One of the most important aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) is keyword research, which will help you develop robust and optimized content if properly implemented.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most challenging tasks for many SEO professionals next to content creation and link building.
Keyword research can seem like a massive obstacle if rarely done, particularly if you don’t have the time to do it regularly.
When doing keyword research, there are inevitable mistakes that marketers need to avoid if they want to find the right terms and use them in their content.
1. Not Optimizing for Searcher Intent
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers tend to make is failing to optimize specifically for searcher intent.
All keywords should reflect what your audience is looking for, but many are focused primarily on increasing traffic, not conversions, which are what truly matter in any campaign.
Searcher intent considers what the user is looking for when performing a search on Google and other search engines.
If you’re trying to attract users looking for a manual on how to use a particular device, they’re not likely interested in learning everything that goes into each component of their device.
Don’t try to cater to search engines and stuff your content full of keywords and content around them that, in the end, don’t matter to the user.
Do keyword research that helps you find keywords that your audience will enter and think about the kind of information they’re trying to get when they enter those terms.
2. Focusing on Short-Tail Keyword Research
People relatively new to keyword research also tend to focus on keywords with high volume, which doesn’t necessarily equate to high value.
Many of those with a higher volume of as many as thousands of searches per month are short, broad keywords.
Meanwhile, long-tail keywords tend to go overlooked because of their generally lower search volume.
However, it would help if you didn’t underestimate the power of long-tail keywords, as they often pertain to users at the lower end of the sales funnel when they’re closer to converting.
Even if you target long-tail keywords representing the funnel’s top, these terms are typically not as competitive.
They can more precisely match a user’s query, indicating a more relevant answer.
In turn, focusing on long-tail keywords can help you convince searchers that you’re an expert in your industry as you answer their questions and persuade them to make a purchase.
3. Not Paying Attention to SERPs
One of the best ways to understand searcher intent and determine what your audience wants is to look at search engine results pages (SERPs).
If you rely solely on your tools and never look at the search engine results pages to see what’s ranking, you won’t get a complete picture.
In some cases, you may find that Google provides users with content for a query that doesn’t resemble the content you’ve created for a particular keyword.
Or you might be writing a product page when Google is more likely to return product pages for a term you’re targeting.
Looking beyond your analytical tools and directly at search results when doing keyword research can give you a better idea of what type of content ranks the highest.
4. Looking at Keyword Volume Only
This point goes back to the discussion about long-tail vs. short-tail keywords.
Many marketers are obsessed with search volume and don’t consider looking for more appropriate terms based on what users want when they visit your page.
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to go after the keywords with the highest search volume.
Instead, think about the types of keywords that people interested in your products or services would use to find the content you want to rank for and look beyond search volume.
5. Stuffing Content with Keywords
Many SEO professionals get asked to “SEO” a business’s already created content.
Others still new to SEO might believe that you can repeat a keyword several times throughout the content and automatically rank higher.
These may seem like quick shortcuts to help boost rankings for content, but the fact is that keyword research should be the base for all content strategies.
It isn’t something that you tack on later and expect to get great results from applying after the fact.
Don’t expect your website to rank well and appeal to searcher intent if keyword research is done late in a content strategy.
6. Keyword Research Tools over People
There’s no question that today’s SEO tools are much more potent than they used to be, giving useful insight into searcher intent.
At the same time, you should also speak with real people to help guide your keyword research in the direction it needs to go for optimal success.
You can help your customers more effectively by asking for their input, either in person or another channel such as social media:
- What are they looking for?
- What kinds of problems are they facing?
- What language do they use?
SEMrush is a tool that provides insight as to what questions your customers have.
You can also consult with your employees who interact directly with those customers regularly.
Knowing the people, you’re trying to sell to and provide for can ensure you know how to cater to them based on their wants and needs.
SEO and keyword research tools can only tell you so much, but real people will eliminate any ambiguity that might otherwise hinder your campaigns.
7. Only Looking at Exact-Match Keywords
Many people still believe that they need to include every keyword variation in their content, sometimes within a single paragraph, if they hope to rank.
This practice hasn’t been useful for a long time, particularly as Google continues to improve its Natural Language Processing capabilities.
Companies can often get too caught up on exact-match keywords and stuff content full of every variation possible, but this will do more harm than good these days.
Make sure you’re writing content conversationally and avoid repeating yourself, or your content will be less engaging, which will hurt you over time.
8. Not Thinking about Locality
One big reason to look at SERPs and step away from tools for a moment is localization.
Specific areas you’re trying to sell to might use different terms, have different preferences, seasonal trends and holidays, or other local elements that factor into a customer’s needs and search behavior.
Consider what your audience is looking for based on where they’re located.
You might be surprised to find that there are ways you can optimize your content to appeal to specific locations.
Check out the People Also Ask section on Google for more relative questions.
9. Ignoring Competitors
Businesses may know what types of competitors they’re up against in their industry.
Often, these competitors are different from those who appear in search engine rankings for similar keywords.
For instance, while you might know of competitors selling pots and pans, people ranking in SERPs could include people selling these products along with bloggers sharing reviews of their favorite cooking tools or other websites that aren’t directly related.
Taking a look at all of your competitors and incorporating them into your keyword research can help ensure you stay ahead of them based on what they’re doing right.
10. Not Looking at Keyword Difficulty the Right Way
Keyword difficulty is a specific metric that many tools show in some form to indicate how competitive a term is in SERPs.
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Some tools might use numbers on a scale of 1 to 100 to measure difficulty, with one being easiest and 100 being the hardest, while the Google Keyword Planner uses “low,” “medium,” and “high” based on competitiveness.
While these metrics are essential to look at, it’s equally important to consider how your website and current rankings will relate to keyword competitiveness.
If your website is brand new and doesn’t rank highly for anything yet, even targeting an “easy” keyword might not get you anywhere unless you work hard.
On the other hand, you might find it easier to rank for keywords labeled “hard” if you have a better chance of ranking for them as an established authority on search engines.
Avoiding these mistakes will help you get the most from your keyword research.
Ultimately, you’ll be able to avoid wasting time and money that you otherwise might suffer when ignoring key factors that mean the difference between success and failure.