The practice of relying solely on search volume as a specific keyword search metric is now a relic of the past.
Although it can provide a snapshot of a keyword’s popularity, search volume does not necessarily imply relevancy, nor is it a guarantee of a successful content strategy.
Keyword research to secure the future requires a more holistic approach that takes into account not only the quantity of searches, but also the quality, context and evolving expectations of users.
In this article, we’ll look at why modern SEOs look beyond just search volume.
We’ll also break down the new signals that should guide strategic planning and the importance of understanding User intentAnd how to create a robust and flexible keyword strategy that works for the future of search.
Why is the search volume not enough anymore
The evolution of the digital search landscape means that we need a more comprehensive and differentiated approach.
Let’s dive into why search volume isn’t the ultimate measure of contemporary Search Engine Optimization.
A shift in understanding user intent and complex search queries
As search engines have evolved, so have users. Today’s online searchers are more adept at crafting detailed and specific queries, and expecting accurate answers.
For example, instead of searching for “best shoes,” a user might query “best marathon running shoes under $100.”
Although these long queries may have lower search volumes, they provide high intent, which makes them invaluable to content strategies.
Therefore, SEO strategists must consider their content approach and how they position their brand to meet the needs of the keywords they identify during keyword research.
Understanding the user intent and search journey is vital when creating a content strategy.
Brands that truly understand their audience are better positioned to create engaging content.
They are able to move the user through the journey towards conversion in a way that a simple “monthly search volume” metric does not provide insight into.
By understanding user intent, you can more effectively tailor your content strategies to your audience’s needs, rather than in a “This has the biggest size, so it’s the most important” way.
The advent of voice search and conversational queries
With the increasing adoption of voice-activated devices, users often ask questions in a conversational manner.
This has led to an increase in natural language queries that are not always compatible with traditional keyword search based solely on search volume.
Voice search can be a useful consideration for a brands SEO strategy. However, if a brand solely relies on search volume as the driving force behind strategy thinking, such opportunities will be missed.
And then there’s AI research, which is probably the fastest growing consideration in this conversation and is something that content strategists are exploring as we prepare for SGE Wide integration into Google SERPs.
Search experience generated has the potential to dramatically change how SEO approaches content creation.
The more conversational search style we’ve seen will likely be replicated on voice search platforms as Google positions its conversational chat functionality at the top of Google’s SERPs.
We have yet to fully understand the impact this evolving technology will have on our content approaches.
But if voice search is anything to go by, expect searches to become more conversational, visual, elegant – and ultimately human!
The emergence of alternative search platforms
As the search engine of choice, Google is being challenged, especially by Gen Z audiences, who are looking for specific types of content to satisfy their needs, pains, and desires.
Platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have emerged as powerful search engines in their own right.
A keyword might not have much search volume on Google, but it might be trending on TikTok or searched extensively on YouTube.
It is essential to recognize these platform-specific nuances and adapt your keyword strategies accordingly.
The search landscape is dynamic, and metrics that were important yesterday may not carry the same weight today.
Proactive reaction is the name of the game here. Taking an annual look at search volume for queries in designing a content strategy will not be a strategy for success.
Instead, strategists should look to Google Trends, GLIMPSE, other search platforms, and even forum sites like Reddit and Discord to understand which topics matter most to users.
Historically, it was assumed that a high search volume was indicative of high importance.
We can now combine multiple data points as content signals, ensuring that trends are effectively optimized and catered within our content strategies as a result of our proactive engagement.
Future-proof keyword research signals and why they matter
As we move into a more complex search system, it is clear that keyword research requires a multifaceted approach. While search volume remains a valuable metric, several other important signals have gone up.
Understanding and capitalizing on these signals is essential for any SEO strategist who wants to stay ahead of the curve.
Here’s a closer look at these future metrics and their importance.
The importance of keywords
Search engines today are honed in to prioritize user intent.
A keyword with high search volume but low relevance can increase bounce rates and reduce user satisfaction.
Ensuring that your content directly matches user intent provides value and increases the likelihood of higher rankings.
This metric provides insight into how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword.
