5 Things You’re Doing Wrong with Keyword Research

4 min read
SEO/Content Marketing
By: Maddy Osman

It’s no secret that some of the best ROI in digital marketing comes from SEO efforts. This is why so many marketers and SEOs spend a bulk of their time working to get ranked at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) for keywords they consider to be the most relevant to what their customers are looking for. Therefore, keyword research is an important foundational step of great SEO. But there are a lot of ways that keyword research can go awry and end up hurting your efforts, instead of helping them.

Avoid the most common mistakes that happen as a result of faulty keyword research. Here are 5 things you’re doing wrong with keyword research.


You’re Choosing Irrelevant Keywords

When conducting keyword research, new or inexperienced SEOs may focus too heavily on the historic search volume of specific keywords, without enough consideration as to the relevance of the keywords to their target customers. Not all search traffic is good – especially if it’s unlikely to convert.

A bait and switch situation can have a negative effect on how Google ranks your content. If you’re offering an affordable room for rent, you might opt to use keywords like “cheap room rent [location],” or “affordable [location] room rent.” You wouldn’t want to use keywords like “luxury room rent [location]” or “house for sale [location],” because these keywords are misleading and irrelevant. People will visit your website and immediately leave, negatively impacting your bounce rate and time on site. Google will take note!

You’re Being Unrealistic

When determining what keywords to use, it’s also important to determine how your competition fits into the picture. One of the top things you’re doing wrong with keyword research is underestimating another company’s existing hold on a keyword. When using keyword research tools, take a look at what keywords fall into high, medium, and low competition categories. For most businesses, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to outrank existing companies using high-competition keywords. Focus on long-tail keywords that represent qualified searchers. The search volume may be lower, but these searchers are more qualified, and more likely to convert.

You’re Targeting Plural Instead of Singular Keywords

It’s not a very well-known fact, but it makes sense – most people search for singular keywords, and many SEOs target their plural counterparts. You might think it makes sense to target plural keywords because you sell more than just one product, and you think it makes sense to be more general. But James Agate of Moz found that in a search between “tablet PCs” and “tablet PC,” the plural keyword got 91% less search traffic than the singular keyword. Google tends to be good at ranking both singular and plural keywords, but it can mean a difference in being the top result (and top click through rate), and lower down the page in obscurity.

SEO isn’t a set it and forget it venture. Ongoing SEO means analyzing search engine trends over time. By being proactive and staying on top of the game, you’ll consistently stay ahead of competitors who don’t take this important step with their SEO efforts.

It’s worth mentioning that staying on top of search trends is more crucial for some businesses than others. Seasonal businesses need to give special attention to monitoring search trends so they can plan content ahead, and raise their search ranking during the off-season. By properly planning ahead with content marketing and SEO, they may enjoy top SERP results during their main season of business. Try using Google Trends to see how search traffic for your keywords is affected over time.

You’re Only Targeting the Main Keywords

Guy Sheetrit of Over the Top SEO says the number one thing you’re doing wrong with keyword research is only targeting the main keywords. Many SEOs don’t realize the amount of traffic they are missing out on, and they also don’t realize that 20% of keyword queries each day are unique for at least the last 90 days!

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Final Thoughts: 5 Things You’re Doing Wrong with Keyword Research

Many marketers overlook the opportunities in keyword research and waste a lot of effort ranking for irrelevant terms. Search engine optimization can be tricky. Play it smart and avoid these common mistakes to help you reap the benefits in the long run.

Are you guilty of any of the 5 things you’re doing wrong with keyword research mentioned on this list? Or have you noticed other bigger problems with keyword research in your industry? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Maddy Osman

The Blogsmith

Maddy Osman is the author of Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style. She's a digital native with a decade-long devotion to creating engaging, accessible, and relevant content. Her efforts have earned her a spot in BuzzSumo’s Top 100 Content Marketers and The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers. She has spoken for audiences at WordCamp US, SearchCon, and Denver Startup Week.

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