6 Keyword Research Mistakes That Kill Your SEO Efforts


Keywords are the foundation of online marketing. That’s an incontestable fact. At first, finding the right words may seem like an easy task – all you have to do is think of a few terms and phrases related to your business, run them through any keyword research tool and calculate your potential traffic. However, there is more to keyword research than meets the eye.

There are several common mistakes that companies make with their keyword research. Let’s analyze these mistakes and see how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Using broad match instead of exact match

Search volume is one of the most important metrics to take into account when looking for the perfect keywords. This is probably the first thing to check with keyword research tools, and it’s where the next serious mistake may occur.

Most tools offer three types of keyword matching:

  • Broad match contains all your in no particular order and may include other words. For example, if your targeted words are “black shoes,” broad match may include “black shoes for men,” “shoes for black suit,” and so on.
  • Phrase match includes your keywords in order and may contain other words. For example, “where to buy black shoes,” and “black shoes with high heels.”
  • Exact match contains only your keywords in a given order – “black shoes.”

And there is a huge difference in search traffic between all of these results. If you do not take this into account and estimate your potential visitors using broad match, you’re likely to get absolutely disappointing results.

How to avoid this mistake: When using tools to estimate search volume, avoid using broad and phrase-match figures. Always base your decisions on exact match.


Mistake #2: Using one-word keywords

Another mistake is selecting keywords that consist of a single word. It’s really hard to rank for one-word terms – they are too general and too competitive. Besides being highly competitive, short-tailed keywords lack context. For example, a person searching for “fans” may also be looking for a big industrial fan, a fan to ventilate their apartment or even a football fan community!

How to avoid this mistake: Try to compose your keyword list of mostly long-tail keywords, as they provide more context. Every additional word should focus more specifically on user intent – this will bring you closer to your target audience.

Mistake #3: Not taking the competition into account

Ranking for a specific keyword actually means beating your competitors. So to plan an effective keyword strategy, you need to know the competitive landscape. If you choose your target words without considering the competition, you will likely waste both time and money.

How to avoid this mistake: Step one: type your target query in the search box and take a critical look at the websites that are on the first results page. What are your actual chances of making your way to the first positions with that particular keyword? If your competitors are are ranking too highly, you need to choose other words to rank for.

What’s also great about competitor research – it helps you get fresh ideas and find new additions for your keyword arsenal. There will surely be some keywords that your competitor is ranking for while you’re not. You can find these words with the help of the Domain vs. Domain tool by SEMrush.

Just type in your domain and the domains of up to four of your competitors. Then you will get a Venn diagram visualizing keywords that these domains share, as well as exclusive ones for each domain.


SEMrush’s Domain vs. Domain tool

This tool provides you with a list of keywords that your competitor is using, while you’re not. You can sort them by search volume, CPC or level of competition and add to your own list of keywords.


Mistake #4: Not considering conversions

Even if you’ve found a word with a good search volume and low competition, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve struck gold. The reason is simple: this keyword simply may not convert.

Traffic itself is a good thing, but it’s real customers that we long for. If a keyword drives traffic but your visitors do not convert to customers, that keyword is probably not profitable (informative queries are the exception).

How to avoid this mistake: you always need to conduct keyword conversion audit. For example, if you’re tracking goals in Google Analytics, you can easily define the most converting words. Then you can try to understand trends and patterns of these keywords and apply this knowledge to your research strategy.

Also you can use keywords that include indicators of user’s intent to perform a needed action – for example, words like “buy”, “delivery” and so on.

Mistake #5: Selecting keywords that people do not use

One of the biggest mistakes is using keywords that reflect what the company thinks about its products, and not what the target audience does. This happens for few reasons.

Sometimes companies choose keywords from their corporate jargon. But the fact that you use this words in your day-to-day vocabulary doesn’t necessarily mean that your potential searchers know it at all. Or may be another version of this word exists, that differs a little, but is searched much more often.

The same goes for using branded terms, that may be not familiar yet to general public. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should leave aside all branded or jargon keywords. But you need to set the right balance between these words and keywords that your target audience may actually use.

How to avoid this mistake: Talk to people. Ask your customers, partners and employees about the vocabulary and terms they use to describe their need and questions regarding your product.

Mistake #6: Ignoring local keywords

One essential thing that companies tend to overlook is the difference between global and local keywords. If you have a local or regional business, make sure that the traffic from your targeted word comes from your locale. If you only work with customers in a certain geographical location, keywords that are popular in other regions will be useless.

How to avoid this mistake: When doing keyword research with tools like Google’s Keyword Tool, always filter your searches by location.


Also pay attention to geographic search terms. Many searchers will add the name of their city or locale to their query, so optimized keywords will improve your chances of meeting customers.


Performing keyword research is a difficult and painstaking job, but it has to be done the right way. If you target appropriate and valuable keywords, your traffic and conversions will increase. If you choose the wrong ones, your strategy won’t be successful –no matter how good your other SEO efforts are.

Need any assistance related to keyword research?

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Comments (4)
Harendra Singh

Hi Dear, Superb article, good inside, i have a question for you, if search is very low for exact match keyword, i have to go for broad match or phrase match.
Harendra Singh

FATbit Chef

Hello Harendra,

If you are getting low searches for exact match keywords then you should go for phrase match. You can discuss more about keyword selection with our experts on Twitter (@FATbit_Tech)



I find #4 and #5 are the biggest problems I have had – not using keywords that convert and not using keywords that are searched for. I am taking a class in marketing and learning so much. Thanks for this article – it was very well put together.

FATbit Chef

Thanks Heather 🙂
Keep coming back for more such posts on SEO and Online Marketing.
-FATbit Team