Use traffic potential; not volumes

Traffic potential in Ahrefs shows the true potential of certain search terms. Particularly because of the trend of certain search results getting lower and lower CTR from the SERP, it is of secondary importance to look at volumes. What is much more interesting is the actual traffic potential of your targeted search terms. In this article, I will show you how I proceed to find out.

SEO for a new website

There are many forms of noise on the search results page. Consider the following:

  • Many ads above organic search results that “steal” clicks.
  • Google Shopping ads above organic search results.
  • Local search results.
  • Frequently asked questions (also above organic search results).
  • Competitors you can’t top (branded results, for example).

In this roadmap, I’ll walk you through how I determine the traffic potential of search terms as well as URLs. I do this primarily with the program Ahrefs.

My roadmap for traffic potential

Determining the traffic potential of search terms (keywords) through Ahrefs, a widely used tool for SEO and, for example, conducting keyword research, can be done in a few steps:

Step 1: Go to the Keyword Explorer

  1. Use the Keyword Explorer tool.
    • Enter the search term(s) whose potency you want to know.
    • Choose the right location and language, as search volume and competition can vary by region and language.
Keywords explorer | Ahrefs

Step 2: Analysis of the results

  1. Review key metrics:
    • Search Volume: Indicates how many times per month the search term is searched. This is a direct indicator of traffic potential.
    • Clicks: Shows how many clicks search results get on average, which can help understand whether searchers are clicking through or not.
    • Keyword Difficulty (KD): Estimate how difficult it will be to get high rankings with this search term. The lower the KD, the easier it should be to rank.
    • CPC (Cost Per Click): Important if you are also looking at the commercial value of the search terms.
    • Traffic potential: And of course the traffic potential per search term indicated here.
Determining traffic potential

Step 3: SERP Analysis

  1. Study the SERP summary:
    • Look at the websites that currently rank high for your search term.
    • Analyze the type of content (blogs, product pages, etc.) and its quality.
    • Watch for any advertisements that may indicate commercial intentions.

Step 4: Long-term potential

  1. Research related search terms and long-tail keywords. These may have less search volume, but often less competition and more specific search intent.

Step 6: Trends and seasonality

  1. Use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to view search term trends. Some terms may be seasonal or trending.
Google Trends by search term

Step 7: Competitive analysis

  1. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. See what keywords they use and what their backlink profile looks like.

Additional tips

  • Use Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker to track the progress of your own rankings for selected search terms.
  • Keep analyzing new search terms regularly; the market and search behavior can change.
  • Integrate your content strategy with content creation; make sure the content matches the search intent of the search term.

By following these steps, you can gain a thorough understanding of the traffic potential of search terms through Ahrefs and use these insights to strengthen your SEO strategy and content planning.

Traffic potential based on top search results

To determine the traffic potential of search terms by specifically looking at the top 3 results in Google through Ahrefs, you can take the following steps:

Step 1: SERP Analysis

  1. View the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) analysis provided by Ahrefs for the search term entered. Focus on the top 3 URLs that rank for this term:
    • Position: confirm that these URLs are actually in the top 3.
    • Domain Authority and Page Authority: Gives an idea of the strength of the competition.
    • Number and quality of backlinks: Provides insight into how much effort it might take to achieve these positions.

Step 2: Traffic potential of Top 3 URLs.

  1. Examine individual traffic from each of these top 3 URLs:
    • Click on each URL in the SERP analysis to get a detailed page analysis.
    • Look at the estimate of monthly organic traffic to this page.
    • Also look at the distribution of keywords for which each page ranks and the contribution of the primary keyword.
Organic traffic progress by URL

Step 3: Understanding the Keyword-URL Relationship

  1. Analyze how much traffic the main keyword generates compared to other traffic to the page:
    • If the primary keyword makes up a significant portion of the traffic, that is a good indicator of the traffic potential for that keyword.
    • If the page ranks for hundreds of other terms, this indicates that the top 3 positions may not be determined by the main keyword alone.

Step 4: Competitive analysis

  1. Review the content and optimization of the top 3 URLs:
    • What type of content (text length, media, topics, etc.) do they use?
    • How is their on-page SEO (such as title tags, meta-descriptions, header tags) compared to your site?

Step 5: Considerations

  1. Consider the following points:
    • Realism: Is it realistic to achieve these top 3 positions given your current SEO status?
    • Resources: Do you have the resources (content, backlinks, time) to compete?
    • Strategy: Should you focus on less competitive, long-tail keywords that together may have similar traffic potential?

Step 6: Monitoring and Adaptation

  1. Start implementing your SEO strategy and monitor your progress. Adjustments may be necessary depending on changes in search algorithms, competition, and your own Web site performance.

Additional Tips

  • Pay attention to “Featured Snippets” and other SERP features. These can significantly affect the click rate (CTR) of the top organic results.
  • Seasonality and trends: Check for seasonality or trends that may affect search volumes.

By following these steps, you can get a more accurate picture of what the top 3 positions in Google for a particular keyword mean and how you can adjust your strategy to achieve your goals.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 9 November 2023. The last update of this article was on 22 November 2023. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.