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Blogging Tips

8 Keyword Research Mistakes that Bloggers Should Avoid

Whether you’re new to blogging or have been writing for years but just started learning about SEO, there are a lot of keyword research mistakes that are often made.  Learn about these potential pitfalls now so that you can avoid them and make quicker progress towards your blog traffic and income goals!

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links; as an affiliate I earn a commission on qualifying purchases.

Mistake #1:  Not doing any keyword research.

This sounds incredibly obvious, but it’s something a lot of bloggers – myself included – have done at the beginning of their journey.

When I started, I downloaded Yoast and cheerfully entered a “keyword” (aka whatever I decided my post was about) in the box.  When I got the post to all green lights, I thought I was totally conquering the whole SEO thing.

What I didn’t realize was that keyword research is not just choosing a random phrase to enter into Yoast.  Keyword research involves using tools to carefully assess the search volume and competition of different phrases.

For reference:

  • Search volume = the number of people looking for that phrase on Google each month.
  • Competition = how difficult the tool estimates it will be to rank on page one of Google for that phrase, based on the other sites already ranking

Your goal is to find keywords that get a decent amount of search volume, but that have a low(ish) competition (in other words, the results already on Google aren’t dominated by extremely high-authority websites).

There are many tools you can use for this process:  SEM Rush, Ahrefs, UberSuggest, and KeySearch are a few that come to mind.

KeySearch is a favorite, because it’s both easy to use and inexpensive (less than $20/month at the time of publish).  SEM Rush and Ahrefs are more powerful, but are also more expensive and can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to bloggers.  UberSuggest is free which is great, but I personally find the competition estimates less accurate than the other tools (others may argue with me on that point).

For most people, KeySearch offers enough data to help you get extraordinary results.  (If you want to try it, sign up here and use code KSDISC to save 20%).

In fact, I grew my main site traffic massively once I started using it.  In about 3 years, I was able to climb from about 25,000 page views a month to around 75,000-100,000 page views a month (dependent on the time of year) – all while working part time on the blog.  (Now that I work full time as a blogger, I’m hoping to grow that even more).

Review this guide about how to do keyword research using KeySearch for a more in-depth overview of this topic.  Even if you are using another tool, the same concepts will apply.

Mistake #2:  Choosing keywords that are too competitive.

When you start doing keyword research, you’ll notice each tool has it’s own way of assessing competition.  Many give numerical scores, and will associate them with a certain level of competition.

For example, in KeySearch, a score under 30 is considered easy, while a score from 30-39 is considered easy-moderate, 40-49 is considered moderate, and so on.

New bloggers may see something labeled “moderate” and think that’s a good option – not too hard, right?

In reality, it’s pretty difficult for new sites to rank for those moderate keywords.  It doesn’t mean you should never shoot for the stars, but at the beginning, it may be better to focus on keywords that are estimated to be easy to rank for.

For example, this keyword for ultra marathon training is a 41 – but when I look at the top results, I see a lot of high authority sites that are going to be hard to outrank.

Screenshot of the competition score for a moderate difficulty keyword.

Instead, I’m going to niche down a bit.  For example, maybe I choose 50 mile race training plan.  Still in the ultra marathon niche, but an easier option for me to try to rank for given the competition score of 24 (provided this is relevant to my site, of course).

Screenshot of the competition score for an easy difficulty keyword.

Yes, the later keyword may have less search volume.  But that’s OK.  If I write several posts in this area and start ranking well for them, then later on down the road it’s more likely I’ll be able to compete for the bigger keywords.

Think about it like this:  would you rather have a 95% chance at getting $10 from a bunch of people, or a 1% chance at getting $100 from one person?  There’s no right answer, but I’m going to take the better odds at getting something over nothing.  In this case, writing for lower competition keywords gives me a much better shot at getting some traffic.

Mistake #3:  Saving keyword research for after writing.

Many times, people will write a full blog post and then try to find a keyword that fits the post.  This can often lead to frustration, because either the keyword idea doesn’t get enough volume, or it’s way too competitive.

Instead, work backwards.

Spend a few days digging into your keyword research tool.  Do a brain dump of ideas.  And then – most importantly – really work the “related keywords” section in the tool you’re using.

At first, odds are that most of your keyword ideas won’t be a good fit for the reasons mentioned (not enough searches or too competitive).

But when you use those keyword research tools, they’ll give you tons of related keyword ideas.  Look through this list to find ideas that could work for your site.

There’s no hard and fast rule about the minimum volume.  Start by filtering the list of related keywords by at least 300 searches a month.  Scroll down the list and see if any ideas jump out at you as being something you’d like to write about, then check the competition score.  If it looks like it’ll be easy as far as competition goes, then jot it down as a post idea.

If you can’t find anything with at least 300 searches, try filtering from 90 and up – especially if you’re just getting started.  You should be able to find at least a few good ideas this way.

If you spend a day doing this, you’ll probably walk away with a minimum of 5-10 keywords.  These are now your next 5-10 post ideas.

You’re working backwards, finding the keywords first and then deciding to write a post based on that keyword.

Mistake #4:  Skipping a deep dive into the top ten results.

While keyword research tools are wonderful for providing a quick overview of competition, it’s also important to do a deep dive into the top ten search results.

