You guys and girls are being very patient with me, for which I’m grateful. Some of you have been dutifully reading the blog for going on three months, and during that time, I have not given you a single piece of technical advice relating to making money online.
But quite frankly, what right would I have to do so? I am pretty new to internet marketing myself, and have no track record to speak of, so who am I to start teaching? I will only ever teach what I feel I am worthy of teaching.
Instead, I have been focusing on what I do know about – like figuring out what you want, the importance of mindset, how to succeed, the value of time and money, and plenty more. I have been laying the foundations upon which I can build a framework of technical advice.
And finally, here we are – starting to build that framework. This is my first “how to” post. Actually, it’s a “how not to” post, as in “how not to screw up your keyword research”. Given that a poor choice of keyword or keywords can lead to weeks or even months of wasted effort, you need to spend quality time making sure that you get it right.
I feel that I am now suitably qualified to give you comprehensive advice as to how not to screw up with keyword research. Why? Simple – because I have made every single one of the following mistakes. So without further ado, let’s move onto the list of 13 common keyword research mistakes.
#1 Basing Your Calculations On Broad/Phrase Match Searches
This is perhaps the most common keyword research mistake, and is also one of the most damaging. First of all, let’s explore the three keyword match types.
Let’s say that your chosen keyword is ‘tennis shoes’. The following definitions are paraphrased from Google itself.
Broad Match Type
A broad match search term contains either or both words (‘tennis’ and ‘shoes’) in any order, and possibly along with other terms. Any of the following searches would be considered a broad match search:
- buy tennis shoes
- high heeled shoes
- tennis racquet
Phrase Match Type
A phrase match search term contains the phrase ‘tennis shoes’, with the words in that order, along with any other words either before or after the phrase. Any of the following would be considered a phrase match search:
- red tennis shoes
- buy tennis shoes
- tennis shoes photo
Exact Match Type
An exact match search term contains the specific phrase ‘tennis shoes’, in that order, without any other words. There is only one possible example of a phrase match type search, and that is ‘tennis shoes’. Anything else must either be a phrase match search, or a broad match search.
So What Is Wrong With Broad And Phrase Match Types?
If you are choosing to target a keyword, it should be because you have spotted potential in terms of commerciality, low competition, and context (we will come onto those considerations later). So let’s say that you are selling tennis shoes and would like to know how much targeted traffic you can draw to your site.
If you consider the exact match type search data, you can be reasonably confident that the majority of searchers are at least interested in tennis shoes in some way or other, and may well be looking to buy.
However, broad and phrase match type searches do not offer you the same level of certainty. You just have to look at the examples above to recognize that fact – people searching for ‘running shoes’ or ‘tennis shoes photo’ are almost certainly not looking to buy tennis shoes. So you may attract that traffic to your site, but it will be worthless to you. Traffic quality is always better than traffic quantity (more on that later).
In my opinion, you should always base your keyword research on exact match type data. Any relevant visitors above that estimate should be considered a bonus.
#2 Confusing Regional And Global Searches
This is such an easy mistake to make, and yet can be fatal. I made this mistake just a few days ago. Luckily, I spotted what I had done before I got beyond getting pretty excited about the (incorrectly calculated) money making opportunity.
I found a keyword that seemed excellent in terms of search volume and AdWords cost per click (CPC) – ‘driver instructor training’. The competition seemed extremely low. In fact, after some consideration, I decided that it seemed too good to be true. So I did some digging and soon discovered that the search volume was largely coming from the UK.
The term ‘driving instructor’ is not in wide use in the USA, which is exactly why the competition in google.com was so low. Once I took at a look at google.co.uk, where the bulk of the searches were originating from, I quickly found that the competition was extremely high.
Always make sure that you check to see what region the majority of searches are coming from, and then make sure that you are analyzing the correct competition.
#3 Being Overconfident
This is an easy trap to fall into, whether the cause is naivety or ignorance.
When carrying out keyword research, you are setting yourself up for the considerable amount of work that you will be doing over the coming weeks or months. You should invest an enormous amount of time in ensuring that you pick the correct keywords, because if you get it wrong at this stage, all the work you do in the future may not be worth it.
