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SEO

6 of the Biggest Keyword Research Mistakes to Avoid

by Hannah Hanover

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the top methods used by digital marketers to get their product or service in front of prospective customers. Good marketing teams spend a lot of time strategizing how to drive quality traffic to their website and increase conversions, the essence of SEO. The key to a great SEO strategy is a thorough knowledge of your target customers and how, exactly, they find and purchase products and services via the web. Additionally, a successful SEO strategy is based on a familiarity with the ways search engine bots, or crawlers, navigate and rank web pages when a prospect is looking for a specific product or information.  

Though many digital marketers understand that keywords are the basis of SEO, it’s easy to neglect a variety of campaign facets capable of making or breaking your content’s visibility. What you do in your SEO strategy is crucial to your success and avoiding common mistakes will help you achieve that coveted first-page Google ranking. 

Read on to learn about six common keyword research mistakes that can tank your SEO efforts, and what you can do to avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Not using your target audience’s real search terms

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It’s easy for digital marketers to pack content with keywords (including branded terms or jargon) they believe searchers will be using, but those assumptions might not reflect the actual ways customers think, use, and locate a particular product or service. 

This is why it is crucial to get outside your team’s marketing groupthink and investigate how your target audience is really talking about the product, including on social media, internet forums, review websites, customer call transcriptions, and more. Often, you might discover that the keyword you think is the perfect descriptor is not used at all, and a simpler, long-tail keyword is what will drive qualified leads to your site. Remember, people often don’t know the exact term they’re looking for, so they may use search phrases that seem indirect, vague, or oversimplified, which simply provides you with another SEO tactic you can use.

Solution: Regularly review regions of the internet where real-life users and customers talk about products and services in your industry. Adopt a software that provides call transcriptions of current and prospective customers’ calls to your team. Examine the way they talk about the product they’re looking for and how they want to use it and pay for it. Compare the terminology and phrases they use with monthly searches. Adjust your content to match the everyday way others talk about and search for your product.

Mistake #2: Ignoring search intent

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A common mistake brands make is ignoring the reasons why a customer is searching for a specific product or service.  According to Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines, “search results should help people” and “provide authoritative and trustworthy information, not lead people astray with misleading content.” This “misleading content” is a sure way for your pages to be tossed aside by crawlers in favor of more accurate content. 

So what might a customer’s search intent look like? There are four main reasons a customer might create a search: navigational, transactional, informational, or commercial investigation. 

  • During a navigational search, a customer already has an idea of the brand or exact product they want to buy, and your job is to create content that helps them land on the exact page they’re looking for through accurate meta descriptions, titles, and content. 
  • Transactional search intent is when a customer is ready to purchase, sign up, or engage with a company. They’re on a mission to complete a conversion. The ease of navigation on your site is very important at this stage for driving revenue.
  • Informational search intent is about purposeful research, and a good long-tail keyword to rank for an informational search might include the words, “how to” or “what is.” Any blogs, articles, or content that presents solutions or expert information (and the right blend of keywords) for that informational search will find themselves ranking highly. 
  • Commercial investigation, or search intent, is the online product comparison potential buyers undergo before purchasing. They compare brands, specs, and benefits between companies. For SEO purposes, it becomes crucial when addressing this search intent to have blogs, articles, reviews, etc. that compare your product to your competitors’ products, clear-stated benefits, and descriptive language. 

 

Solution: Create content that is specific and answers your potential customer’s questions. 

Why is your brand or product better than a competitor’s? What problem does it solve, and what are those need-to-know details? Is it easy to navigate your website and complete a purchase? Do you use a variety of relevant keywords, brand identifiers, and terms in the right context, including page titles, meta descriptions, and headers? 

If so, you should be looking good for search engines!

Mistake #3: Only targeting high-volume keywords

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Did you know that only 95% of all search terms in the U.S. receive fewer than 10 searches each month

One major mistake that many digital marketers make is completing an initial keyword search and grabbing the keyword they see with the highest volume. They might then create content, including videos, social media posts, blogs, articles, and more, that repeatedly uses that single keyword, hoping to rank and attract potential customers. 

But this is a mistake. 

By competing with the highest-volume keywords, you are essentially guaranteeing that you won’t rank on the first page. The competition is too high! And considering that 71% of clicks are spent on the first Google page, it is unwise to spend too much time trying to compete with that high-volume keyword. 

Solution: Focus on lower-volume keywords and diversify them. 

Use your keyword research to locate low-volume, but actively-searched keywords. This will increase the likelihood of conversion while offsetting your content creation costs. You can use a variety of these low-volume keywords to achieve a better ranking by creating a robust context and providing solutions for potential customers. 

