SEO Process

What Is Keyword Search Volume? The SEO Pro’s Traffic Playbook

Nick Eubanks
Last Updated: Jan. 30, 2024
keyword search volume

If nobody searches for your target keyword, you won’t get organic website traffic

That’s why analyzing keyword search volume — in addition to other metrics — is essential when researching and picking keywords for your website. 

As an experienced SEO, I’ve created this short guide to share everything I know about search volume for keywords and how you can use this metric to boost your SEO and PPC campaigns.

What Is Keyword Search Volume?

Keyword search volume refers to the number of times a keyword is entered into a search engine, like Google, within a given time frame, typically a month. 

This metric shows how popular your target keyword is in a particular country. 

For instance, a keyword search volume below 100, according to Semrush, often indicates an insufficient demand for your keyword. It also signals that investing your efforts into creating optimized content is likely not worth it. (This is a general rule, and I explain some exceptions in my article on keyword difficulty.)

On the other hand, discovering a keyword with decent search traffic means you should analyze it further with other SEO metrics, like search intent

Whether you conduct keyword research on your own or have a dedicated team member for this task, it’s a good idea to keep the following facts about keyword search volume in mind.

It’s a Monthly Metric

Whichever keyword research tool you use, all of them show how many searches for your target keyword happen per month. 

I talk about how this metric is calculated in detail below. However, you should know that SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs display the average monthly volume based on the sum of monthly search volumes for the past 12 months. 

In other words, you’ll see a 1,000 monthly search volume for the “Christmas home decoration” keyword even though the demand for this keyword only exists for a few months.

Semrush Keyword Overview Christmas home decoration

It’s Country Specific 

Keyword search volume is different for every country. Therefore, I don’t recommend using the global search volume metric — it won’t help you during keyword research.

Instead, conduct country-specific keyword research to understand what your target audience searches for in a specific country and at a particular moment in time. 

Even though the “Christmas home decoration” keyword has more than 9,400 monthly search volume, it does not mean it’s your website’s traffic potential. Roughly 1,000 monthly searches occur in the U.S., while all the rest happen in other countries.

How Is Keyword Search Volume Calculated?

Even though SEO software companies claim their tools are close to 100% accurate and reliable, remember — all SEO metrics are just estimates, and are never precise! 

That being said, many SEO experts, including myself, make decisions based on this data. 

Next you should know about two data sources most SEO tools rely on — those from Google and Clickstream.

Google Data

Since users use Google to conduct various searches, its data about user behavior and search queries is the most accurate. 

Semrush, for example, uses third parties to collect Google’s data for over 500 million most popular keywords. Moreover, Semrush analyzes both Google organic and paid search results to provide SEO and digital marketing specialists with up-to-date information. 

I’ve compared two industry giants, Semrush vs. Ahrefs, and discovered that Semrush’s keyword and traffic data were more accurate. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised since Semrush’s keyword database exceeds 22.3 billion keywords, which makes it the most extensive keyword database on the market.

Clickstream Data

Clickstream data provides insights about users navigating a particular website, including a landing page, the search phrase that brought a user to a specific webpage, session duration, bounce rate, and more. 

This data is aggregated and sold to companies like Moz or Ahrefs, which use Clickstream data to calculate keyword search volume and traffic estimates, to name a few.

What Is a Good Keyword Search Volume? 

You might have heard that the bigger the keyword search volume, the better. However, that’s not true. 

In fact, there is no numerical value you should rely on while assessing keyword potential. It will heavily depend on your business, goals, and the current state of your website. 

A keyword with transactional search intent and a 100+ monthly search volume in your target country is more valuable for your business than an informational keyword with a 1,000+ monthly search volume. 

So, ensure you assess the following parameters along with keyword search volume to pick the most suitable choice:

  • Search intent
  • Keyword difficulty 
  • Traffic potential in your country 
  • Organic click-through-rate (CTR)
  • Keyword type (long-tail keywords, content pillar keywords, etc.) 

How to Find Keyword Search Volume

In the following paragraphs, I’ll share the list of paid and free keyword research tools I’ve used at work that you can rely on. 

I’ve created this table to help you compare search volumes shown by different tools. Notice that search volumes vary a lot depending on a keyword. That’s why I recommend testing these tools before picking any for your website. 

Monthly Search Volume (U.S.) Semrush Ahrefs Mangools Moz Ubersuggest
Art canvas print 390 40 5,600 0 – 10 6,600
Abstract art 110,000 78,000 136,000 70,800 – 118,000 135,000
Wall art canvas 5,400 2,500 390 6,500 – 9,300 8,100
Spray paint art 6,600 7,000 7,600 4,300 – 6,500 8,100
AI art generator 550,000 265,000 545,000 501 – 850 550,000

Paid Tools

I’ll start this list with the paid tools since I personally find them more accurate and suitable for various digital marketing tasks. 

All five tools mentioned below have free trials or plans so that you can pick the most suitable one for your needs. 

