Did you know that keyword research is one of the most important tasks in SEO?
Especially when you have limited resources, you need to be able to maximize your SEO investment and make it worth the effort.
Obviously, your keywords research goal is to select the right keywords for your website and you can do this by looking at the right data to inform your decision.
That’s why considering a variety of keyword factors is one of the most important activities.
So how would you go about that?
In this article, we are going to list and discuss the 5 most used keyword metrics.
We then talk about emerging new metrics that not everyone is using, in order to give you a competitive advantage for a changing SEO industry.
What is a keyword metric?
First thing first, a keyword metric is the measure of a keyword value developed originally by Google.
A metric is used to determine how valuable a keyword might be in search marketing.
Therefore keyword metrics consider a set of values that help you assess whether a keyword is worth pursuing. This is very important given the fact that once you decide to target a group of keywords with your content, there is no way back.
After Google introduced AdWords back in the ’90s and SEO was invented, SEO tools followed suit.
For example, SEMRush has its own unique set of metrics:
- Monthly search volumes per region
- Global search volume
- Cost per click
- Keyword Difficulty
- Keyword Intent
- Keywords trend
If you use InLinks, you might see slight different keyword metrics. They include number of keywords in a given topic and provide lots of details about the intent of a keyword.
In this example, the topic “seo consultant london” includes 1,401 keyword variations and 56 user intents, of which 38% are informational.
As you can see, every tool has pretty much the same keyword metrics. InLinks and SEMRush won’t provide you with metrics unless you sign up for a free trial, so this list of metrics might be different next time I log in.
SERanking provides you with keywords volumes, difficulty, Cost per Click and SEMRush also add Global Search Volumes, Trend and Intent.
And this leads to the next question:
What are the factors determining a keyword value?
Just because the variety of metrics is so huge and diverse, I wanted to know what people are actually using.
To make sure that I capture the latest trends in keywords research, I recently launched a poll on Linkedin asking my network and friends what factors they consider when doing keywords research.
Here are the results from 365 answers:
- 25% of respondents use keyword volumes as main metric
- 66% of respondents also consider other factors
This poll was built with the goal of understanding whether monthly search volume is still a big metric.
Apparently not, because most respondents said they use also other factors to determine a keyword value.
Which leads us to the list and definitions of keyword metrics.
1. CPC Price
Cost per Click (CPC) is a very important metric built for advertisers originally. It allows Paid Ads specialists to forecast how much budget they need to generate 1 click from a keyword.
So before you start any paid campaign, it’s highly recommended to check CPC.
Even if you don’t run paid campaigns but implement SEO content marketing strategies, it’s still a good idea to check the cost per click.
Generally, if companies are ready to spend money on a keyword, it means this keyword is commercially valuable.
Foe example, if you search for “SEO consultant“, you see the value being £4.91 per click in the UK. This cost is really high and the keyword very commercial.
SERanking also compares the cost in the UK to other countries. In Hong Kong you would pay over £15 per click, which is extremely high.
Now that you know this keyword is really valuable, should you target it according to CPC value only?
It depends on what your content looks like. If you already created a great content strategy for targeting that keyword, then you also need to ensure your page converts that keyword into a meaningful action.
If you don’t, then you risk to pay a lot of money targeting that keyword for every single click, without having any return on investment.
Also, what I would recommend you to do is checking the Google search results for how many paid ads are listed for “seo consultant”. If you have too many ads on top of search results, it might be hard getting anything of value from that keyword.
What is a good CPC price?
The highest the price the better because it means the commercial value of a keyword is higher. But of course, you’ll also have more competition.
2. Monthly Search Volumes
This is one of the oldest and most used keyword metrics since the old days of SEO. The data simply tells you approximately how many people search for that keyword every month.
Given that one of the goals of SEO is to generate traffic, you can easily understand why this metric is still important for many people.
What is a good keyword volume?
Obviously, the higher the better. A recent study from Backlinko confirms that the average Click Through Rate of a page ranking #1 on Google is 27.6%. This means that a keyword with an estimated volume of 100,000 can generate 27,600 new clicks per month! Not bad.
Is Monthly Search Volume a good metric?
Recent research shows that monthly search volumes is a poor metric for a variety of reasons:
- Traffic is an estimate and should be taken as such
- 15% of Google queries are new and SEO tools can’t track them all
- Different SEO tools use different approaches to keyword volumes
- It doesn’t take seasonality into account
Even if you find low search volumes, it doesn’t mean your volume will actually be low.
Let’s take this keyword for example “How to get more clients on Fiverr”.
SEMRush is estimating that 40 users search this keyword every month.
Is this true?
No, it’s wrong. And I know this because my guide on how to find clients on Fiverr ranks #1 on Google and has been ranking it since December 2021.
In the last 28 days, my keyword generated 980 clicks and 84,230 impressions on Google alone.
That’s why I recommend not trusting SEO tools entirely. Also, SEO tool are showing the low value because of a number of reasons:
- There might be no market for it
In which case you shouldn’t target it if you base your analysis on volumes alone. But what if the CPC is really high? That’s why is important to check not just one metric but a combination of keyword metrics together to have a better idea of the keyword value.
