Five common keyword research mistakes you need to avoid

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Before you dive into keyword research for your site, you should know about these common mistakes that many businesses and SEO firms make.

Avoiding these mistakes can save you time, help you re-think your marketing strategy, and drive the right customers to your site.

1) Picking keywords that are irrelevant to your customers

People often pick keywords with high search volumes in their field, but don’t pay enough attention to the relevancy of these keywords to their target customers. You need to choose keywords that match your customer’s concerns.

For example, if you’re targeting affluent families who are searching for good schools for their kids, you shouldn’t pick keywords like “low cost public schools ny” or “affordable schools ny”. These families aren’t searching for those keywords. Instead, you should optimize for keywords such as “best schools ny” and “elite boarding schools ny”

Each of your target customers have different needs and concerns, and they use different words when they search. You need to understand your customers and the language they use. Remember, each searcher has an intent, and is looking for something. Your page needs to provide the answer.

2) Focusing on too specific keywords

If you have a large site with lots of possible keywords combinations, you might be tempted to optimize for every little combination you can, in an attempt to cover them all. For example: type, color, price, size, etc. Do the math. This can lead to an unlimited amount of possible keywords.

Many of these lengthy combinations have low search volumes, with no one even searching for them. Also, targeting too many keywords can distract you from most important keywords.

Focus on the keywords that have good search volumes and the potential to drive business. Keyword quality is more important than keyword quantity.

keyword research

Don’t aim at generic keywords, or too specific keywords. It’s best to start with niche keywords that people use to search and buy your products/services.

These are the “low-hanging fruit” keywords that lead to customers who are easiest to close first. What are the highly specific long-tail keywords that pertain to your industry? Google calls this the “I want to buy” moment.

Once you have your best keyword groups, you can always expand them to target broader groups with various search intents.

art class search page

Example of a niche keyword: “art class for kids”

3) Selecting only a few big keywords

Another mistake that large websites often make is focusing on only a few top keywords. You only see this kind of approach in black-hat SEO claims, like “get top rankings for 30 big keywords” because black hat tactics (such as link networks) are often used to push rankings for a single keyword at a time.

leather womens shoes ppc

Trying to compete for “leather womens shoes” would be a waste of time for many businesses

An online marketplace with over 100,000 pages of content once asked us to do SEO for their list of 30 keywords. This SEO strategy just doesn’t make sense. 100,000 pages should be optimized for 300,000 – 500,000 keywords, in order to drive a big amount of traffic and grow the business.

We often follow a simple rule of thumb: each page should be optimized for 3-5 keywords, so the number of keywords is roughly planned by the amount of content.

4) Finding keywords based on existing site structure

When beginning keyword research, most people look at the main pages and major sections of their website, and then start to look for keywords for those pages.

They then optimize those same pages for the keywords they found. The problem is that you can miss out on a lot of great keywords that the current site structure and site content hasn’t covered.

The purpose of good keyword research is to find all possible keywords that your prospective customers are using to find you, and that has nothing to do with your site structure.

Your customers might be looking for very relevant content to your business, that’s not on your website at all! When doing good SEO, you should actually have to modify your site structure, and create entirely new sections and pages that are better optimized for the right keyword groups.

For a school consulting website, we found many strong keywords for a specific audience, like “boarding school for boys” and “boarding school for girls” which were not on the site at all.

We created new sections and pages for these important keywords. Had we relied on the existing site structure, we’d miss out on many of these valuable keywords.

keyword allocation part one

keyword allocation

5) Putting the wrong keywords on the wrong pages

Once you’ve grouped your keywords, you need to figure out where to place them on your website. This process is called keyword allocation, and it’s a critical step in the keyword research process.

A common mistake is adding irrelevant keywords to pages whose content doesn’t match the keywords, or pages that don’t match the search intent.

For example, users who search for “boarding schools in usa” are usually from overseas. Therefore, the page optimized for that keyword should indicate the value for international families who want to send their kids to US schools.

On the flip side, users who search for “top private schools in upper east side nyc” are usually people who understand the neighborhood, so the page content should adhere to their different needs. The keyword “boarding schools for girls” should be allocated to a page that concerns school girls.

It’s not simply about putting keywords on a page, it’s about matching each keyword with search intent and web page copy.

Mike Le is the Co-Founder and COO of CB/I Digital, a digital agency in New York that offers digital marketing and digital product services for clients. You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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