Common Keyword Targeting Mistakes
Regardless of where you get traffic from, keywords matter - at least a little bit. Keywords are what your target market uses to describe what they're looking for. If you're not mentioning them on your page, in your ads, and as descriptors in meta descriptions and titles, you're probably not capturing the traffic you could be. Still, you could overdo it a bit when it comes to keywords - especially when it comes to keyword targeting. Do you make any of these common mistakes?
You Overemphasize Volume
Traffic volume is important, but it's not the only thing that matters. Here look at what happens when we search for the term "SEO" using Google's keyword tool:
Holy cow, that's a lot of searches per month for the term "SEO." All you have to do is get ranked for that one keyword phrase, and you're set, right? Not so fast. You see, it doesn't matter how many people search for any keyword if it's too competitive. Plus, this is the total search volume for the word (aka "broad match"). Moreover, a keyword like this doesn't really tell you anything about why a person is searching for "SEO."
Maybe the user is new to SEO and wants to learn more about it. Maybe the user wants to gain intel on his competitors and wants to learn about advanced SEO strategies. Maybe, the user is looking to buy SEO software or services. Without knowing user intent, the keyword is worthless to you. This is where the long-tail comes into play.
Most people don't search for just "SEO." See what happens when we use "exact match?"
The exact match filter in Google's keyword tool tells us that only 823,000 or so people search for just "SEO." The number is probably a lot smaller than that. It makes sense if you think about it. Who would just type in "SEO" and thumb through web pages? People go to Google to find something.
You Don't Understand Volume Estimates
The estimates that Google gives you in its keyword tool are for ads only. That means that whenever users see ads related to the keywords you're researching, G will tally that as a search. It's not search query volume.
A lot of folks are still using Google's keyword tool as though it estimates search volume and total queries. It's a very loose interpretation of both, as Rand Fishkin found. Sure, if someone is searching for a particular keyword, and ads start popping up, then it's a good bet that there's traffic for that term. How much? Only Google really knows. Here's where using the Google keyword tool becomes problematic:
- When users do multiple queries for the same or similar search phrase. This can inflate the numbers a bit in a "real-world" sense. For example, if you search for "car loans" multiple times, your query may count twice for the keyword tool - but why were you doing multiple searches? Did you accidentally hit the search button twice? Did you search for something, then realize that you really wanted to use a different phrasing or word? Were you just checking your rankings or spying on your competition? What about your competition? You don't think you're the only one typing phrases into Google just to see search volume do you?
- When Google doesn't show all of the related keywords. This is something that happened to Fishkin. In all probability, it happens to a lot of sites. The way to verify this is to check your own logs to see which search terms users are using to find your site. Then, compare this against the search terms you find in the keyword tool. You'll probably see some discrepancies. In some cases. In some cases, you might even see visitor counts that exceed Google's reported search volume for a number of keywords.
You Underestimate The Competition
You can't just write a page about "insurance" and expect to rank on the first page for the search term "insurance." Even if you try to target something like "cheap term life insurance," you're going to hit a brick wall. Major companies have dumped millions of dollars to make sure they are on top of the search results page in the paid search (and arguably in the organic search - sure, paid links is a no-no, but big firms do it anyway).
Before you spend a lot of money gunning the number one spot, make sure it's someone you know you can take down. Analyze their backlink structure using some of SEOMoz's tools, see what kind of authority they have, and don't just look at the number of total links pointing to the site (a huge mistake).
You Cannibalize Your Keywords
If every page on your site targets the same keywords, you're doing it wrong. Each page should have a focus. You might like the double-listing in Google, but this doesn't happen often. When it does, it's for a good reason. Don't force it. What's your page really about. Target those keywords on the page (intelligently - so Google knows what it's about) and forget about everything else.
You Forget About ROI
At the end of the day, you need to make money. If you're not getting an ROI on your keywords, you're doing it wrong. How much time are you spending optimizing? Researching? How's your conversion rate? There's a lot of folks writing for the search engines these days, but your time could be better spent writing for users. They're the ones giving you money after all. Get that right, and you probably won't care what your rank is.