7 Keyword Research Mistakes to Avoid

by The Tortoise

Keyword research can be a time consuming and tedious task, but it’s also incredibly important to get right. That’s because without comprehensive and accurate keyword research, you won’t be able to lay the foundations for any successful SEO work that follows, and any hard work in creating content and optimising your site will be at least somewhat wasted.

Here we look at seven keyword research mistakes to avoid. 

1. Assuming you know how people search

It’s easy to approach keyword research as a task where you simply collect the search volumes for the likely queries your target audience searches with. For example, you might be writing pages about the best offers available on your site that sells computer equipment, so you check the search volumes for various items (e.g. laptops, monitors etc.) combined with the word ‘offer’. 

You may find there is indeed search volume for these terms, but perhaps your audience tends to search using terms like ‘deals’ which has the same intent but is more popular among your target audience.

2. Ignoring the long tail keywords

Long tail keywords that are made up of a handful of words or a question, for example, often have low search volume but you shouldn’t ignore them.

Long tail terms are usually less competitive than ‘head’ terms with high search volumes like ‘fridges’, ‘sneakers’, or ‘shirts’. 

Given the fact that they’re longer, they can also lead to higher conversion as users searching with long tail keywords often know what they want. For example, compare ‘table’ with ‘buy wooden coffee table’.

3. Translating keywords into other languages

If you run a site that’s available in multiple languages and/or multiple countries, the quick approach might be to conduct your keyword research in your native language and then have them translated by a speaker of another language or (even worse) by using an online translation tool, such as Google Translate.

The problem with this is that by doing so, you assume that people search in the same way in different languages/countries. 

A simple example of this is that whereas English speakers in the UK would search with the word ‘trainers’ more often than the word ‘sneakers’, the opposite applies in the US. 

To make sure your keyword research is at its best for each of the countries/languages you’re targeting, you need to start the process from scratch for each market, or at least verify users do search in the same way. 

4. Misinterpreting keyword relevance/intent

Another common mistake with keyword research is when the intent behind search queries that you’ve uncovered during your keyword research is misunderstood. 

This means that what might seem like a relevant keyword for your site to target, is actually not relevant as the intent people have when using that search query is not something you can provide a good enough answer or solution to. 

This article by Eric Enge does a great job at explaining how to understand relevance/intent for different keywords by looking in the SERP at what Google is currently ranking (and therefore what type of content/site is actually relevant). 

One example from that post is the keyword ‘muffin’. For this search query, people are primarily interested in finding recipes (we can be pretty sure about this, as that’s what page one of the search results is dominated with). This means that you’ll have a job ranking for ‘muffin’ if you’re in the business of selling muffins online. 

5. Ignoring unusual spikes in search volume and seasonality

Certain keywords can explode in popularity at certain times.

This might be a recurring event if they’re seasonal keywords such as the obvious example of ‘christmas trees’, or it might be that a keyword was particularly relevant at one point due to a certain event happening once or only every few years.

An example of keywords like this are those around political events like elections for example. Or the launch of a new TV show that might see a spike in search volume at first but then drop in interest quite quickly and never pick up to the levels it once was at.

It’s important you bear seasonality and unusual spikes in mind when analyzing your search volume data, so you don’t let one-off spikes or drops in search volumes mislead you. 

6. Ignoring the limitations with keyword research tools

Different keyword research tools use different methods for collecting and organising their keyword data.

But whether it’s Google’s Keyword Planner, or whatever else, one thing they all have in common is that none of them are perfect and the data is all of varying accuracy. 

One example of a limitation of keyword research tools is the way Google Keyword Planner groups search volumes of different, but similar, keywords. This can make it hard to choose which keywords to use in your page title, for example, and can lead to inflated search volumes across your keyword research.

To help get around this problem of Google Keyword Planner grouping search volumes for similar keywords, you can use Google Trends to verify which keyword actually has the most searches. 

Another problem with keyword tools includes missing data, where they don’t have the search volumes for certain keywords. This is one reason it’s worth checking multiple keyword tools when you’re doing your keyword research to be more comprehensive.

7. Becoming overwhelmed

All the other mistakes in this post have been about making sure your keyword research doesn’t end up as misleading or inaccurate, and therefore less useful than it could be.

An important thing to remember with keyword research, however, is that it can become quite an endless task, where you never feel like what you’ve done is good enough, and that you might be missing some keyword s from your research.

It’s great to be comprehensive and to strive for perfection, but you also need to not spend too much time searching for every possible keyword that might be relevant, and driving yourself crazy in the process.

Be thorough and careful with your keyword research before diving in to optimize your site or create new content, but the moment you find you’re beginning to go around in circles, that’s a good time to stop and move on.

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