4 Cringe-Worthy Keyword Usage Mistakes You May Be Making

We've seen a lot of businesses doing SEO totally wrong. When it comes to attracting search engines in 2014, and beyond, it takes a lot more than keyword stuffing. As a matter of fact, Google's Hummingbird algorithm is changing the way we do keyword research, and especially, on-site keyword usage.

How to Use Keywords Correctly For Effective SEO in 2014

How many mistakes can you find in the following copy?

Do you need to get rid of bugs or rats in the San Francisco area?

Our San Francisco bug, pest, and rat control services will make sure you have control over pests. Don’t let pests or rats “bug” you! Our affordable pest control specialities are experienced in pest and rat elimination. Whether you need bug control, rat control, or roach control, our pest extermination services can help anyone in San Francisco today!

This paragraph highlights just about everything companies are doing wrong with keyword optimization. And we see it all the time.

To be fair, being a marketer means I am hyper-sensitive to all things content, advertising, and SEO. When I see copy like this, I breath a sigh of exasperation and immediately hit the “back” button. But you don’t need a career in marketing to find this type of on-site SEO cringe-worthy.

Which brings me to my first no-no of keyword optimization, which also happens to be the most common:

Mistake #1: Writing for Google, Not Your Customer

This may be difficult to hear, but Google isn’t going to buy your product or use your service. Yet a lot of companies are stuffing their web-pages with keywords, some to the point that their page is unintelligible, in an effort to “please” search engines. In doing so, they lose readers, who happen to actually be potential customers. 

When your target customers can’t get through 3 sentences of your content without being frustrated, you have very bad a marketing problem.

The fact is, having too many keywords will actually make your rankings drop. Google is becoming more sophisticated with every update, and the old tricks from 2002 don’t just ‘not work anymore,’ they actually hurt.

The best way to make sure you're making your content natural, and customer-focused, is to write for the customer. If you do any keyword placing at all, start with quality, legible content, and then find the appropriate places to add in your keywords. Keywords should come naturally and flow with your content.

Mistake #2: Too Many Keywords Per Page

We’ve talked about this mistake before, but it’s important enough to mention again.

In our example paragraph above, the keywords “bug,” “roach,” “pests,” and “rat” all appear. This means that all of those keywords will be vying for attention on that page. For best results, break apart your primary keywords and create a webpage that features each of them separately.

For our example, that means having 2, maybe 3 pages: 

  • One that highlights Pests/Bugs 
  • One that features Rats 
  • One that features Roaches 

There’s enough competition out there already, make sure you’re not competing with yourself!

Mistake #3: Using Keywords That Are Too Broad

Bug extermination? Bug Bites? Bug Nets? Bug Juice? What exactly about bugs is our paragraph about?

When selecting keywords, the more targeted and honed in your specific words you are, the more successful you will be. Content with long-tail keywords, those with 3 or more words, are infinitely better at ranking than broad stroke webpages.

So what could our example company have done differently? 

Look for long-tail opportunities such as “bug control services,” “rat extermination in San Francisco,” or “get rid of roaches fast.” This will bring their content into focus and help Google best understand what exactly each of their webpages are about. Doing this well means it will be easier for people to locate and understand the content of their pages.

Mistake #4: Not Focusing On Your Personas

With anyone in life, you are never going to please everybody. Nor should you want to. It would be nice if everyone around the globe came to your website for information on pest control services, but it certainly wouldn’t help your business. 

If your top persona is a male, 35-45, income of $80,000+ living in San Francisco, having a lot of fun bug games for kids to play probably isn’t going to help your business. 

Don’t try to please everybody; write with your target customers in mind. Provide the information and content they would find useful, and the rest will come naturally.


Keywords play an important role in developing your SEO, website, and content strategy, but it is just one piece of a very big puzzle. To successfully utilize keywords, focus on them mainly during the development phase.

Brainstorm viable keywords, analyze difficulty, and research traffic estimates, find long-tail opportunities, map out your website/content based on your findings.

Then, stop thinking about keywords.

What about you - what keyword mistakes make you cringe?

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