Keyword Metrics for Beginners and How to Use Them

Samuel Podolsky | March 11, 2022 | SEO

Climbing up the Google search engine results page (SERP) organically is a knife fight for an organization of any size or industry. It takes time and serious effort, but there are ways to expedite the process.

Of these methods, keyword research and implementation stands above them all.

Google compiles results pages by determining how relevant any given webpage is to a particular search. The more relevant a webpage, the higher it appears in the search, and pages are determined relevant if certain keywords in their on-page text match the keywords that were searched.

Seems simple, right? It is — at first. But you may also be asking yourself: “how do I find the right keywords to use?”

That’s where keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs or Moz come into play. While every keyword research tool has its unique features, each tracks the most important metrics needed to select the right keywords for your organization.

Here are the metrics you should look out for and how you can use them to craft a killer keyword strategy.

Search Volume

Sometimes simply called “volume,” this is the average amount of monthly searches for keywords over a 12-month period.

Volume is arguably the most important metric because it demonstrates a keyword’s viability in straightforward terms. If a keyword is getting a lot of traffic, it's likely worth pursuing. If its search volume is low or non-existent, it means a market doesn’t exist or there are other, more appropriate keywords that could be used for greater success.

In a perfect world, you might try to rank No. 1 on Google for the highest-searched keywords. Unfortunately, many others share that attitude, and there is stiff competition from websites that have occupied top slots for years, as well as emerging competitors. Luckily, there’s a metric to determine whether they are worth pursuing, and that metric is…

Keyword Difficulty (KD)

While each keyword research tool calculates KD slightly differently, they primarily consider domain authority, number and quality of backlinks, and strength of the competitors’ content. 

All you need to know is that KD ranges from one to 100, with increasing numbers corresponding to increasing difficulty to rank for a given keyword.

A keyword with a lower KD will likely only require your page to contain quality content relating to that keyword. On the other hand, ranking well for keywords with a high KD will take longer and require more sophisticated SEO strategies, like building up quality backlinks and promoting content across the web.

But there’s something else that can throw off your plans for keyword domination.

Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

This handy number shows how much it costs to artificially push your page to the top of a keyword’s SERP and have exactly one person click on it.

If you trust your content to convert and the CPC is cheap, it may pay to run some ads. Just keep in mind it likely takes hundreds of clicks before a customer swipes a card, applies for more information, or schedules a consultation.

However, a high CPC means lots of advertisers are fighting for consumer attention, so you’re likely going to have to pay a premium just to compete, and organic clicks will be even harder to come by. 

Adding Up The Numbers

Keyword research can be overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will become integral to more than just optimizing your online presence. It will inform how you create content, position your organization’s offerings, and more.

But it's also not everything. Although there are more metrics you can dive into at your own pace, it’s vital to remember that the best SEO is one part of a holistic strategy. Don’t focus all your attention on keywords — ensure your content is eye-catching, applicable, and accessible to your target audience and anyone else who finds your website.

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