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Measuring Search Term Popularity

tape measure_JPGKnowing how popular your search terms are with web searches is one of the most important and most obvious bits of data we hope to discover.  Regardless of whether you are a professional or rookie at search engine optimization or pay per click campaigns this information can make a world of difference to your end results.

There are several main search term databases that you can use to determine keyword popularity.  Unfortunately that data is not always reliable.  Below we discuss the individual pros and cons of the major players in the game.  Please understand all search term databases are skewed to some extent.  The biggest problem is the rank checking applications like Web Position.  Every time someone checks their ranking it falsely inflates the popularity of the keywords at that search engine.

Overture offers a free search term suggestion tool.  Because it is free, it is the most popular option people go to.  All rank checking applications will hit major search engines, and when you consider the fact that both MSN and Yahoo carry Overture’s ads every rank check counts as two searches to Overture.  When other applications and partners run checks through overture this too drives up the popularity, even though it’s not a person conducting a real search.  Overture also focuses on pay per click services, so they do some things- like combining the plural and nonplural forms of a word into one search query- that give you less than accurate results.

Keyword Discovery database is operated by Trellian, which is the parent company of the Priority Submit paid inclusion service.  What makes Trellian’s database unique is that it stores on full years worth of data.  This is very helpful if you need to search seasonal terms to look for previous years trends.  While they have some useful bells and whistles such as a related terms tool and a URL analyzer that will extract search terms from a website and add those to the list along with general counts from the database it is a bit hard to trust them since they give no explanation as to where the results come from.  Without knowing how many search terms are in the database in a given month it’s impossible to put much stock into what the counts show us in terms of popularity or ranking.

Wordtracker keyword database is what most of the professional search engine marketers use.  Most rank checkers do not check metasearch engines, therefore the fact that Wordtracker looks at the last 60 days of searches on Dogpile and metacrawler reduces a lot of the skewing caused by rank checkers.  This makes Wordtracker’s data more useful than other service providers.  Wordtracker also provides data from search engines and pay per click bids on Overture.

Choosing a search term database is comparable to picking the lesser of evils.  While they provide useful tools, it would not be advisable to trust the results 100%.