Search volume is always a metric to pay attention to when using keyword planners and keyword research tools.
Traditionally, SEOs prefer targeting keywords with high search volume and a low keyword difficulty score. It makes sense, as you don’t want to spend valuable time and resources optimizing your content for keywords that get ZERO search volume, right?
Or is there actually merit in targeting zero search volume keywords?
It turns out that keywords with zero or very low search volume can actually be extremely valuable if they have the right search intent.
As such, you can generate a ton of traffic without having to worry about competition with zero search volume keywords. After all, 16 – 20% of all keywords searched for on Google each day are brand-new – meaning no one has ever searched for them before.
These keywords are an SEO loophole of sorts, as they often fly under the radar without a ton of companies competing to rank for them.
Yet, there’s a lot to know when targeting one of these keywords. While some are true goldmines, others are worthy of their null status. That makes it pretty tricky to find the right keyword to target if you don’t know what you’re doing.
That’s why we put together this guide explaining how you can uncover zero-search volume keywords that will generate tons of untapped traffic.
Along the way, you’ll learn more about long-tail keywords, the unreliability of keyword planner tool data, and how to use the Keyword Golden Ratio (KGR) technique – so read on to learn more.
Understanding Zero Search Volume Keywords
A zero search volume keyword is a search query that has little to no search volume – at least according to SEO tools. A keyword may also show zero search volume if the research tools don’t have any data for it yet – especially if it’s a relatively new keyword.
Zero search keywords are always long-tail keywords that contain for or more words and are highly specific as a result.
Why is that?
It depends on how most users enter search terms into Google and other engines. More often than not, users search for brief keywords that contain only one or two words.
These short-tail keywords are often the ones with the highest search volume. Typically, the more words you add to a keyword, the lower the search volume gets.
Let’s take a look at a real-world example with the keyword organic traffic.
Using our keyword planner tool from The HOTH, we can see that the term has a search volume of 1,300 and a keyword difficulty (KD) score of 62, which is pretty steep.
Yet, if we add a few words to the phrase, it becomes a different story. Let’s try SEO for organic traffic now.
Once we do, the tool shows 0 search volume and 0 KD score, which is a picture-perfect example of a zero search volume keyword.
Going by the planner tool alone, you’d assume that the keyword has no traction online and isn’t worth pursuing at all.
Yet, is that true?
Let’s learn more to find out.
Zero Search Volume and Long-Tail Keywords: What’s the Difference?
Essentially, zero search volume and long-tail keywords are the same things. That’s because most long-tail keywords have little to no search volume at all due to their complexity.
However, there are many different ways that users can phrase long-tail keywords. Going with the example of SEO for organic traffic, users could also search for the following:
- How to do SEO for organic traffic
- Organic traffic for SEO
- Using SEO to generate organic traffic
These are all different ways of saying the same thing, and they’ll count as phrase matches for the base keyword SEO for organic traffic.
Why does this matter for zero search volume keywords?
It does because while one keyword may have no search volume, all the related keywords combined could have a considerable search volume.
That’s why zero search volume keywords can be so deceiving. At first glance on a keyword planner tool, it seems that they have no value – but in actuality, they could generate a ton of traffic for you due to phrase matches.
The best way to determine if a zero search volume KW is worth pursuing is to determine its search intent.
In particular, if you can optimize your content for one variation of a pertinent user question (such as How to do SEO for organic traffic), your website will likely appear in the SERPs for all related searches.
That’s because Google’s algorithms are savvy enough to understand that the phrase matches have the same intent, which is why your webpage will show up in the SERPs for them all.
Keyword Planner Tools: How Accurate Are They?
According to almost every SEO guru out there, the winning ticket is to go after high-volume keywords with low competition.
To them, all you need is a keyword planner tool to get the job done. Simply enter a keyword, check the search volume and KD score, and that’s all you need to do.
But is it really that simple?
While that’s by no means a losing method, it fails to see the whole picture. In particular, it’s too trusting of the search volume data generated by these tools.
While keyword planner tools are excellent for conducting research, their search volume data is by no means concrete or set in stone. All it takes to prove this is to check the volume for the same keyword on two different tools. You’ll likely find that the two numbers vary, sometimes by a wide margin.
For instance, our Google keyword planner has the search volume for link building at 9,900, while Ahrefs has it at 14K.
Which one is correct?
There’s no way of knowing, and it has to do with how these types of tools get their data (more on this in a bit).
These tools also struggle to capture low-volume keywords. That’s because most tools require keywords to have a certain amount of data to register in their database.
For all these reasons, it’s best to use keyword planner data as more of a general guide than treating the metrics as stone-cold facts. Since most companies (especially larger ones) take keyword planners at their word, zero search volume keywords are largely an untapped market that startups and small businesses can take advantage of.
