When it comes to SEO, it’s essential to be careful. Certain techniques that worked in the past either don’t work anymore or can get you penalized. For this reason, it’s sometimes difficult to know what works and what doesn’t. That’s why Thrive Web Designs has put together the following list of bad SEO keyword research practices to avoid instead of wasting time and energy implementing useless tactics that don’t get results.

Disregarding Search Intent

Many online marketers focus on search volume but disregard the “why”. Why are people using a specific keyword? What does it tell you about the audience you’re aiming to get in front of? Most importantly, does ranking #1 for a specific keyword actually lead to any conversions or sales? Instead of focusing on how many people use a specific keyword, focus on the intent behind it or why people are searching for it.

That’s why it’s important to consider the following questions:

  • Who’s your target audience?
  • What pages on your website do they frequent the most?
  • Are you basing your keywords around their needs?

For example, let’s say you are a carpet installation company. There’s not much point in targeting “how to clean your carpet” because those people aren’t ready to purchase new carpet. Instead, they are looking to take care of the carpet they already have. Instead, you would want to focus on “carpet installation near me” because those people are clearly ready to buy.

Randomly Choosing Keywords

One of the biggest SEO keyword research mistakes is randomly choosing keywords without doing your research. While many people “think” they know what keywords they want to target, oftentimes, these terms are too broad or don’t match the search intent of their intended audience. Furthermore, they could be too competitive, making them virtually impossible to rank for. Instead, keywords should be based on actual research, not gut instinct or what you think people are searching for.

Not Looking at SERPs

There are plenty of online keyword research tools that make research easier. These tools not only allow you to look deeper into data but see what your competitors are ranking for. However, as valuable as these tools are, they can also offer too much of a good thing. Don’t use these tools as your sole means of SEO keyword research. Instead, take to the time to see what they provide and use the type of content that shows is ranking for your top terms and incorporate it into your campaigns going forward.

Using Only One Keyword Or Multiple Unrelated Keywords

While many online marketers try to cram as many SEO keywords as they can into a page or post, others only target one single keyword instead – both of which are a mistake. Instead, it’s important to note that Google values context, which means optimizing for just one keyword is a thing of the past. Instead of cramming a single keyword or as many unrelated ones as you can into your content, look for related terms that support your main keyword and use them throughout. For example, a post about hair extensions should also include keywords related to the term or phrase like “hair extension maintenance” or “different types of hair extensions”. Just keep in mind they shouldn’t be forced. Instead, only use highly-searched, low-competition keywords that make sense for your content.

Targeting Highly-Searched Keywords Only

What data do you look at when searching for keywords to target? If you find yourself gravitating to highly-searched keywords, you could be missing out on better options. Why? Highly-searched keywords are either extremely competitive or ignore user intent, which we’ve already discussed above. This makes them incredibly hard to rank for and may not get you in front of your target audience. That’s why it’s important to consider mid-volume keywords that match the intent of your users. Not only are they easier to rank for but cheaper to bid on as well.

Not Using Long-Tail Keywords

Some marketers turn away from long-tail keywords because they have a lower search volume. However, not using long-tail keywords can be a mistake. Long-tail keywords are often a little further in the sales funnel, meaning potential customers are much closer to conversion. Furthermore, using various long-tail keywords also helps you cover a topic more broadly, providing visitors with the additional information they need to convert.

Not Listening to Your Customers

Sometimes, the keywords we use to promote our products and services aren’t the same ones customers use to talk about their problems. In addition to using SERP keywords, it’s critical to listen to your customers and pay attention to their challenges, solutions, and what they are looking for. Take the time to read reviews and social media posts in combination with talking to your customers to find the keywords and phrases they use. For example, you may be targeting the keyword “residential roofing repair” when customers are actually looking for “how much does a roof repair cost?”. If you don’t use the same keywords your customers are using to search, you won’t gain any traction.

Optimizing Content With Keywords Later

Some online marketers wait until they’ve created content before going back and inserting keywords. After all, that’s an easy approach, right? Think again. When people do this, it’s like cooking a steak and seasoning it after. Similarly, you should never write a post and go back to optimize it later. Instead, you should know what keywords you should be using and gear your content around them naturally where it makes sense.

Using Exact Match Keywords

How often have you used awkward keywords like “hair salon Portland” or “hair extensions Pheonix”? Stop trying to cram these awkward keywords into your pages and posts. It’s okay to add extra words like “in” that help make your keywords make sense. In addition to using keywords as natural dialogue, Google has evolved to understand the context. For example, if you Google “web design Boise,” you’ll find results with related keywords, not just those that match the keyword exactly.

Not Using Topical Keywords

As we mentioned above, you shouldn’t use only one main keyword. Instead, you should include a variety of related keywords that relate to the topic of your content. The reason being is that it helps to establish topical authority over a broad idea instead of a single keyword. That’s why it’s important to do your research and find what related topics a main keyword targets.

For example, if you wanted to rank for “hair salon Boise,” you wouldn’t write a 1200 word post about a hair salon in Boise. Instead, you would want to include other related topics people are searching for, like “hair color maintenance,” or “different types of hair extensions,” By taking the time to think about what people search for when looking for the salon services they need, you will rank higher in the end.


SEO keywords are essential for getting ahead of the competition and boosting traffic to your website. That’s why it’s important to double down on the things mentioned above to avoid bad SEO keyword research practices. If you have questions or would like help with your SEO strategy, contact the team at Thrive Web Designs by filling out our online form or give us a call at (208) 391.2504. We offer professional web design, content marketing, and more to boost SEO and drive traffic to your website.