Keyword Search Volume, Or the Most Important Feature of a Keyword Tool

 6 min read

Semrush just announced that it’s making substantial algo improvements to the way it collects and processes keyword data. And apparently, the platform now covers 98-99% of all actively searched US keywords.

As you probably know, Semrush has always been one of my favorites when it comes to keyword research. But database size or even coverage don’t always imply quality or accuracy, and that’s the most important thing in the entire keyword research process.

So I wanted to walk you through some of the key aspects of keyword research — to help you see what you should really be paying attention to when choosing the right tool that can help you focus on keywords that can actually bring the biggest value and, hence, go smart about website optimization.

Factors That Can Help You Assess the Quality of Your Keyword Tool

As much as I wouldn’t entice you to focus primarily on the size of the database, it’s definitely something to factor in.

If your tool has a significantly smaller keyword database than all the other solutions, you just won’t get the exposure to the whole range of keywords you can assess and potentially optimize your site for.

In this regard, Semrush is already known as the platform that has the largest keyword database among the competition.

keyword anaytics for semrush

Image source: Semrush

This point is easy to analyze yourself as most solutions report the total number of keywords they have in store.

But here comes the kind of data that you can’t take anyone’s word for — keyword data coverage and search volume data accuracy.

Just as mentioned above, Semrush claims to cover 99% of all actively searched US keywords. What does that really mean?

Keyword coverage implies that a tool returns data for a given percentage of all keywords in a specific location. The latter is important because you can have the largest database, but it’s a general number. Yet when you go into the specifics, you might find out that you don’t see any keyword data for your specific location.

The most crucial factor, however, is search volume data accuracy. And it’s the hardest one to assess because only Google itself knows the real stats.

Why It’s Hard to Assess Search Volume Data Accuracy

The thing is, as with most things Google and SEO, the biggest search engine doesn’t like to share too much information.

Yet many SEOs turn to Google-native tools in search of some keyword data.

You may ask now what’s wrong with Google Keyword Planner or Google Search Console?

The former only shows you keyword search volume ranges.

Google Keyword Planner (Image source)

And as you can see, you cannot rely much on a range that has a 10,000 search frequency difference between the lowest and the highest number.

Then, there’s a more precise Google Search Console tool. It’s absolutely crucial for analyzing your own keyword portfolio—you see all the stats you need for optimizing your current efforts. As for the actual process of keyword research that, well, implies research, it’s not very useful.

First, Google Search Console actually doesn’t show you search volumes. It only reports impressions that reflect the number of times your link was seen by users. Secondly, it only returns data for keywords you rank for, which is pointless if you want to find new keyword ideas or explore competitors’ keyword strategies.

Measuring Keyword Tool Quality

Lack of use of the Google-native tools leads us to wonder—how do you, then, assess whether your tool is really all that great for keyword research?

That’s where external studies come in.

And although it’s hard to find benchmarks that you can compare tools’ numbers against, some folks manage to get enough data from Google Search Console to run the analysis.

One such study came to my attention as it came out just after Semrush released its keyword data upgrade. So this should help us unveil how much Semrush really lives up to its promise and reputation as the most reliable keyword research tool on the market.

This study took stats from anonymized Google Search Console data that was filtered down to keywords where they could be sure impressions reflected search volumes (you can see the full methodology here).

Then, they looked up those same keywords in all the most commonly used keyword tools—Semrush, Moz, Ahrefs, Serpstat, Sistrix, and Mangools. It even compared the data to Google Keyword Planner’s free version—just to showcase how much more reliable it is in relation to third-party data.

Ready to see the study results and discover the most accurate keyword research tool on the market? Just keep reading!

Search volume data quality assessed

First, let’s look at the comparison of each tool’s search volume stats with the reference data from Google Search Console.

percentage of semrush keyword search volumes closest to gsc

Note: The higher the percentage, the closer the match between Google Search Console and tools’ values.

Semrush has the closest match, with 33% of the keywords showing exactly the same search volume numbers as Google Search Console.

Interestingly, its accuracy is even higher than Google Keyword Planner’s free version. And this means that out of all the solutions we have here, Semrush comes at the top, as other third-party tools have lower data quality than the free-to-use GKP.

Since Semrush came first, its search volume was also stacked up against the other tools:

the best keyword search volume accuracy

The discrepancy here looks more obvious with Semrush always having at least 30% higher accuracy compared to any other tool.

Keyword data coverage assessed

We already discussed the importance of checking keyword data coverage.

While a lot of tools do mention how large their coverage is, we’d rather look at unbiased research that makes the assessment.

The graph below shows which tool returned more “not found” keywords, or search queries for which third-party tools simply don’t have any data.

So clearly, the lower the count, the higher the coverage.

percentage of keywords not found in keywrd tools 

Note: Keywords with no data returned.

It’s once again Semrush that tops the list, with fewer than 2% of keywords coming with no data.

Even Google Keyword Planner (free) returned more “not found” keywords, with the likes of Ahrefs and Moz lagging behind.

Since the study was exploring each tool’s US database, Semrush’s 98-99% US coverage claim is now back with data and is absolutely true.

Why Search Volumes Are Important For Your SEO Strategy

If the concept of data quality still sounds like an extravagance to you, just consider a few reasons why SEOs, marketers, and site owners need this data.

Keyword search volumes define all the key aspects of your site performance and even marketing research:

  • They can help you prioritize your keyword optimization strategy helping you to focus on keywords that attract enough user interest and are not so competitive.
  • They can reflect any seasonality — for instance, a search query “Christmas gift” would always have a higher search volume in the November-December months than in July or August. Well, this was an obvious example, but if you want to pinpoint seasonality in less evident keywords, you’d need search volume to make the assessment.
  • They can even impact your product strategy by pointing at any shifts in user demand. If fewer people Google whatever product feature (say, headphones) but there is a spike in interest for another feature (say, wireless headphones), as E-Commerce you could make your choice of offerings based on that.
  • They can obviously give you a rough estimate of traffic you might receive if you rank for a given keyword. While you will never see search volumes translate directly into visitors, it can still give you a great overview of what to expect.

As you can see, having a keyword tool that has the highest accuracy can make a big difference to your online success.

Therefore, I’m happy to let you know that you can now catch a special 30-day free trial offer for Semrush—officially (and research-backed) the most accurate keyword tool on the market!

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