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How copying your competition’s keywords can ruin your SEO efforts

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copying your competitors' keywords can ruin your seo effortsThis should be the most important rule of Keyword Research you should always remember:

Don’t copy your competitors’ keywords!!!!

I really can’t stress this enough, and since I am guilty of repeating this mistake over and over again with my own projects, I’ll elaborate on it as much as I can!

How copying your competition’s keywords can ruin your SEO efforts

Don’t get me wrong: when trying to rank for a keyword, it’s a great practice to see all the top websites that rank for that keyword and see what other keywords they’re focusing on. It gives you more ideas to run campaigns, ideas for new posts, and so on. It’s a valuable tool and great knowledge to have, but focusing your SEO efforts on particular keywords just because your big competitors do it is not a good practice.

Let me tell you my story (it won’t be long, I promise!). Six years ago, I created an arcade site (site with flash mini-games). I used all the promotional methods I could use at that time (no Facebook or Twitter back then), reaching traffic to1-6 thousand visitors per day. Since it’s a very cheap niche, I wasn’t making enough money from it, and wanted to increase its traffic substantially in order to benefit from the ads that the site hosted. That’s when I turned to SEO in order to rank better.

The first thing I did was to check out what all the big players in the niche did and following their example, found out that they mostly target the keyword “free online games“. After finding out that this keyword is searched more than 24,000/day I was sure this was the keyword to go for! Since all the big players do it, who am I to target a different keyword?

And thus begun my hunt: hunt for links and on-page changes in order to outperform the big guys. After six months of optimization I was able to secure a position οn the third page of that keyword (I am still amazed by that achievement) and get 200-300 people from that keyword alone, every day! If I was able to move to the first page, that would be a huge boost for my traffic!

But everything stopped there. I couldn’t move past the 25th position no matter what I did. The second I went to 24th, someone else went and took the position back. As it turned out the top websites in that niche had 100 times the funds I had in order to promote my website and had staff dedicated to SEO rather than a do-it-all guy. The final blow was after my summer vacation. I returned back to Athens only to find out that after a month of being absent and not actively promoting the site everyday, my position went back to 65! You can’t begin to imagine how angry I was!

Lesson Learned: When you begin promoting a website, you shouldn’t select the most competitive keywords as your main keywords. Those keywords will only bring you traffic if they are close to the first page of Google and by the time it will take you to reach that, you will have lost all the thousands of visitors that could have found you and link to you as a worthy source, from a less competitive keyword. Most of the times the use of long tail keywords can work like magic until you have enough “power” to move to a more competitive keyword on your main page.

“We’re all excited when we start a new project and think that we can reach the stars, but some keyword research and some logical thinking can help in the long run.”


  • Interesting!!! I think I need to have another look at my keywords!! Thanks for the tips.


    February 28, 2012

  • Thank you for the comment Nikki! Glad you liked the post! :)


    February 28, 2012

  • Great article Angelos. Will share with my students. Thank you.

    Teresa de Grosbois

    February 28, 2012

  • Thank you for all the help Teresa!


    February 28, 2012

  • This is a great post, mostly because of the lesson that you teach. Most people that start out online try to target the hard and impossible keywords, and are discouraged when they can’t climb very high in the results pages.

    Targeting long tail keywords is the key to doing well online these days. While such keywords probably won’t provide huge traffic numbers on their own, targeting many of them can provide great traffic, with less struggle in doing so.

    Paul Salmon

    February 28, 2012

  • Thank you for the comment Paul! I’ve done this so many times on my projects that I thought it could be a good idea for post. Glad you liked it!


    February 28, 2012

  • Thanks for sharing the awesome tips with us. I’ll check my keywords ASAP and update them if necessary.

    General discussion forum

    February 28, 2012

  • Glad to motivate you do changes! Thank you for the comment.


    February 28, 2012

  • Thanks for sharing tips. Great lesson learned.

    Nicolas Liu

    February 28, 2012

  • Angel,

    Great comments. I have found the same to be true as well. I always get cleints to focus in on thier USP and incorporate that into their keywords as best as possible. Yes, you will get fewer eyes on your page…however those eyes will be much more focused. Thanks for sharing the great advice.

    Bruce Wells

    March 1, 2012

  • Thank you for the comment Bruce! It’s true, nowadays it’s all about quality, not only quantity :)


    April 6, 2012

  • thanks for the great article..

    Pramodya Ananta Toer

    March 3, 2012

  • Wonderful information. Thanks for sharing



    March 4, 2012

  • Hi Angel,
    What a great story to plant into our heads the benefits of going after long-tail key words. It is a wonderful idea when you go out to compete to make sure that you compete where you can absolutely win. You brought it home.
    My Best,

  • Thank you Stephen for your good words!


    April 6, 2012

  • I love your Lessons Learned section after explaining all that you had done, so we can change our behaviors. Thanks for the “long tail keywords” link, and article post. That’s pretty much what problem we have at our ProPartsNow.com site, and I need to add the long tail keywords which really truly focus on what we do, and not worry about what people search for.


    April 2, 2012

  • Thank you for the comment! You should still pay attention to what people search but also pay attention to long tail keywords too :)
    Please do tell me how your changes will affect your site!


    April 6, 2012

  • I like the helpful information you supply on your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check once more right here regularly.

    I am relatively certain I’ll be told many new stuff proper
    here! Best of luck for the following!


    March 18, 2014

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