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June 21, 2022

Most Brands Ignore Zero Search Volume Keywords. Here Is What You Should Do as a SaaS Startup.

By AbdulGaniy Shehu (Follow me on Twitter)

Ever been in this situation before.

You’ve got a keyword you think your target audience is searching for on Google, then you tried to validate it using SEO tools and got the “Not enough data” response.

Or in some cases, it shows that the search volume is less than 100, which means that only a few people are searching for it every month.

Hence, this got you confused, and you’re wondering if it makes sense to go after those zero search volume (ZSV) keywords or not.

If no one is actively searching for it on Google, isn’t it a waste of time and resources to do so?

Let me tell you this…

You’re not alone.

Most founders and marketers in SaaS startups often struggle with this. 

Here is an example from a founder of a niche SaaS product I spoke with recently.

feedback post

And we get it.

Since SEO is a demand-capturing channel, you want to go after keywords with existing demand.

If that’s the case, it raises some fundamental questions like:

  • Does this mean that you shouldn’t target zero search volume keywords?
  • Does a zero search volume keyword in an SEO tool imply that no one is searching for it on Google?
  • If the top SaaS companies in your niche ignore keywords with zero search volume, should you do the same as a SaaS startup?
  • Is there really any value in targeting zero search volume keywords as a SaaS startup?

If you’re looking for answers to these questions and many more, we’ve got you covered in this post.

After reading this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why it makes sense to go after keywords with low or zero search volume as a SaaS startup.
  • How we focused on ZSV keywords to help a B2B SaaS startup acquire 1,300+ user signups in less than six months.
  • How to verify if a ZSV keyword is worth targeting.
  • The types of ZSV keywords that have proven to drive qualified traffic and conversions for SaaS startups.

Let’s get into it.

Editor’s Note 👇:

On Wednesday, July 6th, 2022, we’ll be hosting a live workshop on how a SaaS startup acquired 1,300+ signups (in 6 months) with Zero Search Volume keywords. Click here to save your spot.

Why Most SaaS Brands Ignore Zero Search Volume Keywords In Their SEO Strategy

If you reverse engineer the SEO strategy of most popular SaaS startups, here’s a common trend you’d observe.

Most of them ignore zero search volume keywords. 

In fact, before I eventually wrote a guest post for Coschedule, my initial pitch was rejected because the search volume was low.

feedback post ben seller

Think about this…

If a guest post was rejected because it didn’t meet a minimum search volume threshold, what happens to the blog posts published in-house by the company.

From our research and interactions with several SaaS founders and marketers, below are some common reasons they don’t target zero search volume keywords.

1. You Need Millions Of Website Traffic Visitors To Grow a SaaS Brand

Most founders and marketers believe that you need to acquire thousands and millions of website traffic visitors to grow a SaaS brand.

The popular inbound marketing strategy comes into play here.

inbound marketing strategy

First, you attract tons of website visitors by going after high-volume top-of-the-funnel (ToFu) keywords.

Second, you convince them to join your newsletter by downloading a free eBook or whitepaper.

Finally, you nurture them through a series of email sequences and sales pitches to eventually convert a bunch of them into customers.

Truth is…

If you focus on the strategy above, you won’t target zero volume keywords, as the numbers won’t add up. 

2. SEO is a Traffic Acquisition Channel (and Not a Customer Acquisition Channel)

Most SaaS brands believe that SEO is a channel for generating organic traffic only and not a viable channel for acquiring new customers.

So, they focus more on targeting high-volume keywords with low buying intent. Due to this, they don’t go after keywords with low or zero search volume.

This means that if you want to attract more website visitors, you must target keywords with a high search volume.

While ranking for high-volume keywords is great for brand awareness, our experience has shown that conversions from them are low or even non-existent in most cases.

Since most SaaS brands believe that SEO is a channel that works for attracting traffic only, they care less about zero search volume keywords that have the potential to drive conversions.

3. Thinking in Terms of Keywords Instead of Topics

When choosing the keywords to target, most SaaS brands think in terms of keywords only instead of topics.

Let me tell you this…

Gone are the days when Google ranks pages based on the specific keywords they target. Today, a page can rank for multiple keywords that are related to it.

For brands that think in terms of keywords alone, going after zero search volume keywords would never seem attractive to them. This is because they don’t see the potential of that keyword ranking for other related terms on the SERPs.

