Where Do Keyword Tools Get Their Search Volume Data?

Search volume data affects your SEO. It’s in every keyword tool. And yet, we rarely ask: where does it come from?

Lana Rafaela
Updated on

Will you target a keyword or not? How fierce is your competition? And if you create content, will it show up on the first page?

Search volume data affects your SEO. It’s in every keyword tool. And yet, we rarely ask: where does it come from?

Today, I’ll show you where keyword tools get their search volume data and what their data sources mean for your traffic.

Let’s dive in!

Top Three Sources for Search Volume Data

Search volume data comes from various sources. You may have noticed that different tools show you different search volume results.

Typically, keyword tools source their search volume data from:

  • The Google API
  • Third-party services (typically clickstream data)
  • Their own models and algorithms

Each of these has its pros and cons.

Search Volume Data from the Official Google Ads API

Google Ads API is exactly what it says on the tin: an API that pulls data from Google Ads Keyword Planner.

Is Google Ads Search Volume Data Accurate?

Not entirely.

Google Ads API favors PPC data. You’ll often see zero search volume for keywords that do get traffic.

Secondly, Google API groups close variants together. 

It’ll show differently spelled or similar searches as the same keyword, even though they could be terms you target with different content.

For example, Google API will combine all the following searches into one:

  • SEO
  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine optimisation

Since it groups them together, the individual search volume data isn’t accurate.

Clickstream Data and Search Volume

The second option for getting search volume data is the click path or clickstream data.

What Is Clickstream Data?

Clickstream data tracks how visitors navigate websites, what actions they take, where they come from, how long they dwell on pages, and more.

In short: clickstream tracks the entire customer journey via hyperlinks and cookies.

Then, it uses the data to establish a more accurate search volume.

How does clickstream data work
Clickstream data tracks the stream of users’ clicks

Is Clickstream Data Accurate?

It’s more reliable than others, but it’s not 100% accurate (none of the sources are).

The first reason for the accuracy is the click path.

Clickstream looks at the visitor’s behavior as they navigate from one site to the next, paying attention to everything they do. Thanks to cookies, all that data is stored and anonymized.

However, the most valuable clickstream data comes from Google’s Search Engine Results Pages. Browsers “spy” on users as they use the internet every day, making the data on click-through rates and traffic estimations more accurate.

Secondly, it’s much easier to filter out spam traffic with clickstream data.

It quickly identifies unnatural search behavior caused by bots and removes their visits from the search volume data you see.

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Combined Search Volume Data Models

Most keyword tools mix and match different sources to create their own algorithms.

For example, some also ask for your Google Search Console data to make the results more relevant to your website and adjust traffic expectations.  

Of course, it pays to be careful. Getting access to your GSC means they can easily “borrow” search data from you (and show it to your competitors).

Where Do Keyword Tools Source Their Search Volume Data?

Where Does Ahrefs Get Search Volume Data?

As one of the most robust SEO tools, Ahrefs has a powerful search volume strategy.

They receive historical clickstream data from third-party providers. Then, they pair it with Google Ads API data.

The clickstream data allows them to un-group close variants of keywords and display more accurate traffic volume for each.

Ahrefs will also ask you to connect it to Google Search Console so it can display data tailored to your website.

As I said above, connecting your GSC to a keyword tool can be problematic.

While you will get better results, these tools may use your traffic data for keyword analyses shown to your competitors.

So if you’re onto a good niche and you’re finding low-competition keywords, avoid sharing your data with third-party tools.

Where Does Semrush Get Search Volume Data?

Officially, Semrush uses machine learning to provide search volume data.

In reality, they get clickstream data and run it through their own algorithms that estimate click-through rates.

Their search volume data is based on organic and paid results, so it’s more accurate than Google’s API.

Where Does Ubersuggest Get Search Volume Data?

Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest is one of the most straightforward keyword tools, but your data won’t be 100% accurate.

Ubersuggest only uses Google’s API to get search volume data.

You won’t see close variants separately, and the traffic might be biased because of Google Keyword Planner’s PPC-first nature.

Where Does Moz Get Search Volume Data?

Moz Pro uses its own and third-party data like clickstream to estimate search volume for keywords.

Keyword Explorer suggestions are based on Moz’s own keyword database.

Where Does LowFruits Get Search Volume Data?

LowFruits uses Google Ads API data.

Learn more about zero search volume keywords in our guide.

If you add your websites to LowFruits, we’ll also check if you’re already ranking for the keywords you want to target.

What’s the Best Source of Search Volume Data?

Every search volume data source is different. Not a single one is 100% accurate, so it’s best to treat search volume information like an arrow pointing you in the right direction.

Estimated traffic for the primary keyword isn’t the be-all-end-all, either.

You won’t just rank for that primary keyword.

You’ll also rank for different secondary keywords that bring in even more traffic, so even if a tool estimated Search volume <10, you could get thousands of visits.

The best approach is to use a tool that combines different sources. This way, you’ll better gauge which keywords are(not) worth targeting.

Search Volume Data Will Never Be 100% Accurate

… but you might get a pleasant surprise.

If your website is new, start with zero search volume or low search volume keywords. And if you’ve been in the game for a while, listen to your audience.

What do they want you to write about?

After all, they’re the reason we’re here.

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