Should You Target Zero-Volume Keywords? It Depends

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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’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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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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