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Should You Target Zero-Volume Keywords? It Depends

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Should You Target Zero-Volume Keywords? It Depends

If your keyword tool says nobody’s searching for a keyword, should you bother targeting it?

Although the obvious answer is “no,” there’s been a lot of chatter about the benefits of targeting zero-volume keywords among SEOs.

So what gives? Is there any logical reason to do this, or is it just another overhyped SEO trend?

In this post, we’ll discuss four perceived benefits of targeting low-volume keywords and why they’re not always so black and white. 

They probably get some searches”

It’s no secret that search volumes in keyword research tools aren’t perfect.

For example, the keyword “hreflang tag seo” gets an estimated 10 monthly searches in the U.S., according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Estimated U.S. monthly search volume for "hreflang tag seo"

Sidenote.

Semrush gave the same search volume estimate.

But as we rank in the top five for this keyword, we can get a more accurate estimation by looking at our impressions in Google Search Console (GSC). If we do that for the last 28 days in the U.S., we see 20 impressions. 

Monthly impressions for the Ahrefs Blog for "hreflang tag seo"

Based on this data, we can see 2X more searches for this keyword during the period than what Ahrefs or Semrush estimated. This seems to back up the idea that zero-volume keywords probably get some searches and are worth targeting. 

Is it really this simple?

Not quite. Most zero-volume keywords get some searches. But expecting tons of traffic from one is a bit like expecting rain when the forecast says sunny skies. It can happen, but it probably won’t.

That said, I think most advocates of zero-volume keywords are aware of this fact. They simply don’t care, as they don’t need a 100% hit rate. They just need a percentage of those they target to outperform estimates. 

In theory, that makes sense. But how decent is the hit rate likely to be?

To help find out, I ran a (very) small experiment.

  1. I found all “top five” keyword rankings for the Ahrefs Blog that had an estimated monthly search volume of 10 or lower in the U.S. I used the Organic keywords report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to do this.
  2. I compared those search volume estimates to impressions data in Google Search Console for the last 28 days in the U.S.

The result? Most of the keywords drove the same or fewer impressions than their estimated search volumes in Ahrefs. Even worse, less than 1% of them drove more than 100 impressions.

Very few zero-volume keywords drive more than 100 monthly impressions

This means the chance of a low- or zero-volume keyword getting significantly more searches than estimated is extremely low. 

In fact, on average, each keyword drove 11.3 impressions. 

That’s a super interesting number because it’s pretty much dead-on the average monthly search volumes of these keywords. In other words, the data seems to indicate that, on average, low- and zero-volume keywords get very close to the number of monthly searches Ahrefs predicts. 

disclaimer

These findings are based on quite a small sample size, so take them with a grain of salt. They may not be representative of every industry or group of topics.

Given this revelation, you may ask yourself, “Why do I keep seeing claims of zero-volume keywords driving lots of traffic?” 

From what I’ve seen, it’s almost always a result of people conflating traffic from a single keyword with a page’s overall traffic.

Here’s just one example I saw in this excellent post by Tory Gray:

LinkedIn post about zero-volume keywords

I wouldn’t like to say for definite, but my guess is that the zero-volume keyword this person is referring to is just an unpopular way of searching for something popular.

For example, Ahrefs estimates that the keyword “submit domain to search engines” gets 10 monthly searches in the U.S. Yet our search engine submission guide gets an estimated 3.8K monthly search visits.

Estimated U.S. monthly search volume for "submit domain to search engines"
Estimated monthly U.S. search traffic for our post about submitting your site to search engines

This happens because “submit domain to search engines” is an unpopular way of searching for a popular topic. It’s just that everyone types slightly different things into Google, so individual search volumes are low.

Our page gets lots of search traffic because it ranks for hundreds of long-tail keywords that all mean pretty much the same thing. 

Some of the many keywords our post about submitting a website to search engines ranks on the first page of Google for

key takeaway

Most low- and zero-volume keywords get roughly the same number of monthly searches as estimated. There are just some outliers. Many claims of pages targeting zero-volume keywords getting lots of traffic likely happen because the keyword is a long-tail variation of a popular topic. 

They’re easier to rank for”

Given that most SEOs target high-volume keywords, it’s pretty obvious that low- or zero-volume keywords will be less competitive on the whole.

For example, according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, the keyword “link building” gets an estimated 14K monthly searches in the U.S. So it’s no surprise that it’s also extremely competitive, with a Keyword Difficulty (KD) score of 87.

Estimated U.S. monthly search volume for "link building"

Compare this to a zero-volume keyword about a similar topic, “link building for roofers,” and it’s a completely different story. Its KD score is 0. 

Estimated U.S. monthly search volume for "link building for roofers"

Given this observation, it seems clear that low- and zero-volume keywords are easier to rank for.

Is it really this simple? 

Not quite. Although many low- or zero-volume keywords are indeed much easier to rank for, many of them are unpopular ways of searching for something popular.

The keyword we discussed before, “submit domain to search engines,” is a perfect example of this. It only gets an estimated 10 monthly searches, but it’s no easier to rank for when compared to a more popular way of searching for the same thing.

Keyword Difficulty (KD) scores for two similar keywords, one of which is a low-volume keyword

This happens because Google understands that both of these queries mean the same thing, so it ranks an almost identical set of search results for both queries.

Most of the top-ranking pages for "submit domain to search engines" and "submit website to search engines" are the same

In Ahrefs, there are a couple of metrics you can use to help figure out whether a zero-volume keyword is its own topic or a long-tail variation of a popular keyword.

  1. Keyword Difficulty (KD) – Keywords with high KD scores have top-ranking pages with many backlinks. Given that this isn’t usually the case for unpopular topics, a zero-volume keyword with a low KD score likely represents its own topic.
  2. Traffic Potential (TP) score – Traffic Potential is the estimated monthly search traffic to the current top-ranking page for a keyword. If this is much higher than a keyword’s estimated search volume, it shows there are other more popular ways of searching for the same thing.

Here’s an example of Traffic Potential in action:

Estimated U.S. Traffic Potential for "submit domain to search engines"

key takeaway

Not all zero-volume keywords are easy to rank for. If they’re less popular ways of searching for something popular, they’re probably no easier to rank for than their “head” terms. 

They’re easier to create content for”

Most high-volume keywords are quite broad, which makes it hard to create content around them to please all searchers. 

For example, take the keyword “ecommerce SEO.” Judging by the SERP, the broad intent behind this keyword seems obvious: Searchers want a guide that teaches them how to get more traffic to their stores.

People searching for "ecommerce seo" want a guide

But unfortunately, it’s hard to give SEO advice that applies to all searchers because the query doesn’t tell us enough about their situation. There are too many variables, such as:

  • Are they setting up their store, or is it already live?
  • Are they selling branded or non-branded products?
  • Are they using Shopify, WooCommerce, or something else?

Compare this to a zero-volume keyword about a similar topic like “how to structure an ecommerce site for SEO.” Here, the searcher is trying to achieve a much more specific goal, which makes this (and other low-volume keywords) easier to answer with content.

Is it really this simple?

Kind of. Assuming the zero-volume keyword represents its own topic and isn’t just a less popular way of searching for something popular, I’d say it’s almost always quite specific and easier to create content around. 

That said, specificity isn’t exactly a unique quality of low- or zero-volume keywords. There are plenty of high-volume keywords with very specific and obvious intents too; they’re just less common. 

For example, take the keyword “submit website to search engines.” Despite a monthly search volume of 450, it’s pretty obvious from the SERP and the query itself that searchers want to learn how to submit their sites to search engines. 

People searching for "submit website to search engines" want to know how to submit their websites

Given that the process of submitting to search engines is the same for every website, it’s easy to create content that will please almost all searchers.

key takeaway

Most zero-volume keywords that represent their own topics are quite specific and easy to create content around. But that’s also true of some higher-volume keywords. 

They convert better”

Not only is it easier to create content for more specific searches, but they also often convert better.

For example, take a keyword like “broken link building.” Even though this isn’t a particularly high-volume keyword, it’s clear from the SERP that intent is informational. Most searchers want to learn how to use this technique, not buy broken link building services.

People searching for "broken link building" want to learn

Compare this to a zero-volume keyword about the same topic like “buy broken link building services,” and it’s a different story. Searchers are clearly looking to buy, not learn. 

People searching for "buy broken link building services" want to buy

Is it really this simple? 

Not quite. Although low- and zero-volume keywords are perhaps more likely to be BoFu, it’s not a given. Plenty of zero-volume keywords are far from lucrative. 

