The original KGR formula is intended to be applied to keywords with average monthly search volumes up to 250, but not higher. There is sound logic behind the method being effective on lower volume keywords more so than higher.
Study Reveals More Opportunities With Higher Search Volume Keywords in KGR Formula
It turns out there may be significantly more opportunities by including slightly higher search volume keywords. The research data below show there are good reasons (and hard data) why this is.
Official KGR Formula Says 250 Max
The Keyword Golden Ratio, or KGR, was originally popularized by digital marketer Doug Cunnington. The formula helps identify low competition keyword opportunities by measuring supply and demand (pages targeting a keyword and the monthly search volume for that keyword).
The particulars of the KGR are covered in more depth elsewhere. But one aspect of the method is that it should be applied only to keywords with average monthly search volume of 250 or less. Statistically speaking, there are perfectly logical reasons to have an upward boundary for such a calculation.
Cunnington notes that the KGR is not meant to “work with search volumes greater than 250. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea to target (these terms).”
Yet, in the hunt for more (and more juicy) keywords, fans of the KGR have always experimented with higher volume search terms. Even though this departs from the original formula, Doug Cunnington has, himself, said that users of the KGR may still go after higher volume keywords. Cunnington notes that the KGR is not meant to “work with search volumes greater than 250. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea to target (these terms).”
So, we have Doug’s permission to break the rules! I will not be breaking those rules here, however. Not the spirit of the rules, at least.
Using (Slightly) Higher Search Volume Keywords
If you were looking for the secret to using 1,000, 2,000 or 10,000 search volume keywords in the keyword golden ratio you won’t find it in this article. Sorry! But an interesting insight did emerge from the data during some recent research.
The SERP Sonar “KGRt” differs from the original KGR in two minor ways. The first is that it uses an ‘all-in-title’ count from the first 100 actual search results (the “t” is for ‘top 100’), as opposed to using the Google Allintitle search operator. The reasons for this are explained in detail elsewhere.
Yes, when you start applying the KGR to much larger numbers its effectiveness breaks down.
The other difference with SERP Sonar is that KGRt will consider keywords with search volumes up to 260 (not 250), but why?
From a mathematical standpoint, the difference between 250 and 260 in the KGR formula is insignificant. Yes, when you start applying the KGR to much larger numbers its effectiveness breaks down. But, statistically speaking, there’s very little difference between keywords with 260 search volume versus 250.
However, the data shows that many more keywords appear in the data at the 260 level. This small increase to a 260 search volume limit significantly increased the number of keyword opportunities.
Finding Tactical Treasure While Data Diving
In the course of a whole other research project, which I was doing in the Internet Marketing Gold SEO community, I rediscovered something that I’d come across many years ago, related to keyword search volume data.
This is why you will see the same search volume numbers come up again and again in many tools.
The vast majority of SEO and keyword tools source their volume data from Google. Whether directly or indirectly, via data wholesalers, it almost always originates with Google. And this search volume data is monthly averages, not fresh and up-to-date (in fact we really never know how old the data is in most SEO tools).
Also, famously, Google does not provide exact numbers but, instead, puts keywords into “buckets” (as evidenced in Google Keyword Planner). This is why you will see the same search volume numbers come up again and again in many tools. And when I rediscovered them here I reconsidered whether a small tweak might unlock some extra keywords for the KGR.
Search Volume Buckets Visualized
The chart below shows 7,874 random keywords with average search volume from 10 to 600. The original source data for the research was a pool of 17,342 total keywords (generated from ~245 seed keywords representing a diverse range of niches and search intent).
…Google’s volume buckets are present at all volume levels.
Given that the focus here was on KGR, I isolated just those keywords with volumes of 600 or less. It could have worked with half that, but I wanted to illustrate that Google’s volume buckets are present at all volume levels.
I also excluded zero volume keywords. In fact, I love zero volume keywords and always go panning for gold there. But KGR is traditionally applied to keywords with greater than 0 search volume (because.. math). So, they are not shown.
If it weren’t for this there would be even less variation in the search volume results shown.
My source for the search volume data is the excellent Keywords Everywhere. Some keyword data providers enrich their data (or give the option to) using other 3rd party providers. Keywords Everywhere includes Clickstream data as part of their offering and I always include it, as it results in some greater precision in the data. If it weren’t for this there would be even less variation in the search volume results shown.
Measurable Impact of Using 260 in the KGR?
If we exclude all the keywords over 250, our would-be pool is 6,209 keywords with monthly search volume from 1 to 250 (259 to be precise).
If we include the next bucket up, with search volume of 260, we add 345 more keywords, or about 5.6%.
Using 260 (instead of 250) as the upward limit in the KGR added ~5.6% more keyword candidates, according to this analysis.
This was not a huge data set nor a perfectly scientific study and it may not seem like a big difference. But this isn’t just about adding 5.6% more traffic or revenue (which I’d be happy to have).
…just one of those extra keywords (that would have been excluded) could lead to significantly more traffic or income.
Adding just 5% more keyword opportunities is potentially far more impactful, since just one of those extra keywords (that would have been excluded) could lead to significantly more traffic or income.
As a longtime fan of the KGR method, I want to stay true to the original thesis. As noted above, this is only a minor deviation from the original KGR formula. But applying a volume limit of 260 expands the pool of potential keyword opportunities. And using the top 100 PAT (allintitle analog) can result in a much more accurate KGR calculation.
Fire up the free SERP Sonar plugin and try it yourself. And let us know what you think in the comments below (or wherever you like to share). Thanks!