Using monthly search volumes to measure seasonality

Sam Underwood
Sam Underwood
August 21, 2020
8 mins read

Seasonality has a large part to play in many industries, but it's a topic I see rarely discussed.

By using seasonality insights as part of your SEO strategy you can gain a competitive advantage by being the first mover in a variety of critical areas for SEO optimisation, mainly:

  • Internal linking
  • Content publishing/republishing strategy
  • On-page optimisation
  • General SEO activity prioritisation

Publishing and republishing content based upon when users begin searching for a topic allows you to ensure you have fresh content, something Google is keen on seeing.

Internal linking has a considerable part to play in SEO optimisation, a recent study by SEO testing tool Searchpilot showed a 25% increase from optimising internal linking structure.

In competitive niches, most SEO's will be following the same guidelines for SEO optimisation, so how do you gain the advantage?

For my clients, one way is by adjusting based upon seasonality.

For the rest of this article, I'm going to run you through the process I use to map seasonality on a site, and then I'll delve into what to do with the data.

You'll be creating a nifty Google Sheets dashboard that will show you both seasonality by different keyword groups.

seasonality category overview

As well as by individual keywords.

seasonality keyword overview 2

Requirements.

Before you get started, there are some things you'll need.

  • Categorised keyword research
  • Keywords Everywhere or a similar tool to extra monthly search volumes (MSV)
  • Alternative source of keyword search volume data if you don't want to use Google Ads. If you want to read about the accuracy of search volume data, see this resource from Ahrefs.

You can use an alternative monthly search volume data instead of Keywords Everywhere, but the template is structured to use that tool.

Also bear in mind, if your industry is heavily impacted by COVID-19, seasonality trends will be hard to measure right now!

The template.

As always, there is a template I've created to make this more straightforward. Grab that below and follow along for the rest of the guide.

1. Add keyword and search volume data.

Your first step is to add in your list of keywords that have been grouped together. If you don't want to use Google Ads search volume data, also add search volume from a third-party tool in this list.

I'd recommend using one that has clickstream data:

Once you've done that, you should have a list that looks like the below.

seasonality keyword data

2. Add seasonality data.

The next step is to get your monthly search volume data. I shopped around and found Keywords Everywhere is a great and relatively inexpensive source for getting this.

Once you've installed the extension head to the import keywords section.

keyword everywhere import keywords

Add your list of keywords and select get metrics.

keyword everywhere add keywords

Export the CSV.

keyword everywhere export csv

Clean the data, removing the unneeded columns below.

keyword everywhere remove columns

Copy the data and paste as values into the 'Data - Seasonality' sheet.

keyword everywhere copy paste as values

Behind the scenes.

A couple of things happen behind the scenes here. First, seasonality data gets merged in the hidden 'Data - Merged' sheet.

seasonality data merged

Second, the data gets unpivoted.

You'll notice that monthly data is added in columns from the Keywords Everywhere tool, making it wide, not long.

This data structure isn't as easy to manage and manipulate. Ideally, we'd have a 'Monthly Search Volume' column with keyword/category data being repeated multiple times, making it long data, not wide.

It also then follows the data structure recommendations for Data Studio.

To unpivot, I've used a custom formula =unpivot(). Ben Collins has a great guide on unpivoting data if you want to learn more.

Entirely optional, but now seasonality data is added, head to the 'Data - Unpivoted' tab if you want to see a merged view of all your data.

You'll see the data has been unpivoted and has a 'Google Ads MSV' column.

seasonality data unpivoted

Alongside MSV, you can see I've also added in a column that changes the Ahrefs, or other tools, search volume data into a monthly search volume.

Use this if you'd rather stick to using clickstream data.

The seasonality index column works by taking the average Google Ads MSV and then dividing each months search volume by that average.

=IF(ISBLANK(A2),,E2/AVERAGEIF(A2:A,A2,E2:E))

For the Ahrefs MSV (or other search volume source of your choosing) we then multiply the Ahrefs average MSV by the seasonality index.

This isn't a foolproof method.

While this is the most accurate way of doing this, it isn't perfect.

Google Ads groups search volume for similar keywords into buckets. For some keyword variations, there may be a slightly different seasonality trend, making the above inaccurate.

This is always going to be minor though, so I wouldn't worry too much about the data accuracy.

3. Check the results.

With your seasonality data added, check the '? Trends by category'. You should see something like the below.

seasonality category overview

And then also take a look at the '? Trends by keyword' sheet to see individual trends by keyword.

seasonality keyword overview 2

4. Optional: Add data each month.

If you want to track search demand on an ongoing basis, repeat step 2 but when cleaning the data, only include months that you don't already have in the sheet.

How to use this data?

There are multiple ways to use this information to your advantage, the more seasonal the industry, the more beneficial the below tips will be.

Some examples of top industries that would benefit from the tips below are:

  • Travel
  • Fashion
  • Wedding sites
  • Any site that are to do with indoors or outdoors, e.g. (biking, walking routes, BBQing, decorating)

Update your site structure.

One of the main ways I use seasonality data is by adjusting internal linking and site structure.

One key site structure concept is that you should have a flat structure that minimises click depth from the home page to important pages.

flat site structure tick

Flat site structures are preferred over deep ones where important pages are more clicks from the homepage, reducing the amount of PageRank that gets to them.

deep site structure cross

Even recently, John Mueller from Google had this to see on click depth.

What does matter for us a little bit is how easy it is to actually find the content. So especially if your homepage is generally the strongest page on your website, and from the homepage it takes multiple clicks to actually get to one of these stores, then that makes it a lot harder for us to understand that these stores are actually pretty important.

John Mueller

You might be able to see where I'm going with this.

Use the above data to ensure that essential pages that are coming on-trend have plenty of internal links pointing to them and are also close to the home page.

If you've categorised your keywords well, it's as simple as when spotting highly searched categories by month like below.

seasonality on trend categories

Then you need to add them to the home page, your main navigation, and any other high authority pages.

Finding high authority pages.

If you're looking for other pages to link from internally, make use of the best by links report in Ahrefs and pick out some high authority relevant pages to the one that is about to come on-trend.

ahrefs moonpig best by links

Adding some internal links on these kinds of pages can make a big difference.

Update page optimisation.

In some industries like travel, people tend to append the year they plan on travelling into the search query, e.g. 'spain holidays 2020'.

You can see most sites are optimising for this by just checking the SERP.

spain holidays serp highlighted

If you've categorised keywords by year, you should be able to easily spot when the crossover is between 2019 and 2020 searches and update both your title tags and H1s to reflect that.

Plan content publishing and refreshes.

As I mentioned, fresh content is part of the algorithm, so organise your content republishing around times when content is about to come on-trend.

Take the term 'best bbq' for example, this term is always popular in June/July time.

best bbq trends

A month or two before this peak give the article a refresh so it's up-to-date with the latest information.

Outside of refreshes, also try and organise your calendar so you're publishing new content when it makes sense. For my own calendars, I integrate data from this seasonality sheet into publishing plans to make it really easy.

Explain drops in traffic.

One way you can also use this data is to explain why there has been a traffic drop to certain pages or to the site in general.

If you've seen a consistent downward trend, but things such as rankings seem stable, it's likely due to demand.

By using this sheet you can really easily explain the story around demand changes with actual data.

Summing up.

Levelling up your SEO strategy process by considering seasonality is a powerful way to gain an advantage.

Hopefully you'll find this sheet as useful as I do more making demand changes part of your process.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram