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As an SEO client (or DIY business owner), you can make more informed decisions about your website when you know how to read a keyword report. Most SEO companies send a monthly organic ranking position report each month. What good is it if you’re not sure what it all means?

At the beginning of every SEO campaign, you may also find yourself looking at a keyword report that lists potential options. Here’s how to read a keyword report and understand what each metric means to the performance and expectations of the campaign.

Wait. What’s a keyword report?

Before we go any further, let’s start out with the basics. A keyword report is a list of keywords with a bunch of data about each keyword. The report gives you an indication of what users are searching for monthly. It also helps you estimate the commercial value of the keyword (how much it would cost to pay Google Ads for each click) as well as the level of competition and difficulty of ranking for each keyword. You will typically be given a keyword report by your SEO consultant before starting your project. You should also be given an organic positions report where you can also assess the keywords that your SEO specialist has produced from their services.

How to analyze a single keyword

Let’s assume you’re a plumbing company in Plano, TX. One of the most highly searched plumbing keywords is “Plumbing Plano TX” which we’ll analyze using SEMrush:

how to read a keyword report with a single keyword

From the example above you can see multiple sets of data. Each section represents a valuable piece of data that can be used to make decisions on whether to target a particular phrase or not.


This one is self-explanatory. This is the actual phrase or word that is being typed into Google (or whichever search engine you’ve chosen for your report).


This metric is based on the average number of searches that are made each month. This is never an exact statistic as some keywords may be seasonal or conditional. For example, plumbers get a big boost in search traffic after Thanksgiving (true fact!).

Global volume

This metric doesn’t apply to a plumbing company in Plano TX, (or any local business) because all their clients and customers come from local areas. If you own an eCommerce website, your audience is global. This is when the global volume becomes a factor in your analysis.

Keyword Difficulty

KD or keyword difficulty is a proprietary value assigned to the keyword that allows you to gauge how difficult it will be to rank on the first page (top ten) of Google. This value is based on the quantity and quality of backlinks and the quality of content the websites have that already rank between positions 1-10 on Google. 

(Every SEO software company has a different way of assigning these values but they are based on the same general principles.)


This is a feature that tells you what type of intent the user has when they type in the keyword. This can be useful in quickly determining what type of content is needed to provide the user with what they want. There are four major types of search intent:

Commercial: The user is looking for a service.

Transactional: The user is ready to buy.

Informational: The user is simply doing research.

Navigational: The user is looking for a specific website, address, or business.


This is a good way to see how the average monthly volume is distributed. You can see how seasonal changes can affect the expectations of website traffic. This chart is based on the last 12 months of searches.


The results value is the number of results (websites) that appear on Google for this keyword.


This section indicates the type of SERP features that appear on the first page of Google. SERP features include anything that isn’t a blue link such as:

The local pack (top three map results), 

SERP features like the top three plumbers in the local finder are reported on keyword reports

Reviews under a website listing (5-star reviews)

Example of Star Review schema and FAQ Schema

Site links or FAQ (Site links are when a website has additional links underneath their listing to pages on their website) FAQ is shown above under the Yelp listing.


CPC stands for cost per click. It’s what you would pay Google for one click to your website in a Google Ads pay-per-click campaign. This metric allows you to quickly assess whether other businesses are making money on the keyword. In most cases, the higher the value, the more money companies are making from their traffic.


The level of competition between advertisers bidding on the analyzed keyword within their PPC campaigns. Competitive Density is shown on a scale from 0 to 1.00 with 1.00 being the most difficult to rank for.


The top product listing ads that appear for the analyzed keyword.


The top ads that appear for the analyzed keyword.

What type of research goes in a keyword report?

Targeting the best keywords comes from great research. While keyword research is a massive topic on its own, here are a few things you can expect when viewing reports from Austin Bryant Consulting or any SEO agency in Plano that does its due diligence. We target “money keywords” that users will type when they want to buy or compare services. We also target informational keywords that would educate a potential buyer about a topic and lead them on to the product or service you offer.

SEO targets keywords at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

3 stages of the buyers journey

If you’re a new plumbing company in Plano start with the primary keyword targets that would generate business as quickly as possible.

