Keyword Search Frequencies for Energy Efficiency and Old Houses

Recently, I migrated this blog from to my own website; hence, it’s change in location to I did this to have greater control over its content, not to mention also help bring traffic to my fledgling site, which I’m slowly building.

Now seemed like a good time to clean things up, and devise better strategies for managing my content, including aspects of search engine optimization (SEO). So with that in mind, I went about abstracting a set of keywords relevant to much of what I write about here. What exactly do I write about? Well, mostly the preservation of old homes and how to make them more energy efficient without destroying their character. Also, historic timber frames, a big interest of mine that ties in with the previous topic. These are the things I obsess about these days, and they drive much of my written self-expression.

I collected a total of 102 keywords and used the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to determine the relative frequency with which each is searched on the Internet. For a submitted word or phrase, the Keyword Tool returns the number of times that item is searched for on a monthly basis, on average, both globally, and also locally to some geographic region (I used the U.S., of course, as my geographic region). It also returns counts for slight variations on each keyword, as well as for certain related words and phrases.

The idea is that, for keywords that make the most sense for your content, you generally (though not always) want to use those with the highest search counts. On any given web page, both your <title> and <description> tags should include some reasonable selection of the most frequently searched keywords that are relevant to that page’s content or objective. In the case of a blog post, the best performing keywords should be included in the post title and written content. In WordPress, they should also from the basis for categories and tags, since these are fundamental drivers of WordPress SEO. On the other hand, keywords should only be used judiciously, and in contextually meaningful ways. Search engines can detect pages that have been gratuitously overloaded with keywords, and will avoid giving them good rankings.

I collected my candidate keywords in a spreadsheet, along with their global and local search counts. I did this so I could easily sort my list by any of these attributes to help me in making my selections. Here is a sample of 24 of the 102 keywords I analyzed, sorted by global, and then U.S., monthly counts:

Keyword Global Monthly (x1000) U.S. Monthly (x1000)
Restoration 2740 1830
Solar Energy 1000 368
Sustainability 1000 368
Renovation 1000 246
Renewable Energy 823 246
Heat Pump 673 450
Preservation 673 368
Energy Efficient 550 301
Old House 550 301
Saving Energy 450 110
Energy Efficiency 301 135
Old Houses 246 135
Mini Split 165 60.5
Timberframing 165 60.5
Timber Frame 165 49.5
Mini Splits 90.5 74
Historic Homes 60.5 60.5
Energy Performance 60.5 12.1
Historic Home 18.1 18.1
Timber Framing 14.8 5.4
Embodied Energy 12.1 2.9
Home Energy Performance 1.9 1.6
Deep Energy Retrofits 0.48 0.39
Deep Energy Retrofit 0.39 0.32

Some results are as expected. Others are not. Some are even highly counter-intuitive. For example, it’s probably no big surprise that popular phrases like “Restoration”, “Solar Energy”, and “Sustainability”, rank fairly high. Many people search daily for these terms, for reasons that might or might not be connected to home energy. On the other hand, I never would’ve expected “Energy Efficient” to out rank “Energy Efficiency” by a factor of  2.2 to 1 in searches performed in the U.S. This tells me people are twice as likely to search for energy efficient products (“energy efficient windows”, “energy efficient mortgages”, etc.), than for “energy efficiency” as a general topic.

Also, it didn’t surprise me that “Old House” out ranks “Historic Home”, but it was surprising to find that “Historic Homes” (a simple variant on the same keyword) highly out ranks the singular “Historic Home”, by a factor of 3.3 to 1 in the U.S.

Yet another interesting result was how “Timberframing” (as a compound word) well out ranks “Timber Framing”. In fact, “Timber Framing”, oddly, is searched for much less frequently than any of the other variations I investigated, such as “Timber Frame”, “Timber Framers”, “Timber Framed”, etc. This highlights the need to carefully consider analytic results when choosing your keywords, especially ones with many popular variations.

Finally, some highly technical terms, like “Embodied Energy”, and “Deep Energy Retrofit”, have extremely low search counts. Does this mean these particular keywords should be avoided? No, not at all. In this case, the esoteric nature of these terms means that most of the population is unaware of them, and isn’t searching for them on the Internet. Most people publishing and searching for content on “Embodied Energy”, “Deep Energy Retrofits”, etc., are practitioners working in these areas. Specialized keywords with very low search frequencies often are the best choice for connecting you with an equally specialized, target audience.

