Keywords Revisited, Part 3: Paid Research Tools

The free keyword research options are great. You can develop an amazing campaign with free resources, but sometimes you just need more keyword research. If you missed earlier columns on the free keyword research tools and log files, start there, then return to this column. Today we’ll focus on paid keyword research tools and resources. Many go far beyond keyword research and into the competitive intelligence.


This tool is the most popular external source of keyword research data. Wordtracker has a database of terms that, though similar to those of Overture and Google, comes from a different search engine source — several meta engines. Some feel the data from Wordtracker is purer because so many marketers constantly check their listings in the major portals. That skews free tools’ results. After all, the Overture and Google keyword research tools include all the search marketing folks who check their organic listings.

Truth is, no data set is perfect. But all provide value to search engine marketers. Most of the time, precise accuracy is not as important as inclusiveness. Wordtracker data is a valuable addition to free data sources. Its interface and method of searching and collecting keywords are unique.

There’s the ability to build keyword lists within the Web-based interface and to continuously drill down and tag keywords as you go. Wordtracker lets you save research to continue at a later time. A fun feature is to query each keyword in a search engine to determine the level of competitiveness based on the number of results. So if a keyword is popular with searchers but not well represented in the search engines, you have a better chance of successful search engine optimization (SEO).

Several pricing plans are available for the service.

Keyword Hounddog

I didn’t have time to test this paid tool (downloadable, unlike most of the Web-based tools listed). The demo looks interesting, as it includes built-in dictionary and thesaurus functions.

Site Content Analyzer

This software tool parses Web site copy in an attempt to find keywords on a site. It’s an interesting addition to a toolbox, but the same process could be accomplished manually. Depending on the sites you hope to use for keyword extraction research, this could be a helpful tool.


Nothing gets marketers more excited than knowing what the competition is doing. Wouldn’t it be great to know what keywords your competitors are using in paid search, and what keywords searchers use to find them in organic search results? Some services go beyond keyword research and into competitive intelligence (CI). These include Hitwise and comScore’s qSearch.

Though Hitwise is not exclusively a keyword research service, keyword reports can be run that include interesting and potentially useful keyword data, particularly for CI. Want to know what keywords searchers use to find your top five competitors? It’s in the report. For any Web site (by domain), Hitwise can run a keyword report that lists the top 20 ways searchers found the site and clicked.

Hitwise reports are boilerplate yet very useful. The data sources are router logs from major ISPs. These can, of course, track behavior of all subscribers or any traffic routed through the ISP. Any time you visit a Web site, your behavior is cataloged in every router log between your ISP and the one hosting the visited site. Hitwise looks at the behavior of 10 million U.S. users and 25 million worldwide surfers.


QSearch is a complete search engine research service. Reports and custom research are based on data collected daily on surfing patterns on over 1.5 million Web users. The panel is designed to provide a representative sample of the overall Web community. With a research panel of this size, comScore pulls a host or search-related data, including keywords and other CI. Most reports are fairly customized and part of larger research projects.

If all you want is keyword research, the option is available. A self-serve interface may have the information you need.

Serious marketers who want to understand a diverse mix of search behaviors, including keywords for their own sites and those of major competitors, should consider qSearch. As with most custom research on large data sets, it’s best if you know ahead of time what questions you want answered.

An area where qSearch excels is its ability to tie purchase behavior on competitive sites to keywords. It’s amazing. Some marketers don’t even know the conversion rate for their own sites, yet qSearch can provide data based on a statistical sample for many high-traffic sites. Wouldn’t it be valuable to know as much about your competition’s search marketing campaign as they do, if not more?

This is available now and will soon be broken down between algorithmic and paid-placement search.


I may have left out a few tools. Others are in development at research firms such as Nielsen//NetRatings. So I may revisit keyword research and/or competitive intelligence again in the near future. With the free and paid keyword research tools available, plus a bit of work, you’ll have a comprehensive list that can be developed into an effective search marketing campaign.

Want more search information? ClickZ Search Archives contains all our search columns, organized by topic.

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