Why Keyword Research is a Waste of Your Time

And What to Do Instead!

I’m just going to come out and say it:

I think the traditional form of keyword research is a waste of your time.

You know the one. Let’s look up the keywords in Google, Market Samurai or Word Tracker. Then look for keywords that have high traffic, but low competition, because we want to find those easy rankings. Easy rankings = easy money, right?!?


Keyword Research is a Waste of Your TimeI mean, sure, it’s possible. But when you do keyword research like that, even in lesser competitive niches you’re still chasing other people chasing the same keywords. Once you find a profitable keyword, then you fight with others over it. Keep in mind that there can only be 10 on that first page.

What’s more is that webmasters usually pinpoint a couple of trophy keywords that they want to target. Nothing else really matters. They do everything in their power to rank for those phrases. Spam websites, spin articles and buy links.

One problem with the trophy keyword approach is that they don’t always pan out. Either they don’t send the traffic you thought they would, or they don’t turn out to be as profitable as you thought they’d be.

Or worse, both.

And another thing — guys who focus so much on keywords usually make their content keyword heavy, which makes it hard to read, not to mention a little boring. It’s written for robots instead of people. It was written to make money first and help people second, instead of the other way around.

Google has shown that they don’t necessarily care for this type of content with their Panda update. Some websites made it out ok, but many others did not. And as a result a lot of people lost their incomes.

And last — focusing on just (trophy) keywords makes it very difficult to diversify your business. You totally cut out the social sharing aspect since your content isn’t written for people. People just don’t share crappy content. So you don’t have any defense or a “plan b” for when Google decides to backhand your site in the SERPs.

So to recap — (traditional) keyword research is a waste of your time. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for it. After all, you do want to know to some extent how your users are finding you (or your competitors). But overall, I feel that there are better ways to find phrases or content that people are wanting to read, that will provide a much bigger return for your time.

What You Can Do Instead of Traditional Keyword Research

Keyword Research

Here are some things you can do instead of using the traditional tools for keyword research.


Instead of researching keywords, use your brain to come up with them instead.

The reason why I think this approach is much better than traditional keyword research is that you’re more likely to come up with keywords or phrases that are more or less unique — keywords that people aren’t finding in keyword tools.

One thing you can do to help is use a mind mapping program. Bubble.us is a good program, as is Mind Meister. Both can be used free, and Mind Meister can be purchased on a monthly/yearly basis.

Start off with a keyword or phrase, then expand from there. Another thought is to think of problems and solutions instead of keywords, then branch off of those.

Go to Where Your Audience Is

Instead of spending a bunch of time coming up with keywords, and then a bunch of time trying to rank for them, go to where your audience is. They’ll tell you exactly what their desires, needs and fears are. If you look between the lines you’ll see the keywords or phrases you should target in your content.

So where to you go to find your audience? Try these:

  • Forums
  • Yahoo Answers
  • Facebook
  • Other websites
  • Your (other) website(s)
  • Books/magazines
  • Family, friends, peers, etc

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Use these locations to find even more places your target audience hangs out.

Forget the Keyword Research & Just Actively Share Your Content

I think a lot of people will read this and freak out some. ZOMG — you don’t want me to do keyword research? However will other people find my website?

The answer is simple:

Go to where your audience is and share your content. There are so many options / methods here that I can’t possibly share them all. But here are some to keep the juices flowing:

  • Forums
  • Yahoo Answers
  • Facebook
  • Other websites (guest posts or advertising)
  • Family, friends, peers, etc
  • Twitter
  • Social sharing — Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc
  • Groups (Yahoo, Facebook, etc)
  • Email lists (via someone else’s list)
  • Advertising

Really, the list can go on forever.

But did you notice that many of these places where you’d want to share your content are the same places I suggested you go to find out what problems and fears your audience has? All we’re doing now is going back to let them know we came up with a solution.