Our experience has shown that if optimized well, most pages rank for multiple related keywords that people search for. 

Why Targeting Zero Search Volume Keywords Makes Sense For SaaS Startups

If you’re doing SEO for a SaaS startup, we recommend going after low or zero search volume keywords.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was the same strategy we used to help a B2B SaaS client grow to 10,000+ qualified traffic visitors and 1,300+ user signups in the last six months.

The graph below shows you the results we’ve achieved for one of our clients by focusing on this strategy.

[ZSV Keywords] Organic Sessions and User Signups In Six Months

As you can see, contrary to what most SaaS marketers say, there’s a lot of potential in zero search volume keywords. Below are some reasons to consider it part of your SaaS startup’s SEO strategy.

1. 15% of Searches on Google are New

google fun fact

In February 2022, Google tweeted this fun fact to confirm that approximately 15% of daily searches on the search engine are brand-new.

This was the situation about five years ago when they wrote an article on some improvements to search.

google fun fact article snip

So, what does this mean?

People are seeking new information on Google every single day. Hence, it’ll be difficult for SEO tools to precisely say what people are searching for or not.

That’s not all…

Since users search Google for new information daily, they want answers to their recent questions.

Suppose you target zero search volume keywords that you strongly believe your audience is searching for on Google. In that case, you might be the only one helping them fulfill that need, presenting an immense opportunity for you.

As you can see, this is an undermined goldmine that you can capitalize on as a SaaS startup to dominate the SERPs in your niche and attract qualified traffic.

2. Rank Faster and Higher On Google (Even If Your Domain Authority is Low)

Most SaaS startups spend months and years investing heavily in SEO before seeing any rankings on the first page of Google.

The reason this happens is simple.

They copy the content strategy of the bigger brands in their niche. Hence, they target the exact top of the funnel high-volume keywords as them. In the long run, they find out that outranking these top competitors is almost impossible.

Instead of waiting months and years before seeing results from SEO, you can rank faster and higher by targeting zero search volume keywords.

This works really well for the following reasons:

One, most of these keywords are underserved.

So, most times, Google ranks pages that are not directly relevant to them and don’t fulfill the search intent. Hence, if you go after them with relevant, high-quality content, your chances of ranking quickly on the first page of Google are high.

Two, most of these keywords have zero competition.

Since they’re not high-volume keywords, your competitors would likely not target them.

But guess what?

If you can create a piece of content that targets those keywords, you won’t find it challenging to rank on Google fast.

Take, for instance, we targeted this zero search volume keyword according to Ahrefs as shown below:

zero search vol sample

Because it is a ZSV keyword, we quickly ranked on the first page of Google the same week we published it on our client’s blog in March 2022.

Less than three months later, we’re still occupying the top spot for the keyword on Google. But, interestingly, that keyword which Ahrefs says has no search volume, attracted 93 visitors to our client’s website in May, leading them to acquire at least five user signups directly from the page.

rank high and fast google analysis

This shows that one of the easiest ways to rank fast and high on Google is to target ZSV keywords.

3. Leverage The First Mover Advantage

Here is the truth…

A ZSV keyword will never remain the same forever. If a keyword has zero search volume today, chances are that as the industry matures and grows, the number of people searching for it will increase.

Hence, if you go after these keywords, you’re taking a bet into the future.

Think of any high-volume keyword today; they all started as a low or zero search volume keyword.

And guess what?

Brands that invest early in keywords like this dominate the SERPs and become unstoppable in their niches.

Here is an example…

When Drift launched its conversational marketing platform in 2017, the keyword “conversational marketing” probably had zero search volume and was relatively unknown by many.

Today, the keyword has a global search volume of 3,800, according to Ahrefs.

search volume Ahrefs

Even though this is a category play and Drift isn’t the top-ranking website on Google for this keyword right now, I believe investing in this keyword has helped them immensely. 

The same applies to most ZSV keywords out there. So, you can take advantage of the fact that it’s less competitive to become invincible to your competitors in the long run.

Editor’s Note 👇:

On Wednesday, July 6th, 2022, we’ll be hosting a live workshop on how a SaaS startup acquired 1,300+ signups (in 6 months) with Zero Search Volume keywords. Click here to save your spot.

4. SEO Tools Aren’t Perfect

Most marketers accept the search volumes of SEO tools hook, line, and sinker.

While these tools have invested heavily in their data and use different sources for accurate information, the truth is that you can’t entirely rely on them.

