The higher the search volume for a given keyword or keyword phrase, the more work is typically required to achieve higher rankings. This is often referred to as keyword difficulty and occasionally incorporates SERP features; for example, if many SERP features (like featured snippets, knowledge graph, carousels, etc) are clogging up a keyword’s result page, difficulty will increase. Big brands often take up the top 10 results for high-volume keywords, so if you’re just starting out on the web and going after the same keywords, the uphill battle for ranking can take years of effort.
The highest number is the one that would give you the most potential return. If you have a big-time domain and can rank pretty easily on competitive keywords, start at the top. If you’re a newer, smaller site and can’t really play with the big guns yet, it might make more sense to start in the middle of the sorted keyword research list – these aren’t the “monster” keywords in your niche, but they’re also less competitive, and therefore easier to rank on.
Yes solid keyword data dramatically changes the game as far as rankings go. I have seen many tools that provide Cost per click stats and meaningless charts that confuse most users. the data Jaaxy provides helps drive “organic” traffic to your site on a consistent basis which will out perform PPC sites every time. I like how you say thinking like the end user, as I feel that way when I search. I dive into what people are looking for and it really helps drive content idea’s. I have seen great results from that.
If you have an "Action against Site" notice - then your site drops out totally from the SERPs and you have essentially been de-indexed. There will be a notice from the manual webspam team (real person) inside Search Console messages. If this happens, you cannot do much other than fix things and then send a plea and appeal to Google literally begging them to put your site back in their index - because you have cleaned up everything you do (or your SEO company did to your site).
The WA Keyword tool works well also and I am glad you like it. I use it as well. The reason I prefer Jaaxy is because it is an entire suite of tools in one package for an affordable price. Good choice to wait until you can budget for it. The free version gives a good taste of what is available but the paid versions both Pro and Enterprise are truly game changers. Once you make the leap you wont go back.
Once I have a list of phrases, rankings, and volumes from these tools, I'll look to internal tools (maybe Excel, Access, or another database) to organize, classify, and forecast opportunity. This is where I'll estimate a competitor's traffic based on volume & position CTR, set goals for a target position, and estimate traffic based off that position's CTR and keyword volume.
What is KWFinder? Well, KWFinder is really an alternative to Google’s keyword planner, which just sucks. Anyone that uses AdWords or any of Google’s tools on a daily basis know that they are just very clunky and the UI is lacking. But of course, it is free so sometimes you can’t be too picky. But in my opinion, if a tool provides real value and speeds up my work, then it is worth every penny.
If a member of your target audience who is looking for your topic landed on these same search results, what would they do? Would they immediately try again and search for something else? In other words, are the high ranking pages relevant to you, your brand and your content? If not, you’re in the wrong neighborhood. Go back and consider different phrases.
Long tail keywords are the low hanging fruit of keyword research. These are phrases with low competition, and generally low search volume as well. While any individual long tail keyword might not attract a ton of organic traffic, targeting them en masse can be an easy way to quickly pick up steam in your niche and poise yourself for tackling more competitive search terms.
You’ll likely compile a lot of keywords. How do you know which to tackle first? It could be a good idea to prioritize high-volume keywords that your competitors are not currently ranking for. On the flip side, you could also see which keywords from your list your competitors are already ranking for and prioritize those. The former is great when you want to take advantage of your competitors’ missed opportunities, while the latter is an aggressive strategy that sets you up to compete for keywords your competitors are already performing well for.