7 keyword research mistakes you should avoid

Thinking about the keywords you want to rank for is really the first and foremost step you need to take for your SEO strategy. Still, keyword research can be quite daunting. So, which keyword research mistakes should you avoid at all times? In this post, I’ll take you through the most common keyword research mistakes people seem to be making. Avoiding these mistakes will help you to set up a successful keyword research strategy.

1. Not executing your keyword research correctly

Doing proper keyword research can be a tough, time-consuming process. So, perhaps you think that you don’t need to do it very extensively. You just instinctively know what your audience will search for, right? Do not make that mistake! Take some time to really dive into the language of your audience. Which words do they use? What terms do they search for?

The result of your keyword research should be an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for. Make sure to update your keyword research list or sheet regularly. Your audience may change, as could your business focus and business needs. That has implications for your keyword strategy as well.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

2. Aiming at unrealistic keywords

Make sure you aim for realistic keywords. Some niches are very competitive. Ranking in competitive niches is hard if you’re just starting your website or business. If you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t aim for the competitive ‘head’ keywords (yet). Instead, focus on long tail keywords (which are easier to rank for and have a higher chance to convert).

For instance, if you start a blog about fitness, it will be too hard to start ranking for the term ‘fitness’. Find out which aspects of your blog are unique and try ranking for those terms. Perhaps you write about fitness exercises for retired people. Aiming to rank for ‘fitness for retired people’ could be a good strategy. In that case, you should also aim for ‘fitness for seniors’, ‘fitness for older adults’ and so on.

If you have been around in your niche for a little longer and you successfully rank for long tail keywords, you could aim to rank for more head terms as well. Ranking for competitive keywords should be part of a long-term successful keyword research strategy.

Keep reading: Why focus on long tail keywords? »

3. Using irrelevant keywords

The keywords you aim to rank for should be the same words your customers use. Always try to use the language of your audience. Imagine yourself selling dresses for gala events. In your marketing, you refer to these dresses as ‘gala dresses’. However, people do not search for ‘gala dress’. They search for ‘gown’ or  ‘evening dress’. You won’t get much traffic for the search term ‘gala dress’ compared to the search terms ‘gown’ or ‘evening dress’.

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4. Not checking whether you should use singular or plural

Always check if you should target the plural or the singular form of a specific keyword. Should you aim to rank for ‘ballet shoe’ or for ‘ballet shoes’? Do people search for ‘holiday home’ or ‘holiday homes’? While Google has become better at recognizing that the plural and singular versions of a word are the same, the search result pages and the number of results are often still different. Always check whether you should use singular or plural with Google Trends. Also, think about the intent of people searching for your keyword. Someone looking for the singular version of a keyword may be looking for information, while someone looking for the plural version could be looking to compare products and/or buy something. In any case, whether you should use a singular or a plural depends on your specific keyword, so give that some thought.

If you really don’t know whether to pick singular or plural, you may want to use the synonym feature in Yoast SEO premium. It allows you to add both the plural and the singular version of a keyword, so you can easily check that you’ve properly optimized for both options. Awesome, right?

5. Aiming for keywords without traffic

Long tail keywords are a great way to start your keyword strategy. These words attract less traffic, but you’ll have a higher chance to convert your visitors into buyers or returning visitors. People that use specific terms, to search for exactly that thing you’re writing about, are just a very good match. However, if your keyword is too specific and doesn’t get any traffic, it won’t help your SEO. So make sure you aim for long tail keywords that actually bring in some traffic!

6. Forgetting to evaluate

If you aim to rank for certain terms, make sure to check whether you succeed. You need to evaluate regularly if people actually find your articles. In order to do so, you should definitely google your proposed focus keyword every now and then. But be aware that your search results may be biased because Google has personalized search. So, use a private browser session, and check if your article turns up in the results. If you forget to evaluate, you won’t know whether you could aim for more competitive keywords or you should focus on long tail variants.

Read on: Adapting your content SEO strategy »

7. Focusing on only one keyword per post

If you write a decent blog post, you could aim to rank for more than one search term. If you’re able to do that (without stretching it), you should definitely do so. For this blog post about keyword research mistakes, for instance, I am aiming to rank for ‘keyword research mistakes’ and ‘successful keyword research strategy’. Our Yoast SEO premium plugin helps you to optimize your post for more than one focus keyword.

multiple keywords Yoast SEO premium

Conclusion: avoid these mistakes and have a successful keyword research strategy

Executing keyword research takes a lot of time. It’s important that you take that time and really think about the terms you want to rank for. Read Keyword research: the ultimate guide for lots of practical tips that’ll help you to set up a successful keyword research strategy. If you need more help, consider taking our keyword research training. It guides you through every step of the process, and there’s even the option to get personalized feedback! And if it’s starting to look good, you can check for other common SEO mistakes as well.

