Jason Khoo
June 29, 2021

Why SERP Volatility Is So Important For Keyword Research

Make SERP Volatility Your Friend

SEO is a long-term strategy.

Get it right, and you’ll be ranking at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). With high rankings come a heavy flow of consistent traffic, an established brand, and, ultimately, a hefty revenue. 

But nothing worth having ever comes easy. Though the benefits far outweigh the investment, high SERP rankings require dedication, determination, and strategic knowledge.

You’ll need to understand keyword research, competitor analysis, content strategies, targeted link building, and have a clear idea of how you’ll use your added traffic. If you don’t have an apparent reason for wanting to be number 1 in the SERPs, then it’s not worth your time.

If, however, you have goals that could be met with the help of Google, then it’s worth every dime, every second, and every ounce of energy you pour into it. 

But there’s a whole lot of competition out there who are trying to do the exact same thing. And you’ll be running against the best SEO strategists within your industry.

So, are you ready to not just reach your competition’s level but outrank them?

SERP volatility is an abstract concept but one that you need to anticipate and strategize around if you want to rank highly. Especially if you want to outrank your competitors.

What Is SERP Volatility? 

SERP Volatility is the rapid change within the search engine results page

It impacts all the results on the SERPs. For some queries, that could be as many as 181,332,474 results.

In this post, we’re focusing on the first page of the SERPs. Because that’s what we’re aiming for, right? Page 2 is good, but if we’re going to implement an SEO strategy, we want to be #1. 

So, how does SERP volatility impact SEO and rankings? 

This is where SERP volatility is no longer black and white. The grey area is introduced when we take it from a literal sense and put it into practice. 

Volatility wears many different hats and takes numerous shapes. But, one of the most frequent is the fact that the relevance of the search results and the searcher’s intent are constantly changing. And the evolution they’re going on is extreme.  

When monitoring the data, you’ll sometimes find fluctuations within the graphs representing a search combined with the page’s position over time. In other words, there won’t be a straight line on the chart. 

This shows that the search results themselves are changing and evolving. 

Not to mention the fact that Google isn’t entirely sure about what they want to display on the SERPs. 

What does this mean for you and your business?

Simply put, it means that your business may have nailed your SEO strategy. You may be doing everything right understanding the searcher’s intent, knowing your keywords, writing well-optimized content – and it all may be bringing in results. 

But, within 24 hours, it could all change because Google altered its process. So, your searcher intent, which you determined previously, and the relevance you incorporate might no longer be applicable. 

So you lose your place on page 1 of Google’s search results. 

And all that hard work? Gone.

You need to understand SERP volatility. You may have (and understandably so) assumed that the SERPs revolved entirely around website rankings. But now you realize that search intent and relevance are also crucial. 

You may also want to read: 3 Powerful Pillars of SEO: Authority, Trust & Relevance

Should You Take SERP Volatility Into Account When Doing Your Keyword Research? 

Keyword research is a fundamental part of the SEO puzzle. It demands consistent diligence, heaps of research, and analysis of data. 

Finding the best keywords for your website relies heavily on routine analysis of your data. You need to evaluate three key performance indicators (KPIs):

  1. Relevance 
  2. Search Volume
  3. Keyword Density 

These metrics will steer you, acting as your SEO compass

That said, as SEO specialists, we find that SERP volatility is frequently forgotten by business owners when strategizing. And they end up paying a heavy price for it. 

When you think about it, there’s a straightforward reason why. Even if a keyword is classified as ‘not difficult,’ if the SERP positions on page one are volatile (i.e., constantly changing), then that specific keyword might actually be tough to rank for at different times. 

Despite the data informing you that the keyword is easy to rank for, it may spike up in certain seasons, days, or months of the year. 

Because this is so inconsistent, you can’t rely exclusively on the metrics above. You need to have a clear idea of the methods you must use to land your website on the first page of the SERPs. 

But don’t optimize your content solely based on this. 

Our SEO campaigns, for example, all use the invaluable tool of research. We look, in detail, at why the top websites are ranking. And we do this through answering questions like:

  • What is their backlinking strategy like?
  • How have they implemented this?
  • How well is their content optimized? 
  • Is their content library consistent with their overall Content/SEO strategy?

If you keep changing competitors, your research becomes redundant, and you’ll have to start again from scratch. You’ll need to answer the same questions about a different set of competitors. 

If the intent and relevance are inconsistent and volatile, your business could switch places or be a contender one week and then drop to the bottom the next. 

So, ranking for the number one spot isn’t just about outranking the competition. Because the whole relevance of a keyword can always be questioned. 

You may also want to read: 11 Essential SEO Promotion Stages For Your Website

How Do You Measure This? 

It may sound impossible to measure something so rapidly inconsistent. But, there are ways to measure SERP volatility. 

First, you need to strategize for it by conducting a manual check. This way, you’ll be able to see live examples of what the search results genuinely look like. 

Though you really should use this method, admittedly, it’s not the most efficient option.

Combine this with strategy number two.

Use the ‘Position History Graph’ tool from Ahrefs. This handy feature shows you the top five positions of a keyword over a specific time period. You can choose from three months, six months, or all time. The data this gives you is extremely valuable. 

But, there is a limitation to the Position History Graph: it’ll only show you the volatility of keywords for the past five years. If the results are constantly adapting, the search result must be super volatile. 

Even if you gain reliable data for only the past five years, it’s still beneficial. And this method allows you to dive deeper into the narrative of the keyword than if you were to do so manually. 

The Overarching Importance of SERP Volatility

You should not you cannot overlook SERP volatility. 

Despite many business owners avoiding it when crafting and implementing their SEO strategy, it can be the ticket to SEO success. 

Considering SERP volatility means it’s adding a time dimension and allowing you to strategize in advance. Many business owners conduct their keyword research at a specific time and date, and the words they choose reflect that. 

But, down to the simple fact that Google is ever-changing and updating, it means you must implement SERP volatility into your SEO strategy. 

Despite many believing that data and targets are stagnant, SERP volatility proves otherwise. Avoiding it is more than a missed opportunity. It’s a massive risk that won’t pay off.

Put in the extra effort. Your SEO success depends on it. 

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Jason Khoo

CEO - Founder at Zupo
Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.

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