Search volume calculates the numbers of times a keyword is searched for in a particular search engine. Previously, it was the marketer's go-to metric to figure out what keywords would be the best to optimize around.
However, as we (and search engines) have become smarter about how we optimize for SEO, that has all started to change. Why? Because these days, the emphasis should be more on quality and conversions than volume alone.
4 Things That Matter More Than Search Volume
It's not that search volume doesn't matter at all. Search volume is a good sign that there are people out there looking for help on a particular subject matter. But here's what matters a lot more than a ton of search volume for a particular keyword or phrase:
1) Conversion Rates
If you have 1,000 people come to your site off a keyword for which your content ranks, but only 2 people convert, does it really matter that you had 1,000 people come to your site? The purpose of SEO is much more than just attracting people to your content. It's about attracting people to your content who find it relevant to their interests and needs.
Let's say you're a B2B business selling analytics software for marketers. There are two approaches that you can take. You can try to create content about analytics in general, or you can make your content a bit more specific to marketing analytics. In the first case, you may attract more people who are interested in all kinds of analytics: marketing analytics, sales analytics, etc. (That is, if you can rank for the head term.) In the second case, you would attract people who are more relevant to your buyer persona.
Which situation is more likely to yield actual customers? If you said the latter, I agree with you.
When you're creating your SEO plan, one of the first things you need to do is keyword research. But instead of basing this process on search volume, think about how likely you are to actually rank for and convert on the keywords you're selecting.
How much content are you going to create around those topics? How much content do you already have on those topics? How are you ranking now for related terms? Create your plan not just around what keywords make the most sense for your business to rank for -- but how you can invest in the time and resources it takes to have a strong SEO strategy in place.
3) User Experience
Fun Fact: Did you know that if someone comes to your site through a search engine and bounces to another site soon after, it doesn't actually help your SEO?
If the 1,000 people I mentioned before come to your site -- but then realize your content isn't helpful, interesting, easy to read, etc. -- you're not really doing much to help your SEO. Search engines are smart enough now to recognize and reward the sites that produce good content. And it makes sense that they'd care about this -- they want to deliver the best possible search experience for their users.
Think about these questions the next time you're creating content. What does your site visitor do once they're on your site? Are they engaged with your content? Do they click around? Do they look at various content offers you've created? These are all important questions to ask about your visitors that matter far more than going after keywords of a certain search volume.
4) Writing for Your Buyer Persona
Above all, your number one rule when optimizing for SEO is creating content for your buyer personas. If you can create content that will get a lot of people to your website -- but they aren't necessarily part of your target audience -- it doesn't help you grow your business.
Whether you're working on a large marketing campaign or simply writing a blog post, you always need to have your buyer persona in mind. What problems do they face? What are they trying to accomplish? What could help them do their jobs effectively or more efficiently? Your buyer personas are the key to improving your conversion rates.
Like I said earlier, it's not that search volume is the new dark horse of SEO. It's not. But you should use it more to guide your SEO strategy than define it. The most important things to focus on are choosing topics that you can write to at a sustainable volume, improving your site conversion rates, and writing quality content that addresses the needs and interests of your buyer personas.
Originally published Apr 11, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017