At the center of your search engine marketing effort are keywords. How you identify and approach the search terms you target is the secret to successful SEO. Here are common mistakes to avoid.
Mistake 1: Guessing Rather than Researching
Most business owners have a sense of the words and phrases that people use when talking about their business. These keyword guesses are a great start, but they are not a substitute for keyword research.
Skipping or guessing at your keyword research means you create content without a single idea of what your potential users are actually looking for. One of the biggest keyword mistakes you can make is thinking that you just instinctively know what your audience wants. Keyword research gives you insight into the language of your audience. Which words do they use? What terms do they search for? Which terms are competitive and which less so? The result of your keyword research should be an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for.
And, this is not a one and done activity. You will need to update your keyword list regularly. Your audience interest and needs may change, as could your business focus. Keywords change over time.
Mistake 2: Using Keywords with No Value
This keyword mistake happens a lot when you make the mistake of guessing at keywords rather than evaluating: you work at ranking for keywords that no one actually searches for. I find this is especially common when the industry has an insider lingo that is not the same language used by the client or customer.
It is not helpful to optimize for words that potential visitors or customers don’t use. Two things can happen: either you do offer something people are looking for, but these potential visitors simply use different keywords and therefore won’t find you. Or, your keywords are too long tail and don’t get any traffic.
The keywords you aim to rank for should be the same words your customers use. Always try to use the language of your audience.
Mistake 3: Competing for Olympic Level Keywords
Just as you can’t start a sport today and compete in the Olympics tomorrow, you need to be realistic when selecting the keywords to compete for. Make sure you aim for realistic keywords. Some niches are very competitive. Ranking in competitive niches is hard, especially if you’re just starting your website or business.
Focus on long tail keywords. These are specific searches rather than wide category searches. They are easier to rank for and because they are very specific they have a higher chance to convert to a click.
Long tail keywords are a great way to start your keyword strategy. These words attract less traffic, but you’ll have a higher chance to convert your visitors into buyers or returning visitors. People that use specific terms, to search for exactly that thing you’re writing about, are a very good match.
Mistake 4: Ignoring Search Intent
Not every search that uses keywords related to your business is actually looking for your content. People could be looking for information (informational intent), a specific website (navigational intent), or they might want to buy something (commercial or transactional intent). If your content doesn’t match searcher’s intent, it probably won’t make it to the top of the search results page, no matter how great and well-optimized it is.
Evaluate whether the content you plan to publish for a certain keyword is in line with what people are looking for. You can do that by looking at the current search results. Do the types of intent match? What answers do people want? Is your content in the right form?
Mistake 5: Unnatural Use of Keywords
Don’t focus your content on one exact keyphrase. Related terms can help the flow of your content as well as your search rank. Keep in mind that users need to value your content for it to earn clicks and rank well. So, pay attention to writing content that is easy to understand and offers value above all. If the content looks like an awkward attempt to use keywords that aren’t naturally part of the content, it won’t rank well.
Mistake 6: Working Against Your Own Rankings
Keyword cannibalization happens when you optimize multiple pages for the same search term. This works against the success you want to achieve. Search engines can’t tell which of your pages to show users.
Be sure to optimize each page of content for distinct keywords. If more than one content item is focused on the same keyword, look for long tail keywords that are specific to each. Or, consider combining the content to make one, terrific item of content for the keyword.
Mistake 7: Assuming All Is Well
Selecting keywords and optimizing for them does not guarantee success. Take time to monitor your rankings. Adjustments will be needed, because keywords have changed, your selections weren’t realistic, or other factors.
Evaluate regularly if people actually find your articles. One way to do that is Googling your selected keywords. Be aware that your search results may be biased because Google has personalized search. Another resource is Google Search Console, which will tell you what searches you appeared for in a given time period, as well as your average rank.
Whatever method you use, the key is to evaluate and adjust so you can keep up with the moving target of good SEO.