Analysing Keyword Search Traffic

Search traffic is a very important factor to consider when trying to choose which keywords to target. In this article we will discuss:

  • Where to get the data
  • Which data to look at
  • What is the right amount of traffic
Where to Get the Data

The best place to get search traffic data is Google's free keyword tool. They maintain that the data is an estimate, not exact, but it is the best source of data you are going to find. If you're signed into an Adwords account when you use the tool you can get more keywords at once (up to 800). Wordtracker provide an alternative keyword tool.

Some other tools to give you extra data and insight:
Which Data to Look At

You want to know how many searches are performed for each keyword but there's three different measures of that data that you can use. I've blogged in the past about the difference between broad, phrase and exact match data, but here it is again briefly:
  • Broad: Searches that contain the words in any order, with any number of other words in between.
  • Phrase: Searches that contain the words in that exact order, with any number of other words before and/or after.
  • Exact: Searches that contain only that exact phrase, with no other words.
In general, the number of searches will be highest for broad match and lowest for exact match, with phrase match somewhere in between, usually closer to broad. I like to use phrase match data but you can go to my post mentioned above for more information on each and make up your own mind.

Phrase-Broad Ratio
Another useful statistic to look at is the phrase-broad match ratio (PBR). You can calculate this by dividing the phrase match search volume by the broad match search volume. A low PBR will tell us that there could be another phrase, made up of the same words as the phrase we are looking at, that gets more traffic than this phrase. In general, you want to focus on the word combination that gets the most traffic.

Search Trends
It's worth looking at the trend for the keyword search traffic which Google's keyword tool will give you especially if the keywords you are looking at might be seasonally effected. Google insights for search and Google trends will also give you good trend data which can also be broken down into subregions like 'south australia' which you can't do with the keyword tool.

SEO Traffic
This is a measure of how much traffic you would be expected to get if you ranked at number one for the keyword. The number one result gets 42% of clicks on average. If you are looking at a local market, such as Adelaide, you need to make a further adjustment to get the number of searches for the local market (as the keyword tool only gives data for Australia as a whole). I use a rough calculation based on the approximate proportion of people in Adelaide to people in Australia as a whole (1 million to 20 million), so I divide the number of searches by 20 to get the local SEO Traffic. So, all together:

Adelaide SEO Traffic for number 1 ranking = Total Searches Australia x 0.42 x *0.05

*this adjustment assumes that the keyword doesn't include location qualifiers such as 'adelaide,' or 'south australia.'

What is the Right Amount of Traffic

The more traffic a keyword can deliver you, the better. However, you will find that the keywords that deliver the higher amounts of traffic also have the highest level of competition and in some cases too high to target. In those cases you need to pick a keyword with lower traffic, but how low is too low?

One way to judge the volume of traffic is to figure out how many conversions that level of traffic is likely to bring in and compare that to your targets. If you assume that 1 in 20 people who visit your indian restaurant website after searching for 'indian restaurant adelaide' end up making a reservation at the restaurant and your target is 50 reservations a week, you would need a keyword with a local SEO traffic of at least 1000 per week.

Required SEO Traffic = Conversion Target / Conversion Rate

However, when using this line of thinking you need to take into account that most search traffic and conversions do not come from the keywords that have the highest individual volume, but from a combination of the longer phrases, known as the long tail. Market Samurai recommends a minimum SEO Traffic of 1521 searches/ month (50/day) as part of its golden rules filter.

Market Samurai also recommends a PBR of at least 15% or 0.15. With regards to search trends, if the keyword your are looking at is continually trending downwards, year after year then its probably not the best keyword for you for the long term. If you discover that a keyword is very seasonal then that would be something to keep in mind if you need a consistent flow of traffic through all seasons.

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