The Axandra newsletter archive - 26 August 2003
Welcome to a new issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

This week, we're telling you why the number of searches should not be the sole indicator for choosing the right keywords for your site, and Google finally gives the answer to life, the universe and everything (see below). :- )

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this issue and that it helps you to get more out of your web site. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Facts of the week: How to choose the right keywords for your site
Many businesses recognize that search engines can bring volumes of highly targeted prospects to their website, typically at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing.

Unfortunately, these same companies often overlook the most important part of their search engine marketing campaigns, which is keyphrase selection and evaluation.

Keyphrases (those phrases that potential customers are using to find products or services on search engines) are the building block of any search engine marketing strategy.

It is essential that they are chosen carefully, or else the remainder of the campaign, no matter how effective the implementation, will likely be in vain. What follows is a three-step process that goes over the process of compiling, selecting, and evaluating the ongoing performance of keyphrases for search engines.

1. Compiling a keyphrase list:

    Usually, companies are sure that they already know their ideal keyphrases. Often, they are wrong.

    This is typically because it is very hard to separate oneself from a business and look at it from the perspective of a potential customer (rather than an insider). Compiling a keyphrase list should not be, despite common practice, a strictly internal process.

    Rather, it is best to ask everyone outside of your company for their input, especially your customers. People are often very surprised at the keyphrase suggestions they get- and sometimes dismayed to realize that an average customer doesn’t speak the same language that they do.

    Only after you have put together a list of likely phrases from external sources do you add your own. As a last step, try to add variations, plurals, and derivatives of the phrases on your list.

2. Evaluating keyphrases:

    Once you have compiled a master keyphrase list, it is time to evaluate each phrase to hone your list down to those most likely to bring you the highest amount of quality traffic.

    Although many individuals will base their assessment of keyphrase value based only on popularity figures, there are really three vitally important aspects of each phrase to consider.

    a) Popularity

      By far the easiest of the three to judge is popularity, since it is not subjective. Software like WordTracker gives popularity figures of search phrases based upon actual search engine activity (it also gives additional keyphrase suggestions and variations).

      Such tools allow you to assign a concrete popularity number to each phrase to use when comparing them. Obviously, the higher the number, the more traffic that can be expected (assuming you are able to obtain good search engine positions).

      However, this number alone is not good enough reason to pursue any particular keyphrase, although keyphrase analysis too often stops here.

    b) Specificity

      This is more abstract than the sheer popularity number, but equally important. For example, let’s assume that you were able to obtain great rankings for the keyphrase "insurance companies" (a daunting prospect). Let’s also assume that you only deal with auto insurance.

      Although "insurance companies" might have a much higher popularity figure than "auto insurance companies", the first keyphrase would also be comprised of people looking for life insurance, health insurance, and home insurance.

      It is very likely that someone searching for a particular type of insurance will refine their search after seeing the disparate results returned from the phrase "insurance companies".

      In the second, longer keyphrase, you can be reasonably sure that a much higher percentage of visitors will be looking for what you offer- and the addition of the word "auto" will make it much easier to attain higher rankings, since the longer term will be less competitive.

    c) Motivation of User

      This factor, even more abstract than specificity, calls for an attempt to understand the motivation of a search engine user by simply analyzing his or her search phrase.

      Assume, for example, that you were a real estate agent in Atlanta. Two of the keyphrases you are evaluating are "Atlanta real estate listings" and "Atlanta real estate agents".

      Both phrases have very similar popularity numbers. They are also each fairly specific, and your services are very relevant to each. So which phrase is better? If you look into the likely motivation of the user, you will probably conclude that the second is superior.

      While both phrases target people looking for real estate in Atlanta, you can infer from the second phrase that the searcher has moved beyond the point where they are browsing local homes or checking out prices in their neighborhood- they are looking for an agent, which implies that they are ready to act. Often, subtle distinctions between terms can make a large difference on the quality of the traffic they attract.

3. Evaluating Keyphrase Performance:

    Until recently, judging the performance of individual keyphrases was a dicey proposition. Although it is possible to tell from your log traffic analysis how many visitors are getting to your site from each keyphrase (valuable information, but unfortunately not enough to do much with), it was very hard to decipher which phrases were bringing you the most quality traffic.

    Recently, however, some sophisticated but affordable tools have been developed that allow you to judge the performance of each individual keyphrase based upon visitor behavior.

