If you've been reading about search engine marketing for more than, oh...about five minutes, you know you need to pick and target keywords and phrases as part of your campaign. You might even be familiar with some of the popular keyword tools and know about concepts like the keyword long tail. Heck, you might have already picked your phrases, optimized your site and moved along to other projects. No matter what point you're at, you need to read Christine Churchill's latest article over at Search Engine Land about selecting your keywords.

After all, it doesn't matter how well you optimize your site or how skilled you are at driving quality links if you aren't targeting the right keywords and phrases.

In her article, Christine explores eight key mistakes companies often make when selecting their keyword phrases.

1. Targeting keywords that people never use
2. Confusing keyword popularity with keyword appropriateness
3. Not considering user intent in keyword selection
4. Selecting single word keywords
5. Keyword misalignment
6. Not considering the competition
7. Failing to periodically review keywords
8. Not allocating enough resources and time to perform good keyword research

Christine's in-depth look at each of these mistakes feature some good, common-sense advice like:

The phrase a user enters reveals much about the state of mind of the user and where they are in the buying process. For example, a search for "car reviews" might indicate that the searcher is in the research phase and is comparison-shopping. In contrast, a searcher entering "fast auto financing" is actively looking to buy--he wants that hot car in time for the weekend.

But it also features the type of keyword research tips that even some SEOs tend to overlook when making their choices.

One needs to be careful when selecting keywords to make sure that you select phrases that do not unintentionally conflict with unrelated industries. For example: consider the phrase "mobile marketing". A company selling advertising on mobile billboards might unintentionally be competing with a company selling advertising on mobile devices. Careful keyword selection can help prevent this misalignment.

Overall, it's a good read and a good reminder that keyword research is never over. As I wrote last month in my article about creating new content, it's essential to do keyword research every few months to make sure your campaigns are up to date. If you're due for a new round of keyword research, make sure you start your planning by reading Christine's article.

May 15, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Great tips - they are definitely on point! It's easy to make these mistakes mentioned... thus wasting too much money in your campaign.

Great find, I was just writing today about how to make a PPC campaign more cost effective. I linked Christine's article as an extra credit read :)

Well said -

"It doesn't matter how well you optimize your site or how skilled you are at driving quality links if you aren't targeting the right keywords and phrases."

I totally agree. Keywords are so important in getting our site to the right audience. While we may use other ways to drive traffic, a large portion of that still originates from search engines.

Samantha Tang

Great tips. Thanks for the info as I am just starting on what looks like a long and complicated road to promote my website.

Inconsiderate and unthoughtful selection of keywords would be a complete disaster to your business. Instead of drawing potential customers to your store all the way, the opposite would normally took place. So extra care should be given attention on this stuff and choose keywords that convert directly to sales. That would mean gather, gather, and gather information for your Keyword Analysis.

Thanks for the another pearl of wisdom you've imparted Jennifer. Nice one!

Thanks a lot!

Providing Black & Decker and Vector Products for Travel

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Two Handfuls of Tips for Picking Keywords