Is Bigger Search Volume Always Better?

Let’s play a game!

Let’s say you were a freelance copywriter specializing in pharmaceutical content.

Which keyphrase is the better one to target?

  • The term [freelance copywriter] with 1,900 searches a month.
  • The term [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter] with 10 searches a month.

What’s your answer?

At first glance, [freelance copywriter] looks like the better option. After all, there’s a huge difference between almost 2,000 searches a month and…10.

But, does that mean [freelance copywriter] would be the better keyphrase to choose?

Nope. Not by a long shot.


Let’s look at the Google search results and break this down…

But why ISN’T bigger search volume better?

I know, I know. You see 1,900 searches a month and start salivating. That’s a whole lot of search traffic. Who wouldn’t want all that traffic…and more?

But, is it a smart goal? In this case…no.

Here’s why…

First, let’s do a search for [freelance copywriter].

  • Eight of the top-10 results are informational and targeted toward people looking at freelance copywriting as a career choice (for instance, “how to become a freelance copywriter.”)
  • The other two results? Upwork.

When you see the majority of the top-10 listings filled with informational results with a completely different user intent — the term won’t help you. 

Especially when you figure that prospects are seeing the same informational search results and refining their search accordingly.

After all, they don’t want information about how to start a freelance writing career.

They want to find a freelancer. Like you.

So, let’s take a peek at [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter]. Sure, the search volume isn’t the greatest (10 searches a month versus 1,900.)

Still, the prospects typing in this search term are highly targeted. And that’s the important thing to consider.

There may only be 10 searches this month — but, those 10 people are looking for someone just like you!

When I search Google for [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter], I see some informational results — and, I see competing copywriting sites, too. 

So yes, this keyphrase is a keeper. 

“But Heather — just TEN searches? How are terms like that worth my time?”

I get it. What I’m saying sounds counterintuitive.

Remember the keyphrase is highly targeted. The only time someone will type in something like [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter] is if they are looking for a….you got it…pharmaceutical copywriter who freelances.

You’re not wasting time trying to position for a competitive keyphrase with a totally different user intent.

You’re not focusing on general key terms that your target audience won’t type into Google.

You’re focusing on what works — even if those search volume numbers aren’t ginormous. 


Do you write for B2B sites?

You will see the low search volume issue all the time. 

Heck, you will even see “no results found” for some keyphrase searches — even when it’s a common industry term that returns relevant pages when you type it into Google.

This is normal. It happens because the search terms see such few searches, they aren’t shown in keyphrase research tools.

It doesn’t mean they’re bad terms. They’re just…unique.

Just remember that relevance trumps search volume every time.

In fact, focusing on keyphrase specificity (and user intent) can be one of the most difficult things for a new SEO writer to master. Especially when the high search volume numbers are calling.

What do you think?

Do you have clients that ask you to land them a top-10 result for an untargeted search term? Have you personally fallen into the “bigger search volume is better” trap? (It’s OK — it happens to a lot of people.) Leave a comment and let me know!

4 replies
  1. Marty Rogers says:

    Considering the majority of searches performed on Google are in the long-tail category it makes perfect sense to adopt a long-tail strategy and, in this instance, makes zero sense to target the broader term as they’re not our target buyers. All depends on the situation and product / service on offer, but you can’t go wrong with a long-tail / granular campaign.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      YES! “The ultimate goal is to increase search volume in a strategic way.” Love it — thanks, Nick!


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