Mistake #4: Not localizing your SEO 

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With about 3 billion searches monthly based on local keywords and with 30% of Google querents searching for local information, disregarding the power of geography in SEO could seriously negatively impact your ranking and conversion. Additionally, there’s been an uptick in “near me” searches – a 100% uptick, in fact, since 2020.

Not optimizing your website offerings for customers who are physically nearby is lost potential. Though companies may rely heavily on shipping products out to customers or offer downloadable products or services, there is still a large swath of consumers that either prefer to patronize local businesses online or visit a brick-and-mortar store establishment. If your service is shipping products, some customers may also prefer to buy from you rather than buying from a company that takes a long time for their purchases to arrive. 

Solution: Familiarize yourself with local search terms and incorporate them into your long-tail keywords.

When you’re researching keywords for content, whether it’s blog copy or meta descriptions, check to see which local search terms are showing up in monthly searches. By only competing with other local searches, you’ll be able to attract a highly targeted audience that is much more likely to convert than someone who accidentally lands on your page when trying to conduct a local search of their own. 

Mistake #5: Not researching your competition 

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Part of a great SEO strategy – and one that may easily be neglected in the hustle and bustle of developing content and researching keywords – is to know your competitor’s offerings, intimately. According to 2022 research conducted by FirstPageSage, click-through rates hover at 39.5% for the first result, but drops from 50% to 18.4% by the second listing. And that’s just on the first page. To remain competitive, you must research who is ranking at the top, and why.

Some SEO questions you can ask as you conduct your competition research is what keywords are they using?  How do they talk about similar products or services? Which forms of their content are most attractive and how easy do they make it to move from brand awareness to a purchase? 

Knowing how your top competitors are functioning in the market can help you stay relevant in your industry. If you don’t keep track of what industry leaders are producing, how they’re talking about it, and the ways in which they’re driving customers to think and buy in your industry you will lose touch with the very customers who may look for alternatives in the future. 

This is why ranking at the top of the search results on the first page of Google is crucial to conversions. However, that is not to say that you should steal your competition’s main keywords if they do not 100% apply to you. Search engine algorithms are well-tuned to reduce the visibility of websites whose content and authority are misaligned with their keyword usage. 

Solution: Regularly visit and browse your competitor’s website, campaigns, and content. 

Consider adjusting your keywords to be more relevant to your industry’s current trends and popular searches. However, don’t mislead customers in an attempt to imitate your competition’s success. Stay authentic and informative regarding your actual offerings. 

Mistake #6: Not updating your content and keywords

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Even if you’ve optimized your content, done your keyword research, and are ranking competitively in your industry, there is one last, crucial step that many digital marketers miss, either for lack of bandwidth or knowledge: updating content. 

Many marketers have a “set it and forget it mentality.” After completing all the steps to create valuable content, they believe it will continue to rank according to its quality. Which, in rare cases, it may. However, not all great content is evergreen. Additionally, the best keywords for your target audience will change over time. This is because SEO is a rapidly-changing field, and major search engines are getting smarter and tougher on outdated or spammy content than ever before. As your industry and offerings change, so should your content. This is particularly true when relying on Google as the search engine of choice, as “Googlebots” are highly sophisticated and quick to ignore old content in favor of recently-updated content.

Every time you refresh your content and update your keywords, you’re basically giving web crawlers a new reason to look at your website. This makes it appear more relevant. This fresh information is then indexed, which can lead to a higher ranking since it is registered as an active account with lots of useful, updated information for internet searchers. 

Other things to check for as you update your content and website are its UX (user experience) and UI (user interface). Once a potential customer lands on your page, how easy is it for them to navigate through it and find exactly what they’re looking for i.e. information, a product, connect opportunity, etc.? Is your website aesthetically pleasing and up-to-date? Does the look and feel of the website reflect what you’re offering? Not revisiting and refreshing your content is a common mistake in SEO strategy. If you want to increase the likelihood of your content ranking well, you have to continue nurturing what you’ve already published.

Solution: Don’t set it and forget it. Conduct fresh keyword research every quarter. Periodically schedule a time to revisit and update your content, including landing page copy, product descriptions, blog posts, customer reviews, and more. Regularly conduct research on SEO best practices and industry trends and adjust your content accordingly to maintain and improve your ranking.

Conclusion

A fully-realized SEO strategy requires periodic analysis and research. Thankfully, there is now a wide range of tools available to help you determine what the best keywords are for your business, how your competition is performing compared to you, how effective your ads campaigns are in reaching and converting customers, and how accessible your content is. If you can navigate the six common mistakes in SEO outline above, your highest online visibility and success are yet to come.

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