Evaluating factors such as backlinks, domain authority, and content quality of the top-ranking page helps you gauge the feasibility of achieving higher rankings and strategize accordingly.
Potential click-through rate (CTR).
The keyword may have high search volume, but the organic CTR may be low if the SERP page is full of ads, featured snippets, and other SERP features.
By assessing the chances of potential organic clicks, you can make informed decisions about which keywords are likely to drive actual traffic to your site.
User interaction metrics
Metrics such as bounce rate, dwell time, and pages per session provide a snapshot of how users interact with your content.
High engagement indicates that your content is resonating with users, which search engines take as a sign of quality and relevance.
What is trending today may be outdated tomorrow.
By keeping an eye on seasonal fluctuations and emerging trends, you can position your content to ride the wave of popularity while also avoiding outdated or fading topics.
Research features and SGE opportunities and perspectives
Modern SERP pages are more than just a list of blue links.
There are potential opportunities for SGE strategic planning and start-up projectsOutlook – PerspectivesVersions that can also affect how users perform searches and interact with content and thus inform the strategies we create.
Targeting these features can amplify visibility and drive more organic traffic.
“Search Everywhere” capabilities.
SERP is not just a Google phenomenon. SEO should consider other search platform opportunities.
If users perform searches away from Google, strategies can adapt and focus toward creating content on those platforms that deliver content to audiences where they want and expect to see it.
With this emerging change in search, SEO professionals need to broaden their horizons and adopt a more holistic approach to keyword research.
By incorporating these signals into strategies, we can ensure more robust, relevant and future-proof strategic outcomes.
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The role of subject groups and substrate content
To stand out in this vast sea of content online, you must first have a well-organized approach to content creation.
Enter topic groups and substrate content.
These two methods have dramatically redefined how content is organized and presented.
How broader themes drive a coherent content strategy
Topic clusters revolve around a central theme or ‘column’.
This pillar content covers the core topic in depth, while the supplementary articles or ‘cluster content’ go deeper into related subtopics or aspects.
Together, they form a coherent and interdependent structure or network of knowledge on a topic.
This method ensures that users will have a comprehensive resource to refer back to.
If someone lands on a subtopic, they can easily jump to the main pillar content to get broader insights or explore related areas.
They are also likely to move forward or backward during the flight through the internal link.
For search engines, this threaded approach improves the crawlability and context of your content, which can boost your domain’s positional authority.
The advantage of having a subject area and becoming an authority
By continuously creating valuable content around a specific topic and associating pillar and block content, you establish your domain as a reference resource for that topic.
Search engines prioritize websites that offer in-depth and authoritative content. Having a subject area is not just about quantity, but quality and structure.
When your site becomes an recognized authority on a topic, you are more likely to gain backlinks, be cited, and most importantly, gain the trust of your audience.
Over time, this trust can translate into higher membership ratings, the emergence of SERP features, and the potential emergence of SGE as the “sole source of truth,” ultimately driving more traffic.
By embracing theme and core content combinations, brands can provide a richer user experience, streamline site navigation, and position themselves as industry leaders in their niche.
Semantic search and the importance of context
The introduction of semantic search has shifted the focus from simple words to the deeper meaning and context behind them, ie the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.
Even if a user’s query is not an exact match, search engines can discern and provide results that fit the context and purpose of the query. This leap has heralded a major shift in SEO strategies.
Gone are the days of “keyword stuffing,” where repetition was the norm. Today, the focus is on the depth of the topic, its relevance and the semantic relationships between terms.
As search engines strive to provide the most relevant content in response to user inquiries, content creators must produce comprehensive, context-rich material that is true to user intent.
Develop your keyword strategy for modern SEO
The days of linear keyword targeting and isolated tactics have given way to a more holistic, user-centric approach.
Successful SEO today is all about the combination of content relevance, technical prowess, and a deep understanding of user intent and behavior.
The challenge and opportunity lie in embracing these multifaceted changes. Make sure your strategies align with the search algorithms and, more importantly, the audiences you aim to serve.
As we look to the future, the combination of high-quality content, powerful technology, and an unwavering focus on the user promises to be the beacon guiding the future of SEO.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and are not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.