Does Keyword Search Volume Still Matter?

Does Keyword Search Volume Still Matter?

If you want to set up an effective SEO content strategy, sooner or later you inevitably ask yourself the question of choosing the keywords for which you want to optimize the articles. What criteria should be considered when making the selection? long time the search volume was a key selection criterion. After all, what’s the point of writing about a topic that nobody seems to care about?

However, I am increasingly questioning this logic. In this article, I offer some ideas to think about the real use of keyword search volume for SEO.

What exactly is “search volume”?

Traditionally, when you write content for the web, it’s all about positioning yourself a priority keyword, THE term we want to appear with when Internet users conduct a search on search engines like Google. But how do you know if the chosen term is relevant? Do we have a chance to reach an audience by speaking about this topic?

We quickly tried adding numerical indicators to a keyword, for example:

  • The number of results that show up on Google for that term (giving an idea of ​​the level of competition);
  • The CPC associated with the keyword (If an advertiser advertises on this keyword through Google Ads, the CPC is the average price they pay for a click on the ad).
  • Search trends for the term (Is it on the rise or is it losing popularity?)

The search volume is one of those numerical indicators. This is an estimate of how often internet users search for a term. It is generally expressed per month and calculated on the basis of an average over the last twelve months.

In other words, if you are told that “SEO training” has a search volume of 2400, it means that the tool that is giving you the information estimates that in the last 12 months the term “SEO training” was searched an average of 2400 times per month in search engines.

Often, the various SEO tools that deliver search volume rely on two sources:

  • data from tools : for example, anonymized data from Google Search Console, such as the number of impressions of a keyword, showing how often it was entered;
  • clickstream data : Under this heading we group data from various free tools and plugins that internet users use that collect surfing data anonymously. You may have already quickly ticked a box like “I accept that this tool anonymously collects data about my usage”. The data is used precisely for this type of use.

Why is search volume important?

Knowing this number has some advantages. A keyword that has a significant search volume matches A topic that arouses the interest of Internet usersa positive signal for anyone who wants to attract visitors to their website.

In order to be visible, you are often told that you must “speak the language of the internet user”. If you use jargon that you are the only one (or almost) who understands, there is a small chance that the internet user will use it… and not speaking the same language very often means that you will not meet. Conversely, a term that has significant search volume reinforces the idea You express yourself with the “right words”..

Google search volume
Google search volume

What are the limits for the use of the search volume?

Here are some limitations to be aware of before using keyword search volume as an essential part of decision-making.

1. Face the reality of the competition

The decision to target frequently searched terms usually runs into problems much tougher competition. Given the number of websites that exist today, you can imagine that the popular topics identified by SEO tools were often dug up by multiple website editors and exploited to the core.

However, these days, being in the top 5, even the top 3 of Google, is crucial to getting the right amount of traffic on a topic. So sometimes it’s better to ditch search volume to target more “niche” terms whose level of competition is more reasonable…than fight to end up ranked #18 on a high-volume keyword that’s not bringing you any traffic.

It also depends heavily on your identity. A big brand whose website has strong authority and a long history (seniority, lots of backlinks from reputable websites – big media, etc.) will find it easier to position itself in competitive topics than “a small website that arises and then disappear again”. have the same “trust capital” with Google.

2. The problem of content originality

The pool of keywords that make up significant search volume is inherently limited. So we end up going in circles around the same topics… and since all of your competitors are probably using the same SEO tools as you, you won’t be going in circles alone!

I find that leads to this after a while some standardization of content. I’m not saying it doesn’t work… but that it lacks creativity, variety, and that “little extra” that can entice the reader.

For example, in the travel sector, everyone – including me – publishes travel guides on a certain city: what to do in Paris, where to stay in Paris, what to visit in Paris, the X-essentials to see in Paris, the X best restaurants in Paris etc. A good guidebook will get you transport info… but that’s often something anyone can write using the information available online without even having set foot in the destination in question.

For this reason, the targeted focus on (also) niche topics with a very low search volume, which cannot necessarily be recognized by SEO tools, can make sense Bring real added value to your editorial team in its entirety.

3. The bias of search’s advertising vision

Many SEO tools that deliver search volumes rely – in whole or in part – on data provided by Google Ads Keyword Planner. This keyword planner is designed to help advertisers target keywords when creating their online ads.

There are therefore many topics that completely escape the Google Ads “radar” because they are Topics for which there is no advertising market.

For example, I support associations in the field of SEO and sometimes Google says on their topics that the search volume is 0. However, they raise millions of euros every year, are involved in a variety of projects that have far from zero impact on society and, of course, get traffic to their website.

Blogger is typing on a laptop keyboard

4. A far from exact estimate

The keyword search volume is never an exact science… and I often meet horrified customers when they see monthly volumes at 10: “Eh? There’s only 10 people a month in all of France typing that? “.

In reality, search volume is more of an “order of magnitude” attempt to measure how popular a term is relative to others, but certainly not an exact figure. Also, if you’re using Google Search Console, you can do a very simple little exercise: go to your performance report (Performance menu > Search Results), view the impressions, and sort the searches by decreasing impression.

THE impressions correspond to all the times your site appeared in Google results when an internet user performed a search for a specific query, and therefore also provide an indication of volume. You will quickly notice that there are sometimes large discrepancies in the presentation of the search volume.

5. Search volume and business: Sometimes the poles diverge!

Another important point is the clear distinction between the term “volume” and “volume”. a keyword’s interest in your activity or business. A term can be so low in volume that SEO tools don’t recognize it… and at the same time be extremely profitable for you because it perfectly matches your target audience or product.

I had the case of a client who was selling a very specific type of insurance (example: “stilt house insurance”, I will voluntarily change the example so that it is not recognizable!). No search volume according to any SEO tool…yet the company, as the market leader (and pretty much alone in the world) has made significant revenue thanks to this offering.

Here’s a lesson: you should never separate the SEO dimension from the business dimension.

Search volume is no guarantee of conversion, just as the lack of apparent volume does not mean that there is no business potential behind a search query.

6. A rather outdated vision of content optimization

After all, it seems important to me today a broader view of content optimization than a “keyword” view.

It is important to understand…

  • Which ecosystem you want to position yourself in in a search engine: which competitors do you have to fight against? Do they have a typology of websites similar to yours?
  • What does the results page look like? to the search query you addressed: Are there only texts or are there also videos, local results, products, ads, FAQs? How long are the competitors’ items? All of this affects how you approach building your own page.
  • Which semantic universe you are dealing with : A vision based on a single keyword is now obsolete. We anticipate a number of related concepts surrounding this term that will give your site its relevance.

For all these reasons, I think it might be interesting to explore the broader field of non-volume terms. Often, they are provided to you by standard SEO tools, such as SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool:

Keyword Magic Tool by SEMrush

But you can also look at the Search Console (free tool) terms that get a lot of impressions and where you are positioned beyond the 10th result. Among them are undoubtedly some interesting article ideas!

Remember that tooa good content strategy Often it’s a balance between popular topics (high search volume) but which lead to more competition… and more confidential topics that allow you to establish your uniqueness or target a very small segment of the market.

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