How Low is “Low Search Volume”?


Browsing through your Google AdWords account, you notice some of your keywords are not showing due to “low search volume”. Hovering your mouse over the speech bubble, the ad diagnostic tool pops up:
google adwords ad diagnostic tool

According to Google AdWords Help, your keyword is not showing because not enough people are searching for your keyword.

“Low search volume” keywords are keywords associated with very little search traffic on Google properties. In which case, we suspend your keyword. This state is only temporary, and these keywords will be reactivated if we find that they could start delivering traffic.

So just how much search traffic is “very little search traffic”?

To find out, I decided to count every “low search volume” keyword in an AdWords account over a 3 month period. Of the 2,823 keywords that received at least one impression, 804 keywords (28.5%) were “low search volume”. That’s over a quarter of keywords.

Although most of these “low search volume” keywords were in fact that, low search volume, some had a relatively high number of searches: 108, 117, 126, 135, 156 and even 573 (see graph below). I’d hardly call 573 searches “low search volume”.

Google AdWords Low Search Volume Impressions Graph

What’s more, although “low search volume” keywords accounted for only 3.60% of total impressions, they generated a disproportionately high 5.33% of total clicks. Their CTR was 1.72%, compared to only 1.17% for normal search volume keywords, despite a similar average position of 2.63 and 2.70 respectively. That’s a higher CTR for “low search volume keywords” by almost 50%.

5% doesn’t sound like much. So is there any point having “low search volume” keywords in your AdWords account? Or long-tails at all for that matter?

Definitely. My advice is to ignore Google’s “low search volume” advice and continue with your long-tail keyword strategy. Focusing on the long-tail will of course generate a large amount of keywords that will rarely be searched, if at all. But as I point out in 5 Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords, infrequently searched-for keywords generally have less competition, lower CPCs, higher CTRs and higher conversion rates than their short-tailed rivals. En masse, long-tail keywords can be extremely profitable.

Call me a cynic, but I think the whole point of the “low search volume” feature is a means to scare advertisers away from those cheaper, long-tail keywords, and towards more expensive, short-tails in a effort to maximise Google’s revenue (a view shared by Eloi Casali in the comments section of PPCProz’s low search volume post in June). I can’t really see any practical use for the advertiser.

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Alan Mitchell is an experienced Google AdWords specialist, with a proven track record in helping businesses increase their return on investment (ROI) from PPC marketing. To find out how logical PPC marketing can help your business, please get in touch today for a free consultation.

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  1. #1 by John Chen on August 31st, 2009

    G’day Alan, Nice article.

    I can see how longtail campaigns would be useful to capture the odd clicks, and if your ad is the only one to display for a LSV keyword, I’d say your CTR’s would be high. ( as you correctly stated )

    I interested to know out of the

    804 keywords (28.5%) were “low search volume”.

    What is the percentage that had no impressions? meaning the ad was not displayed once. If that makes sense.

  2. #2 by Alan Mitchell on August 31st, 2009

    @John

    Thanks for commenting. The 804 were those LSV keywords which were shown, so all 804 received at least one impression. But if we look at those keywords which failed to show…well, the account had 8,064 keywords, of which 2,823 (35%) appeared at least once. This leaves 5,241 (65%) of keywords which did not.

    Unsurprisingly, every one of these 5,241 keywords were marked as “low search volume”. So out of 6,045 (5,241+804) LSV keywords, 840 (13%) received at least one impression.

  3. #3 by John Chen on August 31st, 2009

    Thanks Alan, I’m still learning the ins and outs of AdWords. your blog was recommenced by @jaaved .

    Looking forward to reading more posts.

  4. #4 by Atlanta Real Estate on September 16th, 2009

    Alan,

    Great, well written article. I have discovered the same in my Adwords experience.

    I have a pretty large adword campaign with maybe 5k terms, ALL longtails, 55+ landing pages and corresponding Ads.

    It delivers like MAD and costs hardly anything.

    If I go into my account it too shows the low volume warnings everywhere, but I just ignore them.

    I’m paying about $0.20 per CT in a ultra competitive market here, Atlanta Real Estate, and getting lots of leads.

