Is Search Volume Driving Your Keyword Research?

Whenever I get a new full service SEO client the first step in the process is usually to conduct keyword research for their site. I go through the site on page-by-page basis, looking at about a year’s worth of analytics to see what keywords are already driving traffic to that specific page and then use the Google Keyword Research Tool to find new, non-branded keywords I think would be a good addition to their SEO campaign. There is usually a mix of slightly broader and more long-tail keywords in my final list of suggested keyword and undoubtedly I will hear the same comment from my new client, “Why would I want to target that keyword if it only has 100 searches when this keyword has 2,500?” This is common trap many site owners fall into when conducting their keyword research for the first time| – they let the search volume dictate their choices! Obviously you don’t want to pick keywords that no one is searching for, but you also shouldn’t automatically go for the most heavily searched keywords either. Here’s why:

1. Keywords with a high search volume tend to be more competitive.

It’s important to remember where your website is in its life cycle when conducting your keyword research. Are you a brand new website (2 years or less), have you been online for 5+ years, or are you the dominant industry leader? How old your website is has a direct impact on how competitive your SEO program will be. A brand new website for a startup organic food company is going to have a hard time outdoing companies that have been online and investing in SEO for some time for keywords like “organic food”, which gets 368,000 searches a month, simply because they haven’t been around long enough to earn the trust of the search engines. That startup needs to make enough money to stick around long enough to earn that trust, so maybe the target more long tail keywords like “organic fruit snacks” (880 searches), or “natural baby food” (880 searches). Although these keywords have a smaller search volume they are probably less competitive, which means the startup company has a better chance of doing well for them with their SEO program. These long tail keywords will keep their doors open as they work their way up the keyword food chain to more competitive keywords.

2. Long tail keywords drive more targeted traffic.

If someone searches for “organic food” what exactly are they looking for? They might be looking for an organic food store, recipes that use organic foods, how to start an organic food garden of their own, cheap organic food they can buy online and so forth. Broader keywords tend to have a higher search volume because they are used by searchers that are still gathering information and aren’t necessarily ready to buy. On the other hand, long tail keywords like “organic fruit snacks” are usually used by searchers that are farther along in their buying cycle and are closer to converting. Those long tail keywords might drive fewer visitors to your website but they are much more targeted visitors and are more likely to become customers in the end because they know exactly what they are looking for.

3. Search volume doesn’t guarantee relevancy.

If our organic food startup doesn’t sell baby food it doesn’t matter that “organic baby food” gets 14,800 searches a month – it’s not the right keyword for their site. If their business model targets restaurants (with them as the supplier of organic food) that means they have to target keywords like “organic food supplier” which only gets 590 searches a month. At the end of the day it’s not about how many searches a particular keyword gets but rather how relevant it is to your website and your audience. That’s why it’s important to conduct keyword research on a page by page basis so you end up with the most relevant keywords on every single page of your website.

Keep in mind that your keywords are not set in stone! User behavior is bound to change over time, and maybe one day the organic food company notices that more and more of their customers are searching for “natural” rather than “organic.” It might be worth changing up some of the content on their site to incorporate this change in search behavior. And don’t forget that your business itself might change! If this company decided to move away from targeting restaurants and wanting to go straight to their consumer the keywords they would incorporate into their SEO program would also have to change.

About the Author: Nick Stamoulis is the President of the B2B SEO agency Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/). With 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by 150,000 opt-in subscribers.

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