If you’ve ever got to keyword research or keyword analysis, you must have stumbled upon the notion of keyword search volume.
This is one of the most important metrics in search engine optimization (SEO). It essentially keeps coming up in almost anything you do—creating a new website or launching a PPC ad campaign or any other marketing campaign that has to do with Google Ads. Also, it’s a great way to assess user needs and interest in certain topics, services, and products—and use thin info to inform your marketing or even product strategy.
This post will walk you through the key aspects of dealing with keyword search volumes and help you find the best tool for this.
What Is Keyword Search Volume?
In a nutshell, a keyword search volume is a number that reflects the number of times people search for a given query in a certain timeframe. Typically, SEOs like to focus on monthly search volumes.
This number helps to understand how popular whatever search query is. And that’s important because you cannot build your SEO strategy without knowing which keywords you should optimize for to get the maximum impact and traffic.
Some studies claim that 93% of all online journeys begin on search engines, which means that if you want to tackle this user interest, you have to show up for that keyword.
But the value of knowing keyword search volumes doesn’t stop there. On top of pure traffic reasons, you can use this kind of keyword data to:
- Unwrap how competitive each keyword is;
- Prioritize your site optimization efforts by focusing on keywords that can bring the most value to your business;
- Find patterns that point to seasonality in consumer demand.
A Perfect Keyword Search Volume—Does It Exist?
Some things in SEO are strictly defined, like the optimal number of characters in a title (so Google doesn’t truncate it in SERPs) or meta description.
But most things, of course, aren’t. So there is no such thing as optimal search volume—for one industry and keyword, a monthly search volume of 50,000-100,000 is the bare minimum, while for others, you can’t expect such high numbers.
Just imagine a keyword “health insurance quote” vs. something like “wigs for minipigs.” The latter will never have the same search volume as the former.
But if a keyword has fewer than 100 searches a month, it might not be worth your efforts.
As there’s no such thing as good or bad when it comes to the number of keyword searches, there are a few factors you should take into account when looking at keyword stats:
- Consider your industry
- Keep in mind the competition (keywords with extremely high searches are typically extraordinarily competitive, and you might have a hard time ranking for them)
- Don’t go for super-low keyword volumes, as they likely indicate that people don’t search for something using that wording.
- Don’t forget about the size of your site and your budget
Unless you have huge budgets that you can spend on SEO and PPC campaigns, you should consider that your keyword strategy should include both low- and medium-volume keywords. This will help you stay competitive in SERPs and tackle searches that can bring some traffic to your site.
Tip: the best time to target keywords with higher search volumes (typically with 100,000+ monthly searches) is when you have a well-established website that attracts quite a lot of traffic compared to the competition.
Where Do You Find Keyword Search Volume Stats?
Now that you have all the background information about search volume, you may wonder where you can actually look it up.
If you’ve ever tinkered with a Google Keyword Planner, you’ve definitely seen this stat. But, the biggest problem is that GKP only gives you the ranges, so you cannot fully rely on what you see within this Google-native tool.
The only way to get the real search volume stats from Google is to launch a paid campaign when Google reveals the precise numbers.
Google Search Console also can give you some insights—only they are limited to keywords you are already ranking for.
This all means that if you want to run keyword research, Google-native tools won’t be convenient unless you are ready to launch a PPC campaign for each keyword you want to analyze.
Now, is this it? Of course, no.
Third-party tools that offer anything keyword-related often feature search volume stats. So if you Google something like “keyword research tool”, you’ll get more than one billion results. Once you dig a bit into the topic, you’ll see that there are around five to six tools that will stand out the most—Semrush, Moz, Ahrefs, Serpstat, Sistrix, and Mangools.
Why Turn to Third-Party Keyword Tools
One of the strongest arguments for using third-part keyword tools is that they overcome all the limitations Google-native tools have, showing you:
- Specific search volume stats
- Keyword other sites but your own rank for
- Level of competition for any keyword
Sounds impressive, right? Well, only Google knows the exact keyword search volumes, meaning that third-party tools can only bring you estimates.
This means that when choosing a keyword tool you’ll be using for keyword research, you have to pick the one that has the biggest accuracy. Otherwise, your SEO strategy and any optimization effort will be based on the wrong data, and this will lead to wrong conclusions and, hence, wasted resources.
Which Keyword Tool Has the Most Accurate Search Volume Data?
Data accuracy assessment can only be done through research.
There is one study that actually took search volume data from all the most popular keyword tools—Semrush, Moz, Ahrefs, Serpstat, Sistrix, and Mangools—and compared them against impression data from Google Search Console. This methodology post explains why in this case, impressions would be the best way to get benchmarks for search volume stats.
In fact, the study even looked at the accuracy of GKP’s free version just to show you whether you can rely on Google’s free alternative.
Which tool’s search volume data comes closer to the real stats? Winner: Semrush
Above, you can see how each tool compares to the stats returned by Google Keyword Planner’s precise search volume numbers.
In this regard, Semrush leads the way, with even Google Keyword Planner’s free version coming in second.
This means that Semrush came as the leading tool when it comes to search volume accuracy. Here’s a more granular look at how it stacks up against the other solutions:
Moz is the only tool that comes somewhat close to Semrush’s search volume data quality, but even in this case, the difference is at a significant 17%.
Which tool returns more keyword data? Winner: Semrush
On top of returning accurate search volume stats, you’d have to consider the extent of these stats.
While a tool can have great accuracy, it might not cover a large range of keywords. Not that very same study addresses this question as well.
The top two remain the same as in the previous category of analysis—we have Semrush in the lead, followed by Google Keyword Planner’s free version. And in this case, the difference is even more dramatic.
While Semrush is only missing data for 1.8% of keywords analyzed in the study, the rest of the tools don’t show data for more than 4%.
This implies that you get access to twice more keywords’ stats with Semrush than with any other keyword tool. And topped with leading accuracy stats, that’s incredibly impressive.
Now that you unveiled everything there is to know about keyword search volume, it’s time to dig into the actual work and level up your SEO efforts. And this means you need a tool that will unwrap these keyword stats.
Luckily, you can catch a free trial for Semrush—a platform with actually the largest and, as we saw, the most accurate keyword database among the key market players—that’s exclusively available to my readers for the next 14 days since activation.