How keyword tools acquire search data
The reason search volume data is so off with keyword planners is that they get their data from Google’s Keyword Planner.
The problem with that is Google’s tool is primarily used for commercial intent searches only. As a result, it does not provide search volume data for informational or exact match search queries, which means it excludes thousands of searches.
That’s why queries with informational intent often wind up as low search volume keywords – or they don’t register any volume at all.
Beyond the unreliable data source, there’s also the fact that Google search generates a whopping 5.6 billion daily queries.
That’s way too much data for any SEO company or planner tool to handle, which is why these tools make their “best-educated guess” when it comes to calculating search volume. That means the number you see on these tools is an estimate, not a concrete number.
Google’s Keyword Planner is to thank for this, as it uses traffic buckets to group keywords by volume – something discovered by Moz back in 2015.
What are those?
A traffic bucket is a number representing the accumulated volume of many different keywords, which form different ‘thresholds’ for search volume. For instance, one traffic bucket might be 21,000.
Suppose a keyword shows a search volume of 21,000 – that only means that it was the closest to that bucket. The next bucket may be 30,000 – which will encompass all the volumes higher than 21,000.
That’s also why you’ll see inaccurate traffic/search volume numbers for your website if you enter it into one of these tools.
The Benefits of Targeting Zero and Low-Volume Keywords
By now, you may be wondering, “What’s in it for me? Is there really enough benefit in targeting zero search volume keywords? Will it deter me from my already successful SEO strategy of targeting high-volume keywords?”
The answer is no, it won’t – and you stand to gain quite a bit from zero search keyword phrases if you do it right.
Instead of targeting low-competition keywords, you’ll be targeting keywords with next to NO competition.
While everyone else is competing to rank for a handful of short-tail keywords, you can dominate the long-tail ones (which may turn out to generate more traffic than the others) with nary a competitor in sight.
Even with a relatively low keyword difficulty score, you’re still having to compete with countless other companies and bloggers, which is a lot of pressure.
With the perfect zero search volume keyword, you’ll be able to operate in a space with virtually no competitors, which is an incredible advantage. That dramatically increases your chances of ranking on the first page of search engine results pages, and who’s not a fan of that?
Higher rankings aren’t the only perks of targeting keywords with no search volume, either, so let’s take a look at some of the most attractive benefits.
#1: Be the early bird for hot new search trends
Monitoring search trends is an essential aspect of SEO, so you must sign up for Google Trends if you haven’t already.
Articles that dominate the short-tail keyword space have often been around for quite some time and are extremely difficult to outrank, especially for smaller companies and startups.
These established sites often have thousands of high-quality backlinks that secure their high-ranking spots.
However, while competing with these SEO behemoths may be a fruitless endeavor, there are ways to solidify your website in a top spot for new queries about to take off in popularity.
If you know your niche well enough, you’ll be able to spot trending keywords before anyone else. Sure, they may show zero search volume at the moment, but that’s about to change. By targeting these keywords now, you’ll be one of the first to ride their upward trend.
As the search volume skyrockets, your website will lead the fray in terms of content and keyword optimization – all because you beat everyone to the punch by targeting keywords that weren’t trending at the time but showed potential.
Uncovering keywords that are about to start trending
How do you spot keywords that show potential to trend?
This is where it really pays to know your niche. If you have considerable expertise in your field and stay up to date with the latest news, you’ll likely be able to predict what users are going to start searching for online.
For instance, if you’re in the gadgets and technology niche and a new tech giant is about to release a new product, targeting long-tail keyword phrases surrounding it is a great way to get the jump on queries about to start trending.
Besides that, you can also take to social media to discover what users are starting to buzz about. A valid strategy is to search for trending hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to get a headstart on keywords that are soon to take off. Social media hashtags can also provide a glimpse into user intent, such as #OOTD (outfit-of-the-day, which shows interest in buying clothing).
Google Trends is your best friend here, as you’ll need to not only run each keyword through it to see if it’s about to trend – but also monitor it after you optimize your content. That way, you’ll be able to spot the spike in popularity.
If it never happens, you’ll need to tweak your strategy and choose a better keyword. If it does spike, you can pat yourself on the back, knowing your webpage will be one of the first discovered, indexed, and ranked by Google’s algorithms.
#2: Generate more organic traffic
Even if your website already ranks well for high-volume keywords, it’s still worth pivoting your strategy to include some long-tail zero-search volume keywords to reach an even wider audience.
Why is that?
Think back to the stat shared at the beginning of this article – 16 – 20% of all searches on Google are brand-new.
