Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool is the go-to tool for keyword research. Even people who do not work in search marketing are aware of it and invariably it’s the first place they go to if trying to optimize their own websites.
But the tool’s disarmingly simple interface allows for costly mistakes to be made easily. I shall be revealing the three most common ones in this post (and what you should be doing instead).
1. Not Using the [Exact] Match Type
There are three match types you can use in the Keyword Tool: Broad, [Exact], and “Phrase”. Using Broad or “Phrase” isn’t a mistake in itself, but using them without knowing why certainly is. If you’re trying to find the potential of single keywords then I’d consider [Exact] match data the most relevant as this tells you how many people are searching that exact keyword per month.
It is only by using the [Exact] match type you can make reasonable guesses about the traffic potential of a keyword. This isn’t to say Broad and “Phrase” are useless however; I still take (mostly Broad) them into account as they give you useful information about the amount of searches for variations of your chosen keyword. You don’t just target a single, or even a handful, of keywords with SEO, you target a group of keywords that are closely related with one another. But, make sure you’re looking at this data alongside your [Exact] numbers.
2. Using the Competition Column for SEO
A common mistake I see with people using the Keyword Tool for research is assuming the Competition column, a one of the default columns, is how competitive the keyword is in organic search results. The Competition column shows either ‘high’, ‘medium’, or ‘low’ next to each keyword and is referring to how competitive it is in AdWords: the amount of advertisers bidding on that keyword relative to the average for all keywords.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any correlation between AdWords competitiveness and organic competitiveness because there likely is; if many advertisers are bidding on a keyword it probably belongs in quite a lucrative market, therefore meaning it might be a common target in SEO. But, you can’t know that for sure. I recommend you simply remove that column entirely when doing keyword research for SEO and figure out keyword difficulty through other means.
3. Ticking the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” Box
It seems like an obvious option to have ticked – why would you want results which aren’t closely related to your search terms? Well, what this option does is it only shows you results which contain all of the words you choose as your search term. The words don’t need to be in the same order, but they do need to be present. For example, performing a search using [keyword research tool] as your original term gives these results:
“[keyword research tool], [google keyword research search tool], [keyword research tool free], [google wonder wheel keyword research tool], [seo keyword research tool], [online keyword research tool], [google keyword research tool], [free keyword research tool], [best keyword research tool]”
Yes, these results are highly relevant, but you are missing out on variations that aren’t included. I do do research with this box ticked sometimes, but usually only for getting some information quickly with no further filtering. However, should you be doing this properly you will be exporting the data to Excel so you can filter out the results you don’t want to see.