The reason is simple…

The search volume from these tools is just an estimate and nothing more.

If you depend on them alone and don’t take things a step further, as I’ll share with you shortly, you’ll ignore high-value keywords and leave money on the table.

Take, for instance, the keyword below, which I’ve blurred because it’s one of our clients’ top keywords.

As you can see, Ahrefs estimates that this exact keyword has a global search volume of 150.

Even though our client is currently ranking number 2 on Google for this exact keyword, they got 461 impressions and 151 clicks in May alone.

With this recent study showing that the number 1 position on Google gets double the clicks of the second position, chances are that this keyword gets 500+ searches per month.

That’s not all…

Another reason you should take the search volume from SEO tools with a pinch of salt as a startup is that most pages on Google rank for more than one keyword.

Let’s say you wrote a post targeting the keyword “HubSpot Alternatives” some of the similar keywords you might be ranking for include:

  • HubSpot CRM alternatives
  • Alternatives to HubSpot
  • Free HubSpot alternatives
  • Best HubSpot alternatives
  • HubSpot CMS alternatives
  • HubSpot sales alternatives
  • HubSpot competitors

And so on.

This is precisely what happens for most keywords.

For the client’s example above, we got over 22,000 impressions and 1000 clicks from the page we published on their website.

keyword impression analysis

As you can see, relying on SEO tools alone isn’t enough for a SaaS startup. Even if they indicate that a keyword has zero search volume, you’ll most likely get more value from it for your business.

5. All Keywords Are Not Created Equal

A keyword with zero search volume doesn’t mean that you can’t drive qualified traffic and acquire user signups for your SaaS startup with it.

From our experience, most ZSV keywords have a high buying intent. Therefore, most people searching for them are either in the mood to buy or about to make that buying decision.

Even if fewer people are searching for these keywords, it could be a gamechanger for you in driving user signups and growing MRR.

Take, for instance, you run an email marketing software and published a post targeting the keyword “email marketing.”

This keyword has a global search volume of 109,000, according to Ahrefs.

From our experience, most ZSV keywords have a high buying intent. Therefore, most people searching for them are either in the mood to buy or about to make that buying decision.

Even if fewer people are searching for these keywords, it could be a gamechanger for you in driving user signups and growing MRR.

Take, for instance, you run an email marketing software and published a post targeting the keyword “email marketing.”

This keyword has a global search volume of 109,000, according to Ahrefs.

Even though the search volume, in this case, is less than the previous one, the search intent is much more specific to an email marketing software.

The reason is simple…

Someone searching Google for “Mailchimp Alternatives” most likely knows what an email marketing software is and is probably a previous customer of Mailchimp.

Searching for a keyword like this means they’re actively looking to switch from Mailchimp and exploring different options. This shows that the searcher is more likely to convert to a user signup or paying customer if you rank high for this keyword and position your article correctly.

The point is…

All keywords are not created equal. So, be strategic with the keywords you target as a SaaS startup to drive the best results that move the needle business-wise.

How To Identify Zero Search Volume Keywords That Are Worth Targeting

Here is the truth…

Not all zero search volume keywords are worth targeting, especially if you’re a startup looking to grow your SaaS using SEO.

The reason is simple…

SEO is a demand-capturing and not a demand-generating channel. Hence, the result you get from investing in it is directly proportional to the number of people searching for your topic or keyword on the search engines.

If no one is searching for your topic or keywords, then your chances of seeing results from SEO is zero.

This is why you should target only zero search volume keywords that are worth it.

So, how do you determine this?

Here are four ways we’ve identified to confirm if a ZSV keyword is worth targeting or not.

1. Audience Research

This is the best way to know whether a ZSV keyword is worth targeting.

It entails performing in-depth research to identify your target audience’s pain points and Jobs To Be Done.

If you can successfully do this, the chances are high that you won’t go wrong with the chosen ZSV keyword.

Here is why…

If one person in your target audience has a specific pain point, tons of people like them whom you don’t know are actively searching for solutions to that same pain point.

As a SaaS startup, audience research is the biggest investment you can make to ensure your SEO program succeeds.

This is exactly what Veed focused on, and they were able to bootstrap the startup to $7M ARR in less than five years.

2. Google Autosuggest

Google has tons of information about what people in your niche are searching for, even before any other SEO tool can find it.

So, how do you find these hidden gems that you should target, even if SEO tools show that they’re either low or zero-volume keywords?

