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Essential Keyword Metrics for SEO Success

Keyword research. It’s a phrase that can strike equal parts boredom and anxiety into the hearts of SEO practitioners everywhere.

But as much as poring through keywords and data sets may feel tedious, it remains one of the most critical activities for SEO success.

Choosing the right keywords to target through your content and optimization efforts can be the difference between stranded content that no one finds and pages that draw qualified organic traffic. Between a site that elicits page after page of crickets in Search Console and ones that rings the conversion bell.

But how do you separate high-potential, traffic-driving keywords from the flops and distractions?

That’s where keyword metrics come in.

Keyword metrics provide the search signal data that allows you to gauge potential value and formulate the best SEO keyword strategy.

There are tried and tested metrics SEOs have relied on for years, like search volume and cost-per-click (CPC). But search engines and SERP features are evolving rapidly, giving rise to new metrics and considerations.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover both the traditional and emerging keyword metrics you should incorporate into research to uncover your site’s most profitable keywords.

Specific metrics and factors we’ll dig into include:

  • Search volume
  • Keyword trends
  • Click-through-rate
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Searcher intent
  • Seasonal fluctuations
  • Location targeting

Identifying and analyzing these key metrics will empower you to:

  • Pinpoint realistic, high-potential keywords aligned to your content and offerings
  • Build durable organic search visibility through changing search trends
  • Shape keyword strategies tailored to different search intents
  • Match keyword targeting to seasonal shifts and local opportunities

So whether you’re seeking to revamp an outdated keyword strategy or kickstart a fledgling SEO content campaign.

Let’s dive into the keyword metrics that matter most.

Traditional Key Metrics For SEO Success Keyword Metrics

Search Volume

The search volume for a keyword refers to the average number of monthly searches for that term across all search engines.

For example, a keyword like “best treadmills” may have a search volume of 73,000 searches per month. That indicates roughly 73,000 people are entering some close variation of that phrase into Google or Bing each month.

Why Keyword Search Volume Matters

At its core, search volume indicates potential reach and traffic opportunity. Keywords with higher search volume suggest higher demand and more searchers you can surface relevant content to.

It’s a key input into SEO priority and content planning:

  • High volume keywords can be targets for pillars and TOFU content to drive traffic
  • Mid-range keywords make good targets for MOFU and BOFU content
  • Low volume terms may only merit consideration for hyper-targeted pages

However, search volume on its own doesn’t guarantee easy wins. Other factors like competition and intent also determine if high volume keywords are attainable for rankings.

Tools for Search Volume Research

Reliable search volume data can be found through Google’s Keyword Planner and third-party SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Moz. Just know that search volume should be taken as directional rather than absolute numbers.

Google Keyword Planner offers direct search query data from their engine along with monthly averages. SEMrush and other commercial keyword research tools also infer search volumes based on proprietary search data.

Consider Beyond Just Numbers

Don’t become overly attached to specific search volumes or base targets solely on volumes. Historical averages often poorly predict emerging trends or account for seasonal fluctuations.

Instead, cross reference search volume patterns with other metrics like trends and click-through-rates. The goal is to uncover compelling keywords that align to searcher intent and have attainable paths to ranking.


While search volume provides a snapshot of average keyword demand, search trends reveal how interests around keywords shift over time.

Identifying rising and falling trends is crucial for unlocking keywords with growth runways versus those losing steam.

Using Google Trends

Google Trends remains the gold standard for analyzing search popularity patterns over time. The Google Trends dashboard displays interest over time, related queries, and breakdowns by region.

For example, comparing the 5-year interest trend for “yoga mat” versus “resistance bands” reveals opposite trajectories:

Yoga Mats: Steadily declining interest since peaks in 2016-2018

Yoga Mats Google Trends Data

Resistance Bands: Rapid growth in interest over 3 years

resistance bands Google Trend Data

This suggests resistance bands may be a better keyword investment given the upwards momentum.