- The keyword is too new
In this case, SEO tools are not able to track this keywords volume and report the volume as very low, sometimes close to 0. But if people are searching for them, it’s worth pursuing.
Which brings us to the next keyword metric: Trends.
3. Google Trends
Trends is a group of data invented by Google and then other SEO tools followed suit. Here is what the Trends dashboard looks like for the term “seo consultant”:
How is Google Trends calculated?
The Google trend of a keyword is calculated from the search interest normalized to a scale of 100.
A number of 100 is the peak of popularity and a value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.
A score of 0 means that there was not enough data for this term.
Google Trend is also showing interest from different countries and over time. It’s also important to specify that trends is not the same as keywords volumes. The difference is that trend indicates the popularity of a term while volume refers to the amount of searches on a search engine.
What is the data telling you?
A lot. In the example above, we know that the term “seo consultant” has been increasing in interest in the past 5 years in the U.K. It also tells you that during the lockdown the term was extremely popular and it’s increasing again in the past 12 months.
What is a good Trend?
Any trend that is going upward is a good trend. But remember that we also have seasonalities, so a keyword is trending on determined period of times during the year, for example “pumpkins” are popular for Halloween only, and the rest of the year is pretty stable.
👉 Also read: 12 ways for using Google Trends for keyword research
Can you compare trend data with other metrics?
Yes! and you should.
You can compare the data from keywords volumes and popularity to see whether a keyword is here to stay or is just a fad.
For example, the term “iPhone 13” was extremely popular in September 2021, the month of its launch to the world. Since then the term has been showing a stable interest and then it drops again, due to the launch of the iPhone 14 in September 2022.
However, if you take this data and add to it the search volumes, you get a different story:
- iPhone 13 shows 20.7 Million searches a month globally
- iPhone 14 shows 5.3 Million of searches a month
If you had to decide which keyword to target based on search volumes alone, you would pick “iPhone 13”.
But actually, we know that “iPhone 14” is more popular right now so chances are that its search volumes will increase dramatically soon – only that your SEO tool is probably not updated yet.
Now that we know which keyword to target, we can add more dimensions to it and get a realistic view of whether we can actually rank for it.
This is what leads us to the next metric: keyword difficulty.
4. Keyword difficulty
The question is: how difficult is to rank for a keyword on search result?
Every SEO tool has its own unique keyword difficulty data. To be clear, because keyword difficulty is NOT a Google metric, this means it’s possible to rank high for a keyword with high difficulty. 🥳
But you won’t rank #1 unless you master the Google ranking factors for your site.
How is keyword difficulty calculated?
A few different factors come into play:
- Keyword Intent
- Domain Authority
- Content Quality
Here are two examples of how SEMRush and SE Ranking both calculate the difficulty of “SEO consultant” in the UK.
The higher a keyword’s difficulty is, the more efforts you will have to put into optimization but also the better results it will potentially bring from organic search.
In this case, SE Ranking says it’s doable and SEMRush says it’s possible.
So if you want to rank #1, you would need a big amount of quality backlinks, well structured and original content. This requires many months of work to build links from sites that are super relevant to SEO and digital marketing.
It goes without saying, that another important ranking factor is a solid technical infrastructure so I would recommend an SEO audit to begin with.
However, if you are a new website, even when you get everything right, you might still not have any results. Difficulty is not a measure for everything. When the difficulty score is high, you need to focus on different keywords that show a low difficulty score and are underserved.
This is what leads us to analysing SERPs to find hidden opportunities for new, realistic keywords for your site.
What is a good keyword difficulty score?
Obviously, the lowest, the better. If you have a keyword with a score of less than 15/100, this is what you want!
5. User search intent
If you analyse the search results for each keyword, you’ll find what Google is serving as an answer. Your job is then to figure out the reason why Google is providing an answer to a query, this is what we collect “user search intent”.
For example, if you search for “restaurant near me”, Google is showing you the map of your local area with a list of places for lunch and dinner.
This is because the user’s intent is to scan the map for local places.
But if you need to learn how to paint a wall with brushes, Google is probably showing you an YouTube video because your intent is educational.
What are the 3 most common types of search intent?
Common types include informational, navigational and transactional.
For example, “how to paint a wall” is an informational keyword while “best credit cards” is a transactional keyword.
Is user search intent a good metric?
I don’t think so. Let me explain why.
Most SEO tools base their user intent calculations on these three categories. The result is a list of keywords with one of those 3 associated intents which are not necessarily directly related to them. Not to mention that sometimes a specific intent cannot even be associated with a keyword.
Why? Because a keyword might have several intents.
Let’s take the keyword “Search Engine Optimisation”. SEMRush is describing the keyword intent as “informational”. But how many of these variations are useful to your business?
If you practice “Search Engine Optimisation” to your website, it’s very different from learning “Search Engine Optimisation”.