I think writing content (solutions) and going to where the people with problems hang out is a much better use of your time then trying to spin articles and buy links. The ROI is going to be much, much better since your audience is likely to be more interested in what you have to say, and will be more likely to share your content with others, ultimately doing much of your marketing for you.

At the end of the day our time is precious, and I think the traditional form of keyword research is one of those things that often times we can do without. There are exceptions of course, but I think for most intents and purposes your time is better spent trying out other methods that can very well result in a better return on your time and resources.

34 thoughts on “Why Keyword Research is a Waste of Your Time”

  1. Keyword research is one of those things that people follow blindly because everyone else is doing it. This is a very insightful post and it makes you think outside the box a bit. Great article!

    1. Absolutely, I agree. What’s more is that hours of time are spent just to chase keywords other people are chasing. I think less time can be spent finding keywords that maybe others aren’t chasing, you know?

      Thanks for the comment Richard!

  2. Good article. Finding out what people’s fears and problems are is so important. Otherwise, there is the risk of being just another person ranting on the internet (there are enough of them) and that is not the most effective way to connect with people hopefully make money for yourself.

    1. What’s more is that people spend money on fears and problems. So finding and catering to them is a quicker way to connecting to an audience that is willing to pay you for a solution.

      Thanks for the comment Elena :)

  3. Faissal Alhaithami

    Does it really work it that way? Well, I have always relied on keyword tools for my keyword research. But if we could save the time that we spend on keyword research and still get what we’re looking for, it should be a good idea. I hope to give it a try soon.


    1. There’s certainly a place for keyword research, but I think it’s much better once you have experience, you know? In other words, instead of chasing keywords other people do, you see what everyone else is targeting and see if you can target something slightly different than them so you don’t face (as much) competition.

      That said, finding phrases or keywords that no one else thinks of will often times lead to different content, easier rankings and content targeted to more specific problems that we provide solutions for.

      If anything, it’s just something to try and see if it works for you. Thanks for the comment! :)

  4. I’m all go for sharing your content. I do think it’s the best use of your time. When people ask for something about how they’re going to promote in social media, I would usually tell them that they should look for the places where their target audiences are hanging out. It’s going to be a lot worth it if you’re going to focus on that social media where they are most active.

    While cross-posts are good, there are times when you’re going to have to interact with people. If your audience is more active on Facebook, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to drop the others, though. You can still post in the other networks, but you have to focus on interacting with the people in places where they are most active.

  5. Anton Koekemoer

    Great topic for the post – initially when seeing it I did not agree, though after reading further down the article I got the point that you are trying to make. And yes – Don’t just stick with tradition keyword research – Use a bit of initiative. Go to where your target market spends their time , and engage , share your content and experiences, advice is also almost always welcome. Be active , and generate – don’t wait for the readers to come to you, go to them.

  6. Matt I would surely give you 10/10 for the Title of this post. This would be the first time when people involved in online marketing would be listening Keyword Research is a waste of time.

    I think it’s not. Agree with you, rather than just following the traditional way we should try out something new also. But how? Don’t know but anyways surely going to checkout bubble.us. Hope i will get something new to learn about keyword research.

    I think the channels you were talking about (Facebook, social bookmarking sites, forums & Q&A sites…..) to reach the targeted audience and to share your content don’t work the same way for every business. and it really needs a lot of time and exceptional knowledge of your business to attract people available on there and get them on our website.

    1. Yeah, Bubbl.us is definitely a good tool for brainstorming.

      What types of businesses would social media, forums, etc not work for, in your opinion? I’d agree that you couldn’t take the same approach to each one, but I’m confident that with a little bit of creativity you could make most businesses/niches work.

  7. I have been doing keyword research over the past month and it’s been good to me. I’m both sharing my content and keyword research. Seems like everyone does agree. I’m gonna give it a try.
    Thanks for this great post.

    -Pete Ross

  8. This article really does make sense to me. Totally yes about using a bit of initiative rather than just doing keyword researching. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Wow, Really an impressive article. We people in blogging always tends to do intense keyword research and as you said ends up in making an article full of keywords. I liked your concept of brainstorming, which will eventually help emerging new keywords.

