The One Keyword Research Mistake (Almost) Everyone Makes

8 Minute Read | Market Research

Keyword research is one of the cornerstones of any successful search engine optimisation strategy. But all too often companies and marketers have been making one simple mistake time and again, stifling your keyword’s performance and search results.

Before we talk about where search marketers have been going wrong – let’s look at a pre-internet example of getting it totally wrong.

A Lesson From History – The New Coke Campaign

Almost everyone within the world of marketing knows something of the infamous New Coke campaign Coca-Cola launched in the mid-1980s when the soft drink behemoth controversially changed it’s all important formula to combat the rising popularity of main competitor Pepsi.

For 15 long years, Pepsi had been shooting threes like a hot Steph Curry, gaining more and more market share in the battle against Coke. Coca-Cola was losing significant ground in the key US market, and something drastic had to be done.


So Coca-Cola hit the streets, and after extensive market research and taste testing, Coca-Cola discovered that the overwhelming majority of American people preferred the sweet taste of Pepsi over its own formula.

Coca-Cola had it all worked out – it was the taste that drove consumers’ demand for soft drinks. After all, what else does the humble soft drink provide consumers other than a sweet refreshment on a searing summer’s day?

Well – as it turned out – quite a lot.

As expected with the research complete, Coca-Cola poured all of its resources into reinventing its drink to better match its rival Pepsi in taste.

By 1985 the boffins at Coke had completely redesigned its traditional formula, creating the drink that would bring customers flocking back to the great Coca-Cola brand that once stood firmly at the top.

“New Coke” was born. Hallelujah!

But things didn’t quite go down as expected.

In reality, New Coke was a complete failure and had fans in an uproar. Thousands of complaints and protests lead to a mass uprising amongst loyal Coca-Cola fans. Consumers flocked to stores across the US to try and salvage the last remnants of the traditional Coca-Cola flavour.

One man in Texas was so desperate to hold on to what Coke once was, he went and spent $1,000 on bottles of the old recipe.

It took just 77 days before Coca-Cola classic was brought back into production with the new drink fizzling out into marketing folklore.


So, great. Coke screwed up and ended up creating one of the biggest flops in marketing history. How does this help with keyword research and the problems brands face in search marketing?

History is a wonderful thing and it can teach us a lot about the trials and tribulations facing us today.

Remember that one mistake almost everyone makes when it comes to keyword research we promised to tell you? Well, it has just been demonstrated by one of the largest multinational organisations in the world.

The company fell into the trap of losing sight of what it was their customers really loved about their product.

What Coca-Cola actually brought to their lives and what the brand meant to them, the world over. It wasn’t necessarily the taste or the flavour that was important but in fact something entirely different.

It was the association and consumers emotional connection with the brand that really counted. Suddenly people were realising what an important role Coca-Cola had played in his or her life, and once the original formula was off the shelf, those key associations in people’s minds were lost (or at least missing for the time being).

Yes statistically speaking, in an anonymous test of taste, people preferred Pepsi. But that turned out to be irrelevant to their buying decisions. Consumers did not have the same emotional attachment when it came to Pepsi as they did Coke, which to Coca-Cola’s astonishment, was the key ingredient keeping customers happy.


Find Your Customer’s Sweet Spot

This example is from a time well before the days of Google, Search Engine Optimisation or Performance Marketing, but we can still learn from these mistakes and apply their lessons to our keyword research.

Focusing on yourself and what you think is important to your customers is often different from what actually is important, and ignoring the real benefits of what your product brings to customers is a dangerous game.

You only have to look at Coca-Cola for that one.

There are plenty of other examples where you could get confused as to the true purpose behind a consumer’s affiliation with a product or brand. Let’s look at Land Rover and the 4WD as an example.

Designed to tackle any terrain, you may remember the 4WD’s primary purpose when launched was to give people easy access to exploring the most remote and desolate locations that our wonderful world has to offer. And this is often still what is the story told to us in modern day marketing campaigns. But really, are people buying the latest Range Rover or Pajero to embark on vigorous off-road adventures, or instead to trundle around town in safe, luxurious comfort.


Or shall we shine the spotlight on Red Bull. Do people really buy the famous energy drink for the taste and a quick energy kick? Possibly.

Or is it more to associate with the image the brand evokes through its expansive and eye-catching marketing efforts? Or maybe it’s both?

When performing keyword research, it is crucial to understand these key differences and to know what is really driving important traffic to our websites. After all, if we don’t know what it is customers truly want, or if businesses merely assume they know best, we could find ourselves targeting the wrong keywords entirely.

Before firing up the Google Keyword Planner and punching out that killer list of highly searched, low competition terms, ask yourself: do you really know what it is your customers love about your product? What is the all important benefit that customers seek?

And not only this – But what language are they using to find you?

Speak To The Customer – Not At Them

And this is the crux of any good keyword research. Understanding the subtle differences between search terms and the true user intent behind them, and optimising your content for their language, not your own!

Too many times people use search terms which reflect how they think about their industry. Using technical language, lingo and jargon that only those people within the field actually understand.

And yes, yes, as with the smart data scientists and marketing team from a 1980’s Coca-Cola, it might make you feel clever, but it won’t lead to a successful Google Ads or PPC campaign.

At the end of the day, you need to choose keywords that match your customer’s concerns and vocabulary.

If you’re a heart surgeon and you’re looking to inform prospective patients about your heart bypass procedures, you will always be better off targeting keyword terms that are easy for them to understand.

Terms such as “heart surgery” and “heart bypass surgery” will be more relevant and relatable to your audience than a more technical term such as “coronary artery bypass graft”.

We can guarantee that the majority of your searchers outside of the industry won’t even have this term in their vocabulary, and even those that do won’t be bothered going to the trouble of typing something technical into the search engine.

Are first-year university students seriously going to be using terms like “Portfolio Theory Management” and “Electrotechnology instrumentation control” to search for their university courses? They will more often than not go with something along the lines of “finance courses”, “portfolio management course” or “electrician training”.

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Using staple keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner can be a useful first step in determining which terms have volume and are being searched most by users; but to truly understand your customers – open a dialogue with them.

Every business is different, and whether it’s through social media, interaction with your sales team or just good old fashioned market research – gather an idea of what customers love about you and develop lists of terms you see your target audience using to reference your company and industry.

A product can have many potential benefits or could be perceived to have many – the important thing for marketers is understanding which of these benefits is important to the customer. Ask yourself, what is it that your customers are truly seeking out from your product, and what search terms will they be using to find it?

Understanding the language your customers use, and the benefits your specific customers are seeking from your product is a massively important step to take when forming that awesome, traffic driving keyword list.

Next time, when you’re out on your lunch break ordering that ice cold can of Coke, stop and pop the question – am I conducting top quality keyword research that specifically targets my customers wants, needs and language?

Because it only takes Coca-Cola to realise, making one simple mistake can lead to a world of difference for your website’s search traffic.

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