Selecting Keywords

by : Robin Nobles

...because your online success depends on getting accurate keyword counts!

The root of all success in search engine marketing begins with keywords. Period. Get them wrong and virtually everything about your online endeavor will fail. Only by targeting the right keywords can one expect to ride that exhilarating magic carpet to online prosperity.

Stating the obvious you say? ...well, if so, then why is it that virtually everyone - professional and amateur alike - is oblivious to the fact they are selecting, and frequently buying, keywords based on highly skewed numbers?

The fact is that very few online marketers understand the results supplied by the two most basic keyword selection tools. These are the very same tools being used globally to hone keyword choices into supposedly laser sharp focus in an effort to keep pace with the challenges of increasingly keen competition and ever-rising keyword pay-per-click costs.

The critical differences — Overture's STST vs. Wordtracker's KSS

As one of Wordtracker's technical support team (), one of the most frequent questions we receive these days is...

Why are the keyword search query numbers supplied by Overture's search term suggestion tool (STST) so incredibly different than those supplied by Wordtracker's keyword selection service (KSS)?

Frankly, there isn't a better search engine related question one could ask. And, now's a good time to pay close attention because the surprising answer will likely change forever how you evaluate keywords!

First: Understanding Their Motives.

To help you understand the details we're about to reveal, let's examine the motives of the services that are providing the keyword query numbers.

Motive Analysis: Purpose

On the one hand, there's Overture's STST whose purpose is to help customers buy keywords.

On the other hand, there's Wordtracker whose purpose is to help customers select keywords.


Overture's STST suggests what keywords to buy from them.

Wordtracker suggests what keywords to use in your optimization efforts and/or which to buy elsewhere.


Overture's success depends on you believing there are LOTS of search queries for whatever you are selling.

Wordtracker's success depends on you getting accurate numbers upon which you can reliably base your optimization and keyword purchase decisions.


Overture's STST is free. Overture profits by selling you the keywords that STST reports on.

Wordtracker's KSS is fee based. They profit by selling you access to accurate and impartial information. Since they don't sell the keywords, there's no vested interest in query numbers beyond accuracy.

It's important to note there is no good-guy, bad-guy here - just two companies that provide information and do so with different incentives in mind.

Second: Understanding The Artificial Skew.

In researching the search term 'keyword,' Overture's STST indicates there were 180,468 searches for the 30-day period ending the last day of December '03. Of course, when we divide this number by 30 (days), one naturally assumes that's an average of 6,016 combined searches per day for the term keyword - (180,468/30=6016).

Now, if you happen to be in a business that sells keywords (like Overture) then 6,016 pairs of eyeballs per day is a pretty encouraging number indeed! The problem is, there isn't anywhere even close to 6,016 per-day queries for the search term(s) keyword(s). In fact, the actual number, which we'll share with you in a minute, will no-doubt shock you!

But, for the moment, let's look at why that number is skewed.

Reason #1 — Artificial Searches

Overture's STST numbers are increased upward by automated queries. These include automated bid optimizers, position and ranking monitors, page popularity analyzers - anything other than a real person manually performing a search is considered an automated query. Monitoring a site's positioning at, say, AltaVista for the search term 'keyword' tallies a 'hit' within Overture's STST system for that search term. That's in spite of the fact that it was actually automated software that generated the hit. The same holds true for page-popularity checkers, pay- per-click bid optimizers or any other machine generated monitor or tabulator that queries an engine for a 'pet' keyword and generates a hit in the process.

Then, when the same positioning query is done at, say, MSN (another Overture partner), STST records yet another hit. Understandably, STST cannot differentiate between automated and human queries. Neither can they tell when the auto-query has already been queried at another partner's site.

Now, when we take into consideration all of the position monitoring, page popularity checking and pay-per-click bid analyzing - there are well over 15 automated and semi-automated bid checking software programs alone - it's staggering to realize the significant effect these automated queries are having on the overall search term query tabulations.

However, artificial searches are only one aspect contributing to the artificial skew (defined as: the inflation of actual search queries for specific keywords performed by anything other than humans).

(Continued in Part 2. Contact for the complete article.