Are You Making These Keyword Research Mistakes?

Avatar for Amanda Stephens

Amanda Stephens
VP of Operations

Keyword Search Results page on the standard seoplus+ blue triangle background
Keyword Search Results page on the standard seoplus+ blue triangle background

Keyword research is the process of identifying a list of keywords for which you would like your website to rank. Based on this list, you will develop content and make SEO optimizations in the hopes of improving your website’s position in the search engine results page (SERP) to generate more impressions, traffic, and conversions.

While the keyword research process can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it, there are some common mistakes that both novice researchers and hardened SEO experts may fall prey to.

Let’s explore some of the most common keyword research mistakes and how to avoid them:

Generic/short tail

When you see a keyword like “cars” (7.4 million monthly searches globally) or “shoes” (2.8 million monthly searches globally), it’s easy to start salivating at the thought of earning even a sliver of that sweet organic traffic.

Putting aside the fact that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than earning a first-page position for these keywords, your chances of converting a customer based on a generic search like this is infinitesimal.

These keywords are just too broad; someone searching for cars could be looking to download a copy of the Disney/Pixar movie, not lease a new Ford F-150; someone searching for “shoes” could be trying to look up pictures of shoe styles for a school project, not buy a new pair of kicks.

Instead, lengthen, localize, and zero-in on intent. “2023 Honda CRV prices Ottawa” or “best running shoes for heel spurs” will put you in a much better position to rank and convert. When a user is searching for something so specific, they are ready to purchase, thus helping your conversion rate.
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Competitor brand names

This will be an uphill battle especially if the competitor dominates the space. While it’s absolutely a smart idea to track competitor websites and see how you stack up in regards to shared keywords, it’s a losing battle to spend energy targeting their brand name or branded product names.

If you do choose to target competitor brand names, you’ll have to build out comparison content on your website. First, this is absolutely necessary for relevance, but it also provides additional value to visitors. If you sell a CRM software, for example, create a webpage with a comparison chart comparing the features and price of your software versus major competitors.

Too high in the funnel

Top of the funnel (also known as the “awareness” stage) searchers often use the five Ws: who, what, why, where, when, plus how. It is a completely valid marketing strategy to target customers at this stage, but you need the resources to nurture these users.

If you target top of the funnel keywords without a drip campaign or remarketing strategy to back it up, you’re going to see a lot of drop-offs and won’t have as many users moving down the funnel as you should.

If you have limited time and resources, it makes sense to keep your focus on high intent keywords. These are keywords where people are ready to act immediately – think buy, book, register, contact, or call.

If you’re going to target the bottom of the funnel keywords, just ensure you have clear & concise content on your website to communicate your unique value propositions (free shipping, 30+ years in business, 5-star reviews, etc.) as you don’t have the benefit of a slow nurturing process.

Ignoring user intent

Not considering user intent when selecting keywords is a common mistake that can lead to poor conversion rates and high bounce rates.

User intent refers to the underlying motivation or purpose behind a user’s search query. If you choose keywords that don’t align with the user’s intent, they may land on your page but quickly leave because it doesn’t meet their needs or expectations.

if a user is searching for “best hybrid cars max battery life” they likely have the intent to find a specific type of car recommendation or guide.

If your page is optimized for the keyword “hybrid cars,” but doesn’t provide any information on battery life, the user is likely to bounce and find another resource.

By understanding user intent and selecting keywords that align with it, you can create content that meets their needs and increases the likelihood of conversion.

Self-coined terms

Every successful business needs to stand out in its own way and offer something unique to the world. To do this, often businesses will rename services to better represent their values. It’s great if you want to call yourself a “boutique gastronomy venue,” but if your customers are Googling “restaurant” then that’s the keyword you need to target.

As machine learning evolves and semantic indexing becomes even more nuanced, there is no doubt that we will get to the point where every regional variation, slang, and alternative name will be properly linked. But where we stand today, you have to use the terminology that your target customers are using if you want to be found by them.

Overreliance on keyword research tools

While keyword research tools are useful for identifying popular and relevant keywords to target, it’s important not to rely solely on them. One of the main limitations of keyword research tools is that they can only tell you what happened in the past, not where the market or search intent is going. Just because a keyword was popular in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it will continue to be in the future.

Additionally, keyword research tools may not always provide accurate or complete data. For example, some tools may only provide search volume data for certain search engines or countries, which can be limiting if you’re targeting a global audience. Moreover, some keyword research tools may provide misleading data due to issues such as search personalization or autocorrect.

To avoid relying too heavily on keyword research tools, it’s important to consider other factors such as user intent and industry trends.

By understanding the needs and interests of your target audience and staying up-to-date with changes in your industry, you can better anticipate future search trends and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

Additionally, conducting thorough competitor research and analyzing your own website analytics can provide valuable insights into which keywords are driving traffic and conversions for your specific business.

By taking a holistic approach to keyword research, you can create a more effective SEO strategy that aligns with both user intent and market trends.


Keyword research can be an intimidating process, but when done correctly it can lay the foundation for a transformative method to get more visibility, traffic, and leads. In avoiding these common mistakes, you will get one step closer to a solid keyword list you can begin to optimize around.

Looking for help? Send us a message and an SEO expert from our team will provide 3 free tips to get you started.

Avatar for Amanda Stephens

Amanda Stephens

Amanda Stephens is the Vice President of Operations at seoplus+. She leads the production team across a number of departments including SEO, web design/development, and paid ads. Amanda is responsible for team culture, process, and training to ensure optimal results for world class clients.

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