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Monthly Search Volume: How important is this for keyword research?

Monthly search volume is a key metric when conducting keyword research. It indicates the number of people who search for a keyword each month.

Doing keyword research can be frustrating, especially if you’re new to blogging or creating content. Either you discover keywords you can rank for, but no one is actually searching for that specific phrase, or the popular phrases are too challenging to compete with.

Everyone wants to rank on the first page of Google, so having a good grasp of monthly search volume and knowing how to utilize it for your keyword strategy is extremely important.

Let’s dive in to the topic!

Table of Contents

What is Monthly Search Volume?

The definition of monthly search volume will vary depending on the keyword research tool you use. For instance, here is the definition from SE Ranking (a keyword research tool):

SE Ranking search volume column tooltip
SE Ranking definition of search volume

In general the monthly search volume metric represents the number of searches for that keyword for a particular country over a period of one month.

Keyword research tools let you specific which country you want to use when reporting on keyword traffic.

SE Ranking keyword research start page with country filter
keyword research reports are per country

Now we have a basic understanding of this important metric let’s consider the importance of this search volume when doing keyword research.

The importance of Monthly Search Volume in Keyword Research

Knowing the monthly search volume for keywords in your niche is important for creating an effective SEO strategy.

Average monthly search volumes for keywords can give you insight into:

  • what is popular among users
  • where are the potential opportunities
  • where is the most/least competition
  • popular keywords per country

In addition to monthly search volume other important keyword research metrics are:

  • relevance – how relevant is the topic to your target audience
  • search intent – what is the underlying motive for the searcher (see: a guide to search intent)
  • competitiveness – how competitive is the keyword
  • difficulty – how difficult is the keyword to rank for

Improving your knowledge of keyword research will help you in the following areas:

  • improved SEO
  • link building
  • targeting your content for your audience
  • more traffic leading to more sales/revenue or conversions

Should you target the most searched keywords?

target audience

There are benefit and drawbacks to keywords that have high search volume. The same is true for low search volume keywords. Let’s explain the pros and cons.

High search volume keywords: Pros and Cons

The benefits of high search volume are:

  • popular keywords
  • high traffic potential
  • high backlink potential

The drawbacks of high search volume are:

  • highly competitive, expect ads and rich snippets
  • difficult to rank for
  • likely low word count (1-3 words) so lacking in context
  • longer, and more time consuming, articles needed to rank well
  • more likely to be informational searches (see search intent) so lower conversion rates

Low search volume keywords: Pros and Cons

The benefits of low search volume are:

The drawbacks of low search volume are:

  • low traffic potential
  • low backlink potential
  • a large amount of content is necessary to generate website traffic
  • keyword research skills necessary to find low volume keywords

There are tradeoffs and it is not always obvious whether you should target a high or low volume keyword.

You will have to target a mix of high and low volume keywords to effectively cover a niche for your target audience.

Write for people not for search engines. Google’s algorithms will penalise a website that writes content primarily for search engines and not people.

Relationship between Search Volume and Keyword Competitiveness

Popular keywords tend to attract more competition and ads. Occasionally you may find certain high volume keywords without much competition. This could be because they are difficult to make money from or they are too vague and generic to be useful for targeting.

You may be thinking I should only target low search volume keywords because they are easy to rank for. Unfortunately this strategy may not be effective because you will not be able to drive much traffic to your site even if you rank highly for all those keywords.

You need to strike a balance between high-volume keywords that can bring a lot of visitors to your site and low-volume keywords that are easier to rank for.

For instance, by investigating the top ranking sites for a high volume keyword you may determine you can write a higher quality article that will – over time – rank better and drive a lot of traffic to your website.

Use a keyword research tool that reports on important keyword metrics so you can make an informed decision about what keywords you want to target.

For bloggers or website owners on a budget, the SE Ranking keyword research tool is excellent. You can try the keyword research tool out for free below. Just type a keyword phrase into the widget, e.g. “keto diet”

Strike a balance between high and low volume keywords both have advantages – and disadvantages.

