“Insurance” gets almost 25 million searches each month in the US alone (according to the Google Keyword Research Tool). “Small business insurance” only gets a measly 60,500 searches in comparison and “small business insurance agency” only has a monthly search volume of 320. Clearly “insurance” is the best keyword right? After all, it has the largest search volume by several orders of magnitude and that’s what counts—more searches mean more visitors. And in a perfect world, that’s exactly what should happen. But we don’t live in a perfect SEO world and search volume is not the most important thing when choosing which keywords to target with your organic SEO.
It’s very easy for DIY SEO site owners to get blinded by the search volume of various keywords while they are conducting keyword research, but keyword relevancy is far more important than search volume. It’s important to remember that it’s more valuable to target the best keywords for your content than the keyword with the most searches—getting more traffic to your site isn’t worth much if it’s the wrong kind of traffic.
You also have to remember that a large search volume means bigger competition for that keyword. The potential of those keywords is so great (since so many people are searching for them) that large brands are going to do everything in their power to dominate the SERPs. Do a quick search for “shoes.” (Which gets almost 25 millions searches each month.) You might see a few local listings (especially if you are signed into your Google account), but chances are the majority of the websites showing up are big brands like DSW, Zappos, Payless and so forth. Most small show retailers don’t have the man power, budget or brand recognition to unseat such massive corporations for a keyword as broad as “shoes.” However “prom shoes” has a search volume of 60,500 and “mens gym shoes” only has 480 searches each month. The people using these keywords to search for shoes are still valuable customers, but there is a lot less competition for these keywords, meaning a local retailer would have a better chance of doing well in the SERPs for them.
Some of my SEO clients are reluctant to target keywords with a low search volume because they don’t think it’s worth their time. And while I can understand the desire to go after the “big fish” keywords, you also need to make your website appealing to those users that are searching using long tail keywords. The more specific a keyword is, the further along in their buying cycle a customer tends to be, which means they are more likely to convert. Broad keywords are usually used during the research phase and users are more likely to jump from site to site while gathering information. For newer websites, these long tail keywords are how site owners are going to be able to effectively compete online. Most businesses can’t wait for their site to dominate the SERPs with broad keywords, so keywords with a lower search volume provide the most immediate opportunity for growth.