How to Do Keyword Research: Go Beyond Search Volume

By | August 17, 2019

Today, we’re kicking off a brand
new keyword research series. And BOOM! You’re invited. Stay tuned. [Music] What’s up guys it’s Sam Oh here with Ahrefs,
the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors
and dominate your niche. And today, we’re kicking off a brand new
keyword research tutorial series using our Keywords Explorer tool. And I’m super excited for this tutorial. Now in this video, we’re going to cover
quite a few things a lot of people don’t know, they don’t think of, or they don’t fully
understand when it comes to keyword research. So, let’s dive right in. So I’m inside Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
tool and I’m going to search for the keyword phrase, “how to grill steak.” And here, you can change the country, but
I’ll leave it to find data from US searches. And right away, you’ll see some deep metrics
on this search query. The first part that stands out is the keyword
difficulty metric. Now, this score gives you an estimate of how
competitive the top 10 results in Google are for a given keyword based on the average number
of referring domains they have. Now, this is the only metric we use for keyword
difficulty so you shouldn’t treat this number as the answer to know which keywords to target. It’s just a proxy to link popularity of
the search results. There are a lot of variables to gauging keyword
difficulty, so I’ll be doing a full tutorial on how to analyze whether you can actually
rank for a keyword in the third video in this series. Next, you can see that this phrase averages
eleven thousand monthly searches. And this big number here is based on the country
that you selected in the last step. Now, over here, you can see the global search
volumes as well as the breakdown of searches by country which is ordered from the most
to least monthly searches. So for this particular query, about 90% of
searches come from the US. But before we continue, what the
heck is search volume anyway? So, in short, search volume represents the
average number of monthly searches on Google for a given query. So technically, if the same person searched
for the same keyword a million times, then the keyword volume would go up too. So you can see how this metric can be easily
manipulated and isn’t exactly the most reliable one. So, the only source for Google search volumes
has and likely always will be from Google themselves. But there’s also an additional
source called clickstream data. So here at Ahrefs, we use both of these sources
to make sure search volume estimates are accurate and most importantly, updated with
fresh data, every single month. And this is the exact reason why we add the
extra source of data to our search metrics. Now, if we jump back to the global search
volumes, it’s pretty clear that this query is way more popular in the US and then there’s
a tiny bit of traffic everywhere else. But other times, you’ll see the opposite
effect where a keyword is significantly more popular in other countries. So for example, if I type in “rugby” you’ll
see that this query is the most popular in France, the UK, and then the US. So this is a good way to decipher whether
or not your keyword is worth targeting for your business. So, if you find that search volumes are low
where your target audience is, then it may not be the best keyword to target. Alright, back to grilling steak. If we look at the search volume for the original
country we selected, then you’ll see this cool graph where you can see
different search volumes by month. So you’ll see that people are grilling less
in the winter months and more in the summer, which tells us a little bit about keyword intent. Now, I know it seems like common sense, but
things like this, they often get overlooked during people’s keyword selection process. So, this graph is really helpful and often
the first place where my eyes gravitate when I’m doing my keyword research. Here’s why: If we look up the word “Christmas” and
look at the search volume, you’ll see that there are over 800,000 monthly searches. Well…not really. Search volumes are rounded averages. So if you look at this graph here, you’ll
see a trend where people start searching for this keyword in November and December. But the rest of the year? Pretty much crickets. Now, look at the results for the
search query “presidential election.” There’s a huge spike during the time the
event was happening. And then…crickets. The number promises you 615,000 monthly searches
next month, but the trend shows that you’ll get a few million visitors only during the
time of the election, which happens every four years. We have a great post on the Ahrefs blog on
this topic, which I’ll leave a link to in the description. Alright, so next, we have this very important
section, which is called “clicks”. And this number reflects the total number
of clicks that actually happen on the search results page. And this often tells us whether a searcher clicks
on multiple results or maybe none at all. And again, this tells us a lot about keyword
intent, which just, it can’t be ignored. Now, with this example, and actually most
“how to” search queries, the clicks are normally close to the actual search volume. And I’m going to show you two drastically
different search queries to better illustrate my point. So, I’ll open up a new instance of Keywords
Explorer and for the first search query, I’ll type in “time in new york” and for the
second, I’ll type in “chicken soup recipes.” Next, I’ll click on the metrics tab. Now take a look at these results. Even though the query, “time in New York”
has 100,000 more monthly searches, than “chicken soup recipes,” the latter gets more clicks. Now, how is that even possible? The best way to illustrate this is to put
yourself in the driver’s seat. If we Google “time in New York” and you
see this result, has the reason for your search query been solved? Yeah it obviously has. This is a fact based query and you don’t
need more answers than what Google already gives you. Now let’s pretend that you want to make chicken soup. So you type in “chicken soup recipes” in Google. Now there’s a featured snippet here from
Google, but can you tell me if the reason for your search query has been solved? No way! Even if all of the directions were here, you’d
probably want to compare other recipes. Maybe you’ll click on one of these results
and be like, “darn, I don’t have celery.” So you’ll look for other recipes. Or maybe you’re some chicken soup connoisseur
and you only eat 5 star broth. So you’ll look at reviews. Now, if we look at this comparison again,
you’ll also notice this metric here, called “RR,” which stands for “return rate.” Now, return rate is a relative number that
gives you an idea of how often people perform the same search over the course of a month. Now, this doesn’t mean that people search