So err on the side of conservatism. Confidence has no place when it comes to keyword research. I would always rather be pleasantly surprised if my keyword research estimates were proven to be too conservative, rather than too optimistic.
#4 Estimating Your Traffic As The Amount Of Searches
This will be obvious to some but is pretty easy to overlook – the estimated number of searches does not equal the amount of unique visitors you will receive.
Check out this post for a better idea of the percentage of visitors you can expect from the different ranking positions in Google. However, consider that data as a broad estimate only – in my experience, click through rates can differ wildly. Why? Well first of all, people do not always adhere to the precedence of past statistics – click through rates will vary over time, and differ based upon the mindset of the user. The title and description of your site is also a huge factor (and obviously one that you can affect) – does it align with what the user is looking to find? More on this later.
#5 Estimating Your Income Based Upon AdWords Cost Per Click (CPC)
This is a mistake that my friend Kelly over at My Passive Income Journey made with his first ever niche site, which he was kind enough to be completely candid about.
There is unfortunately a big difference between the projected AdWords CPC, and the amount you get paid by Google for clicks on your AdSense units. There are three reasons for this:
- Google wants their slice of the pie – and it is a big slice!
- The AdWords CPC you see is an estimate – it fluctuates constantly.
- If you do not have enough advertisers in your niche, Google will fill the remaining ad space on your site with ‘filler’ – which is likely to have a low CPC.
In my (albeit limited) experience, Google keeps around 80-90% of the income generated from every click. So if the CPC of your keyword is $1, you should expect to be paid between 10-20 cents per click. I call this the ‘adjusted’ CPC.
Make sure you are calculating your projected income from the adjusted CPC amount!
#6 Targeting A Keyword That Lacks Commerciality
This is a tough thing to get right. How on earth do you accurately judge the commerciality of any given keyword? Well, I don’t think you can make an accurate judgment. However, you can make reasonable estimates from which you can make a decision. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can estimate the commerciality of a keyword.
Calculate the adjusted AdWords CPC for your keyword. How does it compare with other keywords? You may come across a relatively high-traffic, low-competition keyword, but if its CPC is next to nothing, you can consider it a good indicator that the keyword is not particularly commercial.
Run a search for your keyword through Google. How many advertisers are displayed? If there are not many advertisers, that is another indicator that the keyword is not particularly commercial.
Think of it this way – if only a few businesses are paying very little to promote their sites in Google for your chosen keyword, it can be safe to assume that there isn’t much money to be made from it.
If you are really keen on a particular keyword, then head over to your local bookstore, and check out if there are any related magazines or books. This is a good indicator of the potential for commerciality.
Check out Google news for your chosen keyword and analyse the coverage it has. Do you get a vibe of commerciality from the news articles? Using ‘tennis shoes’ as an example again, perhaps you come across an article on a new pair of shoes released by Nike. This would lead me to believe that there is certainly some commercial potential in the keyword, as the news article is product-based.
Head over to ClickBank and see if they are any popular products related to your chosen keyword.
That’s Not All
There are plenty of ways in which you can judge the commerciality of a keyword – I have given you just a few. I have just one more suggestion – if you are doubtful of the commercial potential of a keyword, then you should think long and hard as to whether or not it is worth proceeding with.
#7 Letting Subjectivity Cloud Your Judgment
I’ve fallen in love with keywords. It’s an area I would love to write about, perhaps there is lots of traffic, but the competition is pretty strong. However, I keep telling myself that I can make it work – that the keyword is perfect for me.
You have to combat the feelings of subjectivity that can rise up when you find a keyword that you are very keen on. If you are ready to move forwards with a keyword but know deep down that it is probably not a great idea, then you should step away from your computer and have a break. A bit of time to consider what you are doing is usually enough for common sense to take over.
#8 Targeting Plural Rather Than Singular Keywords (Or Vice Versa)
This is another simple mistake. You should make sure that you are not confusing the plural and singular versions of any given keyword. For instance, say you have an online store selling widgets. You know that people are particularly interested in red widgets, so you set up a category for them, named ‘red widgets’.
