Low search volume (LSV) keywords aren’t searched for a lot but they still hold high value for SEO and the Web. We investigated how and why.
- Low search volume keywords come with risks – the first of them being the low search volume that it attracts.
- But, these keywords tend to be more relevant to what your users are searching and come with a better ROI.
- LSV keywords are also great for your SEO, helping boost your rankings for your niche.
The World Wide Web turned 30 in March. From the clunky beige boxes in CERN, Tim Berners-Lee’s memo ushered the world into a new realm of information.
Alongside the Web came ways to search for these hypertext documents (or web pages), and ways to optimise those pages. Search engine optimisation was born and became a multi-billion dollar industry as businesses started adopting tactics to gain exposure to web users.
A key component for both SEO and the Web is the keyword. But as the Web has grown, the value and importance of keywords have changed. Businesses have spent millions of dollars optimising for highly competitive search terms. More people search for them, so that means more potential customers, right?
But high search volume keywords are competitive for a reason. What about keywords with low search volume? Where do they figure in the equation?
The problem with low search volume keywords
This article is not an alchemical solution for your keyword strategy. Low search volume (LSV) keywords come with risks. The primary issue is in the name – they’re low search. There are millions of keywords with less than 50 searches a month and with 4.39 billion internet users in 2019, that’s a minuscule figure.
Those keywords are also long-tail keywords. The longer the tail, the smaller the search volume. Low competition sounds enticing but it takes a lot of skill to optimise for a 5+ word search term without looking like you are keyword stuffing. Most marketers wouldn’t bother going that far down and that’s understandable.
Why LSV keywords are good for SEO
But it’s not all high risk. SEO is about finding a balance between search volume, trend, ranking difficulty, and there are many benefits to LSV keywords.
They’re more relevant
An indie bookshop is unlikely to rank for a search term like “books”. But “mystery books for 9th graders” might work better. A high school student looking for mystery novels is more likely to search for the long-tail variant than simply “books”.
Specificity is crucial for every section of the sales funnel. Google prioritises relevance in its ranking algorithm and customers want specific types of products or services. Longer keywords fulfil that desire are more likely to convert.
Easier wins over your competitors
There are always bigger competitors in a field (unless you’re one of them). That’s just the nature of business. They have more money and resources to go after the high volume keywords.
But in doing so, they leave themselves open. A keyword research tool can find terms they still rank for but outside the top 10. There’s an SEO meme that says the best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google. I’m not suggesting you revive any dead body (proverbial or otherwise) but you can certainly succeed where they have failed.
Think of low search keywords as tiny breadcrumbs or low-hanging fruit as they’re often called.
Say you’re offering a special Halloween hampers. They’re niche enough that competition should be low. You might not receive high volumes of users (and they won’t be regular as it’s seasonal), but your chances of ranking are much higher and that means a higher potential of converting the small number of users you get.
But say you don’t have time to write blog posts about these hampers and you outsource them. Hampers start at £50 and go up to £100 and a couple of blog posts cost about £500. That’s 10 sales of the smaller hampers to cover the cost of the blog posts.
If your keywords have search volumes between 50-100, you’re aiming for a conversion rate between 5%-20%.
Ignore low search volume keywords at your peril!
LSV keywords make SEOs even better
The problem with high search volume keywords in that context is you’re less likely to find specific improvements to increase your rankings because they might not be there. That’s when backlink profiles play their part. Bigger competitors will have more backlinks, bigger traffic, and better CTRs.
But low search volume keywords are different. There’s a certain buzz from finding a keyword in your niche with a low search volume. Even better if there’s no competition and you get the right users and the right traffic. On the flip side, if your content doesn’t perform well for LSV keywords, you know you’ve missed something. Consider the following:
- Have you covered the right search intent?
- Are you conforming to E-A-T guidelines?
- Do you need more internal linking?
- Is there any keyword cannibalisation?
Refine, rinse, and repeat. That’s an SEO motto to live by.
SEO as a misunderstood art
In 2005, Ravi Sen wrote an article for the International Journal of Electronic Commerce called Optimal Search Engine Marketing Strategy. In the abstract, Sen described how search engine users trusted links “displayed in the editorial section of the search-results page” but the sellers neither invested nor trusted the merits of SEO. He advised that they found SEO “more expensive than paid placements [PPC ads]” and “[produced] results that did not justify its cost, and [did not] consistently lead to high search-results rankings”.
The general consensus was SEO was a waste of money compared to ads. Although SEO has come on a long way since then, there are still online vendors who don’t see the merits of organic search marketing because “it’s not at the top of the page”.
Why LSV keywords are good for the Web
Keywords with low search volume have value for marketing but what about the wider Web? After all, online marketing would be dead and buried without it.
Google SERPs have changed a lot since 1998. Organic results reigned supreme until PPC ads took precedence at the top of the page. Then SERP features appeared in the mid-2010s and pushed organic results even further down.
Google’s algorithm prioritises the most relevant pages first with 10 per SERP. That leaves 90 links propping up the first page in the top 100. In some ways, it’s like a pyramid of links with a larger percentage of “less relevant” links at the bottom and a small percentage of the most relevant at the top.
Helping the smaller sites
Everyone jostles for that #1 spot (or Position Zero if it’s available) but there are hundreds of other links beneath. The Web as an entity doesn’t discriminate on the content – search engines like Google and Bing do. So should we be ignoring those 90+ links or giving them a chance?
Perhaps it’s idealistic to think we can fight search engine hierarchies by going against the top 10 links but it’d make for a more accessible Web. We don’t know for sure whether Google takes CTRs into account for ranking but if nothing else, it gives value to the people spending hours writing content who don’t see the clicks they deserve.
Answering questions to combat fake news and clickbait
A lot of long-tail keywords are questions because users need answers. That was the Web and search engines were designed for. In an age of fake news and clickbait headlines, everyone writing web content has a duty to answer those questions clearly and informatively.
That goes for headlines as well. We’ve all seen headlines like:
The 10 Wildest Reasons To Eat Avocado You’ll Never Believe!
This Woman Wore A Necklace In The Shower. What Happened Next Will Shock You!
Why I Spent £1 A Month On Underwear & It Changed My Life Forever
It’s all about enticing the user to read but the power of the headlines often outweigh the strength of the article.
With billions of searches carried out every day, you can’t afford to draw people in and not meet their expectations. It’s unfair and not what the Web was created for.
Keyword tools to help find LSV keywords
It’s great to talk about why they’re important but where can you find these low search volume keywords?
There is an abundance of SEO keyword tools – free and paid – to help you locate the best keywords for your site. Whatever your niche, tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Trends are on hand to show you exactly what users are after.
Information is easier and faster to reach than ever before. Those beige boxes and modems we used for dial-up internet are now slimline slabs of silicon and Gorilla glass. Devices are smarter and so are their users.
That’s why the smarter choice in SEO is to target low search volume keywords. They offer clearer relevance to searchers, offer ways of beating competitors with ROI-rich content and improve the skills and performance of marketers.
But for the Web as a whole, LSV keywords help to fight against content that deceives users by giving content writers the opportunity to answer those burning questions. And you can show appreciation for the time people have spent by clicking on their links and reading their content. Low volume doesn’t mean low quality.