Search Volume and Keyword Choice

Forbes ran a story with a clickbait headline — “6 Reasons Why SEO Might Not Be Right for Your Business” — and a downright bizarre #1 on the list: low search volume.

“There’s not much point in achieving first page Google rankings for keywords that are searched for only a handful of times a month,” author Brad Shorr claims. “If the most relevant keywords for your business have minimal volume, then you’re unlikely to reach the critical mass of click-throughs necessary to generate ROI for your SEO investment. Companies fall into the trap of investing in low-volume keywords because it feels good when they see themselves ranking well.”

Let’s unpack this.

What is search volume?

Search volume is a measurement of how often people search for a particular keyword. Google Trends shows that “pemf” has much higher search volume than “pulse electromagnetic field therapy.” If that’s what you’re selling, it makes sense to use the term “PEMF” because more people search for that term. Equally, “solar panels” is likely to be a better keyword than “photovoltaic array” — it has much higher search volume. Choosing the most popular terms for the goods and services you have to offer makes sense.

But hey, “detox” has much higher search volume than either “PEMF” or “pulse electromagnetic field therapy.” 

Does that mean that you should use “detox” as your primary keyword? No, not if you’re selling PEMF therapy. People looking for “PEMF” actually want what you have to sell. They are far more likely to convert than people who want a detox and got hijacked by your sly efforts to divert them.

Low search volume

There’s no point in ranking for keywords with low search volume, Shorr says. Google’s Keyword Planner tool shows that “PEMF therapy devices” receives only 210 searches a month — a handful, to use Shorr’s term. If you sell PEMF therapy devices, those are 210 customers with interest in the devices you sell. Do you want to rank for their search? Obviously, you do. “PEMF” gets 5,400 searches a month, so you want to rank for that term as well.

But many of those people are looking for therapists, not for devices. They aren’t your customers at all.

210 people each month who want what you have to offer will be better for business than ten times that many who don’t want what you have at all. Assume a 5% conversion rate for your visitors and multiply that by the profit on your PEMF devices, and you will see that 210 visitors is nothing to sneeze at.

Critical mass?

“If the most relevant keywords for your business have minimal volume, then you’re unlikely to reach the critical mass of click-throughs necessary to generate ROI for your SEO investment,” says Shorr.

His point is that investing in SEO can be costly. Your time or the services of a professional will rival the price of a cable TV ad. To get the most bang for your buck, you may want to choose terms with greater search volume.

But that’s assuming that skipping SEO efforts will give you a better ROI. That’s silly. Someone looking for a dentist might ask friends or watch for signs (though actually research shows that they’ll use Google). Someone looking for a PEMF therapy device sure as heck will use Google. In fact, the more niche your offering, the more valuable SEO will be. Other marketing options may increase the likelihood of impulse buys, but a highly specific product isn’t an impulse buy.

No shopper sees a PEMF therapy device ad in the sidebar of a favorite blog and thinks, “Gee, I’ve never heard of those before, but I think I’ll give it a go.”

If the most relevant keywords for your business actually have minimal volume, SEO is absolutely the best marketing option for you. SEO (and related paid search) is the only marketing option that allows you to target people who are actively seeking what you have to offer.

The right keywords

“Companies fall into the trap of investing in low-volume keywords because it feels good when they see themselves ranking well.” This claim can certainly be true. We see shady “SEO” providers offering to help people hit #1 on Google for keywords that will be easy to attain, not for their best keywords.

Back to our PEMF example, there are quite a few keywords that people search for when they’re looking for this kind of product or service:

  • PEMF
  • PEMF therapy
  • PEMF machine
  • PEMF devices
  • magnetic pulse therapy
  • magnetic field therapy

And so forth. If you’re offering PEMF therapy devices, these are the most relevant keywords for you. “Pulsating magnetic field” gets just 10 searches a month, so it probably shouldn’t be high on your list of terms to work for. But these highly relevant keywords with a few hundred or a few thousand searches a month will get you a much better ROI than a billboard which might not be seen by more than 10 people a month who are interested in PEMF therapy.

And they certainly will get you a better ROI than if you choose a keyword that is less relevant to your business.

Show up for the few hundred people each month who want your offerings enough to search for them online, and you have a very good chance of selling a few dozen devices a month.

Identify the right keywords for your ideal customer’s path to purchase. Among the options you find, choose those with higher search volume — relative to the search terms your ideal customers will use, not relative to all searches.

ROI of SEO

As for ROI, we have an established history of getting awesome results at reasonable rates. Contact us to discuss your business and your website and how professional SEO services can help you — not an abstract idea, but your specifics.

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