Sign up for our daily recaps of the ever-changing search marketing landscape.
Doing Keyword Research? Here Are Some Resources To Help!
Search term research is one of the fundamental activities for a successful
search marketing campaign. You’ve got to know the words people are using if you
want to target them properly. To help, I’ve expanded the
Search Term Research section of
Search Engine Land to list a variety of resources and tools you can consult.
Behavior section also has been updated to list places where search engines
generally report on search activity, such as popular trends in searching. Both
sections also recap articles we’ve covered on these topics. Below, a bit more
about what’s in both sections, along with the sad decline of the
Keyword Selector Tool and some alternatives that have come along in its
One of the best things when the former GoTo paid search service arrived
nearly 10 years ago was that it soon began offering a free tool allowing you to
see what people were searching for, ranked by popularity of search. GoTo renamed
itself Overture, and the Overture Search Term Selection tool was an essential
component of any search marketer’s toolkit.
Yahoo later purchased Overture, and the tool to support
Yahoo Search Marketing customers
was renamed again, though it continued to operate as normal. Then
Yahoo rolled out its new
Panama paid search system, and the tool seemed abandoned, as a result.
Consider a search for terms related to cars. The old tool, when it doesn’t
timeout, tells me these are the top five related words and their search volumes:
- car insurance: 3,148,492
- auto purchase: 1,734,429
- buy a car: 1,311,773
- new car: 1,080,103
- car rental: 1,030,755
Sounds great? Sure, if you don’t mind the data being half-a-year old. Those
volumes are from January 2007. Normally, this tool should show search data from
the previous month.
Well, Yahoo has this new keyword tool now. One disadvantage to it is that you
can only reach it if you’re logged into a Yahoo Search Marketing account. OK, so
it doesn’t take long to set-up an account (though only allowing user names only
up to 10 characters long sucks — everything I wanted was taken). Plus, placing
a $5 deposit isn’t much for those just after some free keyword research.
If you get past those disadvantages, there’s the bigger issue that the tool
isn’t that helpful. A search for [cars], for example, gives a list with no
apparent order. Consider the top five things that show up and the estimated
monthly searches for them:
- used car: 257,220+
- new car: 257,220+
- automobile: 20,160-257,219
- car for sale: 257,220+
- buying car: 20,160-257,219
Are these in order of popularity? If so, why are there further down on the
list matches with ranges above that 20,000 minimum mark? And what’s with these
ranges? From 20,000 through 260,000 is Yahoo’s idea of granularity? The tool
might work well enough for paid search marketers, but for
SEO work, don’t bother.
Of course, the tool IS designed for Yahoo’s paid search customers. Why should
it care if others get a free ride off it?
Mainly, because it’s good PR for Yahoo. What’s the first tool I use and
recommend these days? The
Keyword Tool! Unlike Yahoo, I can link to it directly (with Yahoo, to use
its tool, you have to hunt for it as part of the ad creation process). Unlike
Yahoo, I don’t need to log into AdWords to use it. Unlike Yahoo, the data is
fresh — from June 2007.
Sure, Google doesn’t give you actual volume figures. Still, you can sort the
terms generally by search volume, and the small graphs in that column give you a
good idea of relative popularity. In addition, you can exclude synonyms and just
find terms related to the exact term you entered. The top five terms related to
cars according to Google?
- cars movie
- cars the movie
- new cars
- rental cars
It would be nice to see Yahoo step up and take on Google by making its search
term research tool more robust, more specific and available to anyone. Consider
also that after Google expanded Google
Trends (another awesome research tool) with Hot Trends (see
Google Meme: Hot Trends
Added To Google Trends), Yahoo wasted no time
reminding the world
of its long-standing Yahoo Buzz area that
covers search trends. Sure, that’s wonderful, as long as you happen to be
interested in whatever Yahoo Buzz is talking about. It’s not so great if you
want to dive into a particular area of your choosing.
Yahoo also loses to Microsoft in the PR battle of providing search term
information. Consider adCenter Labs, which
offers a variety of keyword research tools including
Keyword Forecast. This is like Google Trends, where you can drill deep on
whatever terms you like — plus you can get the age and gender breakdown of
those searching, as estimated by Microsoft.
Even smaller players have cashed in on Yahoo not supporting its old, useful
tool. Both Wordtracker and
Trellian have fee-based keyword
research tools. But when Yahoo abandoned its tool, they rolled out basic free
ones to gain some PR. They deserve it, because the tools are helpful.
The Wordtracker Free Keyword
Suggestion Tool for [cars] tells me these figures for daily searches:
- cars: 73,994
- used cars: 27,871
- car: 23,767
- fast cars: 15,056
- car rental: 10,647
The Trellian Free
Search Term Suggestion Tool for [cars] tells me these figures for yearly
- cars” 1,036,784
- used cars: 322,583
- new cars: 86,787
- fast cars: 69,364
- rental cars: 60,904
The downside to both tools is that I’d like to see them describe more about
where the data comes from (Trellian is
unclear on this) and
how fresh it is (for WordTracker, I think it is daily searches on average over
the past two months).
Keep in mind that the volumes from each service (Yahoo, WordTracker,
Trellian) won’t match each other for a variety of reasons. First, the time
periods are different (monthly, daily, yearly). Second, the search networks are
different (Yahoo will be larger and have more searches overall).
Instead, the numbers are just guides as to the popularity of terms relative
to each other. From WordTracker, [cars] is roughly three times as popular as
searches for [used cars]. Looking at Trellian, you can see its figures show
roughly the same percentage. Looking at figures from several services can give
you a better idea in general of what terms you ultimately decide are popular
enough to overtly target.
Overall, I hope this provides a glimpse of some of the current free tools out
there. As I said, there are many more listed on our
Search Term Research page, plus be sure to see the
Behavior section for those ways that search engine let you have fun seeing
broad trends. Meanwhile, I’ll be hoping that Yahoo steps up and reclaims its
former glory as a search term research resource.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.