Comparing Trends and Search Volume

Search trends don’t always mirror current volumes though. A keyword may have declining interest year-over-year but still substantial search volume.

Let’s return to yoga mats – even with declining interest trends, this term still drives over 2 million average monthly searches. Depending on your goals and content, it may still warrant consideration.

Look at trends more as indicators of momentum and reader appeal rather than hard limits on content potential. Use them to diagnose fading versus rising opportunities then investigate why.

Surfacing Related and Emerging Keywords

Related keyword and question analysis in Google Trends is also useful for discovering fresh, high-potential keywords to target before they hit critical mass.

Utilize this quick analysis across different topics and content categories to stay on the leading edge for your space.

That covers a data-driven look at leveraging search trends and Google Trends for smarter keyword decisions. 

Next let’s examine how click-through rates can indicate the topic relevance of keywords…


The click-through rate (CTR) for a keyword measures the ratio of searchers who clicked through to a site from the search engine results page (SERP). More specifically, it’s the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click.

For example, say your page targeting “content writing tips” had:

  • 1,000 impressions in search results
  • 150 clicks from search to your page

The CTR would be 150/1,000 = 15%.

How CTR Impacts Organic Traffic

CTR directly impacts the volume of organic traffic driven by a keyword. Pages that achieve higher CTR pull more absolute clicks and traffic for the same position compared to pages with lower CTR.

And CTR highly correlates with relevance and search intent match. Pages deeply aligned to what searchers are querying fetch better CTR.

According to data from Moz and Search Engine Land:

  • The #1 organic position averages a CTR of over 30%
  • By position #3 that falls to about 15% CTR
  • At the bottom of page 1, it’s less than 5%

That’s why monitoring CTR by keyword and making gains through relevance and intent optimization is so impactful.

Comparing Potential Traffic Volume

In SEMrush, CTR data surfaces as part of the keyword overview report. You can also extract it manually using Search Console.

Filtering keywords by volume and CTR in tandem provides a proxy for potential traffic volume.

For example, a mid-volume keyword with a 30% CTR may drive more combined clicks than a higher volume keyword with a lower CTR.

When ideating targets, look at traffic volume potential not just volume as the north star when weighing keywords. Relevance beats scale for sustainable wins.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty provides an aggregated score predicting how hard it will be to rank for a given keyword. The difficulty rating aims to quantify the overall competitiveness.

What Impacts Keyword Difficulty?

Multiple correlated on-page and off-page factors feed into difficulty scores. Signals including:

  • Domain authority/rank of current top pages
  • Strength and number of backlinks to ranking domains
  • Age of domains
  • Optimization quality signals like engagement, CTR

Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush all calculate their own proprietary keyword difficulty scores. They usually range on a scale of 0-100% or 0-1 with higher = more difficult.

Interpreting Difficulty for Your Site

As a general rule of thumb based on typical scores:

  • 0-30 – Easy range to rank – focus here for quick wins
  • 30-60 – Moderate difficulty – attainable depending on strengths
  • 60-90% – Very difficult – longer term targets requiring authority buildup

Of course your own website’s attributes around age, backlinks, trust metrics also determine relative difficulty. Identify keyword difficulty thresholds aligned to your site’s growth stage.

Mining Low Difficulty Opportunities

Often, longer tail variations of popular keywords have dramatically lower difficulty. For example:

  • “seo tips” – very high difficulty
  • “quick seo tips for beginners” – low difficulty

Mine keyword research tools for these low hanging fruit opportunities to deliver targeted value.

Monitoring difficulty also helps gauge if your own efforts are making a dent and keywords are becoming more attainable over time.

Emerging Metrics and Factors For SEO Success Keyword Metrics

Searcher Intent

Searcher intent refers to the underlying goal or motivation driving a search query.

For example, searches around “credit cards” could carry:

  • Informational intent to research different cards’ features
  • Transactional intent to directly apply for a new card

Google has become increasingly adept at analyzing searcher intent through contextual signals and user behavior. Pages well-matched to specific search intents tend to achieve higher rankings and CTR.

