Google's keyword research tool is an excellent resource for generating keyword ideas and also trending which keywords deliver a higher volume of searches. But, note the use of trending in the last sentence. The tool can't tell you how many website visitors you'll receive from a #1 ranking. Experience has shown on average it is 10% - 25% of the monthly estimate. Meaning if you go after a keyword with an estimated traffic volume of 4,000 searches per month, on average expect to see ~400 visitors per month from that phrase if it rankings #1.

This is just in general, and of course every case is different. Also clearly it's expected that not all users will click on a number one ranking, and personalized results will have an effect on what listing shows up as #1. Regardless, here are two strategies that can help remedy the ambiguity when determining what keywords should be chosen for organic optimization.

Strategy One - Rankings to Expected Performance

This strategy is not ideal for a website with little to no search engine traffic, it is ideal for a website revaluating its keyword strategy, and does not have a significant budget for a PPC campaign.

Gather The Following Two Lists
  1. The Top 50 (or more) Search Engine Referring Keywords for the Past Month
  2. A List of All the Keywords Your Website is Currently Optimized For.
  3. The Google Keyword Research Tool Estimated Traffic Volume (monthly) for all of the Above Keywords
  4. The Search Engine Rankings for all the Above Keywords for Your Website

Keyword Ratios.jpgThe result of all this data should create an excel sheet that looks something like this. Notice I've already taken columns B divided by C and placed that percentage into column F. This delivers the performance to expectation level. Notice the trend for all #1 rankings to deliver a range of 10% - 25% of the given estimated volume. The spreadsheet helps identify trends as far as what keyword rankings perform well, for example possibly a few similar types of keyword rankings are sitting at #3 and #4 positions but deliver 40%+ of the expected traffic volume. This may indicate the website's title tags, and description tags are well written for these keywords, or the competitive landscape is less fierce. Either way, this data helps reiterate the gap between the Google Keyword volume estimation and actual traffic from rankings top rankings. You might even find some #1 rankings, that were suppose to bring in a lot of traffic simply don't perform at all. All this leads me to highly recommend using PPC data when in doubt about keyword choices for organic SEO.

Strategy Two - PPC

Run a PPC campaign on Bing (because it will be much cheaper) for one month from a long list of potential keywords rounded up from Google's Keyword Tool. This will help determine an actual search volume for all the keywords that are being considered for an organic optimization campaign.

January 23, 2010

Jeff is the founder of Catch Search Marketing. Catch offers local businesses free guides to help improve their online marketing knowledge, including a local search marketing training course. Jeff has delivered SEO results for major consumer oriented websites all the way down to local businesses, he has spoken about SEO at Higher Ed Heroes.

Away from the laptop Jeff enjoys anything mountain oriented, and a constant itch for music. .


What makes me think twice about using any keyword suggested (by this popular tool) as a high-traffic generating one is a basic question as to if it creates the amount of traffic that I want or not. In other words, I need to know if the meaning of that phrase or word brings the same type of traffic I want or not - meaning matters most.

As a result, this tool always proves to be a bit hard to use for me as I'm not looking for that highly competitive key phrase that doesn't have anything to do with my desired traffic. On the other hand, those long tail keywords don't bring in the amount of traffic that I want, let alone dividing that by 4 or even more!

So, Jeff, I'd like to know what you recommend to do in such cases.

Well it is certainly a better keyword tool than the likes of wordtracker and some other paid tools

The thing to remember with the Google Keyword Tool is that it was created to serve Google's objectives, not SEOs. As a result it's geared to PPC. But that doesn't mean its not useful. The level of adveriser interest on a keyword is a good indicator of how well it will convert.

I've reached the conclusion that it's often better to start with an insanely large number of keyword variations, setup a PPC campaign for a month and then monitor the results. You'll quickly be able to see which phrases generate the most traffic and those that generate the best traffic. Depending on what you're going for, this is often a lot better than many keyword tools available.

I have used Google's keyword tool for quite some time at the beggining of my internet based business and found it quite useful. I have switched to Wordtracker and finally iSpionage which i still use. I find it very advanced and fast, more complex than other tools currently available on the Internet.

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Search Engine Guide > Jeff Howard > How to Avoid Bloated Performance Expectations from Google's Keyword Tool