SEO Keywords: Common Misconceptions and How They Can Hurt Your SEO Efforts

SEO Keywords
Photo by Alessandro Bianchi / Unsplash

SEO keywords are an important aspect of digital marketing. Let's get that out of the way. Keywords are important. After all, Google is responding to the search term in a Google search to decide what SERP to produce.

By optimizing keywords, businesses can improve their search engine ranking and draw more organic traffic. However, there are many misconceptions about the relevance of keywords to search engine optimization. I'll cover some of the most common misconceptions I see as a digital marketer and how they may negatively impact your SEO efforts.

Misconception 1: Using Only the Primary Keyword Will Rank Your Page

There are still folks who believe that simply using one specific keyword or key phrase over and over again is how you improve your search engine ranking. This just leads to keyword stuffing which is NOT a keyword strategy that will get you ranked.

Keyword stuffing was popular in the early days of SEO when Google's algorithm wasn't as advanced. SEOs would say the target keyword they wanted to rank for over and over and some would even paste the primary keyword hundreds of times in white text on white background, and it would often work.

This approach has long been debunked by search engines, and such practices are now penalized. Stuffing content with keywords leads to a poor user experience, and search engines may perceive it as an attempt to manipulate results. Focusing on keyword density rather than keyword quality can hurt your website's search engine ranking.

Misconception 2: You Can Simply Copy Competitors' Keywords

Some web owners and SEOs believe copying their competitor's keywords is a shortcut to SEO success. Competitor research is an essential component of any good SEO strategy, but your competitor isn't you.

Your competitors may have different business models, different ideal clients, more or fewer services than you, or even different specialties within the industry. They definitely have a different unique selling proposition (USP) from you.

Your competitors' focus keywords might not target your specific target market or goals. A more productive approach is to analyze your competitors' strategies and then identify the gaps in the market where you can optimize your keywords. Traffic isn't nearly as important as the right traffic.

Misconception 3: Keyword Research is a One-Time Event

Another misconception about keyword research is that it is a one-time activity. Folks may believe that once they select their focus keyword, they don't need to worry about it again. However, SEO keyword research is an ongoing process.

Over time, search trends and user behavior change, making it crucial to keep up with the latest developments. Staying up-to-date with new keywords can ensure your website's content ranks high in the search result.

Thinking that keyword research is a one-and-done event also assumes that you got your research correct the first time. Often the keyword phrase we think is important when we begin ends up being less relevant than we think.

I recommend keeping an eye on what queries you're showing up for in Google Search Console over time for keyword ideas. If you see a relevant keyword showing up regularly but with a low keyword ranking, consider that it might be worth optimizing to get more relevant traffic.

Misconception 4: Broad Keywords are Better

Picking overly broad keywords can limit your website's visibility in search engines. Broad keywords tend to have a much higher search volume. That sounds nice, but consider how competitive high-volume terms are. Then consider how broad the search intent could be for a broad term.

Specific keywords have lower search volume and better match search intent to ensure you're getting relevant traffic. Generate content ideas that focus on long-tail keywords that are more specific to your business.

Both search engines and users prefer long-tail keywords, so they can increase your website's visibility in search engine results.

Misconception 5: Volume is the Most Important Metric for Measuring Keyword Success

Focusing only on search volume can lead to irrelevant and ineffective keywords that don't drive traffic to your website. High search volume doesn't always equate to increased traffic or conversions.

There are several problems with focusing on keyword volume.

We already touched on the fact that high-volume keywords are far more competitive making you less likely to win them. We also already mentioned that broader, more high-volume keywords are often less relevant to your specific business meaning the traffic you do win from it is probably lower-converting.

It's important to remember that nobody (other than maybe Google) actually knows the real search volume of a keyword. Volumes you get from a keyword research tool are helpful as a guide, but those volumes are RELATIVE volumes. A better use for a keyword research tool is to compare related keywords against each other to determine which terms you should include in your keyword list.

Ultimately, you want a page to rank for many related keywords in a keyword concept or topic cluster. Every user searches a little differently. If you rank moderately high for multiple keywords, you will see your overall traffic rise. And it will be more relevant.

One more point about how important the idea of a related keyword is - Google's only focus is helping the searcher. That means they want relevant results to match search intent, and ideally they want an authoritative source to recommend first in the SERP.

You establish topical authority by covering every possible industry tangent in your domain. But you also establish topical authority by covering all possible latent semantic topics on one keyword cluster. Exhaustive coverage of your keyword concept will produce better page rankings.

Use Intent-Focused Content Marketing

Keyword research is essential to SEO. I would never argue that it doesn't matter. It is crucial to avoid these common keyword misconceptions to achieve better search engine results.

But, when you start your keyword research, take another step back and really ask yourself, “What are people searching to find me and how can I help them?”

Google's focused on helping the searcher so you should be focused on helping the searcher.

When it comes to keywords, focus on finding the right keyword that has a decent search volume, low competition, and is relevant to your content. Use a keyword tool, such as Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, or Keyword Surfer, to identify new and relevant keywords.

Remember that keyword research is an ongoing process, so analyze your content strategy regularly and adjust your keywords accordingly. With careful research and implementation, you can achieve a better search engine ranking and drive more organic traffic to your website.

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