for “time in new york” X% or X times more than chicken soup recipes. I know it sounds confusing, but what you can
take away from this is that people search for time in new york more often. Another example of a query that people search for in Google again and again and again, is “Facebook”, which has the highest return rate. So, you’ll see that it has a return rate
of 3.7 in the United States and obviously this doesn’t mean that people only search
for this term 3 or 4 times in Google. But it helps you understand how other
searches compare to this “baseline.” Also in the clicks section, you can judge
the commercial value of the keyword phrase. So here you can see that it has a cost per
click of $1.20, but what’s more interesting is the percentage of clicks that go to paid vs. organic. And you can see that paid search only gets
about 2% of the clicks, while organic takes the rest. And if you compare this with the keyword “car
insurance”, you’ll see something completely different. The CPC is $40 per click and 38%
of the clicks go to advertisers. And it makes sense. If we Google the search query, then you’ll
see that the entire fold of the Google search results are plastered with ads. One last example I want to show you is something
like the keyword phrase “medical school.” You can see that the entire fold is plastered
with ads, but check out the data in Ahrefs. Only 2% of clicks go to paid ads! Now, the thing that this boils
down to again, is keyword intent. If you’re looking into medical schools,
you might be looking for a list of schools, school ratings, or you might want to know
more information like how many years is medical school. Now, there is so many possibilities with a
query like this that it shows that paying for this keyword term, it might not produce
the results you’d expect. Here you can find the same cool graphs that
will show you the separation between paid and organic clicks. So for certain queries, you might find that
advertisers are more active during seasonal months, like in the steak example. Now, with the Adwords CPC figures, it’s
worth mentioning that we don’t update it that frequently. So treat these as approximate values and if
you need the freshest data, then go to the source: Adwords. Now, as far as I know, CPC can change pretty
much every hour and they’ll still be estimations since Adwords runs as an auction. But the main takeaway from all of these examples
is to focus on search queries that will generate clicks for you. Because even if there is a high search volume,
but no one ever clicks it, then what’s the point of targeting that keyword, right? Alright, this next part here is super cool. So originally, when I was doing my research
for this video, the keyword phrase that I entered naturally was “how to bbq steak.” And if you look at the search volume, it only
has 350 searches per month in the United States, which doesn’t even compare to the
11,000 searches for “how to grill steak.” Looking at the global volume, you can see
that the country with the most searches is Canada! So I guess barbecuing is a Canadian thing
which I would have never known. So if you look down here, you’ll see that
the parent topic is different. It’s actually the one that I’ve been showing
you this whole time, “how to grill steak.” And the parent topic, it tries to determine
if you can rank for your target keyword while targeting a more general topic on your page
instead. So the way we do this is by looking at the
number one ranking page for your keyword and then look for the most popular keyword that
brings that page the most clicks. So if I had a site on barbecuing, then I would
know that I can target the phrase “how to grill steak” to reach a much larger global
audience. Now I want you to pay close attention here. You can see that this parent topic has 11,000
monthly searches, but the traffic potential is 77,000? Now, how is that even possible? Let’s go back to the original keywords explorer
results and we’re going to quickly look at metrics on the top 10 Google
rankings for this keyword phrase. But first, I’m going to click the “update”
button here to get some fresh search results because the ones you’ll see by default are
cached from this date that’s displayed next to the update button. Now, if I scroll down to the bottom of the
page you’ll see the top 10 SERPs and a bunch of cool metrics which we’ll
go deep into in another video. Now, the first two results are from a featured
snippet and some related questions. But look at this one here from This one page is generating over 76,000 monthly
search visitors from all of the search queries that it ranks for! And if you look to the column next to it,
you’ll see that it’s because they rank for over 4,000 search queries. This tells us that the topic has a lot of
similar long tail queries for which Google is showing this search result. So if you wanted to get similar results, you
could create a comprehensive resource, get some quality backlinks and rank
for all sorts of relevant queries. Isn’t that awesome? You can see the total search traffic of all
of the top ranking pages so you can start targeting topics and not just single keywords. There’s also something crazy you can do
with the top 10 SERP results feature. So I’m going to open up another tab with
Keywords Explorer and I’m going to type in something absolutely ridiculous. I’ll type in: “what is spiderman’s web thingy.” Then I’ll run the search. And as expected, the search volume is not
available since it’s not exactly a natural query that many people would search for. But if we scroll down to the top 10 SERPs,
you can see that there are a bunch of different top keywords we can target and potentially
rank for the target query, “what is spiderman’s web thingy.” Now, this one here, “spiderman’s web” has
4,400 monthly searches with traffic potential of 802. And this one here from Wikipedia
has potential of around 3,200. Then there’s “spiderman’s web shooter”
which has a search volume of 5,200 with traffic potential of around 1,000. So in this case, I’d probably choose “spiderman’s web.” But since search volumes are a bit arbitrary,
I’d have to do more research before settling on this topic. Now, the key takeaway here is to focus on
traffic potential of a topic rather than targeting a single keyword based on search volume alone,
which I feel like I’ve really drilled down on here. And as you and I, we continue to go through
this series, you’re going to find that shifting your focus to this traffic centered keyword
research process, paired with some crafty tactics, will pay dividends. And in the next video in this series, I’m
going to show you how to find thousands of keywords with a bunch of cool hacks that will
build onto everything that you just learned. Make sure to subscribe and let me know in
the comments what you think of this traffic centered approach to keyword research. So, I’ll see you in part 2.