That means you could be missing out on 16 – 20% of your potential traffic, which is significant, to say the least. That’s why zero search volume keyword targeting is a smart move for all companies, regardless of how successful you currently are in the search.
The fact is that most companies don’t target long-tail keywords at all because they blindly follow the data from keyword planner tools – which is ironic because long-tail keywords account for a whopping 70% of search queries.
So by targeting these longer queries, you’re tapping into a largely untapped pool of potential customers that have shown interest in what you do.
#3: Far less competition
The sheer number of competitors out there is what hinders most traditional SEO strategies. Even with outstanding content and flawless technical SEO, you can get outranked due to a number of factors, such as:
- Competitors that have more backlinks with higher authority
- Optimized local business listings
- Competition from industry behemoths (Wikipedia, Amazon, Facebook, etc.)
- They’re already established pages that have secured their spot for a long time
As you can see, even with an airtight SEO strategy, quite a bit can get in the way that’s out of your hands – and that’s only in the organic search listings.
We haven’t even mentioned the PPC ads and SERP features that can outrank your content and steal a ton of clicks. Featured snippets, knowledge panels, and image carousels all show up in position zero, which is above the organic results.
In this regard, zero search volume keywords are the best queries to target.
You’ll get the chance to establish your content as the authority on the subject, with little in the way of competition. Google and other search engines will see your content first during indexing, increasing your chances of ranking in one of the top spots.
To dominate even further, you can optimize your content for SERP features like featured snippets and knowledge panels to snag position zero for your targeted long-tail queries, too.
Once other companies catch on to these topics, you’ll already be at the top of the castle, and they’ll have to compete with your established, thoughtful content.
#4: They help you pin down your target audience
Another benefit of long-tail zero search volume keywords is that they’re highly specific, which means they’re extremely relevant to your audience.
Yet, there’s a noticeable shortage of content created specifically to answer these long-tail queries.
As such, your content will likely be the first of its kind, which will place your content directly in front of your target audience.
Let’s consider an example of how this can happen.
Say you’re producing content for the long-tail keyword ‘increase SEO for SaaS companies.’
Currently, on Ahrefs, this keyword has a search volume of zero, so it’s an ideal target. The chances are high that many SaaS digital marketing managers are searching for this term or one of its phrase matches – but they’re redirected to content focusing on the shorter keyword string ‘SEO for SaaS.’
Yet, if you’re able to create content optimized for the long-tail keyword, you’ll be the first of its kind.
Once you become indexed on search engines, those same digital marketers will find your content instead, which closely aligns with the needs of your target audience. Since your content goes into more detail on how to enhance SEO for SaaS instead of just generalized tips (like the other articles), you can start to win more traffic.
This may even lead to discovering new insights about your audience, such as the types of keywords they search for and the content they prefer.
That’s just one example of how you can use zero search volume keywords to cater to the needs of your niche audience.
How to Target Low-Volume Keywords
Now that you know that targeting zero search volume keywords is more than worth it, you need to learn how to discover and target them.
After all, a keyword with zero search volume doesn’t automatically make it an untapped goldmine.
Plenty of low-volume keywords live up to their reputation – and if you target them in your content, you likely won’t see any results at all.
So are zero search volume keywords one giant gamble?
Not at all, as there are plenty of ways to discover if a low-volume keyword is worth the time and money or not. So before you go targeting every long-tail keyword you can find that relates to your niche, stop and read this section first.
As a business owner/marketing strategist, you must be very careful with the keywords that you select, long-tail or otherwise. Make the right choice, and you’ll enjoy a mountain of organic traffic, leads, and conversions.
Make the wrong choice, and you’ll wind up wasting a significant chunk of your budget, as well as waste valuable and costly work hours.
It’s akin to selecting the right Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so think long and hard before making a decision to ensure you don’t choose poorly.
Nobody wants that to happen, so before you target a keyword, you should:
- Conduct detailed keyword research
- Ensure its relevance with your audience
- Focus on keywords that have commercial intent
- Add strong supporting keywords (LSI)
- Try the KGR method (keyword golden ratio)
- Test your conversion rates and tweak accordingly
It’s imperative that you follow these series of steps before pulling the trigger on a zero search volume keyword, so let’s take a more in-depth look at each one.
Step #1: Conduct keyword research
The keyword research you’ll need to conduct for zero search volume keywords differs a bit from the traditional route.
Instead of relying on keyword planner tools, you’ll want to search for specific long-tail keywords on Google.
Pro tip: To uncover some frequently searched long-tail keywords, check out the ‘People Also Ask‘ section on Google’s SERPs. It will contain four long-tail queries directly related to what you searched for, which is a great way to find related keywords.
To see this in action, let’s try it out with the short-tail keyword ‘SEO for SaaS.’