Simple.

Leverage Google autosuggest.

Here’s how that works.

Let’s say you run content marketing for the email marketing software “Flodesk” and want to create comparison posts for your competitors.

If you’re in doubt about the competitor comparison pages to target, a quick Google search for the keyword “flodesk vs” will suggest the exact keywords that people are searching for on Google related to this.

google flodesk vs search

As you can see, some of the comparison keywords that users are actively searching on Google related to Flodesk include:

  • Flodesk vs. Mailchimp
  • Flodesk vs. Convertkit
  • Flodesk vs. ActiveCampaign
  • Flodesk vs. Aweber
  • Flodesk vs. Klaviyo

The fact that these keywords were auto-suggested by Google shows that people actively search for them on the search engine.

3. Google’s People Also Ask (PAA) Or Related Search Sections

This is another nifty way to identify zero search volume keywords that you should target.

In most Google searches, the PAA section is usually somewhere in the beginning or middle of the SERPs, and the related section is generally at the end.

These two sections give you an insight into other keywords that people are searching for, which are related to the broad term you just searched for.

That way, you can explore a specific topic in your niche in-depth.

Let’s say you own a “content repurposing software” and want to identify ZSV keywords that you could target.

By searching for the broad keyword “content repurposing” on Google, here’s what the PAA section looks like:

google search content repurposing

As you can see, some keywords in this section that you should target include:

  • How do you repurpose old content?
  • How do I repurpose content on social media?
  • What is content recycling?
  • How do you repurpose branded content?
  • How do I repurpose video content?

For the related search section for this keyword, here is what it looks like:

google search content repurposing 2

As you can see, some of the related searches to this keyword include:

  • Content repurposing tools
  • Content repurposing software
  • Content repurposing service
  • Content repurposing examples
  • Content repurposing workflow.

While some or even most of these keywords might indicate low or zero search volume on SEO tools, they’re worth targeting because Google suggests them.

4. Use Lesser-known SEO Tools

Another way to validate if a Zero Search Volume keyword is worth targeting is to use some lesser-known SEO tools.

In most cases, these tools can spot and recommend zero or low search volume keywords that most mainstream SEO tools won’t recognize.

Below are some of those lesser-known tools that we use and recommend.

This is a browser add-on that you can install on Chrome or Firefox. It integrates with the Google Keyword Planner to spot opportunities your target audience is searching for on Google. It pulls the People Also Ask and Related Search sections directly from Google and shows you the search volume for those keywords.

This tool identifies undermined ZSV keywords that you can target and rank high for. Most of the keywords it recommends are long-tail, and most of your competitors ignore them. 

This tool helps you uncover low-competition and easy-to-rank keywords that you can focus on to drive the best results from your investment in SEO.

AnswerThePublic uses autocomplete data from Google to recommend phrases and questions your target audience is searching for on the search engines related to a specific keyword.

With this tool, you can find the questions people ask on Google related to a particular brand or search query.

Editor’s Note 👇:

On Wednesday, July 6th, 2022, we’ll be hosting a live workshop on how a SaaS startup acquired 1,300+ signups (in 6 months) with Zero Search Volume keywords. Click here to save your spot.

Types of Zero Search Volume Keywords That Drive Qualified Traffic and Conversions For SaaS Startups

Based on our experience working with SaaS startups in the last few years, below are five types of zero search volume keywords that have proven to drive business results for our clients.

1. Comparison Posts

This type of keyword compares your product to the top competitors in your niche. It also includes comparing your top competitors against one another.

Let’s say you run content marketing for Podia (an online platform for selling courses, eBooks, webinars, etc.). Some of the comparison posts you can target include:

  • Podia vs. Gumroad
  • Podia vs. Kartra
  • Podia vs. Thinkific
  • Podia vs. Teachable
  • Podia vs. Kajabi.

Aside from these, you can also target keywords where you compare the top competitors against one another. In this case, some relevant examples will include:

  • Gumroad vs. Teachable
  • Thinkific vs. Udemy
  • Teachable vs. Skillshare
  • Kajabi vs. Clickfunnels
  • Kartra vs. Kajabi.

While these keywords might have zero search volume, most people searching for them are hot prospects who know about your product and its competitors and want to decide on the best one to go for.

2. Alternative Posts

This type of keyword focuses on listing the alternatives to your competitors or product. Some marketers treat this keyword type (is like the comparison posts, but we don’t think that’s the best approach.

