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Mistake #1 in SEO keyword research


Mistake #1 in SEO keyword research


When it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), I have to tell you – marketing managers make a lot of mistakes.

I can easily count 20 of them. Of these, there is one mistake that I see over and over again. When this mistake is committed, it can destroy the business value of any SEO project. The mistake I am referring to occurs within SEO Keyword Research.  I call it the High Search Volume Addiction (HSVA).

What is HSVA?

HSVA is the addiction to selecting SEO keywords that show high search demand today, to the exclusion of other key selection factors.

Now I want to make this clear – I get HSVA. I really do. In these busy times, researching and selecting keywords based on search demand alone, is compelling. Especially considering that many keyword selection tools are free, e.g. the Google Keyword Tool.

So you’ve just used a keyword tool, and discovered 3 keywords that produce the highest search volume in their category.  You’re feeling pretty good about investing your SEO dollars in these keywords. All good?


The truth is, search volume is just 1 of 3 factors to consider. You have to cross-check search demand with two other key research and selection tools: trend analysis, and conversion analysis.

Trend Analysis

Trend analysis is an underused tool in SEO keyword research. Trend analysis can help you determine whether or not the ‘high search volume’ keyword you have chosen to spend thousands of SEO dollars on, is a declining rollercoaster ride. In other words, trend analysis can help you determine whether your targeted keyword has retained, or increased, its search demand over the past three to four years.

Take a look at the keyword ‘bicycles’ below.  Based on its decreasing search demand since 2004, would you want to spend thousands in SEO fees to be #1 for this keyword?  Or would you rather focus your investment on another keyword that has proven its staying power?

  • Source: Google Trends (Australia), 18 February 2010

Have a look at another related keyword, ‘bikes’. This one appears to have maintained its search demand over the same period:

  • Source: Google Trends (Australia), 18 February 2010

Based on this trend analysis, which keyword would you choose?

We have one more step to go, before you make your final selection.

Conversion Analysis

I always marvel at how some marketing managers fail to grasp that SEO is just like paid search; the only difference is that instead of paying per click, you pay per month – the agency fee, that is.

Once you start thinking of SEO like SEM, you start to treat your keyword research with a lot more vigour.

Let me explain. Assume you took over as head of SEM for a large company, and then discovered that one of your search managers was bidding on 3 keywords that produced 40,000 clickthroughs between them at a cost of $40,000 – but with 0 conversions. What would you do? Would you be horrified? Would you consider firing that person?

If you answered yes to the above, I want to ask you: Why?

Probably because your search manager focused on search volume, but ignored Conversion. If an SEM keyword is clearly not converting, then why continue bidding on it and waste the company’s marketing budget? By the same logic, why would you invest your SEO dollars in keywords that show poor conversion history?

Whenever you conduct SEO keyword research, make sure you use your SEM conversion data to identify those keywords that show the highest conversion rate. Then cross-check these high-converting keywords against the keywords that have been identified through your previous search volume analysis and trend analysis.

This process should produce a list of SEO keywords that will generate the highest level of search volume (today and in the future) and conversion volume.

To summarise, the key tools to use for your SEO keyword research are search volume analysis, trend analysis, and conversion Analysis.

The above process might seem straightforward. Yet, when it comes time to conduct SEO keyword research, few marketing managers (or agencies for that matter), take the time to use these selection factors. This is probably due to the amount of research introduced by such a framework.

Those who do, ensure the success of their keyword selections, and SEO project in general.


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