4 Common Mistakes I See People Make in Doing Keyword Research for SEO

Mike Friedman 🎓
Mike's Tuesday Tips:
These are a few common mistakes I see people make in doing keyword research for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Mistake 1: Only targeting keywords with X number of searches per month.
I commonly see people say to look for at least 1000 searches per month. Whatever the number is, this thinking ignores two very important factors: buyer intent and what you are selling.
I don't think I need to explain buyer intent to anyone here. What I mean by what you are selling is simple.
What if the lifetime value of one customer/conversion is $10,000? Do you really care about search volume then?
I'm going after any keyword where the buyer intent is high. I don't care if it gets 10 searches per month. I just need one conversion each month and that will generate a 6 figure revenue stream.
Now on the other hand, if you are building a made-for-AdSense type site, then yes, search volume is going to matter a whole lot more. In fact, I would probably ignore anything less than 10,000 searches per month as a primary keyword.
Mistake 2: Looking at the number of results in the search index.
I covered this one before in another Tuesday Tip, but it is worth mentioning again. The number of results in the search index has absolutely nothing to do with the level of competition for a keyword. It does not matter if there are 100,000 results or 100,000,000 results.
All that matters is the strength of the top 3 pages (or in really high search volume keywords maybe top 5). If you can beat #3, then #4 through 100,000,000 do not matter.
I don't care what search operators you use either. Inurl:, Intitle:, etc. It tells you nothing about the level of competition.
The Keyword Golden Ratio (KGR) is BS.
Mistake 3: Using competition level from Google Keyword Planner.
Over the years, this might be the mistake I see most often repeated. The competition column in the Google Keyword Planner has nothing to do with the level of competition in organic search. The Keyword Planner is a tool for Google Ads, not Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
It is telling you the level of competition among Google advertisers.
If you ever see a third-party tool with a "Competition" column and it ranks them as Low, Medium, or High, they are most likely pulling this data from Google. Same thing applies.
If anything, and I would still be careful about this, that data can be used to gauge buyer intent. The thinking being that if advertisers are willing to pay for ads, then that probably means they are making money off their ads. In other words, people doing that search are looking to buy something.
Mistake 4: Not checking the plural or non-plural version of a keyword.
Sometimes, when you change a search term to its plural version, the search intent changes in Google's eyes and so do the results. Based on this you might want to create different content on another page to target the plural version or you may want to not target it at all.
For example, when I search 'insurance agent' I do get the local search box, but in the organic searches I get things like job listings, job descriptions, how to become one, and some local search results mixed in.
When I search for 'insurance agents', I see nothing but local results on page one.
If you just glanced at the search terms, they may seem closely related, but based on what Google is showing I would not create the same content to target both of those searches.
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Stephen
I often wondered about the plural aspect and googles results. So your recommendation would be to build two pages, one plural and one not?

Mike Friedman ✍️ 🎓
In a case like I mentioned above, I would strongly consider it, assuming I am interested in the traffic from each version. If I am a trainer for insurance agents, I don't really have any interest in the consumers searching to buy insurance. There would be no need for two pages.
And again, you have to look at the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) first and see what Google is determining to be the search intent of each version.
Many times when you look at singular and plural versions of search terms you will find nearly identical SERPs. In those cases, it makes no sense to create separate pages.
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Daniel » Mike Friedman
As an addition to mistake 1, I would also say that the search volumes displayed by SEO tools are not always accurate. I've ranked for keywords that get hundreds of searches per month for years yet these tools still say they have zero search volume.
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Mike Friedman ✍️ 🎓
This is true. The only way really to be certain of search volume is to run a Google Ads campaign first.
Daniel » Mike Friedman
Another way (which is hit and miss) is to look in Google Search Console (GSC). I've found pages getting loads of impressions for keywords I never would have thought of and never originally optimized for lol.
Mike Friedman ✍️🎓 » Daniel
Yes, that works if you are already ranking somewhere for them.
I miss the days before Google went with private search and we had all the keywords that brought traffic to pages in Google Analytics. Used to find some real goldmines in there.
Daniel » Mike Friedman
Still remember the day all my keywords were replaced with (not set) lol
Mike Friedman ✍️🎓 » Daniel
That was a sad day. So many in the industry now started after that. They have no idea what they missed.
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Daniel » Mike Friedman
In relation to my original point I wanted to add something that doesn't get mentioned often- one of the sources that SEO tools use for search volume and other information are website owners GSC data.
When you connect GSC to your SEO tool, you are in effect potentially giving your competitors access to your business data.
My advice is that if you use SEO tools, do not connect gsc. This is why Ahrefs have their free webmaster tools and why you can only login to ubersuggest with a Google account (not sure about SEMrush) – they even admit this in their tocs.
I believe one of the reasons SEO tools still report zero search volume for my keywords is because I have never told them it is different by connecting my GSC to them. Or maybe I'm just paranoid lol.

