Content Optimization: Keyword Effectiveness Indicators

Since content optimization is such a critical feature of nearly any natural search optimization strategy, we’ve spent the last few weeks discussing some of the finer points of performing extensive keyword research. We’ve already covered content optimization fundamentals and reviewed how to use some of the more popular free keyword suggestion tools, including Quintura, Google Suggest, Yahoo Search Suggest, Google Trends, and the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. We’ve also started a discussion around keyword analytics with Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery.

Keyword suggestion and keyword analytics tools differ, at least when it comes to estimating the size of the keyword market for particular words and phrases. Understanding the different data sets used by the free Google AdWords tool and the subscription-based Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery tools is important.

This week, we’ll round out our discussion of the two subscription-based tools by addressing other information Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery provide and whether these features and functions are critically important to helping develop your content optimization strategy.

Both Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery provide some type of keyword effectiveness indicator (KEI) analysis. KEIs are designed to help you decide whether you want to optimize for a particular word or phrase based on the level of competing Web pages found for that particular word or phrase. Again, the two tools vary in their definitions of what is and, presumably, what isn’t competition for specific keywords and keyword phrases.


In Wordtracker, the count is the number of times a keyword has appeared in the Wordtracker’s “Keyword Universe” data set as compiled from major meta crawlers and is sliced into a daily prediction of keyword searches made over 24 hours. (The “dig” functionality allows you to drill down different iterations of how the keyword is searched for.)

If you want to know how competitive the word or phrase is, you need to save it to your master keyword list and take it into deeper analysis. Next, choose a search engine or search directory from which you want to analyze the competition. Current choices include selecting any three engines or directories to analyze at any one time. Options include AltaVista, MSN, Lycos, Yahoo (English), Google,, and AlltheWeb search engines and the Yahoo and DMOZ directories.

Only then will Wordtracker break out the “competing” column, which represents the number of pages potentially returned for the phrases in the search engines and directories you’ve selected. Finally, a KEI is tallied, specific to each search engine or search directory as selected.

Wordtracker’s KEI formula was developed by Sumantra Roy, a respected search engine positioning specialist and president of 1stSearchRanking. Wordtracker’s KEI compares the keyword count result with the number of competing Web pages associated with the same data set.

Wordtracker’s KEI is designed to help you pinpoint exactly which keywords have the potential of being highly effective for your content optimization strategy. For the most part, the higher the KEI is, the more popular the keyword is and the less competition there is for that word. The KEI is presented on a sliding scale of 0 to 10.

In actuality, the Wordtracker KEI, being a function of the original count, is just another slice of the larger data set. For Google, as well as the other search engines, it’s based on market share, then the number of pages Google returns for the particular search query. It’s not always the same number you see when you do a search query and Google says it has a gazillion results, but the number of competing pages is in the same range of results.

Keyword Discovery

Keyword Discovery provides similar information but goes about it a bit differently. When analyzed, the tool produces a data set labeled “Searches” for each keyword or keyword phrase you select. This column contains the number of times that each word or phrase appears in the selected database, be it “Global Premium,” “Historical,” Overture, eBay, or something else.

The “Searches” column displays the number of searches for the keyword over the last 12 months for “Global Premium” and the “Regional” databases. Overture databases display monthly searches figures; however, the data is often several months behind. The “Historical” database displays search figures from June 2005 to present time. Again, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between these data sets. A lot has changed since 2005.

No matter which data set you use, Keyword Discovery presents an “Occurrences” column containing an estimate of the number of pages on which each search term appears. Basically, the more pages there are, the more competition there is for top positioning in search results. Naturally, this means if there are a lot of pages, it will be more challenging to achieve good rankings, which brings us to the tool’s KEI formula.

Keyword Discovery’s KEI also attempts to measure the potential effectiveness of gaining search-referred traffic for any given search term. This is done by associating a number of factors, such as the number of times a keyword is searched for, the number of pages on which it occurs, and so forth. The KEI is represented as a log scale with values from 0 to 10.

The concept is very similar to Wordtracker’s KEI in that the higher the score, the more likely the words and phrases with the larger values will tend to be less competitive and have greater potential to be successful in sending search referred traffic your way. The higher the KEI score, the more likely you’ll want to tap into the search referral market for those words or phrases. Unfortunately, perfect 10s are few and far between. So few that only Googlewhacked (define) phrases should receive such a score.

Unfortunately, Googlewhacks aren’t known for driving high levels of search referrals. It’s probably not a good idea to build your content optimization strategy around a series of Googlewhacked phrases.

Just about any keyword phrase that drives high volumes of search-engine-referred visitors to your site will be competitive. I’ve never glanced at a KEI of 0.0001 and said, “Oh my, that’s far too competitive a phrase to optimize for.” The key is to understand the relevance of the phrase as it applies to your business goals. It’s all about managing the gap between different words and phrase. We’ll talk more about that next time.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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