It’s easy to rank for terms that nobody is using

The other day I got an email from a potential new client, needing some website help. In the email, they proudly told me all the search terms they were ranking highly for. On a hunch, I went into my keyword search tool and looked up the terms they were ranking for and found that none of them had much search volume. Most of them had an average of 0-10 searches a month.

If your site is ranked #1 for a search phrase that nobody is using, does it count?

Rank for terms

I’ve had this discussion with many people over the years. They want to be found for XYZ term, and they are positive that’s a term that everyone is using. When we start SEO with a client, the first thing we ask is what they want to be found for, and we research all those terms to tell them if they are reasonable and attainable.

  • Reasonable: This means that yes, people are using those terms to look for the kinds of products and services that you offer.
  • Attainable: This means that the competition for that keyword phrase isn’t so stiff that you might be able to break in. You probably aren’t going to rank your website for words like “burger” or “contractor.” Those are way too generic and competitive.

One of the indicators we look for when looking for reasonable search terms is monthly search volume. 

What is Monthly Search Volume?

This is simply the average number of searches for a keyword phrase in a 30 day period. There are a variety of websites and tools you can use to research this, most of them paid tools. You can enter your keyword and get data about the number of searches for that keyword. Guess what – a monthly search volume of 0-10 is an indicator that nobody is looking for your chosen keyword!

Helpful tools for finding search data


It’s exciting to rank #1 for something. It’s exciting to see your site at the top. But the point of SEO is not solely to rank well, but to rank well for terms that are useful for your business.

How to know what you’re ranking for

One of the features I like of Google Search Console is that once it’s set up, it can start showing you what search phrases have shown your website in the SERPS (search engine results pages) and where you ranked for those terms.

Fun Fact: Sumy Designs ranks #1 or #2 for around 100 different search phrases. It’s true! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • offer card design
  • logo extensions
  • website designing offer
  • wordpress show revisions

I’d be super excited to be ranked #1 or 2 for so many search phrases, but the majority of them had only a handful of searches. So yes, we ranked #1 for ‘wordpress show revisions’ but literally only 14 people searched for that phrase. And probably, whoever searched for that was not looking for a new custom website.

Pro Tip: Industry terms don’t always make great search phrases

As a professional in your field, you probably have a lot of terminology that you use that seems second nature to you. I know I do. And these may be terms that everyone in your industry uses. But what you really need to find out is, what are the people who are looking to hire you or buy your product using? Do they use your industry terms? If not, you need to know what they are using, and try to get found for those terms. Otherwise, the people finding you may be your competition.

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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