For example, take the zero-volume keyword “how to copy a picture on facebook without tagging.” Even if actual search volume is way higher than estimated, you’re hardly going to drive conversions from this keyword.

key takeaway

Not all low- and zero-volume keywords convert well. It depends on the intent behind them. 

Final thoughts

It doesn’t make much sense to hunt down and target “zero-volume keywords” when there are plenty with search volumes ripe for the taking. 

However, there are a couple of times when targeting a zero-volume keyword may make sense:

  1. You come across a trending topic that you think has legs – Even if there’s no reported search volume yet, it’s often worth creating a page to get in first.
  2. You come across a lucrative topic with the potential to convert visitors – Even a few visits from these keywords can be worth $$$$, so why not create a page around it and see what happens? 

Got questions? Disagree with me? Ping me on Twitter.



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SEO

How do you hire an SEO manager?

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How do you hire an SEO manager

30-second summary:

  • Business leaders struggle to hire SEO managers, and often wonder if they need one
  • SEO visibility is key to business success and is hard to increase your customer base and sales
  • SEO is a great contributor to brand growth and essentially needs the right mindset
  • This is a checklist to help you hire the right fit for your business

If you’re looking to improve your website’s search engine ranking, you may be wondering how to go about hiring an SEO manager. It can be a daunting task, but with the right information, it can be more straightforward than you think.

In this article, we will discuss some of the things you should consider when hiring an SEO manager. We’ll also provide some tips on how to make sure your team works well together and gets the most out of your SEO manager.

Why hire an SEO manager?

Without an SEO manager, it’s often difficult to know where to start when it comes to improving your website’s search engine visibility. And without valuable organic traffic, it’s hard to increase your customer base and sales. SEO can be a big contributor to brand growth.

An SEO manager can help you identify the best strategies for improving your website’s search presence. They will also be able to monitor overall performance, spot potential improvement opportunities, and create effective tactics to get the best results from your website’s content.

This includes conducting keyword research and creating SEO content, optimizing existing website pages, analyzing traffic sources, managing link-building campaigns, monitoring search engine performance, and regularly reporting on the progress of organic traffic. An SEO manager will ensure that your business sees SEO progress much more quickly.

What responsibilities does an SEO manager have?

The primary responsibility of an SEO manager is to ensure that your website ranks as high as possible in search engine results (not just Google, but Bing, and Amazon too).

If you’re not on the first page of Google for your most important keywords, you’re missing huge sales opportunities. This is particularly true for ecommerce SEO, where a poorly-performing website and SEO strategy can literally be the difference between a thriving business and bankruptcy.

It is crucial to hire an SEO manager who understands all aspects of SEO, including technical SEO, content-related tasks, analytics tracking, website performance, and link building.

They should have the ability to assess the current health of a website, developing plans to improve ranking in organic search results. The successful candidate should also be able to track and analyze performance metrics, such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and bounce rates.

What characteristics make a good SEO manager?

When looking for an SEO manager, you’ll want to find someone who is knowledgeable in the field, has good communication skills, is a self-starter, and can work independently.

Personality traits are key too. The person should be creative, persistent, and have a passion for problem-solving. They should also have good organizational skills and the ability to prioritize tasks.

It is important that the SEO manager you hire is a team player, and can take direction from upper management. Having the ability to build relationships with stakeholders and clients is also essential.

The importance of project management

Project management skills are essential for an SEO manager as they will need to coordinate activities between multiple teams and departments, manage timelines and budgets, and report on project progress.

Without good project management skills, an SEO manager will struggle to get results and could cause delays in achieving desired outcomes.

How can you ensure that your team gels well?

The key to creating a successful SEO team is finding people with complementary skills who work well together. This involves looking for individuals who have experience in different aspects of digital marketing, such as content writing, web design, and analytics.

You don’t want to hire a team of people who are all experts in the same field, as this will limit your team’s ability to think creatively and come up with innovative ideas.

It is also important to ensure that your SEO manager has good interpersonal skills. Having an open-door policy where everyone can easily communicate with each other is essential. This will help build trust between team members and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Having an open dialogue between all team members will also be crucial. This will ensure their feedback and input on how best to optimize the content or improve strategies.