30 thoughts on “How to Do Keyword Research: Go Beyond Search Volume

  1. Vivek Kaushal Post author

    eagerly waiting for part 3 🙂 . Awesome video!

  2. eborno Post author

    great video sir, thanks for sharing. I am waiting for your next you ahrefs and SAM

  3. Tom Drake Post author

    I agree on the traffic approach. The top 10 or so keywords on a topic, plus the content in the top 10 search results are the foundation of my research for a new blog post.

  4. chirag artani Post author

    Hi Sam, once again.. It's amazing video to know what is ahrefs keyword tool and how to use it.
    Waiting for 2nd*🙆💌

  5. ikki Post author

    sam you explained kw research in very good manner waiting for the rest of the videos….

  6. Md. Razzab Ali Post author

    Awesome video! Eagerly waiting for part 2 & 3.

  7. Igor Lebich Post author

    great video but what's with that hand moves

  8. MrZahidul Kabir Post author

    Great video sir! just waiting for part 3…

  9. Benji's Dad - Entrepreneur Coach Post author

    I've been watiting for a reason to ditch SEMRush… only thing i am concerned with is that SEMRush offers higher ceilings for searches and Rows and stuff. And i'm afraid the lite version for 99 wont meet my needs. Do you have any other poeple experience the same probblem?

  10. Bryan Bloom Post author

    Such great content. Thanks guys! Love the traffic centered approach.

  11. Kristen DeCosta Post author

    This series was amazing. You should create some sort of checklist process for real beginners. A step by step on how to do your first keyword research run!

  12. Tom Qiao Post author

    Thanks, really clear explanation for a beginner like myself!

  13. Arthur Post author

    Traffic centred approach to keyword research is VERY interesting! The standard in the industry seems to be by search volume, but what makes tons of sense is that by doing it this way you can cut more to the heart of search intent, no?

  14. Aaron Cohen Post author

    I'm drilling down for the first time ever into SEO and this was super helpful. thank you.

  15. Arthur Post author

    Sam, I think paying attention to what is actually getting clicks is missing from most keyword research. Thanks for highlighting how important this is. With regards to keyword difficulty, do you have a method to systematicly understand how hard a keyword I can go after and how quickly it would take me to rank for a certain difficulty?

  16. PricePacific com Post author

    my site is new. with 0 da 0 pa, how much keyword difficulty should I take? anyone help me in this? thank you

  17. 1southpaw Post author

    I currently subscribe to SEMRush but like Benji's Dad below, I'm seriously looking at moving over to you all mainly because I love your explanations. SEMRush is a great tool but they don't break down the terminology and theory behind SEO like you all do in your tutorials. Kudos on the quality of your videos. This may be what makes me move. Regardless, thank you!

  18. Future Tech Vlogs Post author

    Loved your way of educating and interacting with your audience. Keep up the good work

  19. 丘杰 Post author

    This is the first time i see something so complex and advanced for keyword

  20. Bola Vaughn Post author

    Sam, you'r a badass, too eloquent that knows his stuff.

  21. Mohamed Ansary Post author

    Hi Sam. How do you pronounce the word "Ahrefs"? Sorry for that silly questions.


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