    Rob for Atlanta Real Estate

  5. #5 by Walt Monk on September 16th, 2009

    Alan,
    Thanks for this article! I was searching for exactly this answer…but now it leads to another conundrum.

    If Google says that due to “low search volume” your ads were not showing…then how did you arrive at the Impressions and CTR numbers from ads that did not show?

    Sounds like a great deal, get clicks from ads that were never shown. What am I missing?

  6. #6 by Walt Monk on September 22nd, 2009

    A better way of phrasing my question is this:

    Does “Low Search Volume” mean NO Adwords ads using this keyword will be shown…or is this just a warning from Google not to expect many clicks?

  7. #7 by Alan Mitchell on September 22nd, 2009

    @Walt

    Thanks for your question. Keywords marked as ‘low search volume’ will still show, it’s just a warning from Google not to expect many clicks.

    I guess it’s just a way for Google to scare advertisers away from the cheaper, long-tail keywords, and towards the more expensive, generic keywords.

  8. #8 by Walt Monk on September 23rd, 2009

    @Alan
    Thanks…your answer Is what I was hoping was the case.

    BTW I think your content here is excellent!

  9. #9 by Eliezer on January 21st, 2010

    Thanks for your great content.
    I was wondering if in content marketing, google would show ads for low search volume keywords? I’ve tried to test it out with using gmail as the content site and none of my keywords showed any of my ads.
    Any advice?
    Thanks

  10. #10 by Alan Mitchell on January 22nd, 2010

    Hi Eliezer,

    Thanks for your question.

    Search engines use keywords to determine what ads are showed on their search result pages, whereas content networks instead use ‘themes’.

    When you create an ad group with a bunch of keywords for the content network, it isn’t your keywords which are being assessed individually, but instead the overall theme of all your keywords in the ad group. For that reason – and also that there is generally no ‘search volume’ on the content network – low search volume doens’t apply for the content network.

    Hope this helps,
    Alan

  11. #11 by Olaf on March 10th, 2010

    Hi Alan,

    Great blog and very good PPC and Adwords Articles. I think Google has another intention behind the warning. They want to reduce the number of keywords, because it costs them server capacity.

    Greetz from Germany

  12. #12 by Alan Mitchell on March 10th, 2010

    @ Olaf

    You could be right, if each AdWords account had 500,000 obscure keywords it will start to become inefficient. I think it’s also to help reduce AdWords spam, as its impractical for Google to monitor quality for so many keywords, even with bots, but I don’t think they’ve taken the right approach.

    I just hope deactivating low searched for keywords doesn’t remove opportunities for small businesses, who can’t afford to compete with big advertisers on expensive generic keywords, to target highly-qualified small niches and get real value from paid search.

  13. #13 by matt on May 13th, 2010

    The Low Search Volume warnings are different for different accounts. I used to get the warning for many keywords but then it stopped giving those warnings completely after a few months and some decent spend. A few days ago I had to open a new account because it got full of keywords and now the NEW account gives those warnings all the time but it won’t if I add the same keywords on the more experienced account.

  14. #14 by Alan Mitchell on May 14th, 2010

    Hi Matt,

    I think since Low Search Volume is more of signal that an account contains far too many tong-tail kewords to be practical, rather than an absolute measure of search volume, you’re probably right that it can change over time within account of between accounts.

    I would tend to ignore these warnings – as long as your keyword strategy is not too over the top (i.e. bidding for keywords such as ‘cheap long distance flights to Australia with hotel package deals’ then you should be the judge of which keywords should remain in your account.

    Cheers,
    Alan

    Alan

  15. #15 by Algarve Property Management on May 24th, 2011

    The problem is to know which keywords to go after and which ones you should stay away.
    573 searches is not that bad, but for what i understand it is labeled as “low search volume” just like the other 8064 keywords.
    What signs could we possibly use to know that my keyword is that specific “573″ and not the zeros? I know, intuition and experience will help, but is there any other way?

  16. #16 by Alan Mitchell on May 27th, 2011

    I guess knowing which long-tail keywords are worth having in your account and which are simply too obscure comes down to experience. Unless there is a valid reason for doing so, I would tend to avoid bidding on keywords of greater than 5 words.

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