Here is why…

Someone searching for alternatives to your competitor might not know that your product or others exist. In this case, showing them the different options they can choose from tends to perform better.

Let’s say you just launched an SEO tool to compete with the existing ones in the industry, some alternatives keyword you could target include:

  • Ahrefs alternatives
  • Semrush alternatives
  • Moz alternatives
  • Ubersuggest alternatives
  • Spyfu alternatives
  • Mangools alternatives.

The goal here is to capture people who are dissatisfied with a top competitor in your niche and show them how your product and others can help them better instead.

3. Best X For Y

This keyword type is broader than the first two, but it helps you capture searchers looking for the best solutions to a specific challenge.

Depending on your niche, the more in-depth you can go with this keyword type, the better.

For example, if you own a software that helps remote workers become more productive and organized; some of the keywords you can target include:

  • Best digital planner app for android
  • Best digital planner app for iPad
  • Best productivity tools for mac
  • Best organization apps for iPhone
  • Best remote work software
  • Best daily planner app for Windows 10
  • Best task management software for individuals.

The focus here is to attract people in the middle of the funnel (solution aware). In this case, they have an idea of what they’re looking for but don’t know the specific products they can use for that purpose.

4. How To Solve Y Using Z

This involves targeting keywords where you can show the reader how to solve a problem they have using your product (a.k.a product-led content marketing). In this case, you should identify your target audience’s pain points through audience research, then create specific posts on your website showing them how your product can help.

Let’s say you run an online meeting software that helps people record and transcribe Google Meet and Zoom meetings quickly and easily. Some of the keywords you could target here include:

  • How to record a meeting in Google Meet
  • How to record a Zoom meeting as a participant
  • How to record Microsoft Teams meeting
  • How to transcribe a Google Meet meeting
  • How to transcribe a Zoom meeting.

For each of these keywords, you’ll see that the focus here is to show the reader how to use your software to solve a problem they’re currently facing.

Even if the search volume is low, you stand a better chance of converting people facing those problems to consider your software as a solution.

5. Product Features and Use Cases

This keyword type focuses on the features and use cases of your product.

Although from our experience, it’s possible to rank for these types of keywords with your homepage (especially if you have a strong backlink profile), we highly recommend that you target them with separate pages on your website.

Let’s say you run a journaling software (app), some of the features and use cases keywords you can target include:

  • Journal writing software
  • Audio journal app
  • Video journal software
  • Daily journal software
  • Shared journal app
  • Personal journal software
  • Online journal maker

The opportunity for keywords like these is that most pages ranking for them on the SERPs aren’t targeting them specifically.

So creating a page on your website for each of these gives you a better chance of ranking high on Google and converting a large chunk of your readers into signups and paying customers.

Editor’s Note 👇:

Join us in this upcoming live workshop on Wednesday, July 6th, 2022.

Don’t Ignore Zero Search Volume Keywords as a SaaS Startup (Else You’ll Be Leaving Money On The Table )

If you’re a SaaS startup, don’t ignore zero search volume keywords.

As I’ve shown you in this post, there are tons of hidden opportunities you can explore for your SaaS startup by targeting them.

Since most of the top competitors in your niche aren’t going after them, it gives you a competitive edge to dominate the SERPs and drive business results directly from SEO.

Not only that… 

With these keywords, you stand a better chance of ranking high on Google without waiting for months and years to get to the top spot.

Finally, going after these keywords help you to take advantage of the first-mover advantage. Hence, as your industry grows and more people search for them, you position yourself as the “go-to” solution in your niche.

At Your Content Mart, we help our clients (who are B2B SaaS startups) acquire more user signups and grow MRR by leveraging Zero Search Volume keywords.

If you’d like our team to help you drive more business results from SEO using ROI-driven content marketing, reach out for a free discovery session and see if we’d be a good fit working together.

About The Author

AbdulGaniy Shehu

AbdulGaniy Shehu is the founder and lead content strategist at Your Content Mart. He helps B2B SaaS startups acquire more user signups and grow MRR using ROI-driven content marketing.

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From YCombinator Rejection to $7M ARR In Less Than 5 Years: How Veed Leveraged SEO to Bootstrap a Startup to Success

From YCombinator Rejection to $7M ARR In Less Than 5 Years: How Veed Leveraged SEO to Bootstrap a Startup to Success

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