Analysing Keywords

By: Robin Nobles

...because your online success depends on getting accurate keyword counts! (Continued from Part 1. Contact for the complete article.)

Reason #2 - Duplicate Searches

As you most certainly must know, Overture's strength as a viable advertising medium for online businesses lies in the fact they are provide results to 'tens of thousands of Web sites' which include AltaVista, Yahoo, MSN Search, HotBot, and AllTheWeb just to name a few. They claim to reach more than 80% of active U.S. Internet users.

Potentially, this is great for advertisers! ...yet this very same structure is what so greatly contributes to the artificial skew leading to extremely over-inflated reporting of keyword queries.

According to Overture itself, statistics on searches in any previous month are compiled from Overture's partner search engines. To further understand how partnering tends to facilitate skewed query counts, let's examine what happens when a visitor conducts a search at AltaVista.

What's actually happening is that two searches are being conducted at one time - one at AltaVista, and another that lists the SPONSORED MATCHES supplied by Overture's pay-per-click engine.

Although it is next to impossible to know the exact figures, suffice it to say that a single human often generates multiple queries when doing a single search as calculated by Overture's STST. In some cases that same human could even generate additional 'hits' for a given keyword simply by conducting the same search again on a different engine if such engine is also an Overture partner.

For instance, searching Yahoo, then searching again on MSN, then searching again on AltaVista, then again on would tally at least five 'hits' for the selected search term. In comparison, if Overture (like Google, for instance) counted only the searches that were done 'on-site,' such duplicate searches would not be counted and their search query numbers would be far more accurate.

This scenario, combined with the myriad artificial duplicate searches conducted by the various softwares (explained above), severely pumps up the number of queries for virtually every legitimate search term imaginable.

Reason #3 - Plurals and Singulars

Remember our STST example (above) regarding the 180,468 'searches' for the term 'keyword'? Well, another factor to consider is that Overture's STST combines both the plural term (keywords) and the singular (keyword) in compiling that number.

And, Overture's STST not only combines the plural and singular versions of 'keywords,' they also combine upper and lower case searches as well. Obviously, these two factors also exert an upward effect on the query count tabulations.

Third: Examining The Alternatives.

So now the obvious question - Is there a 'better' way to tabulate search term query counts? ...let's examine the alternatives.

Meta-engines - a better way to accurately tabulate queries.

Obviously we'd like to eliminate artificial and duplicate searches from our tabulations, and fortunately there is a way to do so. The solution is Meta-engines.

Composite (Meta) engines, like Metacrawler and Dogpile, are search engines that query all the major engines simultaneously. One of the key differences is that the ratio of human queries to automated queries for a meta-engine is much higher than for a major search engine. That's because it doesn't make sense for anyone to point their auto-bots at meta-engines.

Position monitoring, bid-optimizing, popularity checks, etc., are typically conducted directly at the search engines themselves. It would be pointless to conduct such automated queries on a meta- engine because meta-engines do not 'add-url's' nor do they offer pay-per-click options. They are simply a search engine that queries other search engines. And, since there is no 'metacrawler' of meta-engines, the search query counts are unlikely to be artificially skewed by such artificial searches.

Furthermore, duplicate searches are eliminated because the query counts are being tabulated from a single source instead of combining results from myriad partners.

Therefore, query counts taken from meta-engines are far, far more representative of the number of searches conducted by actual people - but even this is not yet a perfect solution due to a relatively obscure form of keyword spam.

Keyword spam (in this case not to be confused with word stuffing or repeating keywords within a Web page) refers to the practice of using cgi-scripting to manipulate the Metaspy metacrawler voyeur to artificially promote certain products or services.

By entering a flow of terms or phrases at predetermined intervals, such spammers hope to inflate the importance and significance of certain search terms thereby artificially increasing the value of such terms related to their products.

In a perfect world, adjustments should be made to filter out this flavor of spam. In a minute we'll share with you how such filtering is done but first, let's address the issue of combining plurals with singulars and upper with lower-case searches.

Plural, singular, upper, and lower-case searches represent a decision-point for search engine optimizers because sometimes it's good to combine the search query numbers while other times it isn't.

For instance the search terms 'keyword and keywords,' whether singular, plural, or in upper or lower-case, are similar enough in meaning that they could arguably be combined into one search query number.

However, the search terms 'tap, taps, Tap, and TAP' can have entirely different meanings. Take a look at the results for the search term 'tap' on Overture. The following references were all found within the top ten sponsored listings:

  • Machine threading taps,
  • Tap / Rap support software
  • Beer taps
  • Tap Dancing
  • TAP A Stock
  • TAP Terminal Phone Numbers

Note that none of the above has any relation to the others! Obviously if we are selling any of these items, we'd want more specificity regarding the search queries than the simple 10,485 searches that STST reports were conducted in the past 30 days.

The example above illustrates the importance of obtaining search query tabulations for each version of a selected keyword independently of the other.

After all, it's easy to manually combine the numbers while it's impossible to break them out into their own categories once they've been compressed by Overture's STST into a single search term regardless of potentially different meanings.

(Continued in Part 3. Contact for the complete article.

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