8 Most SEO Keyword Research Mistakes You Should Avoid in 2023

SEO Keyword Research Mistakes
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Starting a blog and making money is not difficult if you understand the concepts behind keyword research, as keywords are known to be the lifeblood of online visibility.

They serve as the content base, trying to match the audience’s search intent, needs, and habits.

But even if you have access to the best tools, you can still make tons of keyword research mistakes. One can be expensive, while a combination of multiple can be downright disastrous.

It’s probably safe to assume you don’t want to waste your efforts due to completely avoidable mistakes.

Who does it?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders by frequency, impact, or both.

If you want to become a master at keyword research, I recommend SemRush, the only tool to make your SEO journey smooth.

Then, why are you waiting for?

8 Keyword Research Mistakes You Might Be Making

Without further introductions, let us begin. In no particular order, consider the following mistakes and how to best prevent them.

1. Focusing On Irrelevant Keywords

This may seem downright cliché to start with, but it absolutely bears mentioning. It is not to be confused with “keyword stuffing,” another outdated SEO technique, either.

This simple mistake refers to focusing on irrelevant keywords your audiences don’t care for. Often, this is due to poor or no keyword research whatsoever.

To avoid this grave mistake, remember that your keywords target specific people. Go through your audience analytics, historical business data, or any other analytics tools you have available to explore your audience.

From there, you can conduct proper keyword research into what your audiences care for. If you can, crafting audience personas like Backlinko’s following example can be invaluable toward visualizing them.

A visualization of an audience persona by Backlinko
A visualization of an audience persona by Backlinko

2. Ignoring Landing Page Metrics

Another early mistake, which often seeps into multiple keyword uses, is ignoring your landing page metrics.

Once you launch your content, and before researching keywords in more depth, you will likely focus on organic traffic first. This is, after all, a primary goal for most content – especially landing pages.

During this step, there are ample landing page KPIs that can considerably inform your keyword research, including:

  • Pageviews, time on page, and time per session
  • Traffic origins
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rates

A wealth of keyword research mistakes can stem from ignoring these vital metrics. An attentive eye on them can help you deduce keyword performance, user search intent and user satisfaction, and so on. In turn, they can help you fine-tune your keyword choices and your content alike.

You can also combine this practice with ones that follow to even better effect.

3. Ignoring Long-Tail Keywords

Another crucial mistake, often made early, is focusing on short keywords and ignoring long-tail ones. Indeed, there’s a case to be made here; short keywords typically have significantly higher search volume.

As such, targeting short and accurate keywords might make theoretical sense, skipping long, descriptive phrases that fewer people search for.

However, there are two distinct issues with this approach. One, short keywords are incredibly competitive; chances are high that you’ll go up against established juggernaut brands to rank for them.

And second, long-tail keywords boast higher conversion rates, as SEJ illustrates:

A chart on long-tail SEO and keywords by Search Engine Journal
A chart on long-tail SEO and keywords by Search Engine Journal

So, remember to give long-tail keywords their due attention. Experiment with keywords of all difficulty brackets, by all means, but remember to choose ones you can realistically compete for and will see conversions from.

4. Not Reviewing Your Keywords Over Time

On the subject of experimentation, it’s equally common to stop conducting keyword research over time. Many marketers may settle for established keywords once they find them and rank for them, neglecting to review them later.

That is among the most avoidable keyword research mistakes one can make.

The simple reason for this mistake is that keyword trends change over time. Keyword trends, audience sensitivity, and other factors can cause keywords to lose their luster almost overnight.

Therefore, you should never forget to review your keywords in consultation with others:

  • Google Trends
  • Google’s People Also Ask the panel
  • Your keyword research tools and SEO blogs

5. Ignoring Search Intent

Another common mistake marketers make is ignoring the search intent behind keywords. This is a fundamental factor of each keyword’s efficiency, so it should never be neglected.

Delante helpfully defines search intent as follows:

“As the phrase suggests, search intent is the reason and purpose behind every user’s search. It is the why behind each search query.”