Keep on reading: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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15 Responses to 7 keyword research mistakes you should avoid

  1. ef. book
    ef. book  • 1 year ago

    These tips are great for SEO. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wasim akram
    Wasim akram  • 1 year ago

    Mam you have given a lot of solution about keyword research. This article is just for me I think. Because I was not aware of something that you have mentioned in this article. I am feeling like that GOD has made you right this article for helping me. I was so confused about keyword research but now many things are clear for me.

  3. ayush singh
    ayush singh  • 1 year ago

    I think it is going to help me in my keywords planning

  4. Helen
    Helen  • 1 year ago

    What do you think about the recent changes in the relevance of Google Search Results? As in, they seem less and less relevant to the search terms actually typed in. I’ve read several articles where many others seem to be of the same opinion.

    In the past (2-4 years ago), I managed to get some really excellent rankings with some of my posts using long-tail keywords. I got lots of visitors, and these translated into clicks and affiliate sales.

    Now, though, I really struggle to get the same results. For example, now when I do a search on, e.g. “leather sofas for small spaces” many of the results that now come above my post don’t actually have the keyword ‘leather’ in the title at all.

    Would love to get your take on this subject, as I think it’s impacting my results significantly.

    Many thanks!

  5. Vijay
    Vijay  • 1 year ago

    Hi Marieke,
    This is what I have been looking for. I made a mistake of targeting head keywords when i was just starting out.
    Also, I never targeted more than one keyword. Now is the time to make a change. Thanks for sharing us great article

    • Melina Reintjens
      Melina Reintjens  • 1 year ago

      Hi Vijay! You’re very welcome! And don’t worry, both are easy mistakes to make ;) Best of luck implementing the changes!

      • Steven Bammel
        Steven Bammel  • 1 year ago

        Hi – Thanks for the helpful article. You mention that we should aim to optimize for more than one keyword and that this this article is optimized for two terms: ‘keyword research mistakes’ and ‘successful keyword research’. However, ‘successful keyword research’ doesn’t appear in the title, slug or any of the header text. In the 800-word article, it only appears three times within the text. In my experience, the Yoast plugin will not give this keyword a green light based on these factors. What other ways have you optimized this post for ‘successful keyword research strategy’ that I’m overlooking? Is this keyword specifically being supported by other internally linked pages? I ask because this confuses me when I try to optimize for more than one keyword in the premium plugin.

        Also, I noticed that even “keyword research mistakes” appears only in the first and last paragraphs (twice in each); nowhere in between. That will also flag the Yoast plugin for not being evenly spread out. I realize we aren’t supposed to be too inflexible in our following of the green lights, but still, it’s tough to know what to let slide and what to be particular about, so I’d also like to get your ideas on this, if possible.

        • Wasim akram
          Wasim akram  • 1 year ago

          Green light doesn’t declare that your post will rank definitely. It just shows what improvements can be done. LSI keywords are more important now a days. It means these are similar searches but having different terms. Which also correlates the main keyword. Google search for relevant keywords also. If you remove replace focus keyword with some different word then it will only show red light. It doesnot declare that post will rank 100%.

  6. Abigail
    Abigail  • 1 year ago

    As usual, some great points mentioned – liked the one which says – Long tail keywords drive less traffic but more sales

  7. Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)
    Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)  • 1 year ago

    Aiming for keywords that actually brings traffic is the key!

  8. Ravi Sharma
    Ravi Sharma  • 1 year ago

    Which Is the Best Free Keyword research Tool ?

    • Melina Reintjens
      Melina Reintjens  • 1 year ago

      Hi Ravi! There are several nice tools out there, so you can try them out and see which work for you. Marieke lists a few in this post: https://yoast.com/keyword-research-tools/

  9. Yahoo boy
    Yahoo boy  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for the keyword research guide. I tried to rank for keywords in my region, but since i finished writing my post, i discovered that when i search my blog it doesn’t even come up in the result despite the fact that the target keyword has high search volume and less competitive, yet i still don’t see my blog for it

    • Melina Reintjens
      Melina Reintjens  • 1 year ago

      Hi! I can imagine that’s frustrating, but hang in there! It can sometimes take some time before your efforts start to pay off, so keep up the good work and don’t give up :)

  10. Cosmas emeka
    Cosmas emeka  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for this tutor but i will like to know more about the singular and plural keyword words because in my thought, i feel like both of them will have thesame search ratio