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Keyword Research Tools (part 1) - Keyword Research Data from the Engines

11/30/2010 8:05:57 PM
A wide variety of options are available for performing keyword research, including tools provided by the search engines, tools developed by third parties, and tools for complex keyword analysis of terms culled during research. In this section, we will review each of these; but first we’ll examine what you can determine just by using the search engines themselves.

1. Keyword Research Data from the Engines

The search engines provide a number of tools that can help you with keyword research. Many of these are not designed specifically for that purpose, but they can be used to obtain interesting keyword research information if they are used in the right manner.

1.1. Blog search counts

Blog search data is terrific for picking out hot topics or keywords in the blogosphere and the realm of social media. Since blog search often incorporates forums and other social media properties (anyone with a feed, really), it is a great way to see how a term/phrase is looking in the social space. Be aware, though, that the data is temporal—anything that’s more than a few months old is likely to be out of the blog index (this does make the data a great temporal tracking tool, however). For example, check out the 239,818 results returned by the blog search for cupcake recipes (see Figure 1) versus the 1.89 million results returned when web search was used to perform the same search.

Figure 1. Google blog search counts


1.2. Related terms

Several of the engines offer “related” terms, including Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask, and Clusty (which shows related terms in clusters, as shown in Figure 2). This data can be invaluable if you’re looking to find related terms that may not have come up through competitive analysis or brainstorming.

Figure 2. Clusty related terms clusters


1.3. Common usage and phrase combinations

Using a search with the * character can give you a good idea of what terms/phrases commonly precede or follow a given term/phrase. For example, using * ringtones can show you phrases that are commonly associated with the term ringtones, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Finding common phrases


1.4. Frequency of recent usage

Using the very cool Google date range operator, shown in Figure 4, you can determine how many times in the past day, week, month, or year your term has appeared. There are two ways to do this. One is to go into Advanced Search mode within Google and click the Date drop-down box. Once you do that, you can pick from “anytime” (which is the default), “past 24 hours,” “past week,” “past month,” and “past year.” This will limit you to the results that were added to the index during the referenced time frame.

Figure 4. Google pages indexed in past 24 hours


For additional flexibility, you can perform a normal search, get your result, and add a parameter to the end of the results page URL, using the operators shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Google date search operators
&as_qdr=dPast 24 hours
&as_qdr=d4Past four days
&as_qdr=wPast week
&as_qdr=w5Past five weeks
&as_qdr=m6Past six months
&as_qdr=y2Past two years

This can give you some seasonal data if you follow it closely, and it can also show you who is producing content in your arena. For example, try a search for blogrush (past 24 hours). You can also get information on activity level from Yahoo! News, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Yahoo! News activity level


Both Google News and Yahoo! News are great places to do a bit of digging into anyone who is publishing press releases or getting news coverage on the terms/phrases you might be researching. If there’s a lot of activity in these arenas (and it is not all PR spam), you can bet the terms are going to be even more competitive. For example, the following URLs Michael Jackson show SEOmoz at Google News (http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&lr=&q=seomoz&as_qdr=d&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wn) and at Yahoo! News (http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/search?p=seomoz&c=).

You can combine all of this data to form a very well-rounded view of a particular term or phrase, and although it is probably overkill for most keyword research projects, it is certainly a valuable exercise and something to monitor closely if you’re basing a lot of your success off of a single search query (or just a handful of queries). Even if you’re just trying to get a better sense of what’s going on infrequently and informally, these pieces of the keyword puzzle can be remarkably valuable.

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