Pitfall # 1: You include branded keywords in the mix
Branded organic traffic is not SEO traffic.
The navigation keywords that are related to your client’s site or other sites (even competitors’) will not be valuable to your SEO campaign as you cannot directly influence them.
In addition, your client owns all of the branded keywords, and they use other channels to reinforce them (marketing campaigns, advertising, paid search, etc.).
You do not need ranking or SEO for it.
Mixing the two will confuse your data and make your client’s position in the search landscape work better than it actually is – which in turn will change the strategy and your desired goals.
Think of this extreme example: including “amazon” or “facebook” in your targeted keyword group. All the relevant metrics would be artificially inflated – imagine that the volume of search results suddenly jumps to hundreds of millions.
Therefore, when compiling your first keyword survey, it is important to define your brand keywords and group them separately. Or use a tool like SEOmonitor that automatically segments it for you and further identifies the keyword “other people’s brand” so you know how to exclude them from your strategy and ulterior tracking.
Pitfall # 2: You do not take relevance into account
A crucial pitfall you may encounter when compiling your keyword list is not to consider the relevance of each included keyword. Relevance in this case defines the client’s site’s ability to satisfy the search intent.
Here is a crucial example. Let’s say “London” slipped into your keyword list when you have a client like “University of London”. What is the user really looking for when typing “London”?
It’s a broad search, so Google will try to guess the intent and offer different answers on the first page, ranging from travel articles to institutional sites or wiki entries.
A low relevancy keyword will inflate your overall data with high search volume without bringing your search value to your client. Even if you manage to rank there, which is quite difficult, it would not matter in terms of ROI.
Therefore, you should identify and exclude them from your list. The big clients are particularly prone to this, so take a closer look when optimizing your keywords for them.
To continue our example at the University of London, if you take a look at what the competitors rank for, there is a good chance that “Oxford” or “Cambridge” is not in the Top 20 for “London”.
With SEOmonitor, once you have selected your competitors correctly, the algorithm is able to detect if a potentially low-relevant keyword appears in the Top 100 for any of them. If not, it’s clearly not a relevant keyword for any of you.
Pitfall # 3: You include keywords with major SEO difficulties
You can think of this category as “impossible for now”.
These are relevant but resourceful keywords: they require too much energy and time.
When looking at the interplay between the difficulties of ranking in the top 10 positions and their potential, including the competition that is already there, it is clear whether one should currently worry about them.
For example, a newly launched fashion retailer might want to target “black dresses”, but they will have to fight giants like H&M or ASOS.
Passing the keyword through a metric system of difficulty would probably indicate that it is a tough effort and it would be a waste of resources to compete there now.
But after a few years, if the fashion retailer is highly specialized in “short cocktail dresses” and becomes established in the market, the chances are high that it can surpass its major competitors, and the SEO difficulty metric would indicate that it is an achievable feat.
Pitfall # 4: You do not select highly localized keywords
The problem with these keywords appears when you track keywords at the country or regional level.
This is because the search volume brings together all the placements in there, while the rank only expresses a fraction of what the users performing these searches actually see – the result associated with a single place.
So you may end up thinking that you are accessing the entire search volume, but you are not.
“Restaurants near me” is a good example here. When optimizing for such a highly localized keyword, you should think about it in the form of a keyword, a landing page, a place, which will involve different SEO tactics.
So be aware of these keywords in a wider market, and then group them.
Fallout # 5: You include refueling keywords in your target list
This pitfall is difficult, so it is important to spot it as soon as possible. Tanking keywords are keywords with a significantly reduced search volume over the last 12 months, but which still look great as an average.
Here’s a quick example. In 2020, the search for “how to cut your hair” increased as people adapted to the lockdown. This spring nail disappeared completely in 2021.
Keeping it in an SEO strategy would have been a mistake.
This is a classic case of the average error.
Look at search trends year by year to refine your list. Understanding current trends in your client’s industry and how demand and consumer behavior are changing is the key to saving your resources and future performance.
In a nutshell
Keyword research is simply the input to a well-rounded keyword strategy that helps you avoid wasting your agency and your client’s resources, time, and ultimately trust.
But making the journey from a huge list of keywords to a strategic choice involves looking at the bigger picture and identifying what needs to happen and what needs to be avoided.
As for keyword strategy pitfalls, it includes:
No branded keywords mixed with non-branded ones. Be aware of low-relevance keywords that can infiltrate your list and skew your overall data without creating value for your customers. Exclusive keywords with major SEO difficulties for now — you may return to them after growing your client’s site. Spotting the highly localized keywords so you do not mix their entire search volume with a placement for a place. Looks at search trends year after year and quickly finds a thoughtful keyword.
These are just a few of the common pitfalls we identified as part of the SEOmonitor Masterclass on keyword strategy. If you want to explore this lesson and many others designed just for SEO agencies, you can sign up for free and discover how to refine a keyword strategy or use forecasts for better SEO suggestions.
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