Part of building a good SEO campaign is choosing an appropriate set of keywords. If you're not careful with your keyphrase selection, you could end up building a site that attracts the wrong type of visitor, inevitably resulting in low conversion rates and low search engine rankings.
Here are a few of the most common keyword research mistakes. Avoid these, and you're on your way to a great website that will organically attract long-term traffic.
1. Paying Too Much Attention to Competitors
Obviously, you need to see what your competitors are doing to bring in business, but don't automatically assume that they're targeting the right keywords.
Visit your competitors' website to get keyword ideas, but really evaluate those keywords. Decide whether they're relevant. For example, "cars St. Louis" could draw in people looking for model cars, classic cars, car shows or used vehicles. It's not particularly relevant to your business if you only sell model cars. Just because your competitor values this keyphrase doesn't mean that you need to design your campaign around it.
2. Ignoring Your Site's Current Rankings
Alright, so you're starting a massive new SEO campaign. You might want to ignore your current content in favor of your awesome new content, but you're making a big mistake if you don't check your current rankings and consider optimizing keywords that are already strong.
For example, if your website is on the second or third page of Google for "Arizona faded jeans," you'll have an easier time breaking into the first few pages for that key phrase than you would have if you built an entirely new campaign around "Phoenix jeans." The keyword might be a little more specific than the other keywords in your campaign, but you need to use any advantages that you have in order to get quality rankings as quickly as possible.
3. Not Getting Specific
Ideally, you're picking a variety of words to start your campaign, and only one or two of your targets should be general phrases. Specific phrases cost less for PPC, they rise to the top of organic search results more quickly and they often have higher conversion ratios.
Let's say that we're selling maternity clothes in Atlanta. "Maternity clothes Atlanta" is an obvious keyphrase choice, but it's not very specific. There are probably a number of companies targeting that phrase.
"Funny maternity shirt in Atlanta" might bring in more visitors if our website has that type of product. "comfortable maternity pants Georgia" might also work well. Be a little creative.
4. Focusing on Too Many Keywords
If you're targeting 30 keywords in a 300-word piece of content, you're going to trigger Google's spam filters. Even over 10 pages, 30 keywords will be tough to track.
Start with only a few keywords and add to your campaign gradually.
5. Choosing All of Your Keywords with Selection Tools
Keyword selection tools give you a great scientific tool for choosing phrases, but they're not perfect and they can lead you down some expensive paths.
Use selection tools, but also write your content organically and monitor your site stats to see what keywords bring visitors in. You'll keep your costs under control and stand a much better chance of getting the results that you want.
Check out our blog post about how to do keyword research based on a real case study.
Dane Thompson is an online marketer who recommends Interactive Limited for SEO needs.