Keyword Research can be a bit like trying to put a puzzle together. However if you are missing a piece of the puzzle or have some wrong pieces, then you can never successfully complete it.
Time and time again when I’m reading posts on Internet Marketing forums like the Warrior Forum, I see the same keyword research mistakes come up.
Keyword research is your foundation of SEO and without proper keyword research, the rest of your efforts are most likely to be a waste of time.
So what are the biggest keyword research mistakes?
1) Search Volume
By far the biggest mistake people make with their keyword research is using the wrong monthly search volume figures.
We all know that a good keyword should have good monthly search volume and low competition. Typically “good search volume” is defined as 3000+ searches a month (this is not a figure set in stone though as it depends on the type of keyword).
Typically what happens is that someone who is doing their keyword research will go to Google Adwords Keyword Tool (GAKT), specify their keyword and see what the monthly search volume is.
The problem is that by default, GAKT returns broad match search results when you really want to look at the exact match search results.
OK, so let’s use an example to explain what the difference is between broad and exact match search results and why it is so important.
For the rest of this article, I’m going to be using the example keyword phrase:
antique coffee table
So if we login to our Google account and go to the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, put in our keyword phrase, we can see the following results:
That’s 12,100 searches a month! Happy days!
Not so fast.
Click on the checkbox next to [Exact] under the Match Types in the left column and let’s see what results we get:
The exact match search volume is shown for the keyword phrase in square brackets, ie: [antique coffee table]
The global monthly searches for the exact match result is a only 1000, which isn’t too bad, but certainly way less than the 12,100 results for the broad match. I’ve seen some keyword phrases where the difference is huge; for example the broad match results over 100,000 and the exact match results less than 100.
Just imagine if you built a website and optimized around a keyword that you thought got a lot of searches, only to find that even though your site is ranked at the top of Google, you are getting a very tiny trickle of traffic.
It can be very disheartening.
Alright, I’ve told you that you should always be using the exact match figures, but I have explained why…..yet.
Let’s look at the three different match types and what they mean.
A broad match is where your keywords can appear in any order and don’t have to be next to each other.
The following are all broad match results:
- antique table with coffee grinder
- a coffee table looks great with antique features
- sit at a table sipping coffee and reading books about antique furniture
- give your table and antique look by staining it with coffee
A broad match search is the default search type when you do a Google search (that is, without quotes).
So a broad match search for our example keyword phrase, gives us:
That’s over 9 million results.
The first page of the results will have pages directly related to antique coffee tables, but let’s have a look at some of the results returned further down the search results:
This particular page isn’t specifically about antique coffee tables, but mentions a coffee table and an antique drafting table as it is still a broad match result.
This particular result was buried quite a long way down the search results, so someone searching for antique coffee table would almost certainly never even see it.
The point being, is that if you relied on the broad match search volume in GAKT, that will include all sorts of vaguely related searches that you won’t be optimizing your site for.
A phrase match result is where your keywords appear in the exact order, but can be surrounded by other words or punctuation.
The following are all phrase matches:
- Why antique? Coffee table for sale.
- antique coffee-table
- antique coffee, table free.
When you do a Google search in quotes, you performing a phrase match search.
So using our keyword phrase, the phrase match search gives us 123,000 results compared to just over 9 million results for the broad match search.
All of the search results will contain the phrase antique coffee table.
Here is one of the results on the very last page:
Notice that there is punctuation in the keywords, but the word order is the same.
The first and most important thing to point out is that exact match only relates to GAKT.
There is no direct way to use exact match in a Google search.
Exact match is pretty self explanatory. It includes searches for that exact phrase.
As we’ve seen, the broad match search figures can be much, much larger as they include so many other vaguely related searches. By using exact match search figures, you get a much more accurate idea of the actual search traffic you are going to be targeting and optimizing for.
Once you’ve found a good keyword, you need to know what sort of competition you are up against to get ranked on page 1 (and there’s no point in aiming for page 2 or lower).
The two main mistakes I’ve seen with gauging competition are:
i) Number of Search Results
This advice goes along the lines of put your keywords in quotes and check the number of results returned, if they are less than [insert some random number here], then it is a low competition keyword.
Now there is some element of truth in this method. If a keyword search in quotes (phrase match) returns 10 million results and another returns a few hundred results, it’s reasonable to assume the keyword with 10 million results will be harder to rank for.
However, that is a very poor way of judging the competition.
As you are obviously trying to rank on page 1, the sites on page 1 are really your only competition. You need to look at various factors such as on-page and off-page SEO for the top 10 results to gauge how difficult it would be to beat them.
It doesn’t really matter if there are a million results. If most of them are poorly optimized, then you have a very good chance of outranking them.
ii) GAKT Competition Bar
Quite a number of people don’t understand what the competition bar in the GAKT results actually means.
Let’s look at the results for our example keyword again.
You can see the competition bar for the exact search is almost 100%.
Some people incorrectly interpret this as the competition strength for trying to rank for the particular keyword.
What it really means is the Adwords competition for that particular keyword, ie: the number of people trying to bid on that particular keyword for their adwords campaign.
While it can be a useful metric to look at if you are building Adsense sites, it has very little to do with the competition strength of sites for that keyword.
3) Commercial Intent
Assuming you find a good keyword with low competition and a good number of exact match search results, there is one more piece of the keyword research puzzle that you can get wrong.
This is where commercial intent (“buying keywords”) comes in.
If you have a site ranked on page 1 and are getting lots of traffic but little to no sales, it could be down to the keywords you original chose didn’t have a very high commercial intent.
By commercial intent, I mean how likely is the person searching for that term looking to purchase something.
People may be just searching for advice, information or free products, in which case, there’s not much point in creating a website targeting their searches.
So what are some of the ways of determining commercial intent?
- Put yourself in the mind of the person doing the search. If you were doing a search for a particular keyword, are you looking for something to buy (or potentially purchase if you came across something that looked really good)?
- Keywords targeting specific models. For example, if someone searches for “LED TV’s”, they are most likely in a research phase to find out more about LED TVs. However, if someone searches for a specific model of LED TV, they are generally looking for a place to confirm their decision and hopefully purchase from.
- Look at the CPC and Competition columns in the GAKT. Generally if a keyword has a good CPC (say, more than $2) and high Adwords competition, it’s generally a good indication that the keyword phrase has a high commercial intent, otherwise people wouldn’t be bidding on it.
For those of you who prefer viewing videos rather than reading articles, the following video gives a summary of what I’ve written in this article.
Getting Keyword Research Right
While keyword research is always going to be an inexact science, by avoiding the common mistakes I’ve listed above, hopefully it will increase your chances of creating a successful site that gets good conversions.