5 Keyword Research Mistakes That Cripple Search Traffic

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Keyword research is arguably the most important element of an SEO campaign.

You can use all the advanced on-page optimisation and inbound link generation tricks in the book, but if you aren’t targeting the right keywords, you won’t see the traffic and conversion results you’re hoping for.

In this post I want to outline a few common mistakes local business owners make when choosing the keywords they target.


Mistake #1: Shooting in the Dark (aka, No Keyword Research At All)

One of the most common DIY SEO mistakes I see is the random choice of target keywords based on what a site owner thinks will be good keywords to target. This is

Always start with the Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as the Google Keyword Tool – this is part of Google Adwords) to get a rough idea of search volumes before you decide what to target.

Once you’ve chosen target keywords and started your SEO campaign, keep track of everything in Google Search Console to see how many actual impressions you’re getting for each term on a daily basis – Keyword Planner numbers are a rough guide, so you may find searches that don’t have great numbers in the Google keyword research tool end up creating a lot of impressons.

Mistake #2: Targeting Keywords with Too Little Volume

Remember, the majority of search traffic will go to the top five results for any search. Typically, about 70% of searchers will click on one of the top three results on the page.

That means if you’re targeting a keyword phrase that gets only 10 searches per month, you might only end up with three or four visitors from the search even if you secure the #1 ranking.

A good rule of thumb is to assume 40% of total traffic volume if you secure the #1 spot. This makes your traffic expectations more realistic and lets you avoid focusing on too-small keywords.

Mistake #3: Targeting Only One or Two Keywords

It’s common to see websites focusing only on one major search term – for local businesses, usually [main service + city name] (eg dentists christchurch, lawyers auckland, etc).

This strategy will greatly limit your total traffic because you won’t be targeting the dozens of other related ‘long tail’ phrases that actually generate more traffic, cumulatively, than big searches.

The ideal scenario is to rank for your main big keywords, while also targeting a wide variety of other phrases related to your main keywords at the same time.

You can see the number of different phrases your site is found for in Google Search Console. Diversifying the phrases you’re being found for is just as important as pushing top rankings for a handful of your biggest target searches.

Mistake #4: Putting Too Much Emphasis On Broad, Difficult Keywords

Sometimes it’s a mistake to focus on your biggest searches at the beginning of your campaign, especially if you have tough competition who are better-resourced.

Remember, for many keywords you have to hit the top five rankings to make the effort worthwhile – if you blow your budget and find yourself still at #20 due to competition levels, that’s a wasted spend.

For this reason it’s often better to focus on the smaller, more targeted, more winnable keywords first and then move up to focusing resources on bigger, more competitive terms later in your campaign, after you’re seeing some more traffic and sales from picking the ‘low hanging fruit.’

Mistake #5: Not Including Local Area Keywords

When you look at the Keyword Planner, you’ll see that ‘real estate’ gets a lot more monthly searches than ‘real estate christchurch.’

However, if your business deals in real estate in Christchurch, and not NZ-wide or internationally, there’s no point focus on that bigger, broader term.

You’ll waste resources trying to rank for it, and even if you do, much of the traffic won’t be in your target market.

Including geographic keywords in your optimisation, especially in Title and Description tags, can give you an easy boost for your local target phrases. These tend to be much easier to rank for than broader keywords, and they convert a lot better due to being highly targeted.

Tom McSherry is the founder and chief strategist of Premium SEO NZ. Tom has been in the digital marketing industry for 8 years providing digital copywriting and optimisation services to businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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