One thing you will constantly hear in PPC and SEO is the phrase ‘keyword search volume’.
In this blog post, I’ll deep dive into this topic and explain what is keyword search volume, why it is important and some best practices to use it for your SEO.
For starters, keyword search volume refers to the number of searches for a particular keyword in a specified timeframe, generally in a month.
It helps website owners and SEO professionals get a general idea of the popularity (and resulting competitiveness) of a keyword. More is the search volume, more people will try to rank for it, hence an increase in competition.
How do tools calculate keyword volume data?
Keyword research tools (such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, Moz etc.) use two primary data sources to fetch keyword volume numbers. These include:
1. Google search data
Back in the days, Google used to show in-depth keyword data; all you needed to do was to go to Google Keywords Planner and search for your target keyword.
In fact, most keyword tools used to show the exact data, as demonstrated by the Keyword Planner.
But in 2016, Google limited this data to only those who spend money on Google Adwords.
Thus, almost all the tools now use clickstream data as the base to calculate search volume; and build their derivation models on top of it.
2. Clickstream data
Clickstream data is collected via several sources, such as browser extensions, plugins, and other applications. Then, tools like Ahrefs and Moz purchase this data, clean and filter it before they display it to their users.
Is data from Google still relevant? Well, if you are trying to rank on Google, there is no better source than Google itself, to get search data.
But if you are not an Adwords user, you won’t have access to their data and in that case, Clickstream data serves as a close proxy.
The only disadvantage of Clickstream data is its inaccuracy; not many people use extensions and applications that fetch Clickstream data.
Nevertheless, it’s still a close indication of how the actual data looks like.
How to factor in search volume during keyword research?
Search volume should be an important criterion before you zero down on a keyword, no doubt about that.
But keyword search volume should be taken with a pinch of salt and it should be used in conjunction with underlying search trends and user behavior before you finalize your keywords.
Let’s discuss 7 such factors that should influence your keyword selection (in addition to search volume):-
1. Look at seasonality behind search volume
Seasonality plays a crucial role in keyword search volume. Thus, knowing about seasonal trends will help you devise an effective content strategy.
For instance, “Christmas gift ideas” may have high overall search volume but it has seasonality involved.
The search volume picks up in October, November and December and flattens out thereafter, so if your keyword has such seasonal trends, beware of the overall search volume.
2. Potential for the search volume to grow
You might find a keyword with low search volume, but would it pick up 6 months down the line?
SEO is a long-term strategy.
Therefore, when analyzing the keyword volume, be sure to check longer trend charts to determine whether the popularity of the keyword is increasing or decreasing.
If it is on the rise, you can place your bet on the keyword.
As an example, consider the keyword “best EV in India” which has a search volume of just 110. But since the concept is pretty new and the search trend is on the rise, it makes sense to go after electric vehicle related topics.
3. Don’t ignore a one-time special event
Keywords should ideally be evergreen, but if there is a one-off special event, you can utilize that opportunity to rank for the event and dominate that topic forever.
For example, at the time of writing this post, the world is reeling under the impact of Corona virus.
Healthcare brands are taking it as an opportunity to rank for content related to hygiene, immunity strengthening and other best practices to stay safe.
The interest (and search volume) for the keywords related to Corona virus is at an all-time high and will eventually die down. But if it aligns with your business strategy, one should capitalize on such keywords.
4. Search volume doesn’t mean search traffic
High search volume is not the sole indicator of high traffic for a webpage.
First thing, a web page generally doesn’t rank for just one keyword, but more than that.
If a site is ranking on the first page for the keyword “how to make money online”, it is probably ranking for other related keywords such as “make money online,” “online money-making,” “make money from home,” etc. as well.
Thus, relying on the search volume of one keyword is not an accurate metric to measure search traffic that gets generated because of that keyword.
Moreover, some keyword search queries might not be clicked because Google provides a direct answer in the form of a snippet. For example, if you search for “Barack Obama birth date” Google will show a snippet as an answer, so you need not click on the results.
As I said, high search volume of a keyword can result in an even higher or extremely lower search traffic if you happen to rank for that keyword.
Understand this aspect very well.
5. Keyword intent matters
The keyword search intent is defined as the consumers’ intent or real meaning behind the search, also known as the “why” of the keywords.
Keywords with high commercial/transactional intent are highly profitable, even if they have lower search volume. That’s because the traffic is at the verge of getting converted.
Compare this with an informative keyword which has much high search volume, but the traffic is still not ready to buy.
Whom will you target?
6. Keyword relevance
Keyword relevancy refers to how important or relevant certain keywords are to the content on each page of your website.
It is one of the metrics used by search engines to determine what your page is all about.
Targeting too many keywords, just because they all have high search volume, can give search engines a hard time in deciding what your page offers, and that can affect your search rankings.
Sometimes, ranking for indirect keywords can be helpful, too.
For example, you can target the keyword “how to gain muscle strength” on a page about fitness, because most fitness enthusiasts may be looking to strengthen their muscles.
When you finish your keyword research, you will probably be left with a plethora of keywords. So, which one should you target first?
Had you been doing SEO 10 years back; it was easy to decide as there was less competition back then.
Today, you pick any damn keyword and you are bound to see competition.
For example, let’s say that you sell sunglasses. The keyword “sunglasses” has a good 2,46,00 searches a month, with an SEO difficulty of 90. Thus, if you begin targeting this keyword now, it might take you forever to rank on the first page.
The best approach then is to target long tail keywords (4-7 words long) that may have low search volume but a very clear search intent.
Taking the same sunglasses example, use long-tail keywords like “best sunglasses to buy under $100.”
This way, you will attract users who have a clear need defined and are ready to purchase.
And, once you rank high on multiple long-tail keywords containing the word “sunglasses,” you will eventually start ranking for “sunglasses” as well.
Summing it up
People are not searching Google the same way they used to do in the past.
Search queries are becoming more sophisticated and demanding, and so are the search algorithms.
The only way to ace the SEO game is to focus on topics rather than just keywords. That means writing topics that satisfy the search intent behind a query is the way forward.
Keyword research is no more just about finding strings of words; it’s about discovering the topics that real humans are searching on the internet.
Keywords (and its volume) should be your starting point, but try to cover a topic instead of just focusing on the keyword, and that’s how you put your keywords to good use.