Tools for Analyzing Searcher Intent

Google itself provides some limited query-level categorization of intents like:

  • Information gathering (informational)
  • Purchase research (transactional)
  • Website navigation (navigational)

However, third-party tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs provide more granular categorization of sub-intents. For example:

  • “Best credit cards” – likely Commercial Intent
  • “Apply for visa credit card” – likely Transactional Intent

These tools scrape Google results to infer probable searcher intentions.

Group Keywords by Intent

A best practice is grouping researched keywords by inferred primary intent. This allows matching groups to pages and content formatted to suit that intent.

For example:

  • Informational keywords – map to comparison articles, guides
  • Commercial keywords – may fit product category pages
  • Transactional keywords – send to conversions-focused pages like contact forms

Think beyond blanket categorization though and strive to develop pages aligned to distinct, sub-intent segments.


Certain keywords naturally see search volume fluctuations connected to seasons, events, and holidays.

For example:

  • “Christmas gift ideas”
  • “Spring break destinations”
  • “tax prep services”

Being aware of seasonal shifts allows you to align content efforts to peaks in demand and interest.

Tools for Identifying Seasonal Trends

Google Trends has a great capability to view interest for keywords mapped across the yearly calendar which surfaces seasonal patterns.

The “Year in Search” view shows monthly averages to reveal variations:

Google Trend Data

SEMrush and other keyword research tools also surface this type of seasonal variance within keyword data sets.

Creating Seasonal Content Calendars

Once you map keywords to seasonal interest trends, structure editorial calendars around these patterns.

For the example topic above – tax prep services – concentrate content efforts like:

  • Blog posts
  • Email campaigns
  • Paid search ads

…during the January through April spike captured in Google Trends.

Curating evergreen content while still aligning some content to seasons will allow you capitalize on shifts in demand.

Location Optimization

The final emerging keyword opportunity area is localization and geo-modification.

Geo-targeting allows you to attract searchers from specific regions by:

  • Incorporating location names into keywords (New York luxury hotels)
  • Optimizing locally-served pages for those geo-keywords

This tactic can open up fresh, low competition keywords that are lucrative for location-based businesses.

Opportunity Analysis for Regions

Conduct search analysis using keyword research tools to uncover demand for local variants:

  • What location-based keywords show high search volume?
  • What geo-targeted terms have low difficulty despite local interest?

These present prime targets to craft location-optimized content against.

Pair keyword localization with technical optimizations like local schema markup and GMB optimization to maximize visibility and conversions.

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Key Takeaways 

Keyword research remains a crucial pillar of SEO success. But simply targeting high volume keywords without assessing competitiveness and intent often leads to fruitless efforts.

By incorporating a methodology based on both traditional and emerging keyword metrics such as:

  • Search volumes
  • Trends
  • Click-through rates
  • Difficulty
  • Searcher intents
  • Seasonality
  • Location optimization

You can develop sophisticated SEO strategies tailored to high-value searches and qualified traffic.

Key takeaways include:

  • Assess keyword metrics holistically rather than relying solely on volume or difficulty
  • Uncover seasonal variations and localization opportunities through search analysis
  • Shape content strategies and site optimization towards fulfilling specific searcher intents

Now that you’re armed with a comprehensive methodology, it’s time to dive into researching the metrics for your site’s focus keywords.

Based on the assessment, group keywords by common attributes like:

  • Intent match
  • Topic clusters
  • Priority
  • Content format suitability

Analyzing metrics will point the way towards untapped targets beyond overloaded head terms. Apply these insights to focus pages on delivering the valuable answers and outcomes searchers seek.

The fruits of that laser focus on intent will pay dividends in the form of surging organic traffic and conversions.

Hopefully this guide has provided a blueprint to evolve your keyword research and SEO content strategies.

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