Since many of my friends and colleagues also write about these, or related, topics (especially home energy efficiency and performance), I’ve made my complete list available below. Any one who finds my results useful should feel free to re-use them, or incorporate them into their own keyword analyses. Just keep in mind that you proceed at your own risk in doing so. Also, the search counts here will naturally change over time, and I might not necessarily update any of these documents in the future.

Keyword spreadsheet (Open Office Calc format)

Keyword spreadsheet, sorted by Keyword (PDF)

Keyword spreadsheet, sorted by Global Searches, Local Searches (PDF)

For an overview of SEO, and how it relates to home energy performance, download this excellent whitepaper, “Putting Your Website To Work“, by Peter Troast and Will Mallett of Energy Circle.

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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7 Responses to Keyword Search Frequencies for Energy Efficiency and Old Houses

  1. James Dibben says:

    John, what a fantastic exercise!

    So many bloggers never do this. I’ve been reading a great blog recently that I bet you would enjoy.

    He makes his living as a full time blogger. He was also instrumental in the development of the premium theme I’m using.

    I’m learning A LOT from him right now.

    • John Poole says:

      Thanks for the great words, James! And thanks for the link; I will definitely check it out and let you know my impressions. Agreed that optimally organizing a blog / web site is a really important thing to do. My attempts here are only initial first steps for me. We’ll see how they ultimately work out!

  2. Peter Troast says:

    John–great post and an equally great service to all of us to have you digging on the keywords related to energy efficiency and historic preservation. A couple of additional points, mostly for emphasis because you alude to them:

    1. It’s important to keep in mind that winning traffic from search terms results both from reasonable volume and the ability of your site to rank well for that term. Ranking well comes from good SEO practices on your site, building site authority (from links mostly), and making sure your search result is the most attractive one on the page (great titles and descriptions). But before we all slavishly chase the terms that have the most volume, we need to recognize that volume, nine times out of ten, equates to competition. So very often the task of picking good terms is a bit of an arbitrage game of volume and competition. The holy grail, rarely found these days, is high volume and low competition.

    2. The other bit is the “long tail” concept which, oversimplified, means that there’s just as much total search for 25 relatively obscure (tail) terms as there is for 1 big (head) one. The challenge here, of course, is to be sure your site content is focused on those 25 smaller (and theoretically less competitive) terms without falling into the trap of being a mile wide and an inch deep. Of course, sites like this one that build deep archives of content over time is the solution to that.

    3. Lastly, it’s always critical to remind ourselves that keyword research is all rear view mirror stuff. Especially in energy efficiency and home performance, Wayne Gretzky should be our role model: his brilliance being the instinct of not going to where the puck was, but where it was going to be. With that mindset, smart people will figure out that terms like “deep energy retrofit” that don’t amount to much now will become big as the world evolves.

    • John Poole says:

      Thanks for your highly insightful comments — three key points of additional advice and perspective that really help to temper to this posting. For me, the essence of what you’re saying is that, while it’s important to employ a reasonable strategy for keyword management, establishing longer-term thought leadership is really the goal with all this stuff. This also suggests to me that there’s probably a feedback loop running between your points #2 and #3; that is, the more one (together with one’s colleagues) works toward deeply establishing meaningful content in some cutting-edge area, the more weight one’s specialized terms are going to acquire going forward. Anyway…you’ve got me thinking, bro, and that’s always good. Thanks again!

  3. John Poole says:

    1. Hmmm…I’m not sure you could afford my consulting rate for SEO services.
    2. Let’s see — the results are:
    Black jeans: 135K / 60.5K
    Tool belt: 74K / 40.5K
    All purpose knife: 0.72K / 0.39K
    Adze: 22.2K / 9.9K
    Okay, I’ll include “Black jeans” in every post I write from now on.

  4. John Poole says:

    On second thought, I’ll make that “Black jeans and Occidental tool belt”. OK?

  5. John Poole says:

    You’ve convinced me, Alexandra! Smooches and compliments go a long way. So when do you we get started? Free SEO consulting for Alexandra! :-D