Let’s say you’ve found a keyword that looks good and has a low competition score.  Before you decide to write a post for a certain keyword, take a look at those top ten results and ask yourself questions like…

  • What makes this post great enough to rank in the top 10?
  • Is this site a clear expert in this particular topic?
  • Does this post satisfy the user intent?
  • What areas is this post missing that could be included?
  • Could I write a post that better addresses what the user is looking for?

You want to thoroughly assess what’s already out there, so you can decide whether you’ll be able to write something better that outranks it.

If you know you could write a better post than at least a few of those sites, go for it!

Mistake #5:  Forgetting about relevancy.

This kind of goes along with above, but deserves it’s own point.  Google establishes data about your site, and how relevant it is towards a certain topic.  This is why so many blogging experts recommend setting up a niche site if you’re hoping to make traction on SEO.

Is it possible to rank for posts across multiple topics?

Yes. (In fact, my main site is both recipes and fitness content.)

However, is it harder to rank for posts across multiple topics?

Yes!  (Had I known this back in 2014, I probably would have started two separate sites, one for food, and one for fitness).

Don’t make your blogging journey harder.  If you’re hoping to grow traffic via organic search for the purposes of getting display ads or making affiliate income, it will be much easier to do by niching down.

For example, I have one website that publishes general healthy websites and another that publishes dairy free recipes.  If I wanted to write a blog post about “dairy free blueberry muffins”, and all else was equal (photo quality, post content, etc) – I’d almost certainly be more likely to rank for it on the dairy free site because of relevancy.

When thinking about the next batch of content on your site, think about establishing relevancy in your niche – and consider taking it a step further through a cluster of content.  Google has a patent entitled “Optimized web domains classification based on progressive crawling with clustering” which gives insight into how clusters play a role in rankings.  You can read more about the technical aspects of the patent here, but this much more practical overview of topic clusters is a great read.

Mistake #6:  Ignoring all low volume keywords.

The volume for keywords you’re choosing will partially depend on your monetization strategy.

For example, food bloggers that want to monetize with display ads as their main source of income will probably need to choose higher volume keywords than a high-converting affiliate-focused niche site (for example, a site that specializes in camping gear).

But don’t forget that there is still value to ranking well for certain low volume keywords.  For example:

  • Lower-volume, low competition keywords can help you build up relevancy and expertise in your niche, especially at the beginning when you’re just starting to write blog posts.
  • You may find keywords that touch on a very specific pain point or question may be highly converting for an opt-in or warm lead for services.
  • Keywords that target buyer-intent may convert highly for affiliate sales. Think of these as keywords like “the best X” or “X vs. Y” or “X review.”  For example, maybe you review a high-cost fitness product that has an affiliate program, and start to rank #1 when someone types in “X review”.  You may end up making quite a bit from that post, even if it only gets 100 searches a month – because the person is already on the fence about buying it.
  • Keywords generally have multiple phrasing variations that you’ll rank for, brining you more total overall traffic than you’d think.
  • Writing excellent content for these gives you more posts to interlink between.

If you’re looking to learn more about this, the Fat Stacks bundle, which includes a course called “Long Tail Deep Dive”, is one of the best options out there right now that delves into long tail keywords and their benefits.  The accompanying courses also have helpful information, especially for beginner bloggers or those thinking of starting a new niche site.

Mistake #7: Forgetting about user intent.

Sometimes you’ll find a keyword that looks like it should be a slam dunk.  The volume is low and the competition score is easy peasy.

However, you realize that the post you want to write has nothing to do with the user intent.

For example, maybe you find a keyword for “backyard bowls” and you have a great recipe idea for some kind of backyard BBQ bowl meal.  But when you dig into the top ten search results, you realize that “backyard bowls” is actually the name of the restaurant.  People that are searching for that are almost certainly looking for the restaurant itself.

A screenshot of search results for a certain keyword in Google.

In these cases, it’s best to skip the keyword.

On the flip side, you may find that you spot a keyword that looks to be more competitive, but when you dig into the results, you realize that no one is actually addressing the user intent.

For example, I just grabbed a keyword for a training plan for my site.  The keyword was for a 9 week plan, but all the top ten results were for 8 week plans.  This is a clear gap in good content and one I know I can easily rank for.

This tip is really a combination of several aspects:  looking for good keywords, thinking about your site’s relevancy, and seeing if the top ten results meet user intent.

Mistake #8:  Setting unrealistic expectations.

One of the most frequent questions in blogging Facebook groups is about the lack of progress in gaining traffic.  Often when asked, the blogger has only had their site for a couple months.

It’s important to manage your own expectations so that you don’t get disappointed.  Progress takes time – and that’s normal!

SEO can be thought of like a retirement plan.  When you save for retirement, you’re making contributions that over time, which should grow with compounding returns and create monetary savings for you.  A high rate of return usually doesn’t happen immediately, and there may be blips in the market that cause losses.  But over years, you’ll see positive upward progress.

Proper SEO for your site is the same thing.  Good keyword research and well optimized posts will start ranking over time, and if you follow best practices for years, you’ll see the rewards with organic traffic.  Don’t give up too easily, and don’t expect the world after 3 months.  Give it time.

Share:  Have you made any of these keyword research mistakes?  What questions do you have about keyword research?

PS – Please share this post with others!  Feel free to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest below.

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