Picking Keywords

by : Robin Nobles

...because your online success depends on getting accurate keyword counts! Part 3 (Continued from Part 2. Contact for the complete article.)

Finally: Making sense of the numbers (here comes the shock).

Ok, now that you understand the artificial skew and the alternatives that can correct for it, let's move on to analyze the numbers given by Overture's STST and Wordtracker's keyword selection service (KSS) using the search term(s) keyword(s).

An in depth look at Overture's STST numbers...

Overture's STST shows 180,468 searches were conducted. This represents the combined count of the search terms keyword, keywords, Keywords, KEYWORD and KEYWORDS - the combined total of all singular, plural, capitalized, upper and lower-case searches.

When we divide Overture's count (180,468) by 30 (because Overture's figures are for a 30-day period), the inference is there are 6,016 searches per day that meet this criteria. In actuality, they receive just 40-60 per day total (are we shocked yet?).

Here's how we're crunching the numbers.

Fact: Overture's STST suggests a combined average of 6,016 page views took place between Overture and its major partners - e.g. AltaVista, Yahoo, and others - each day for the month of December '03. We're referring to search result pages like:

Fact: Each of these results pages lists between 10 and 40 URLs with descriptions.

Factor in Zipf's Law which predicts that traffic for any particular keyword on a search engine will be proportional to its popularity rank.

Factor in how the title and description affect a user's propensity to click on a Web site.

Factor in the Penn State University's findings that 55% of users check out one search result only, and 80% stop after looking at three results.

Factor in known elements leading to an estimated, but educated, conclusion as such...

Since it's a fact that Wordtracker's Web site appears in the top- ten of Overture's results throughout their partner realm, they should be getting a guesstimateed 10% of the overall click- throughs from all major engines, pay-per-clicks, and directories.

That would equate to about 602 visitors per day.

However, Wordtracker is currently ranked 1-10 on only about 25% of the major engines, directories and pay-per-click portals for the search term, keyword(s)... Calculate the estimate...

...therefore, the Wordtracker site should expect roughly 25% of this predicted click-through traffic, which is 150 visitors per day.

Compare calculated estimate to known facts...

In fact, Wordtracker receives 10 - 15 visitors per day for the search term(s) keyword(s). In fact, Overture's STST overestimates this search query by a factor of 10.

Furthermore, since Wordtracker is estimating they receive approximately 25% of the total traffic then that would put the total traffic generated at 40 to 60 per day (25% of 40 to 60 = 10 to 15 visitors a day).

In fact, Overture's STST overestimates the total search query count by a factor of 100 ...based on 6,016 being more than 100 times greater than the 40 to 60 figure suggested by Wordtracker's actual visitors.

Experience shock and awe at the difference between the numbers!

Wordtracker's service provides very different numbers...

Using the same search term(s) keyword(s), we pulled a representative result from the Wordtracker database (on January 13, 2004) that predicts searches per day conducted throughout the major engines, directories and pay-per-clicks on the Internet.

The results were...

keyword - 93 searches (lower case, singular)

Keyword - 39 searches (Capitalized, singular)

keywords - 187 searches (lower case, plural)

Keywords - 184 searches (Capitalized, plural)

KEYWORD - 115 searches (UPPER case, singular)

Total Predicted Daily Searches for all Engines = 618

This figure - 618 - Wordtracker compiled directly from results taken from Meta-engines, Metacrawler and Dogpile in order to eliminate the artificial skew.

Wordtracker further adjusted the number downward by filtering out keyword spam (as defined above) based upon a proprietary formula used to identify search terms that are being searched at intervals too regular to have been conducted by actual humans.

These suspiciously regular and assumed to be artificially generated searches are therefore discounted in arriving at the final number - 618.

Even when taking into account such dependent variables such as position, title, and description, we would expect (logically guesstimate) the website to receive about 10% of the total traffic due to top-ten placement, targeted title and relevant link-description.

And finally, we should expect no better than 25% of that total traffic, due to the fact that Wordtracker has top-ten placement in only 25% of the relevant engines.

So the calculations show...

618 x 10% = 61.8 x 25% = approx 15 visits per day.

This is more in line with Wordtracker's actual 10-15 per day average number of visits generated by the 5 variations of the search term keyword across all of the major engines.

So, whose numbers should we trust?

When it comes to trusting the numbers, you should take into account what you are using them for. If you're looking to determine relative popularity of a given item, service, topic, or category, then Overture's STST can fill the bill nicely - and for free!

For instance, Overture's STST returns the following numbers for the following searches...

58,312 home insurance

57,315 home owner insurance

233,854 auto insurance

570,337 car insurance

This tells us (for free) that car insurance gets about twice as many searches as auto insurance. It also tells us that home insurance gets about the same number of searches as home owner insurance ...and that searches for car insurance is TEN times more popular than home owner insurance.

No doubt about it, when researching what to sell online, this is valuable preliminary information that Overture's STST provides for free.

However, based upon what we now know about artificial skew, we'd want to get a third-party-review of the search terms - one that adjusted the numbers for skew - before we bought advertising on a pay-per-click engine or spent good time and money optimizing a site for organic (think Google) Web search results.

After all, if Overture shows 6,016 'hits' per day out of which Wordtracker is experiencing 15 visitors, then reality suggests we should do the math (i.e., apply the information) that distills the raw numbers into useful data. Let's first decide if '15' visitors per day will pay the advertising bill (duh!) ...and, if the reality count is anywhere near 6,016, we'll be ecstatic, right?

Always remember it's the amateurs that believe optimistically romanced numbers just before they lose their wallets on the way to bankruptcy. Professional marketers learn to err on the downside of expectations and then smile when the pleasant surprises shower down riches.

They know that nothing beats accurate information - the most powerful marketing tool on earth.