Ideas for welcoming and onboarding your new hire

This could include creating an onboarding checklist, setting up regular meetings, assigning tasks to the team members, and scheduling time for team-building activities. Do make sure your SEO manager has face time with key leads from across the business to get a strong understanding of the business and its needs. This pays off in the long run.

Hiring in-house vs SEO outsourcing

When it comes to deciding if you should hire an in-house SEO manager, outsource the work to an SEO agency, or simply get a freelancer – you need to gauge the pros and cons.

Hiring in-house may be more expensive but can provide a greater level of control and allows for closer collaboration with the team. You totally own your processes and have granular input on everything.

On the other hand, outsourcing to an agency or freelance professional may be more cost-effective and can provide specialized skills that are not available in-house. Many SEO providers will offer types of monthly SEO packages, which make costs predictable and controllable. And depending on the terms of a contract, you likely have the freedom to cancel whenever you like. This can be much less hassle than employing someone ­– a poorly-performing employee, which can be more troublesome to resolve.

  Hiring in-house Hiring an SEO agency or freelancer
Pros • Greater control and collaboration

• Easier to monitor progress

• Assign tasks quickly

• Affordable

• Access to specialized skills

• High level of expertise and experience

Cons • Can be more expensive

• Limited experience level

• Can be difficult to find the right candidate

 

• Lack of control over the process

• Communication can be more difficult

• Accountability can be less clear

Interview questions to ask your potential SEO manager

When interviewing a potential SEO manager, you should ask some specific questions to make sure they are the right fit. These can include questions about their experience with SEO, how they stay up-to-date on algorithm changes, and what strategies they would use to improve your website’s ranking.

Example starter questions

  • What experience do you have with SEO?
  • How do you stay up to date on algorithm changes?
  • What strategies would you use to improve our website’s ranking?
  • How would you optimize our content for search engine visibility?
  • What kind of link-building tactics do you employ?
  • What do you consider to be the most important SEO trends?

Common mistakes to avoid when hiring a new candidate

When hiring an SEO manager, there are some common mistakes you should avoid:

Not understanding the responsibilities of an SEO Manager

It is vital you have a clear idea of what the job entails and that the candidate has the relevant skills for the position.

Not considering the team’s current culture

When bringing someone new onto your team it is important to consider how they will fit in with existing colleagues.

Not asking enough questions during interviews

Make sure you ask any potential candidates about their experience and qualifications, as well as their ability to work with the team and manage client relationships.

Not setting clear goals for the role

Setting clear expectations will ensure that everyone is on the same page from the outset and that any targets are achievable.

Not agreeing on a budget

Before you start your search, make sure to set a realistic budget for this role. This will help you determine how much you can afford to pay, and what kind of person is best suited to the job.

Not conducting background checks

Background checks are important when hiring an SEO manager as they will provide insight into their past experience and any qualifications they may have. It’s also a good way to make sure that there are no discrepancies in their resume.

FAQ

Q: How do I find an SEO manager?

A: You can look for SEO managers on job boards, or hire a freelancer or agency. Make sure to ask them questions about their experience and qualifications, as well as their ability to work with the team and manage client relationships.

Q: What should I look for in an SEO manager?

A: A good SEO manager should have experience with SEO, and up-to-date knowledge of algorithm changes and strategies to improve a website’s ranking. They should also be able to optimize content for search engine visibility, employ link-building tactics and keep track of the latest SEO trends.

Q: How much does it cost to hire an SEO manager?

A: The cost of hiring an SEO manager will depend on the level of experience, skills, and services required. Generally, in-house managers can be more expensive than agencies or freelance professionals. It’s important to set a realistic budget before you start your search.

Q: Is it a good idea to hire an SEO manager overseas to work remotely?

A: This depends on the situation. Hiring a remote SEO manager can be beneficial if they are highly experienced and able to deliver results, however, communication and accountability can be more challenging with remote workers. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before making your final decision. There may also be legal or compliance issues when employing internationally.

Closing thoughts

Finding the right SEO manager is an important step in ensuring your website’s success. Make sure to ask potential candidates plenty of questions and take into account their skills, experience, and ability to fit into the team culture before making a decision. Consider both the benefits and disadvantages of hiring an in-house employee or outsourcing to an agency or freelancer, and don’t forget to set a budget. With the right candidate on board, you’ll be well on your way to achieving long-term SEO success.


Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

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