Different Types of Search Volume Data Explained

Even though Google no longer tells us where we rank for certain keywords, it’s still important to research and use your best judgment to determine which keywords offer you the most opportunity. Once you know then you can improve your content, which should hopefully be the start to a domino effect of success. With this in mind, when looking at your Google Analytics it’s naturally important to look at your search volume data for your keywords; however what many still gloss over is the fact that there are two different ways to look at this data—monthly search volume and a rolling average.

Monthly Search Volume vs. Rolling Average Explained

First things first, you can look at your search volume when you use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. When you use the tool month-to-month data will show up as the default and the average monthly searches, or what we’re calling a rolling average, will be a number in the chart below the graph. That number represents the average number of searches for that term over the last year. Below is a screenshot that shows how it works:


A Search Engine Land article covered this same topic back in July and explained that it’s important to take both types of data into account in order to “paint a fuller picture of overall keyword value and trends.” In other words, while using one or the other is important in certain situations (discussed below), using both metrics together can help you create a better overall analysis of your keywords and where to go from there.

Why and When to Use Rolling Average Data

This number looks at the last 12 months of Google data and then comes up with an average number of searches per month. In other words, it helps you see a much broader overall view of certain keywords. This may help give you an idea of what to do for major or long-term projects or strategies that you may be creating in advance.

Why and When to Use Month-to-Month Data

This type of data will tell you the number of people searching on Google for the keyword that you specify per month. This definitely makes this data easier to use when trying to optimize content in general and especially if you have a promotion going on or something that you need to drive traffic to fast. It’s also a great way to start anticipating any trends that may happen with searchers and/or with the competition in your industry.

Using the Two Different Search Volume Data Together

The easiest way to look at an example of using the two options together is to look at seasonal keyword traffic. Keep in mind, however, that this is not the only time you will want to look at both sets of metrics. This is the easiest example to come up with non-organically, but as you do your keyword research you may find similar issues arising when you never expected it; hence why this is such an important subject. Consider the following screenshot and data:


The screenshot above shows the data returned when I type in the keyword “hot chocolate.” As you can see, when I hover over August 2015 for example, it shows a search volume of 12,100. The rolling average, however, shows a search volume of 27,100. Pretty different.

The Takeaway

The moral of the story is that you need to make sure you look at both data sets so that you don’t miss something important. If you were to only look at the September search volume, you wouldn’t think this keyword was overly important. If you were to look at only the rolling average, you may expect the numbers to be that high all the time. It’s as simple as that!

Were you looking at both search volume metrics when making your keyword decisions? Let us know what works best for you and/or what insights you may have gained in the comment section below.

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