Why Your Keyword Research Isn’t Getting You Anywhere — Top 6 Mistakes Site Owners Make

Some keys to business success are timeless. The customer is always right. You should build solutions, not products. The best advertising doesn’t feel like advertising.

Newer on the list of business tenets is the art of SEO. Since the early 2000s, a business’s online presence has worked its way toward becoming akin to its brand reputation as a whole. There are still industries that thrive on word of mouth, radio ads, and TV commercials, but more and more individuals look to web browsers rather than billboards to find a product or service.

As in anything else business-related, there are about a million ways to get SEO wrong. Let’s cover the top six things you don’t want to do as a business site owner if you want your brand to crawl its way up the search results ladder.

You’re Putting All of Your Keyword Eggs In One Basket

Just as your high school English teacher taught you not to rely on Wikipedia as your only source of information, Google Keyword Planner, Moz Open Site Explorer, or any other analytics or SEO platform should not be your sole source of data as you’re planning content for your site.

Pull from multiple sources, and make data-driven decisions:

Basically, use the powers of Google, Moz, Alexa, and SEMrush combined. If you’re not already doing so, use an SEO-friendly platform to manage your site content. I find WordPress to be the best for this, if for no other reason than SEO plugins are abundant in the WP world. Take advantage of the complimentary SEO tools offered by a hosting provider like InMotion, too. May the search engine force be with you! 

You Suffer From Keyword Confirmation Bias

See if you can relate: You see a high-volume term and assume its context based solely on your own experience. You think of why you would be searching that phrase, and not necessarily how someone else may have a different reason or intent.

Let’s say the term you’re trying to capitalize on is “best event catering.” The implied question here is, “What’s the best catering company for events?” If you limit your answer to only apply to a portion of the asking audience, e.g., only covering parties with 50 or fewer guests, or not thinking about corporate gatherings, you run the risk of capping your keyword success. You’re essentially cutting your content, and its potential search engine success, off at the knees.

Let the search numbers (and the articles that rank, i.e., competitor research), do the talking, and don’t let your personal opinions overpower their voice. You want to answer user questions from all sides—factoring in every potential scenario and user profile.

You’re Misusing HTML Headings, Hindering the Success of Any Research

Certain HTML structure rules you just don’t mess with. You know the big ones: Each page should only have one <h1> tag, you shouldn’t haphazardly jump up and down the heading hierarchy, and to keyword stuff is to kiss your rankings goodbye.

What about the not-so-obvious stuff?

  • Mix up headings with synonyms (e.g., “top” instead of “best,” “low-cost” in lieu of “cheap”)
  • Capture more searches with eye-catching modifiers (e.g., “free”, “2017”, “for families”)
  • Don’t use heading tags for aesthetic emphasis; use bold or underline styling instead
  • Don’t only bold for emphasis; break up content with <h2>s where appropriate
  • Think of the user intent behind the search, and don’t use keywords in nonsensical contexts

In general, headings indicate the importance of the copy that follows. Your H1 is the most important; H6 tags represent the least important sections. So it makes sense that you’d want to add keywords into your headings for search purposes, and you’ll want to get your terms as close to the H1 or H2 levels as possible for the best SEO results. It’s a slippery slope to giving off a spammy vibe, though, so proceed with caution. A good rule of thumb is to focus on user experience when crafting your skeleton for your website content.

You’re Researching the Terms, Not The Topics (Write more! Write better!)

To truly rank #1 for competitive terms, you have to become an expert on the topic at hand. Don’t expect to rank with a few measly paragraphs when others have written 1,500-word dissertations on the subject (that are both easy to follow and well-cited).

Think from the perspective of your prospective customer, visitor, or reader (every one of them).

Your Heading or Anchor Text Language is Unnatural or Repetitive

Wording variation, or the use of mixed, natural language, is key in keyword research. Don’t get me wrong, keyword-rich anchor text continues to influence search rankings. However, don’t force it. Just because “women’s running shoes” has 27,100 monthly searches and is a pivotal term for your brand doesn’t mean you need to jam it into every H2 on your site and every link back to it.

Use mixed language throughout your site content, including headings, body copy, image alt text, and link anchor text. Not only does this dilute your keyword density and safeguard you from penalties, but this actually reinforces your credibility in the eyes of search engines. Google knows by now that “coffee shops” and “coffee houses,” or “best real estate agents” and “top real estate companies,” essentially mean the same thing or are at least related. No need to repeat yourself.

It doesn’t matter how buttoned up and professional you aim to come across as a brand, you want to sound human! Forcing head terms into unnatural positions in a heading or redundantly jamming competitive phrases into every link you build to your site does not a human experience make.

Your Blog or Site Lacks an Editor—Everyone Needs an Editor!

This tip seems to come up in just about every how-to or how-not-to article I write when it comes to site building, web marketing, or content in general. It’s basically the Golden Rule of content quality, though, so I’ll continue to drive the point home: Everyone needs an editor! It is impossible to be your own second set of eyes, so if you don’t have the resources to bring aboard a proofreader of some kind, at least give your content a second look-over the day after writing (before you publish).

More experts note the significance of grammar, spelling, and semantics in SEO:

Whether you’re attracting foot traffic to your brick and mortar or web traffic to your WordPress site, you have to know your audience and how to capture their attention. In the online world, attention goes hand in hand with searches. Avoid these six faux pas above, and your business will be well on its way to the top (of search results, that is).

Alexandra Leslie manages HostingAdvice.com as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.