Disclaimer: I am aware this opinion is a rare and unpopular one. It is not written for controversy or virality. Over the years as a SEO consultant, I’ve never seemed to be able to disprove this notion — and it has always come full circle to support my overall methodology. I am not trying to change anyone else’s mind, however, I do feel that publicizing this idea can benefit somebody out there, if not for the very small possibility that it could inspire someone to persuade me to believe otherwise.
Keyword metrics don’t matter.
You know the ones I’m referring to. The data everyone drools over and forks out their credit cards to have access to. The data which seems to lure all online marketers into the same rabbit hole of competitive paranoia and neurosis.
Search volume. Keyword difficulty. Cost per click. Organic CTR.
We hold these pieces of information in high regard and pay fancy keyword tools hundreds of dollars per month to tell us what they are.
But what’s so important about them, exactly?
My argument is that these points of data aren’t really helping us. On the contrary, they merely distract and potentially dissuade us from the keywords and goals we should actually be pursuing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say the only use for a keyword tool is to generate extra keyword ideas you may have missed. That’s it.
Keyword ideas & keyword intent are the only things that matter. All other metrics are irrelevant.
In fact, as the title of this post suggests, I wouldn’t even classify keyword ideas and keyword intent as “metrics”, since they are not associated with numbers of any kind. More accurately, they would fall under the art of keyword research, rather than the science.
The numbers don’t matter. It’s about the ideas and the intent of those ideas.
Some may argue search volume is extremely important because without such data, there is the risk of targeting a keyword that has no volume — and what’s the point of ranking for a keyword that virtually no one is searching for?
Again, this isn’t something to be concerned about because:
- It is a myth that any target keyword you consider will have zero search volume. The fact that you thought of a particular phrase means there is a segment of the market who will think of the same phrase when conducting their inquiry also. Unless your product or service is the most unique model in the world, this misconception is not grounded in any statistic.
- Any data you analyze is merely historical, not present nor futuristic. There is no telling if that term will grow in volume over time. As a matter of fact, Google themselves claimed that every day there are new queries being searched which had never been searched before, so even if there was no search volume for the term today, there is no saying that will always be the case.
- Ranking for a particular term is not something that happens in isolation. If you do manage to secure high visibility for one phrase (the one you were targeting), there is almost certainty you will be ranking well for a myriad of similar terms also. So even if you ranked well for a term that had zero search volume, the very nature of SEO will cause you to rank for several other relevant terms which undoubtedly have significant collective search volume.
- Third-party keyword tools are not as accurate as you think. In fact, Google’s own tools (Keyword Planner, Analytics, Ads, Search Console, etc.) regularly show discrepancies, inconsistencies and errors in their data. If they can’t display correct information among their own software, you shouldn’t expect any external tool to do so either.
Let me be clear: keyword tools are important, and they certainly have a place in the world of SEO. But their job is isn’t as vital as we grant them to be — they are only a supplement to our cognitive prowess, not a replacement. Their main purpose, as I stated earlier, is to help us conceptualize a few more ideas we possibly hadn’t thought of.
My first job as a SEO consultant was over a decade ago, before the famous SEO tools (which we now can’t seem to live without) even existed. The first initiative when conducting keyword research involved an activity known as brainstorming. To brainstorm, all you have to do is sit down, focus, and bring to mind every relevant keyword and combination you can possibly think of. Only after brainstorming is complete, can you defer to external tools for further keyword development.
I truly believe this is the ideal way to conduct keyword research. Begin with brainstorming. Focus on ideas and analyze intent. Leave the metrics behind, because in the grand scheme of SEO, they are not as important as you may have once thought.Was this helpful? Let us know!
Sebastian Hovv is the CEO & founder of SEO 101 and the author of the book, The Little White Book of SEO. With over 13 years of experience in SEO, he has become an expert in the field and a contributor to the world of online marketing education through the online courses and learning material SEO 101 provides.