Anirban » Mike Friedman
Great points. I would add some of my findings for "mistake 4". The same keyword may have different intent in different GEO. For example, the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) for "Credit Card" in US is mostly dominated by Comparison pages. In India, the SERP for the same term is dominated by application pages (in Bank sites). From my understanding, the reason is as follows: In US, the Credit Card buyers are pretty matured. They know how to compare cards and choose the right one for themselves. In India – it's still an emerging market. India has primarily been a cash economy. In terms of cards – Debit Cards are more common. That's why banks invest heavily on over the line ads for Credit Cards. As a result, most people come to search with already a brand in mind. As per what I remember , the search volume share of Branded terms in US is less than 30% for Credit Card niche. In India it's 75%+ …
Anirban » Mike Friedman
For the mistake 3 that you mentioned , there is another proof: The Keyword difficulty of Branded terms is low (that's because the average Cost-per-click (CPC) is low) – Ranking for your competitor's brand organically, is extremely hard if not impossible 😃

Mike Friedman ✍️ 🎓
Keyword difficulty isn't really based on CPC though. If it was, you could really just look at CPC. You wouldn't need an additional category.
I would disagree a little about ranking for a competitor's brand organically being extremely hard. It really depends on the competitor. I once outranked HideMyAss for a couple of their own brand terms.
Only time I ever tried to de-rank one of my own pages. I was afraid they would boot me out of their affiliate program and I was already making like $500/month recurring after just a few months with them.
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Kevim
My question is if you use Ahrefs to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) keywords What metrics do you look at? Should you even care for how competitive the SEO of a Keyword is? When youre trying to run paid PPC ads

Mike Friedman ✍️🎓 » Kevim
I look for keywords that could bring leads or sales to the business. That's it. And if there are keywords I'm not sure about, I'm going to test them.
And no, SEO would have nothing to do with it.

Mew 👑
Love all the info!
We should also touch base on how Google Keyword Planner uses packed terms to lead people into purchasing keywords with the highest amount of searches so they can obtain the most amount of clicks.
Or in other words how: Chicago Plumber is not actually Chicago Plumber…its any query with +Chicago +Plumber in it; and how this can lead to inflated traffic and lower leads because there's no purchase intent behind Chicago Plumber, but there is 24/7 Chicago Plumber Near me!
I can't stand keyword planners, to be honest. They're great as a guide, but if they are doing your job for you, you should re-assess your keyword planning strategy.
Amber » Mike Friedman
Your tips helped me update my information. It's true that you're doing a great job.
A quick question, for Amazon affiliate marketing keywords research, no need to do mistake 1?

Mike Friedman ✍️ 🎓
I'm not sure what you mean. Search volume is going to be a little more important for an Amazon affiliate because Amazon's commission rates are terrible, but I still wouldn't rule out lower volume keywords that could bring in sales.
Amber » Mike Friedman
I mean should we take care of search volume or not?
Mike Friedman ✍️🎓 » Amber
Amazon's affiliate program pays pennies, so you are going to have to worry about search volume a lot more.

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Read another article: How do some Tools Calculate the Keyword Difficulty? Which One is Relatively more Reliable? SEMrush|Ubersuggest|Kwfinder

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