The problem you face is that people aren’t typically looking for ‘red widgets’. You may stock many, but each visitor only needs one. So they’re searching for ‘red widget’. Now Google is fairly savvy in figuring out the intention of both the webmaster and the user in such situations, but there is no doubt that you will do better by targeting the correct form of the word (be it singular or plural).
#9 Not Considering The Intent Of The Searcher
This is where you have to look beyond the immediate appeal of the keyword, even if upon first inspection, it feels pretty solid.
Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes. When they are typing that keyword into Google, what are they looking for? When they are typing ‘tennis shoes’, are they actually looking to buy tennis shoes? A sensible conclusion might be that a fair number of searches are entered by people looking to buy tennis shoes, but it would be based upon a hunch, rather than hard evidence. This leads me directly to…
#10 Choosing Keywords That Are Too General
I haven’t even looked, but I am guessing that ‘tennis shoes’ is a highly competitive search term. However, if you are selling tennis shoes on your site, it may not even be the best choice of keyword to target.
Why not target a ‘buyer’s’ keyword instead? Consider keywords such as ‘tennis shoes reviews’, ‘tennis shoe shop’ – such keywords give you a pretty good indication that the searcher is in a buying mood. Not only that, the competition for such terms is likely to be lower than the less specific, but more regularly searched for, ‘tennis shoes’.
#11 Not Taking Trends Into Account
Google’s traffic estimates for keywords are based upon a 12 month average. There are two main flaws with their estimates:
- It does not necessarily give a good indicator of how many searches there will be over the next 12 months.
- If the keyword is seasonal, the bulk of the searches may come at a certain time of year.
The seasonality of certain keywords is blindingly obvious. Anyone with a couple of brain cells to put together can recognize that the bulk of searches for ‘christmas tree’ will take place leading up to December 25th. But there are certain keywords where seasonality may not be so obvious. For instance, searches for ‘stationery’ probably increase around July/August time, when kids are heading back to school.
Consider whether or not searches for your keyword are likely to increase or decrease in the future, and if the bulk of searches are likely to take place at a certain time of year.
#12 Choosing Keywords That Rely Upon Context
You have to be very wary of this one. I have learnt, the hard way, that you may think a keyword is fantastic, build a whole site around it, then realize that the content of your site does not align with what a lot of searchers are looking for.
Pat Flynn over at Smart Passive Income nearly made this mistake. For his niche site duel, he originally picked the keyword ‘cop training’ to base his site upon. He also based his estimates on broad match searches. Luckily he found out before it was too late that the bulk of the broad match searches were for ‘mirko cro cop training’, which had absolutely nothing to do with cop training whatsoever. Additionally, exact match searches were incredibly low, compared to broad match.
Being wary of keyword context is important even on exact match keywords. Consider the keyword ‘fly fishing’. You do not have a precise idea of what the bulk of searchers are looking for when they type in that keyword. It could be fly fishing tips, fly fishing products, or good fly fishing spots. If you built a site around great fly fishing spots, and it turned out that the majority of searchers were actually looking for fly fishing products, your time will have been wasted.
Beware of keyword context!
#13 Judging Your Competition Poorly
Competition analysis is something that I am going to write about in detail quite soon, as it is something that deserves an article in its own right. So I will stick to basics here – make sure that you have a detailed understanding of your competition before moving forward with a keyword. If you are planning on spending a lot of time in optimizing your website for a keyword, you need to make sure that the time and effort will result in a positive outcome. The strength of your competition is a key factor.
Just One More Thing…
Actually, two more things – I have just two more suggestions for you.
The first is to come back to this list whenever you are ready to proceed with a keyword or keywords. It will only take a few minutes to ensure that you are not making any of the above mistakes, and could save you an awful lot of grief.
The second suggestion is, simply, to sleep on it. If you are convinced that you have picked a perfect keyword, or keywords, then pack your work up, and come back to it the next day. Give yourself a bit of breathing space – it could save you a lot of work. I personally know that keywords have turned from awesome to rubbish over the period of a night’s sleep – it is amazing what you don’t spot when you are charmed by what appears to be a particularly profitable keyword.
Can you think of any common keyword research mistakes that I have missed? If so, let me know in the comments section below!
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