are those keywords that you can rank for now. While they may not bring in untold amounts of monthly search volume, they will help you build up authority, because you are writing articles that cover those topics. In addition, they help to show that you can rank for something.
Analyzing your keyword’s commercial intent, competitive analysis, and identifying your target customers are all important parts of this process. Without this analysis, you’re basically flying blind.
This is also why it’s important to find realistic keywords you can rank for. And while they may not be drivers of significant search volume (this will come later), they will help you in other ways.
This is also a reason why focusing only on head terms is a mistake. Head terms are terms that are the focal point of your content strategy. But, you also need those supporting keywords and topics in order to reinforce that.
Don’t make the mistake of only focusing on high-volume keyword phrases only to go after every possible bit of just high-volume traffic. You may miss the forest for the trees as a result.
Only Focusing On Low to No Volume Long-Tail Keywords
By the same token, only focusing on low and no volume long-tail keyword phrases are a disaster for any content marketing strategy.
Because you are focusing only on these types of keywords, you may not be as successful as you would be if you focused on better search terms.
And, this is why focusing just on high volume keywords to drive hundreds of thousands in traffic to your site is also a mistake.
By taking the balanced approach, and by researching your target customers, as well as making sure that you are choosing the right keywords based on other attributes in this article, you can solidify your content strategy and make it more stable as a result.
Not Choosing Keywords With Enough Search Volume
While a high volume-only approach is not the best, the opposite is also true: keywords without enough search volume can spell disaster.
When you are doing keyword research, you want to find all the relevant keywords for each individual post or page.
For example, if you have a blog post about “how to use Excel,” then you want to find all related keywords like “Excel tutorial” and “excel tips.”
This makes sense right? So, if you are going to write one blog post per week, then you want to maximize the efforts that you spend on that post.
Your keyword mix should also contain enough search volume for you to be successful. If your keyword mix does not have enough search volume, then you may not target enough people who are searching for…well…anything.
Not Evaluating Whether Your Efforts Have Succeeded…or Not
After all is said and done, ongoing reporting and evaluation of your results is also an important part of your keyword research.
If you don’t know how you are doing, where can you expect to improve and move forward?
At least once a month, make sure you are reviewing Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and figuring out exactly what your keywords are bringing in.
You also want to understand how your keywords are converting, and this usually means that you have a conversion process on your site (such as a contact form, a phone number, or something else).
You should always aim for keeping the same traffic month after month, and work to improve this on a consistent basis.
If you suffer a loss one month, it’s possible you may have been hit by a Google algorithm update. Or, people may be searching differently. You could also have been hit by something worse: the core update, in which case this means that site quality is more of a factor.
Either way, making sure that you perform a regular evaluation of how your site is doing on a regular basis is a critical step that shouldn’t be missed.
Only Using Tools to Evaluate Your Keywords
This is where some people make their biggest keyword mistakes. They only use tools to evaluate their keywords, and they only go after high search volume ones too.
When you only use tools to evaluate your keyword phrases, you make the mistake of not choosing keywords that may also be relevant to your site, and these keywords may not have the highest search volumes out there.
Additionally, you can narrow your focus substantially, meaning that you miss supporting keywords, singular keywords, exact match keywords, generic keywords, and other types of keywords that could be found if you performed that deeper research.
As a rule, we recommend performing SERP analysis along with using those keyword tools. You may find that you didn’t want to actually use that particular keyword phrase after all.
Keyword Research is Fraught With Perils, But the Right Due Diligence Can Help You Get the Job Done
Keyword research is worth its weight in gold. And this is why doing the right keyword research, along with making sure you perform SERP research, is one of the best combinations for success.
You should now see why only targeting certain types of keywords can ultimately mean failure for your SEO strategy, and why ignoring others can spell doom.
This is where having a solid keyword research strategy can pay dividends to your website’s results over a greater period of time.
And this is also where your SEO professional can come in handy.
By making sure that the right keyword research is done every time for every article, you will come out a winner in the end.