For example, SEO software is used to come up with the first level of research. Here you can see there are three columns of keywords (variations, questions, and related) when we entered “plumbing Plano TX”:

Keyword variations using SEMrush

The next step is to go through each of these lists and pick out every single keyword that could possibly be used to make a plumber money.

Keywords related tot the seed keyword in the report

Google Search can be used to explore popular phrases that automatically pop up in their autosuggest drop-down because many users are using them in their queries.

Google autosuggest displaying keyword suggestions

One of the best ways to identify a lot of good keywords is to spy on competitors’ websites. Our SEO agency looks at every site on the first page of Google that ranks for valuable keywords. Typically, whenever a website ranks in the top ten Google search results they also rank for many other variations and related terms.

top plumbers in plano for search term Plumber Plano TX

Overview of organic traffic

competitive analysis spying on keywords

Our digital marketing company in Plano also uses different software to pick up keywords the others didn’t quite pick up. Here’s a screenshot of Ahrefs keyword report:

Ahrefs version of plumbing Plano TX keyword report

The Keyword Planner is another excellent tool that generates keyword ideas and phrases.

how to read a report from keyword planner

How to use your keyword report to make informed decisions

By now, you should have a decent understanding of what each metric means. It’s important to note that there is no single metric that will automatically make a keyword a target. The combination of metrics is assessed against other options to determine which keywords to target.

For example, you might see large volumes of search traffic but if the keyword difficulty is also massive it may not be good for a new website to target.

comparing the high keyword difficulty metrics vs. volume in the report

Another example would be if the volume is huge, and the difficulty is small BUT the keyword has no commercial value to you or informational value to your prospects. Why waste time on a keyword that produces no results?

Here is the checklist of how to prioritize your keywords:


The keyword MUST be relevant to your business. A keyword target should either drive users who become customers to your website or it provides information to users that become customers later down the line. 

For example, geo-specific keywords play a huge role in relevance for a local business. While it’s nice to rank for national terms (which WILL generate a percentage of relevant traffic) the main priority should be local terms. Targeting the right audience increases conversion rates and reduces the traffic that will never end up buying from your business.


This is a tricky metric. It’s always good to generate high search volume from a valuable keyword. There are many keywords with low volume that aren’t worth the time to rank because there are either a) better options or b) would take too many resources for poor results.

The flipside of the coin is that there are some low-volume search terms that can produce huge income in niche industries. Plastic surgery keywords in local cities, for example, don’t have high search volume. One client however can mean tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Again, this is a good example of how metrics must be assessed together and never on their own. The value the keyword produces should always be assessed with volume since volume on its own can be misleading.

Keyword difficulty

This metric is best left to your SEO company to decide on since they should know their capabilities well. The level of difficulty you choose also depends on the budget you have. A website that publishes content 10 times a month and has an aggressive link-building schedule will be far more capable of ranking for the toughest keywords than a site that is on a lower-scaled SEO campaign.

The takeaway here is to be realistic about what you can rank for within a reasonable period. While SEO strategy is the long game, it’s important to have a lot of small victories along the way.


The cost per click is a good indication of whether the target keyword produces a profit. It’s not a sole indicator-like any of the other metrics. Keywords that have a zero value should be searched on Google to see what type of results are generated. The websites that rank and the specific features on the SERP will shed further light on its potential value.

Look at the list from each angle

Based on the above metrics you should get an idea of what keywords will impact your business the greatest as well as what your greatest opportunities are in terms of seeing results. When we recommend keywords to our clients, we’ve already looked at these search terms from all angles to present you with the best options in a keyword strategy.

search terms sorted from easiest to largest in SEMrush keyword report

From the highest search volume to the lowest and add relevant terms to the list.

sorting keywords by search volume in a report

We seek out the highest valued keywords being used in Google Ads and add them to the list.

keywords sorted by highest CPC in a report

Keyword relevance is the overarching priority when assessing all options but the final decision is based on finding an optimal balance between all metrics.

Want to get a keyword report on the potential opportunities for your business? Contact us for a consultation and we’ll give you an hour of our time. Let us share our insights on how to increase income through targeted website traffic.

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