Search volume is one of the most important variables to consider when studying any keyword, regardless of whether you’re building a pay per click (PPC) advertising campaign or are optimizing for organic search.
In the context of a PPC campaign, search volume indicates how many people are searching for a given keyword or group of keywords. The higher the search volume, the more people are actively searching for it.
Obviously, high search volume is a positive sign that your targeted search term is popular, since it’s being searched by thousands of people.
But high search volume is also associated with more expensive advertising costs.
Today, we’re going to look at the other end of the spectrum: low volume keywords. Keywords with low search volume can be a hindrance to your PPC campaign, especially if that search volume is so low that ads don’t even show up for searches of these keywords.
At the same time, there are some opportunities for PPC strategists to get an edge when they manage low volume keywords correctly.
First, let’s clarify our terms.
A “low volume” keyword, in a generic context, is one that has relatively low search volume.
For our purposes, we’re referring to keywords that are listed in Google Ads with a specific “low search volume” designation.
These keywords have such a low search volume that Google isn’t even willing to display advertisements for people who search them. If the search volume climbs to exceed the threshold set by Google, the network will begin displaying ads for them.
There are many reasons why a keyword could be low volume. It could be because the topic itself is relatively unpopular. It could be because a similar, stronger keyword is cannibalizing traffic. Or it could be because the keyword or phrase is peculiarly worded, making it less popular for average searchers.
In any case, a low volume keyword is not going to contribute to your PPC campaign – at least until you make some modifications.
Are low volume keywords harmful for your PPC campaign?
For the most part, the answer is no. If a keyword is designated as low search volume, you won’t display any ads for it; this is a neutral consequence, since you won’t gain anything, but you also won’t lose anything.
However, it’s worth noting that low volume keywords can affect your quality score, ultimately impacting your campaign in a negative way if you aren’t careful.
Managing low volume keywords in a PPC campaign is typically less about avoiding negative consequences and more about making the best possible use of the keywords, tools, and resources available to you. If a low search volume keyword can be replaced by a better keyword, you should do it.
One of the best ways to deal with low volume keywords is to avoid them whenever possible. A low search volume keyword isn’t going to add anything to your campaign – so you should probably put your energy elsewhere.
An easy way to do this is to target a similar, but more “general” keyword phrase related to your low search volume keyword, then utilize a broad match type to get more keyword coverage.
Broad match keywords and keyword close variants allow you to target many different interrelated keywords at once. Rather than specifically targeting individual keywords, one by one, you can target an entire group of keywords related to a general subject.
For example, if you use a broad match keyword like “veterinary training program,” your ads may also appear for keywords and phrases like “vet training program near me” or “veterinary training classes.”
Unfortunately, there’s a significant downside to this strategy; it usually results in increased costs.
General terms with high search volume are associated with much higher demand than their hyper-specific, low-volume counterparts. That means more companies are bidding on ads for them, which in turn, drives ad prices up.
So what’s better – enjoy cheap, minimally competitive ads for keywords that hardly get any traffic, or deal with the high prices of advertising to high-traffic keywords?
This is the dilemma PPC ad managers must navigate.
Additionally, you can avoid low search volume keywords by choosing totally different targets; instead of targeting a more general phrase, you can target a phrase completely unrelated to your original target. This may or may not be viable, depending on your industry and target audience.
Avoidance is usually the best strategy for low search volume keywords; in other words, find a way not to use them.
But what happens when your low search volume keywords are some of your best targets?
This happens in a variety of different conditions. If your business is in a relatively new industry, or an unusually niche industry, there may not be significant search demand for your most important target keywords. If your business has a very strict budget, you may not have the financial resources necessary to compete with your competitors on a broad scale. And if you need hyper-specific keywords for your advertising strategy to work, avoidance doesn’t make any sense.
Thankfully, there are some management options available to you in these conditions.
RLSA (remarketing list for search ads) and the closely related ALSA (audience list for search ads) are examples of strategic options that allow you to use audience-based criteria to control how your ads are displayed. These allow you to target your audience members more specifically, giving you greater control over your advertising and potentially giving you an affordable path forward.
Pursuing more focused audience targeting can help you bring down the average cost of your advertisements (when targeting broad terms), while simultaneously boosting the relevance of your ad content (assuming you’ve done your market research).
Another option is to intentionally stimulate demand for your most important low search volume keywords. The big problem with low search volume keywords in Google Ads is a limited number of people conducting searches for them; if you can drive those searches up, the problem disappears.
The only problem with this approach is that artificially stimulating demand for new searches can be prohibitively expensive and difficult, depending on the subject.
Also, keep in mind that search volume is always fluctuating. Just because one of your keywords is qualified as low search volume currently doesn’t mean it will remain there indefinitely. If there are low volume keywords that could be valuable to you in the future, consider pausing them temporarily and returning to them when search volume increases in the future. This is especially valuable if you predict a surge in search volume for this term in the near future.
These are some of the most important takeaways for how to manage low volume keywords in Google Ads:
Are you struggling with low search volume keywords in your PPC campaign? Or are you interested in earning a higher overall quality score? No matter how much PPC experience you have or how many campaigns you’re managing, we have the experts and the tools that can help.
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