I am using Overture, Wordtracker, and KeywordDiscovery to do keyword research, but I want to know why the search volume numbers vary so much, and which numbers I should trust. How do I do keyword research?
Each keyword data source has flaws inherent to its model. Rather than looking at keyword suggestion tools as something which offers an exact quantitative measure of traffic look for them to be more qualitative (ie: rather than looking for exact numbers look for them to be more of a yes no tool).
Also look at keyword depth, related words, and reasonable modifiers. Depth and related words matter far more than just the sheer volume for a generic term because the longer queries are more targeted and thus easier to monetize, and longer search phrases are typically easier to rank for than shorter keywords.
Overture is owned by Yahoo!. Since Yahoo! is a major search provider and has a fairly open ad inventory system they have a ton of automated search queries from things like
- rank checkers
- search result scrapers
- people doing competitive research
- arbitrage players
- bid checkers
When I searched for "seo book" as a keyword Overture returned 1,579 monthly queries. This number is low because those people searching for my brand (or seo products in general) are typically more likely to search on Google.
When I searched for "seo book" as a keyword Overture returned 33 monthly queries for book engine optimization search seo seo seo software. Notice how they returned the words in alphabetical order, the words in the search queries most likely were in a vastly different order. Also note that is an absurd search phrase. Like who would search for something like seo book seo search engine optimization seo software? Probably nobody, so it is most likely an automated query. You can also back up the lack of legitimacy of that keyword phrase by the fact that Overture did not show any search volume for other similar but shorter and more reasonable queries.
Another problem worth noting with Overture data is that they run singular and plural search words together. Some queries have far different meanings and/or far different search volumes between the singular and plural versions.
Although I mentioned this above, it is worth noting again: keyword depth matters far more than the sheer volume for a generic term. Longer queries are more targeted and thus easier to monetize. Plus those queries are easier to rank for. Since seo book only had 3 returned queries, with one of them being brand related and another being likely a fake query, it probably would not be a great keyword to target for traffic (but the lack of competition and limited market depth might make it an easy term to brand...which was part of the thought process when I created this site).
To test keyword depth and find related keywords you can use a variety of tools, like Overture, Google Suggest, the AdWords Keyword Tool, and Google Sets.
I also have ownership in one of the top ranked Forex websites. Because of the highly commercial nature of the search term (forex means foreign exchange, which is typically searched for by people trading money) Yahoo!'s search estimates (93,240 searches a month) are absurdly overblown for that core term.
But on a positive note, that market has amazing depth. People are looking for courses, books, news, tips, and strategies on the topic. Forex also has synergistic related keywords like currency trading, forex trading, currency exchange, and modifiers galore including types of trades, country names, and currencies. While the market is exceptionally competitive the depth still makes it somewhat appealing.
Wordtracker has a much smaller data set than Overture (Yahoo!), Google, or even MSN, so Wordtracker numbers are going to be more easily skewed by the small sample size. If I use one of Wordtracker's partner search engines and search for an uncommon query it is going to make that query seem far more important than it is.
Digital Point offers a free tool which compares Wordtracker and Overture values side by side.
I view Keyword Discovery as being somewhat similar to Wordtracker. Keyword Discovery may have a larger keyword index than Wordtracker, but don't expect either of them to offer precise quantitative data.
If you want to test the quantity of traffic for a specific keyword, set up a search targeted campaign on Google AdWords, and ensure you bid enough to show up somewhere on the lower half of the ads on the first page. Also ensure that you target your ads to the appropriate regions, and use a large enough budget that your ad shows up on almost all of the searches for that particular keyword.
In the past I did a more comprehensive review of keyword research tools. I also offer a free keyword research tool which is powered from Overture data and cross references most of the useful keyword research tools on the market.
Gain a Competitive Advantage Today
Your top competitors have been investing into their marketing strategy for years.
Now you can know exactly where they rank, pick off their best keywords, and track new opportunities as they emerge.
Explore the ranking profile of your competitors in Google and Bing today using SEMrush.
Enter a competing URL below to quickly gain access to their organic & paid search performance history - for free.
See where they rank & beat them!
- Comprehensive competitive data: research performance across organic search, AdWords, Bing ads, video, display ads, and more.
- Compare Across Channels: use someone's AdWords strategy to drive your SEO growth, or use their SEO strategy to invest in paid search.
- Global footprint: Tracks Google results for 120+ million keywords in many languages across 28 markets
- Historical data: since 2009, before Panda and Penguin existed, so you can look for historical penalties and other potential ranking issues.
- Risk-free: Free trial & low price.