SEO tools provide an intent without knowing your website and business. The tools don’t perform any semantic analysis on the search results and there is no check for who does what on Google results.
This is what leads us to the future of users’ search intent.
A keyword could have more than one intent
It would be better to see what are the intent variations when you search for the term around “Search Engine Optimisation”, when you know that you are looking for users that want to “learn SEO” rather than “practice SEO”.
One SEO tool is able to discern this information very clearly, and we are talking about inlinks.net.
Here is the list of keywords within the topic “search engine optimisation” that have a Search intent. You want to target these keyword if you provide educational content on SEO.
But if you provide SEO service you want to be targeting terms around practising SEO.
That’s why the intent on these keywords is completely different.
You’ll need content targeting different keywords and intents if you want to rank for them.
Alternative Keywords Metrics for small websites
So far, all of the keywords metrics are calculated based on a bunch of search parameters (backlinks, domain authority, content quality, cost per click, monthly search volumes). Only big websites are able to compete given those parameters.
Keywords with very low difficulty score and high volumes are very rare. In my 10+ years experience in SEO, I haven’t seen one yet.
If you want to rank #1, you should have a team for building a huge amount of links and a team for content marketing able to ship 20-30 articles a week of very high quality. Now you can target big volume keywords.
But what if your website is not in that game? Is SEO still worth it doing it?
Absolutely, if you know where the opportunities are.
For small websites you need to sometimes find keywords that are both realistic to rank for and have some SEO benefits for your site (such as traffic, backlinks or sales).
These are what I call “Alternative Keywords Metrics”, because they are ideal for ranking small websites on top of Google. The goal of these new keyword metrics is to find weaknesses on your competitors.
I need to be clear: this is my personal list of keywords metrics and no SEO tool is able to provide them together.
I used those metrics for my website with excellent results. Let me give you a few examples.
Initially, I wanted to rank on top for the keyword “blogging statistics”, but every SEO tool showed a difficulty score of 78%.
Not realistic for my site.
To rank for a keyword like this one I would need hundreds of backlinks and a website authority of 70+ at least.
There is no way my blog could even make it first page on Google.
So I turned this general keyword into another keyword answering a specific question “what is the percentage of blogs that fail?”
And I rank on Featured Snippet.
How to get clients on Fiverr.
So what do these two keywords have in common?
They show almost the same realistic keyword metrics.
What are the 5 realistic keyword metrics?
Realistic keyword metrics refer to five parameters displayed on Google’s top 10 search results:
- Domain Authority
- Page Word Count
- Readability Score
- Loading Time
- Forum in top 10
1. Domain Authority
Domain Authority, or DA for short, is a ranking score system created by the guys at Moz. The Domain Authority score is used to forecast where a website will appear in search engine results.
The lowest the score for your competitors, the better it is for you.
Update on this metric. I recently bought a brand new domain with 0 content and 1 single page.
Then I went on Fiverr and spent $5 to increase the domain authority to 52 and it worked!
This means that DA is not a metric you should rely on.
It’s easy to manipulate and easy to increase with just $5.
Instead, try using Domain Rating developed by Ahrefs, I found in my experiment that this rating didn’t change and it’s difficult to manipulate.
2. Page Word Count
Page word count is simply the count of how many words a page has.
Let’s be clear: this is not a ranking factor, so a page with less text can rank higher than a page with more text.
But this metric depends on what the word count is for the top 10 results on page 1. If all of the results, for example, don’t go over 1,000 words, you should be able to be competitive with 1,500 words.
The thing to remember is that there isn’t an ideal word count because it depends on the average word count for the top 10 articles.
3. Readability Score
This score is based on Flesch-Kincaid readability tests.
The ideal Flesch Reading Ease Score for any piece of content should be between 60 and 80 which corresponds to 7th/8th/9th grade reading level or easier.
Any scores lower than 60 indicate a 10th-grade reading level or higher which is considered fairly difficult to read for online readers. If the score is lower than 60, it’s a sign of weakness you can capitalize on.
4. Page Loading time
According to Google recommendations, the total load time of the page needs to be under less than 3 seconds.
If you see load times higher than 3 seconds on other pages ranking top 10 spots on Google, it’s a signal you can do better.
5. Forum in Top 10
When Google struggles to display a suitable answer to your query, chances are that a forum site is among the top 10. Examples are Quora.com, Reddit, Stack Overflow, GameSpot to name just a few.
If you see forum sites, it’s a signal that you have an opportunity because you can write a more structured, well informed and engaging blog post to the query.
Your website success doesn't rest on your keyword metrics score only
Finding the right keyword metrics that are realistic and achievable is wonderful. If you find weaknesses on your competitors, it’s heaven.
But your website’s success doesn’t depend on a number only.
Just like a perfect pizza doesn’t happen because you have a great wooden oven. 🍕
So what do you need to get to the top of Google?
You need a proven expert to show you the way. Consider getting in touch with an expert SEO consultant. You’ll receive a free consultation and then an in-depth SEO audit.
Do you just want to learn SEO?
If you want to learn on your own, there isn’t a better place to start than a course.