How Search volume affects keyword targeting and strategy


It’s important to consider a number of metrics when deciding what keywords to target for your niche.

First, remember keyword research reports provide metrics per country – not globally.

If you are targeting a single country by sure you select the country before generating the keyword research report.

Here is a list of important metrics:

  • monthly search volume
  • keyword difficulty (an estimation of the difficulty in ranking for that keyword)
  • competitiveness (how much competition there is for the keyword)
  • trend (usually a graph of the search volume over a period of time)
  • search intent (informational, navigational, commercial or transactional)
  • CPC (price of each click in a Google Ads marketing campaign)

In addition to the metrics above it’s usually a good idea to add filters to include or exclude based on certain criteria. Here is example criteria when generating a keyword research report:

  • word count (1-2 word keywords provide little context and are difficult to write for)
  • include word(s) – you may want to force a particular word to be in each keyword
  • exclude word(s) – you may want to exclude certain words such as “free”, “cheap” etc
  • search volume (min/max) – set a min or max search volume
  • search intent
  • difficulty (min/max)

Other filters may be available depending on your keyword research tool.

The reason to apply filters is to reduce the output so you can concentrate on analyzing only the most important keywords for your niche.

Depending on the size and age of your blog or website you criteria will change. Small websites will only be able to target easy keywords without much competition. More established websites can tackle more diffiicult (and higher volume) keywords.

Other important metrics to consider when doing keyword research are Difficulty, Search Intent, Competition

Targeting Zero Search Volume Keywords for Bloggers and Website Owners

Are keywords that have zero search volume keywords worth targeting?

Search volumes are estimates so keywords with zero search volume may not be exactly zero. It’s very likely to be small though, 100 impressions or less per month.

ahrefs - zero volume keywords
Source: Ahrefs – zero volume keywords

Zero search volume keywords are search queries that have little to no search volume.


% of Google queries are new, never been searched for before

Source: Searchengineland article

Well, Google has to show some results for these never seen before queries. Other articles that don’t target these queries will be shown but why not target these queries directly?

Many online businesses ignore keywords with zero search volume because they think no one is searching for that term. However, targeting zero search volume keywords can provide several advantages, especially for bloggers and website owners:

  1. Less competition: Your competition are all chasing the popular, high search volume keywords. You will face little to no competition by targeting zero search volume keywords.
  2. Long-tail queries: Zero volume keywords are likely to be longer keywords that are related to more popular (shorter) keywords. You can rank for those popular topics by targeting zero volume keywords.
  3. Hyper-focused: Zero search volume keywords are typically hyper-focused, which means they’re highly relevant to your audience and easier to write content for.
  4. First-mover advantage: You can rank well for these keywords which may, over time, start attracting search queries resulting in more traffic to your site.

It’s worth considering using zero search volume keywords, especially those relevant for your niche. You won’t encounter any competition, and they are usually easier to write. They often require shorter articles and less time and effort.

Ensure your zero volume keywords are relevant for your target audience.

Other Factors to Consider in Keyword Research

Attracting traffic isn’t the sole objective. It’s also important to consider the quality of the traffic.

For instance, if most of the keywords you target are for informational queries then you shouldn’t anticipate a high number of sales or service inquiries. In order to increase conversions, you should focus on targeting more commercial or transactional queries.

How relevant are your keywords to your target audience? You might end up receiving traffic for articles that are not relevant or useful to your target audience. These types of articles don’t contribute to the growth of your business, even if they generate a high volume of traffic to your site.

Moreover, you may receive traffic to your articles but fail to convert or make sales. In that case, learning how to write more persuasively can benefit you.

Consider not only the amount of traffic to your site but the quality of the traffic

Final Thoughts

I hope you find this article useful. Here is a recap of the article:

  • monthly search volume is the amount of searches for a keyword in a month
  • other keyword research metrics such as difficulty, competition and search intent should also be considered
  • filter your keyword research reports so you can focus on only the most relevant keywords
  • high volume keywords are more informational and harder to rank for but give more traffic
  • low volume keywords are easier to rank for but do not provide much traffic
  • consider zero volume keywords especially if your website is new

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