One of the most common mistakes I see website owners and marketers make when launching their first SEO campaign is that they let search volume dictate which keywords they should target. I can completely understand the rationale behind their thinking--if more people are searching for keyword X that means more visitors for my site which means more money for my company. Unfortunately SEO is not that cut and dry. The higher of a search volume a keyword has the more competition there is for it, which means it's going to be much harder and take a lot longer to rank well in the search engines for. It's also important to remember that just because a particular keyword has a high search volume that doesn't mean it's the right keyword for you.

For instance, "IT services" is a wildly popular keyword with over 45 million searches each month. However, "IT services" is also an incredibly broad keyword and might not be the most accurate keyword for your website. What kind of IT services does your business offer? Do you cater to small businesses or global enterprises? Do you offer IT consulting services or maybe you specialize in certain software platforms? Are you local service provider or do you have clients all over the country? More specific keywords like "managed IT services" (which still gets over 60k searches each month) might send less traffic to your site, but they will also drive a more targeted visitor. The more targeted the visitor the better chance you have of converting them.

Broad keywords with large search volumes are typically used at the beginning of someone's buy cycle when they are just beginning to research their options. They want to cast as wide a net as possible and will subsequently narrow it down the more they learn. Someone who searches for "IT services" at the beginning of their buy cycle might end up looking for "small business IT service providers in New York" by the time they are ready to buy. While targeting "IT services" might drive more traffic to your site, you're not driving the quality traffic you need to grow your online business.

Think about it like this--let's say that after thorough keyword research you added 20 new long tail keywords to your website. Even if each of those keywords only drives 5 unique visitors to your site each month that's 100 more highly-qualified visitors that have never heard of your brand or been to your website before. Those 100 visitors are much more likely to convert because they found your site through a very specific search phrase. On the flip side, a visitor that found your site through a broader keyword (even though they can still convert) might not be the kind of visitor you are looking for. For instance, an SEO client of mine had visitors finding their site by searching for "software." While it's great that they were getting any traffic from such a broad and competitive keyword, "software" could really mean just about anything. The majority of the visitors that came to their site from "software" weren't good leads for their company and clogged up the sales funnel.

Many site owners think that keyword research is a one-and-done process, but that's not the case! No one is required to get their keyword selection right the first time (it took me years to really hone in the right keywords for my site and my audience!) but you shouldn't assume that the keyword with the highest search volume is automatically the best one for your site.

May 18, 2012

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, one of the premier full service SEO firms in the United States. With over 12 years of experience Nick Stamoulis has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing and internet marketing experience Nick Stamoulis has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.


Hi Nick,

I couldn't agree more and it's interesting to hear you say that it took years to hone in the right keywords for your site because that was certainly true for me. I'm probably still learning!

The parallel example that applied to me was "SEO". I never targeted it. To begin with that was because I thought I had no chance against bigger, longer-established competitors but, later on, I reckoned it wasn't a good one to target even if I could compete because it wouldn't convert well. The ones that worked best for me personally have been 3-word searches included my County (State).


How true this is. I guess we try and take the easy way out by creating content around one high search volume keyword rather than several pieces of content containing long-tailed keywords. We can be very short-sighted and forget to think carefully exactly what our targeted customers will search for.

By the way, what is your keyword for this article? Is it "keyword" or is there a long-tail hidden in there?!! lol

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Search Engine Guide > Nick Stamoulis > A High Search Volume Doesn't Mean It's the Right Keyword for You