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The Importance Of Monthly Versus Rolling Average Search Volume


When it comes to optimizing your content, it is critical to monitor search volume data. Properly optimized content will naturally use keywords to best match the queries of users so that interested parties can find and interact with the brand. When you understand the search volume data for different keywords, you will able to evaluate your market opportunity, as well as the potential demand for your content.

In an attempt to reward sites creating quality content, Google no longer shows you how your site ranks for keywords. However, the fact remains that keywords are still an important part of search and content performance.

Types Of Search Volume Data

Information from Google tends to be the most useful, since the search engine giant manages to dominate the industry. Google alone receives an estimated 64.1 percent of desktop search queries. So when you receive your search volume data from Google, you can trust that this information represents the majority of search engine users.

To best manage search volume data, it is important to understand the different types of data and what they offer to your research. Understanding the value of each enables you to be able to optimize your use of the information to ensure that your content accurately reflects customer demand.

When you use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to get search volume information for a keyword, you’ll see a bar graph breaking out average search volume on a month-to-month basis. Below that, you’ll see a single number in the “Average monthly searches” column that represents a rolling average of searches for that term over the last 12 months.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner search volume data for "budget software"

Google AdWords Keyword Planner search volume data for “budget software”

Rolling average data will attempt to gauge the overall impact of a keyword throughout the year by using the most recent 12 months of data from Google and dividing it evenly to get the average number of searches per month. This data can be very valuable for SEO practitioners and content marketers, as it paints a high-level picture of overall keyword value that can be helpful in crafting yearly projections. However, since the information does not accurately reflect any one month individually, it can be more challenging to optimize content in industries with more seasonal traffic.

The month-to-month data on search volume tells you precisely how many people regularly use Google to learn about your intended keyword. It is more granular data that you can trust to accurately reflect keyword seasonality.

With month-to-month data, marketers can get a good idea of keyword trends throughout the year, which will help them to better understand user behavior and seasonal expectations. This is critical information for search and content marketing programs, giving marketers the best foundation on which to react to trends, make strategic decisions and generate forecasts.

Discrepancies Between Month-To-Month & Rolling Average Data

Marketers will find that using different types of search data will serve them best, depending upon their situation. However, it’s important to understand that taking both types of data into account will paint a fuller picture of overall keyword value and trends.

In the “budget software” example above, search interest in this keyword term remains relatively steady throughout the year, with a small spike occurring in January. Overall, there isn’t a huge discrepancy between the rolling average (2,900 monthly searches) and the search volume for any given month.

However, this is not always the case. Take, for example, the keyword “halloween costumes.” As you might expect, the search volume for this keyword will have a clear peak in the fall as people prepare for Halloween at the end of October. During another part of the year, such as May, the search volume will be substantially lower.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner search volume data for "halloween costume"

Google AdWords Keyword Planner search volume data for “halloween costumes”

The average search volume for “halloween costumes” in May was only 74,000, according to data collected from Google. On the other hand, the rolling average — which would take into account the fall peak — shows 823,000 monthly searches.

If you were to base your search and content marketing initiatives upon only the May data, you might discount the value of the keyword come fall. However, if you only looked at your rolling average, you might have inaccurate expectations of search volume and traffic in the late spring.

Tip: Using both types of data for this type of seasonal keyword will give you a more complete picture of the rise and fall of the keyword throughout the year and the best ways to optimize your content for this type of keyword.

Leveraging Granular Data To Improve Content Performance

As you begin to use search volume data, you will also be able to see historical trends that offer insight into how the keyword has been used in the past and provide accurate expectations of how the keyword will likely perform in the future.

Actual BE Search Volume Trend

Without this key insight, attempts to determine what future search volume data is likely to be will be based more on guesses than on real data. For example, I have seen tools that project search volume with an adjusted rolling average. This method does not effectively communicate seasonal changes and may potentially skew results, thus providing inaccurate traffic expectations.

4 Ways To Use Search Volume Data To Maximize Keyword And Content Value

  1. Look at rolling average data to get a fuller picture of how your keyword has performed over the last year.
  2. Review month-to-month search volume to predict seasonal spikes and user behavior throughout the coming year.
  3. Choose keywords that best match the purpose of your content with search engine user behavior.
  4. Naturally use the keywords throughout your content, and monitor your success.


Content that ranks well in search engines strikes a balance, providing high-value information (content marketing) along with keywords that allow the content to be found by the intended customer audience (SEO).

To achieve this balance, however, you need to understand precisely what customers seek to learn — and part of this is based on what they are entering into Google. Using both rolling average and month-to-month search volume data helps marketers more accurately map keyword targets to specific content and build high-performance content marketing campaigns around this.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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