Search intent is largely divided into four types:

  • Informational, where users seek information
  • Navigational, where users search for a specific website they know
  • Transactional, where users seek to complete particular transactions
  • Commercial Investigation, where users are researching a potential transaction

For convenience, Semrush visualizes these as follows:

An illustration of the four types of search intent by Semrush.
An illustration of the four types of search intent by Semrush.

This factor cannot be ignored. It answers the question of “why” users show interest in a specific keyword and what they seek from it. As such, it can significantly inform your content creation strategies.

Analyze your keywords carefully, decipher their search intent, and tailor your content to it.

Ready to conduct effective keyword research and analysis?

6. Not Analyzing the Competition

Along similar lines comes another notable offender among grave and entirely avoidable keyword research mistakes; ignoring the competition.

This error may not impact your keyword research, but it will affect your keyword-reliant content.

As the introduction outlined, digital marketing is incredibly competitive. Over time, your competitors may gain an edge in such ways as:

  • Ranking higher on Google Business Profile
  • Ranking higher on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
  • Running better-converting paid ad campaigns

You should not copy them to the letter, as your businesses and exact audiences likely differ. Still, keeping a close eye on the competition can help you learn from their successes and failures.

Employ your competitor analysis tools of choice, or seek professional help, to take advantage of this notably valuable practice.

7. Not Distinguishing Between Singular and Plural

A much more niche mistake, but just as substantive, is not to distinguish between the singular and plural keywords. To many, this might seem insignificant among keyword research mistakes.

Undoubtedly, Google doesn’t differentiate between the two, so why should you?

And yet it does matter, as Google’s John Mueller was asked the following question:

“What are the reasons for completely different positions for keywords in singular and plural? We have some examples where the plural ranks in the top five and the singular isn’t in the top 100.”

Indeed, this is a very valid question, as Delante’s data visualize and confirm:

A screenshot of data on plural variant of keyword by Delante
A screenshot of data on plural variant of keyword by Delante
A screenshot of data on singular variant of keyword by Delante
A screenshot of data on singular variant of keyword by Delante

Mueller’s answer confirmed the relevance of the suggestions above, as he replied:

“So just because one is singular and one is plural doesn’t mean that we would show the same search results for those kinds of queries. It’s very possible that we see these as completely different elements and maybe even as completely different [search] intent from the user side.”

As such, this is a vital distinction to make too. Singular and plural versions of keywords may rank entirely differently and even carry different search intents.

Thus, this factor should also remain on your mind during keyword research.

8. Using The Same Keywords On Multiple Pages

Finally, we may touch on using the same keyword excessively. Many content creators may rejoice as they find effective keywords and proceed to use them on multiple pages.

This practice constitutes keyword cannibalization – one of the worst keyword research mistakes. This mistake is harmful for several reasons, but Yoast explains the harm to SEO in simple terms:

“If you cannibalize your own keywords, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google. Let’s say you have two posts on the exact same topic. In that case, Google can’t distinguish which article should rank highest for a certain query. In addition, important factors like backlinks and CTR get diluted over several posts instead of one. As a result, they’ll all probably both rank lower.”

As such, you should at all times strive to avoid keyword cannibalization. Instead, you can continue to conduct thorough keyword research and uncover more valuable keywords to build content around.

And as you do, you can also begin using your keywords across different channels. You may use your SEO keywords in PPC and vice versa, for instance, as your intended audiences are likely identical.

Of course, do not forget to monitor both and adjust accordingly.

Summing Up

To summarize, keyword research mistakes abound and span across both keywords research and keyword use. Some, such as cannibalizing keywords, can actively harm your SEO efforts.

Others, such as ignoring landing page metrics, can cause you to neglect your audiences’ preferences and reduce conversions. And some, like failing to reevaluate your keywords over time, can do both.

While brief, this article should hopefully help you identify such mistakes early so you can swiftly remedy them. Ideally, however, it should serve as a word of caution even earlier, so you can avoid such keyword research mistakes entirely.

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