1. Semrush 

Semrush is a widely used tool for digital marketing professionals and website owners.

If you have a keyword idea, you can quickly check the search volume and review potential low competition keywords by using Semrush’s Keyword Overview. 

Semrush Keyword Overview Art canvas print

Alternatively, you can use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to generate thousands of keyword ideas from your seed keyword and see their search volumes immediately without analyzing each keyword separately.

Keyword Magic Tool Art canvas print

I also recommend trying Semrush’s Keyword Gap Tool, which will show you keywords your competitors rank for but you don’t. A full competitor website traffic analysis will reveal insights about those rankings that can help strengthen your SEO strategy.

Semrush Keyword Gap

It’s also worth mentioning that Semrush updates its keyword database monthly. Therefore, you’ll likely see a slight difference in numbers if you check the same metrics, including keyword search volume, over time. 

If you need historical data for keyword research, you can use Semrush to analyze data dating back to January 2012. 

Overall, Semrush is my go-to tool for SEO projects due to its wide variety of features and reliable data. To learn more about the tool, check my detailed Semrush review

2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another tech giant in the SEO tools market. 

I used Ahrefs until they introduced the credit system, which made it challenging to conduct keyword research for multiple large websites simultaneously.

Nevertheless, their Keyword Explorer is a powerful keyword research tool you can use to analyze keyword potential. 

Ahrefs also has a free Keyword Generator to check the search volume for your keyword in a target country. 

Ahrefs keyword ideas art canvas print

3. Mangools

Mangools is SEO software designed to help website owners, digital marketers, and SEO professionals improve their online presence and search engine rankings.

If you have a seed keyword, you can use Mangool’s KWFinder to quickly check keyword competitiveness, search volume, and semantically related keywords. 

Like Semrush, Mangools also shows the keyword search volume trends, which is a helpful report showing how users’ demand changes over time. This might come in handy if you have a website for affiliate marketing and need to keep it updated for prospects.

Good news — you can use KW Finder for free. However, the free plan has some limitations to the number of keywords you can check daily, keyword suggestions, tracked keywords, and domains. 

Mangools KWFinder art canvas print

4. Moz

Moz is one of the first companies that created a powerful SEO toolkit to help website owners improve their visibility in organic search results. 

Today, Moz provides multiple SEO solutions for various tasks, such as its Keyword Explorer, Site Crawl, Link Explorer, and Rank Tracker.

You can use the Moz Keyword Explorer to find traffic-driving keywords and analyze their metrics. Moz’s free plan provides 10 free monthly searches, which is enough to occasionally check seed keywords and test the tool. 

Even though Moz also uses clickstream data, some users claim Moz’s keyword search volume estimates are relatively low compared to other SEO tools. 

Moz Keyword overview art canvas print

5. Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a keyword research tool that can be used to find new keyword ideas, get keyword suggestions, and analyze keyword trends. It is a popular choice for beginners and experienced SEOs because it’s easy to use.

I occasionally use the Ubersuggest free plan, which provides three free daily keyword searches. However, it’s not enough to conduct proper keyword research. 

Nevertheless, you can use it to check your seed keyword potential, including keyword search volume, keyword difficulty, and cost per click (CPC). 

Ubersuggest keyword overview art canvas print

Free Tools

Even though I’m a big fan of paid SEO tools for their accuracy and vast functionality, there are also a couple free tools you can use to analyze keyword search volume. 

1. Google Trends 

Google Trends is a free tool developed by Google to analyze the popularity of search queries across various countries, regions, and languages.

I don’t recommend using Google Trends if you want to conduct professional keyword research for your client since the search volume data won’t be accurate. 

However, it’s a great tool to quickly understand whether people use your seed keyword and, if so, how popular it is. 

Google Trends art canvas print

2. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool to help you find the right keywords for SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. It provides data on search volume, competition, CPC, and semantically related keywords. 

If no other tools are available, you can use Keyword Planner to generate new keyword ideas, check search volumes, and evaluate competition. 

Remember that Keyword Planner provides search volume ranges, which is not helpful during keyword research. Besides, the data is tailored explicitly for paid ad campaigns and won’t be accurate for organic search. 

Keyword planner art canvas print

Pick Traffic-Driving Keywords for Your Website

Even though keyword search volume is essential, relying solely on this metric won’t help you analyze keyword potential.

While conducting keyword research, you need to dig deeper to analyze traffic potential, search intent, competition, and whether your website’s domain authority is strong enough to outperform top-ranking competitors. 

The digital marketing tools I’ve covered in this article can help you discover traffic-driving keywords your website can rank for …

But if you were to ask me which tool to use, I’d recommend Semrush. 

Semrush has one of the most extensive keyword databases and high data accuracy on the market. I’ve used it for keyword research for a while and have been able to help my clients improve their visibility in organic search results. 

Try Semrush’s Keyword Research Tools for free today.