Keyword research is one of the cornerstones of any SEO campaign. The keywords your select will determine what kind of search results your website will ultimately rank for and what kind of traffic your site will be sent from the search engines. That being said, keyword research is also one of the hardest components when it comes to getting an SEO campaign off the ground, even if it doesnt seem like it in the beginning. Its very easy to make one or two mistakes that can send your keyword research down the wrong path and undermine your SEO campaign as a whole.
Here are four keyword research mistakes site owners should try to avoid:
1. Not taking user intent into account.
If someone searches for apple are they looking to buy a computer or make pie? Its critical that you take user intent into account when conducting your keyword research. It doesnt matter how you want visitors to find your website and what keywords you think they use; it matters how your visitors think and what they actually do! Dont ever assume that you automatically know how your target audience searches for your products and services. Search behavior can evolve, terminology can change and your keyword research needs to be on top of the trends!
2. Focusing on keywords that are too broad for you to be competitive.
I was working with a client that sold mobile enterprise software (among other software products) and they wanted to target the keyword mobile company. As much as they wanted to do well for this keyword, I had to be honest with them from the get-go"it was a bad idea and probably a waste of time and SEO efforts. My client was not a mobile company, they were an enterprise software company that happened to sell mobile software. Theres a big difference. This is a mistake I see many site owners makes with their keyword research"they go after incredibly broad keywords that arent really the best fit for what they are trying to sell. You want to get as specific as possible when doing your keyword research
3. Thinking conversion rate is the best metric for measuring success.
Lets say your company sells small business insurance. Small business insurance sends about 800 people to your site each month and well say 19 of them signup for your newsletter (your conversion metric). That's a conversion rate of 2.4%. Now lets assume that small business insurance quote sends 136 people to your site and 7 of the convert. That's a 5.1% conversion rate. Based on those numbers alone small business insurance quote is the better keyword, right? But this is a trap you dont want your keyword research to fall into! Even though small business insurance quote might have higher conversion rate, small business insurance sends more traffic and generates more leads for you in the long run. Both are still viable and valuable keywords, even though one has a much better conversion rate. That's why its important to not silo your data while doing keyword research. You want to make sure you get the whole picture!
4. Getting blinded by the search volume.
Training gets over 20 million searches a month, and thats just in the US alone. Even if your website only got 5% of that traffic that amounts to 1 million visitors to your site each month. I cant imagine any website that wouldnt love to get a million more organic visitors each month. But heres the problem"what kind of training is this searcher looking for (going back to user intent)? And what kind of training do you offer (too broad of a keyword for your business)? There is a big difference between training and personal fitness training, which gets a measly 33,100 searches in comparison. But personal fitness training is much more specific than just training and although there is less search volume its going to send the right kind of visitors to your site. It doesnt do you personal training company much good if youre getting searchers looking for IT training or electrician training now does it?
Its important to remember that your keyword research is not set in stone. You should re-evaluate your keywords every 6 months or so (enough time to get some real data) and see what is and isnt working and go from there.
Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, a full-service web marketing and Boston SEO services firm. With over 12 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting SEO tips to his company blog, the Brick Marketing Blog, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.