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Next-Gen Keyword Research Tools

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Today: Keyword Discovery, from Trellian. While Keyword Discovery has been available to search marketers for several years, and while I've used it before, recent enhancements warrant taking a second look.

Keyword Discovery has some impressive features. In its most recent version, Trellian has improved existing functions within Keyword Discovery to deliver better, more accurate results, and have added options that allow the user to better manipulate generated keyword lists. Let's look at a few features that make this keyword tool stand out.

Multiple databases

For a keyword research tool to be effective, the source of the data it draws upon is very important. Some tools pull data from just one search engine. With the exception of user panels or toolbar information, most sources of data suffer from problems with skewing by automated rank checkers or other bots that artificially increase the search count for certain terms. When skewing isn't taken into account, key terms counts can reflect results that simply aren't accurate.

Another problem is assumptions made by data collectors such as compiling cumulative search counts for plural and singular versions of a word, or treating phrases with different word orders as the same count. These assumptions lead to inaccurate results and, because they aren't always understood by users, they can lead to poor keyword decisions.

Trellian's Keyword Discovery recently took keyword database options to a new level by providing several databases with different sources. Their core is a default global database that collects data from a variety of sources including over 180 search engines worldwide. This includes search statistics from Google, Yahoo, MSN, Teoma and others.

In addition to the original global database, Keyword Discovery now offers a premium database that is derived from user panel information and the toolbars of over 3.5-million users. The biggest advantage of the Premium database is its immunity to skewing problems that plague most other sources of data. Results are more accurate and offering search marketers greater confidence in making keyword decisions.

The limitation of the premium database is that it is new and therefore relatively small. The total volume of search numbers is less than might actually exist. However, it's a good option for checking the order of magnitude between terms. According to Trellian's president, David Warmuz, the global database has 580 million unique search terms and the premium database has 196 million unique terms. Ideally you would use both databases when conducting keyword research.

Keyword Discovery also offers several specialty databases that are targeted for specific niches. For example, they now offer databases for eBay, shopping and news, as well as regional databases for the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. According to Warmuz, Keyword Discovery will introduce additional country-specific databases over time.

Historical seasonal data

One of the most useful features of Keyword Discovery is the historical information it holds. In the past when I used this feature, I noticed questionable results that didn't always pass the common-sense test. In comparing historical charts produced by the two primary databases, I noticed that the results for the historical searches were vastly improved when the premium database is used. The earlier unrealistic results made with the global database were the results of abnormalities in the database itself.

For example, I compared the keyword phrase "income tax forms" using the global and premium databases. The chart using the global database showed a large spike in early December—not too likely, as tax time in the U.S. is April. When I ran the historical chart using the premium database it produced a chart with heavy demand in the early months of the year tailing off after the middle of April—exactly what I would expect. My takeaway lesson: Use the premium database for historical charts for more true-to-life trend lines.

As part of the charting options for historical data, Trellian lets you toggle through a variety of options including historical, monthly, trend, combination and market share. The combination option presents search lines from both the premium and global databases on the same chart. I found this useful in identifying terms that were highly skewed in the global database. Knowing that certain terms were subject to more skewing alerted me to look at global demand numbers with more scrutiny. The market share option showed the distribution of searches across the different engines. This information could be useful input when you are trying to decide how to divide paid advertisement budgets across different engines.

Keyword brainstorming tools

Within Keyword Discovery are several tools that can help you expand your basic keyword list. There are tools to generate common misspellings, fuzzy string searches, related words and popular industry terms.

Another option that can be helpful in expanding your keyword list is the "search and replace" option that can be launched with the binoculars icon on the toolbar. This function allows you to quickly run through a number of synonyms and substitute one word string with another in a list.

The permutation option is another tool within Keyword Discovery that can help with brainstorming. By selecting the permutation database and entering a multiword phrase, Keyword Discovery will generate all the word combinations of the phrase with their search count.

The permutation tool is a real differentiator for Keyword Discovery when compared with other keyword research tools. Frequently, keyword tools aggregate search counts for phrases with different word orders together. In the real world, however, the search popularity between phrases that use the same terms but arrange them in different word orders can be significantly diverse. For example, "horse trail" has a different search count (and an entirely different meaning) from "trail horse."

Other notable features

As you can see, Keyword Discovery isn't just one tool, but rather more of a toolkit. Another tool in the set that deserves mention is the filter option. This handy feature allows you to import keyword lists, including lists from different projects. This option then allows you to perform replacements, changing word strings within your lists. You can add descriptors (think geo-targeted terms or adjectives) to the replacement string and expand the list easily.

This tool also allows you to import meta tag information from any URL you want, a great function for when you want to quickly review competitors' keywords to scan for overlooked terms. The filter feature takes a little experimenting to master, but it's a powerful tool for expanding an initial list of search terms, and can save you a lot of time.

Here's a tip when use the filter option: Save the words as you go or they will be lost. The tool does not automatically save the lists.

Speaking of projects, this feature is one of Keyword Discovery's most valuable. I think of projects as keyword buckets. Assigning keywords to different projects give you the ability to separate huge keyword lists into a series of manageable projects. Keyword Discovery lets you assign certain words to a project and then allows you to manipulate the projects or export them to a third party tool such as Excel.

Keyword Discovery also has a keyword density tool. While I'm not a big fan of keyword density, I do see value in using the tool as a quick check to see where keywords have been used on a page. The X-Ref (cross reference) feature is an additional way to check on URLs to see if sites have been optimized for certain keywords.

Keyword Discovery has a number of tools are easily overlooked. One of the hidden tools is the domain name search function. You access this feature by clicking on the DNS box in the tool list above search results. It's worth taking for a spin. If you're scouting around for a new domain name, this innovative tool allows you to quickly search for domain names containing keywords (although you can't register a domain name through the tool).

Not your father's keyword tool

Overall, Keyword Discovery is a powerful collection of tools. It gets my full recommendation as a keyword research tool. With a price tag of only $49.95 per month, Keyword Discovery offers great value when comparing its accuracy, functionality and usefulness to other keyword tools. There's a free trial version so you can test it and make your own assessment. For me Keyword Discovery has become an indispensable part of my keyword tool arsenal.

Christine Churchill is President of KeyRelevance.com, a full service search engine marketing firm.

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