    This new software makes it possible to periodically analyze which keyphrases are bringing your site the most valuable visitors- those who buy your products, fill out your contact form, download your demo, etc.

    This type of data, rather than the sheer number of visitors from each search phrase alone, is invaluable when you are refining your search engine marketing campaigns, since you can discard and replace non-performing keyphrases and put increased effort toward the phrases that are delivering visitors that become customers. This kind of ongoing analysis is the final piece of the keyphrase puzzle, and allows you to continually target the most important phrases for your industry, even if they change over time.


Keyphrase compilation, evaluation, and performance are all vitally important to any search engine marketing campaign. While high rankings in search engines are an admirable goal, high rankings for poor keyphrases will consistently deliver poor results.

Integration of this keyphrase process into your overall search engine marketing strategy can dramatically improve your website performance (and thus your bottom line).

Related article: "Finding relevant keywords with Google" (published in the Search Engine Facts newsletter #18).

Article by Scott Buresh

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2. Search engine news of the week
Overture steals Freeserve from Google

    "Overture confirmed [...] that it has won a deal to provide algorithmic search results to Freeserve, displacing its number one rival Google. [...]

    Overture has been providing paid listings to Freeserve since 2000, but under the new agreement will also provide the algorithmic search results. Freeserve said that it switched to Overture from Google on the back of evaluation of the relevancy and breadth of results sets offered by both indices."

Yahoo considers spurning Google for Inktomi

    "Internet portal giant Yahoo has given one of its strongest indications yet that it will soon end its reliance on Web search technology provider Google.

    Yahoo Australia search producer Peter Crowe has revealed that the company had started testing Inktomi's search engine in parallel with projects at a number of the company's regional portals to see if it provides a viable alternative to Google's crawler-based search engine."

Overture claims to have the world's largest search index

    "Overture Services, Inc. [...] announced the launch of the world's largest search index of approximately 3.2 billion documents. The index was developed by the former Web search unit of Fast Search and Transfer (FAST), which Overture acquired in April."

Yahoo to introduce product search tool

    Yahoo has quietly released a public beta test of its new product search engine.
    Yahoo's product search page.

Ask Jeeves adds search tools

    "Now, users can query Smart Answers to receive local weather reports, surf conditions and flight delays. In addition, users can enter in more than 100 numerical conversions, such as cups in a gallon or the value of Pi."

Google: No date for IPO yet

    "Google's co-founder says he is in no rush to take the company public. Despite frenzied speculation of an imminent Google public offering, company co-founder Sergey Brin said he's still casually debating the pros and cons with board members and has not yet set a date.

    [...] Brin and other top executives [...] have not made many public appearances in recent months and have declined press interviews."

China starts its search engine game

    "A Chinese software company has announced a campaign to beat U.S.-based search engine giant Google. Huicong International Software's search tool, which covers 200 million Chinese-language Web pages, has incorporated topic categorization, content analysis and China-region recognition into its engine, according to the company."

Search engine newslets

    "The Google toolbar will auto install any new copies, versions, or patches Google wishes without asking or informing the user," reports a webmaster in a forum discussion (registration may be required). However, Google clearly reveals this behavior on its toolbar FAQ page.

    Google AdSense ads are available in two new sizes: horizontal leaderboard (728x90) and inline rectangle (300x250). Both display up to four ads on a page.

    Overture has launched a new web site that includes publications, reports and information on research projects and staff members.

    Terra Lycos has given its InSite paid inclusion program a makeover. The redesign of the interface should appeal to webmasters who are new to search engine marketing.

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3. Articles of the week
Google finally gives the answer to life and the universe

"How Objective Is Microsoft's Search?"

    "There have been a number of stories on Microsoft trying to do a 'Netscape' on Google.. what would a world in which Microsoft provides search look like? A search for 'linux' on give amazon and ebay as the top two results, and a microsoft site promoting migration from Linux to Windows as the fourth listing."

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4. Recommended resources
How to get high rankings for your important key phrases

As explained in the article above, high search engine rankings for the right key phrases can dramatically improve the performance of your web site.

But how do you get a high ranking on Google and other important search engines for your important key phrases? Try IBP: Just enter your key phrase, select a search engine and IBP will tell you in an easy-to-read checklist report how to optimize your web site for a top 10 search engine ranking
for this key phrase.

IBP helps you to get high search engine rankings for key phrases that are really important to your business. Try the free Lite edition now.

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5. Previous articles

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