    1. Thanks, I hope it helps. If anything, maybe it’ll stem into your own kind of unique brainstorming. When it does, I’d like to hear about it!

      Thanks for commenting :)

  10. The title prompts me to reading the whole article. Keyword research isn’t totally a waste of time. I am still using that strategy until now. I agree about sharing your content. Thank you for making me read this.


    1. As I mentioned above, there is a time and place for keyword research. I just happen to think that many people go about it the wrong way, or inefficiently. I’m glad we both agree on sharing content :)

      Thanks for reading!

  11. Hi Matt,

    Sanjib here. The title of this post should sound familiar to many who get put off with the keyword research because of the amount of time lost in it.All the points mentioned above are perfectly genuine and very useful. I agree with the point “Forget the Keyword Research & Just Actively Share Your Content”. Obviously, we will be more happy and contented when we write the best content. This is a better idea than keyword research.

    Thanks a lot,


  12. I completely agree with you keyword research is complete waste of time, even if you find a good keyword then also you will have to work very hard to get on 1st position or page.

  13. You have some great points here. I believe that you have your own perspective about Keyword Research. Some says that keyword research is very important and some says it is a matter of wasting your time. I agree some of your ideas here and you definitely catch my attention.

  14. Hey Matt,

    Well, your title definitely got me interested in this post. Most people teach that you should spend most of your time on keyword research above everything else, not the other way around. I agree that traditional keyword research isn’t a great approach, but something that everyone seems to follow pretty much verbatim. Everyone is looking at and going after the same keywords. The health niche is a good example. Almost everyone goes after the main keyword and the main keyword + treatment. So for example, warts and warts treatment.

    But if you just spend some time looking in the places you mentioned, then you’ll realize there’s all kinds of long tail questions and such that provide for much better content and provide much better solutions for people. Not to mention, keyword tools don’t give you anywhere close to the number of different keywords that are actually being searched for. I think many people don’t realize this and think those are the only keywords being searched for online.

  15. thanks matt,

    i have been doing keyword research for last 2 months for my website but….when i do it by google adwords it shows a result but when do the same by putting”” in google it shows an another result………thats why im leaving google adword and loooking for a newer one …

    thank you soo much for the post

  16. Nice Blog!… I love the way of Brainstorming… But its quiet difficult.. because there are thousands of words… Keyword tool is the best way of finding the right keywords.

  17. i am agree with you.Keyword research is one of those way to find the keywords and mostly people they follow it. and i have been also searching for last 4 months. whenever i search it. i don’t get any benefit. so now i am leaving this Google ad word and i am searching new tools..if you have any info about other tools then please sharing me.thanks alot for this post.

  18. I’m not sure what you are talking. Is that you want to say the traditional method is wrong or the keyword research it self it not worthy.

    I more thing I would say brainstorm does not show the search value of the keywords!!!!

  19. I guess there are better ways of driving traffic to your site then looking for the keywords. Have thought of putting in small ads in magazines… just small teasers with a short description of the product and an URL to the website.

  20. I would agree that keyword research is no longer important as it used to be but it is still necessary to check before you write a post so you do not target the wrong keyword. Great advice. thanks for sharing.

  21. You are absolutely right! When you look for a keyword which has less competition, you should know that others are trying to find the same! Thanks for the post.

  22. But, i found so many keyword tools like market samurai, seobook and so on.. Doesnt they useful? or just made in term to making profit??

  23. Helene Poulakou

    I tend to agree with the approach suggested here — sharing, letting people know about the fabulous content we created, offering solutions to problems, that’s what makes a post share-able (people cheering, people wanting to help others with our solution). And this is one factor that weighs a lot in the algorithm game.

    I think that using keywords at least on some selected pages of our websites, then actively, persistently promoting these pages does help on SE visibility though.

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