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Case Study
5
min read
January 23, 2024

A Guide to Zero Search Volume Keywords

Parthi Loganathan
CEO of Letterdrop, former Product Manager on Google Search

TL;DR:

  • Zero search volume keywords are valuable opportunities for content marketers to rank against bigger competitors.
  • Keyword research tools only provide estimates and can be unreliable.
  • Real conversations with customers and industry experts can help uncover zero search volume keywords.
  • Targeting zero search volume keywords can give you a competitive edge and establish authority in your niche.

You're a Content Marketer fighting to rank for highly competitive keywords against much bigger companies. It's a 'little fish in a big pond' situation, and the big fish will continue to win while you eat through your SEO budget for no good reason.

So, how do you get the competitive edge you need?

The unlikely answer: zero search volume keywords. People are making niche searches, and nobody has answered their questions yet. It's the opportunity you need.

We're here to show you the value of zero search volume keywords, how to find them, and how to use them to your advantage.


Keyword Research Tools Only Give Search Volume Estimates

You can only trust keyword research tools to an extent. The results you get from them are estimates that can be wrong.

Tools like Semrush and Ahrefs gather data from Google and clickstream providers. According to a study by Ahrefs themselves, Google tends to overestimate search volumes by 54%. Clickstream providers operate in a proverbial gray area, collecting data by monitoring peoples' browser activities. They can prove unreliable for less popular keywords since it depends on browser plugins that not everyone uses.

It's best to treat the results from these tools as a guide rather than a rule.


What Are Zero Search Volume Keywords?

Zero Search Volume keywords are nuanced long-tail keywords that are reported to have no search volume in keyword research tools like Semrush and Ahrefs.

But that doesn't mean they're not valuable.

  • Every day, 15% of searches have never been searched before
  • These searchers have specific search intent and are probably not being served very well since no one has the data to know that these queries are being searched. Sounds like opportunity!

Here's an example. There may be zero search volume for something like "link-building strategy for hair salon." But that salon's marketing agency still needs a link-building guide. There's an opening to rank for it that no one else has taken.

There are lots of examples of real companies creating pages and driving more traffic to those pages than what the keyword research tools showed was possible. Take Census, for example.

Pages Can Get 100x as Many Clicks From a Keyword as the Estimated Search Volume

Here's a query I've put into Semrush. The total lack of data might convince a marketer that it's not worth targeting.

A hyper-specific keyword entry that doesn
A hyper-specific keyword entry that doesn't show potential on Semrush

Not Census — they targeted this keyword with a blog post titled "How to Fix SQL Compilation Error: Missing Column Specification."

Semrush shows 30 people searching for it every month, but Census got 3,700 clicks on it recently. That's two orders of magnitude more than the tool's prediction and the result.

Census drives a far better result than the SEMrush tool predicted
Census drives far more clicks than Semrush predicted

How Do I Find Zero Search Volume Keywords?

Talk to Real People About What They're Searching

Inspired by Census? We are, too.

They know their audience and what they're looking for — and from what we've seen, they probably didn't use a keyword research tool to find this particular keyword.

They understand that you need to talk to customers, fellow content creators, and industry experts if you want real insight into what people are searching for.

  1. Listen to your sales calls. Take notes and record interviews to return to the videos later. You can also extract content ideas directly from those calls using the Letterdrop Gong integration.

Pulling keyword insights directly from Gong calls with Letterdrop
Pulling keyword insights directly from Gong calls with Letterdrop

2. Go where your ICP is active online, like Slack communities, Reddit subpages, and LinkedIn to see what people are actually asking.

3. Track your competitors. Your competitors might have found overlooked keywords, so track what pages they're creating. Don't copy them blindly, though — they may have no content strategy.


Use Google to See What People are Searching

You can find zero search volume keywords for free and for very little effort using Google's SERP results. Here are some methods:

  • Google's autocomplete suggestions
  • The "Alphabet Soup" method, which involves typing your phrase followed by a letter of the alphabet to reveal autocomplete responses
  • Related searches. This brings up phrases and other keywords linked to your main keyword that have no search volume data
  • The "People Also Ask" section often includes zero-volume keywords in the questions

Using Google
Using Google's autocomplete to find low and zero-volume keywords


Why Target Zero Search Volume Keywords?

  1. You'll be ahead of the curve with zero-volume keywords. You can write about them before they blow up. A tool like Exploding Topics can help you find rapidly growing keywords before they take off and start trending.


An example of pre-trend tracking on Exploding Topics


2. If your competitors only look at public keyword data, they won't even think to write about topics you've found from private internal data, like sales calls. How can they copy what they don't know exists?


3. They're low-hanging fruit for new and established marketers alike, helping drive organic traffic from search and social media while everyone else is asleep at the wheel.



4. It helps you optimize for voice search. Half the US population use voice search daily, and it will only continue to grow. Targeting long-tail queries like zero search volume keywords gives you another competitive advantage.


Beat Competition with Zero Search Volume Keywords

There's value in zero-volume keywords. You can covertly target and develop trust with a niche audience and become a leading resource while your rivals are none the wiser.

Nobody can copy insights from private customer conversations. Capitalize on that.

We're actively thinking about the future of SEO at Letterdrop. Feel free to reach out to us to talk SEO, or subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest in B2B content marketing in your inbox.

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