- Keywords Are Dumb
- Should I Stop Using Search Volume Metrics
Google Keyword Planner is a tool that provides a prediction of an approximate number of monthly searches one can expect for a given keyword. Content marketers use it to know what keywords, especially long-tail ones, users type in their search boxes to find the right content. Yet, I believe keyword search volumes are overrated in today’s era.
Let me be clear, though, keywords are very important and valuable focus points for any content marketer, content editor, and content writer. I am only talking about the historical keyword search volume metrics provided by third parties like Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz, and others.
For years, Google was a search engine solely based on keywords: a user typed a string of words in the search box and results provided had these same words in their main content. That’s a match! There was very little context used to provide results. A few algorithmic updates later, and now the search engine results pages look very different. The keywords themselves matter but to rank high you need a lot more.
Amongst the top-tiered signals search engines used today to filter results, topical authority is key. A niche site I have got me to realize this more and more. I could publish a brand new article about my main topic of expertise, and it would rank first, second or third within hours of being crawled and indexed. This happened because I am an authoritative source on this topic, not on this particular keyword. A topic is a broad concept (think of a topic as a Wikipedia page) that has hundreds or thousands of potential keywords pertaining to it. And Google along with other search engines is nearly perfect, today, at assuming what topic is a search query about.
Big data is a buzzword these days and thanks to it, new technologies have been created (including ours at topicseed). Yet, keyword search volume is a huge data that is solely computed from historical data. Obviously, if you are after a target keyword that is somewhat over 1,000 searches monthly on Keyword Planner, chances are it will remain at this level for the months the come. History tends to repeat itself, right? Well, yes and no.
In today’s world, smartphones are where most searches happen and smart speakers at home clearly gain traction, too. The old way of going to your computer screen to open a new tab and perform a search on Google is not how it’s going down anymore.
Question-type searches performed by voice, or even typed manually, are growing at an incredible pace. When perhaps a few years or months ago a searcher would have typed,
chinese restaurants in Phoenix one would probably ask Google, Siri or Alexa,
What are the best chinese takeouts in Phoenix, Arizon?.
What used to be purely keyword-based data is now flooded with many little words around it. Plus, with search engines being smarter and more precise, key phrases used in the past are now broken down by the user into more precise requests (
restaurant is now replaced by
take away restaurant,
trattoria. These are still keywords but search volumes for the main
restaurant search query is still high despite a gloomy future. While the other more precise keywords show volumes that are somewhat lower than what their bright future will have them.
Basing your search engine optimization strategy purely on keyword analysis, and more precisely on keyword search volumes, means you are reacting to what the reality is. These search volume metrics will be updated in their due time but with a delay. Once they are refreshed, everybody will see them including your competitors. Therefore, you lose your first-mover advantage.
Wean yourself off this obsession about keyword search volumes and focus on modern user search behaviors. Dare to build your SEO and topical blog content strategies differently. Yes, perhaps you will lose a small percentage of visitors over the next weeks or months but next year, you will dominate the rankings.
Content editors and content marketers love search volume metrics because they back their strategies up. It’s easier to sell a content plan and blog post ideas based when you come equipped with actual numbers attached to the keywords. Yet, I firmly believe that good content will be found, great content will be read.
I saw it on my niche website. Articles I asked my team to write purely based on keywords being topically relevant to our niche are getting a lot more organic search traffic than what their keyword search volume still shows today. So what does this mean? My competitors are not seeing these keywords, and if they are, they probably find the monthly search volume metric too low. In a few months, once these metrics are updated, I would have gained authority on these keywords and it will be hard for them to beat me.
Let me repeat it again: keywords are dumb. After all, they are just words detached from a lot of important things that we generally bag as context. Search engines are not stupid anymore to simply match keywords typed with keywords found on a page.
Focusing on keywords is too old of a tactic to work. Instead, I would recommend you to write about your topic, in-depth, often, covering all angles. That will translate on the mention of hundreds of keywords, variations, inflected forms, and synonyms. Sure, each article will focus a handful, but instead of pairing each blog post with a single keyword, you should focus on pairing each blog post with topic’s set of keywords and a user intent.
dog groomer is a root keyword but is the user looking to become a dog groomer, or just looking for some statistics for a home assignment, or do they need basic tips? Start by creating a cornerstone page that will cover most keywords. Then, create individual articles that consider the user intent. That would for example give:
Dog Grooming — cornerstone page that mentions the below pages
- 12 Surprising Statistics About Dog Grooming — for those who need some easy-to-digest figures
- 7 Best Books On Professional Dog Grooming — for those searching for technical knowledge
- Guide to First-Time Home Dog Groomers — for users who want to learn the basic
Dog Dryers — cornerstone page about a precise product
- Top 10 Best Forced-Air Dog Dryers — for users intending to buy a pet dryer
- How To Use a Dog Dryer at Home? — for users wanting to learn right now
Keywords are just words, and what Google is loving from now on is a lot more than that. Focusing on search volumes makes you lose sight of the larger picture: topical authority. You gain authority on a topic when you cover the whole silo comprehensively. Meaning, you cover the large matters within that topic, but also the much smaller ones. Authority means you publish in-depth 5,000-word guides, but also 1,000-word blog posts answering a precise question.
Forget about monthly search volumes when designing your blog content strategy. Instead, put yourself in a user’s mind and cover every single thing they may wonder about, from guides to seemingly silly and simple question.
No, search volume metrics are useful and allow content editors and strategists to feel the pulse of something. You can obviously include them in your content writing briefs. In my opinion, they simply are very much overrated. Especially in today’s context where usual keywords are broken down into tiny pieces that barely receive traffic individually, but put together are even with the what used to be the main one.
Therefore, instead of focusing on key phrases based on their volume, focus on being comprehensive on that particular topic or problematic. Make sure you write articles for users with a particular intent in mind (learning, buying, quick answer-seeking, etc). The problem with keyword analysis and search volume-focused content plans is that each article is very obviously stuffed with the targeted key phrase(s). It’s artificial and so obvious that it’s clearly not showing much authority.