Once we enter the term into google, here are the long-tail keywords that show up under the People Also Ask section:
- Is SEO important for SaaS?
- How is SEO for SaaS different?
- Is SEO good for B2B?
- What are some commonly used software programs for SEO SaaS?
As you can see, these are all excellent long-tail keywords (that likely have low search volume) that you can target and create content for online.
Another secret weapon you can use is Google’s autocompleting feature.
It’s where you type a few letters of a keyword into Google, and it lists several suggestions via its autocomplete capability. This is huge because these aren’t random suggestions; they’re real keywords that users search for – so they’re all valid KWs you can use.
To make this feature even more effective, get the Keyword Surfer add-on. That way, you’ll be able to see each KWs search volume next to it in the autocomplete section.
Step #2: Ensure the KW has relevance with your audience
Here’s where targeting zero search volume keywords become a bit tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Conducting searches online is all about relevancy. In other words, when you search for something online, you want to find the most relevant webpage as quickly as you can (hence the search rankings).
Yet, when dealing with zero search volume keywords, you have no data to check to see if the KW is relevant.
So how do you find out?
This is where you have to do a bit of detective work. It also pays to have some knowledge of your niche audience, which will help you determine if a KW is about to explode in popularity or not.
In this regard, Twitter, Reddit, forums, and Facebook groups are your best friends. Look for the specific keywords that you want to target in your target audience‘s discussions and news updates.
If you’re able to find them, that’s a sign they’re about to take off on the search engines. Tools like Moz and Semrush can help out with this, as long as you remember to eliminate the brand names.
Also, make your article’s title longer while keeping your URL slug as short as you can. That will make it effortless to change your title as many times as you want without having to compromise any backlinks you picked up along the way.
Step #3: Focus on keywords that have commercial intent
Do you want to boost your sales and conversion rates?
If so, you’ll want to focus on zero-search volume keywords that have strong commercial intent. In other words, the prospect has their wallet in their hand, and they’re ready to buy something.
Commercial intent keywords often contain the phrases:
- Vs. (or comparison)
- Where to buy
All these phrases represent an intent to buy, so you should pepper them into your long-tail queries whenever possible.
Here’s a clever way to see if a keyword has commercial or transactional intent. Head over to Google and enter the keyword into its search bar.
If there are any paid advertisements at the top of the page, that’s a sign that the KW has the intent to buy. You should be all set as long as you add the correct phrases to your KW and double-check it has the right intent through Google.
Why is it beneficial to focus on these types of keywords?
It is because commercial and transactional intent keywords stand the most excellent chance of increasing your revenue and conversions. If you focus on informational keywords, you may generate some traffic – but it’s highly likely that most visitors will leave without making a purchase.
Step #4: Add supporting keywords
Next, adding latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords to your primary keyword is a good idea.
What are those?
LSI keywords are supporting keywords that directly relate to your target keyword. Adding these keywords can help you rank for additional, related keywords – often referred to as ‘low-hanging fruit.’
Yet, the accumulation of traffic from these additional keywords can be quite profound. In fact, it’s possible to boost your overall traffic 10x due to adding variations to your seed keyword.
These keywords often take the form of questions (such as the queries found in the People Also Ask section of Google). As such, answering these questions in your content will increase your chances of gaining additional search engine real estate for those queries.
Step #5: The KGR method
Affiliate marketing guru Doug Cunnington coined the keyword golden ratio method, which involves finding long-tail keywords that are underrepresented (sound familiar).
It’s a data-driven strategy that follows a strict formula:
- KGR = allintitle results (all results on Google containing your keyword) / total search volume
Using this formula, you can predict (with surprising accuracy) where you’ll rank in the SERPs and how long it will take.
For instance, if your KGR is less than 0.25, you should rank in the top 100 results as soon as Google indexes your page. As such, you should go after keywords if they score under 0.25.
Step #6: Test conversions with PPC advertising
If you have the budget, you can test the effectiveness of a low-search volume keyword with PPC ads.
Pair a product or offer with a zero search volume keyword and see how well it performs. You can also run A/B testing to determine which variation performs better for a more significant return.
You can also use retargeting with Facebook Ads to take another crack at customers that left your webpage without buying anything.
Concluding Thoughts: Zero Search Volume Keywords
If your SEO efforts have hit a snag, it could be that you’re targeting keywords that are too competitive. Everyone and their brother goes after short-tail keywords, so be a trendsetter and do the opposite.
With the proper research and preparation, zero search volume keywords can generate loads of traffic and conversions for you.
Remember to do thorough research, focus on commercial intent keywords, and use the KGR method wherever possible.
Do you lack the manpower or resources at your company to launch an SEO strategy?
Then don’t wait to check out our managed SEO services at HOTH X today.