Keyword research is, unsurprisingly, an extremely important part of SEO. It is how businesses learn what terms to target and it forms the basis of how they structure their content. Unfortunately, there are also a number of mistakes that can be made in keyword research that invariably damage and lessen the success of the resulting SEO. Avoid these pitfalls to stay on top of your competitors.
Ignoring Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are search phrases that typically have four or more words in them. Such keywords are used less often than shorter phrases that are one to three words in length. When starting out in SEO, it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that it’s best to focus on the shorter, more frequently searched elements and neglect long-tail keywords.
This is a mistake for three different reasons:
- Just because shorter keywords have more search volume, it doesn’t mean they result in more traffic. Shorter search phrases are also much vaguer, which means a lot of the people who find your content from a short search are likely to be looking for something else.
- Long-tail keywords are more specific and are therefore easier to tailor content to.
- Since long-tail keywords represent focused queries, they represent a more ready-to-engage audience that is easier to convert into customers.
Forgetting Plurals and Singulars
Google is generally pretty smart about understanding that people who look for, say, “travel agent” are also interested in “travel agents,” but it’s not perfect. There are noticeable search volume and results differences between plural and singular terms of the same topic. To use the travel agent example again, at the time of this writing, there is a difference of 18 million results between the singular and plural terms. For this reason, incorporating both in your SEO is often the best strategy.
Forgetting to Account for Audience Intent
Content can, speaking generally, be divided into two types: informational, which is meant to educate and support interest in the business, site, or topic; or commercial, which aims to sell something. People looking for information are not planning to make a purchase—yet. Similarly, those looking to buy something aren’t as interested in informational postings. It’s important to distinguish between the two and avoid keywords that blur the line.
Let’s say you run a dating site and publish an informational article on “dating games,” since your research shows it to be a popular search term. The problem is that “dating games,” while a niche term for a short search phrase, also has multiple interpretations. Your article could be found by its intended audience—people looking for games to play on a date—but it could also be found by people looking to purchase actual dating-based board or video games. This audience would not be interested in your article. When you account for how many people in the audience have a different intent than you wrote for, suddenly the keyword doesn’t seem as viable as it did initially.
Similarly, keep alternate meanings in mind when doing keyword research. “Frames,” whether glasses frames or picture frames, has its results lumped together even though the audiences are completely different.
Not Checking Click-Through Rate
In addition to how frequently a term is searched for, keyword research should also look at the click-through rate. This refers to how often a result with that keyword is actually clicked on and the page is visited. Since the click is what actually results in traffic, this can be a big mistake. At best, you luck out and end up going with strong click-through keywords anyway. At worst, you waste time and money by focusing on keywords with a high search rate, but low click-through rate, which won’t propel traffic or sales.
The ideal chain of events is a keyword search leading to a click-through that results in traffic, which then converts into a customer. All of these parts are important but only one—conversion—actually results in making money. As much as some keywords have different click-through and traffic rates, they also have different conversion rates. Even if your current keyword research has resulted in high-traffic SEO, be sure to monitor conversion rates and see if there are other keywords you can try. In some cases, you might find a keyword that, despite resulting in lower traffic, ends up earning more conversions.
Using Broad Match Instead of Exact Match
Google’s AdWords research tool is meant to help pick targets for advertisements, so it defaults to the “Broad Match” setting instead of “Exact Match.” Under “Broad Match,” Google shows possible search volume that would see the resulting advertisement. This is not the same as the term’s actual search volume, since broad match includes people who don’t actually use the term but Google thinks have close enough intent to be interested. While useful for certain purposes, a broad match can skew the results and hide the term’s actual search volume. When using AdWords for research, be sure to check “Exact Match” in order to see volume based on the actual use of the keywords in question.
Forgetting About Google’s Personalization
Keyword research involves not just looking at search ranking data, but also by doing a bit of Googling on possible terms yourself. Unfortunately, this is where Google can be more helpful than you need. Remember: Google personalizes search results based on your history and the rankings, and results you find aren’t going to be the same as someone else’s. This can lead to skewed findings that don’t accurately represent a page’s popularity.
The good news is that there’s a way to avoid this. First, make your search query, then click on the address bar and add “pws=0” to the end. This will depersonalize, but not delocalize, the results and give you a more accurate view. This works best if you’ve logged out of your Google account but can still be viable if logged in.
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