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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Give me real Search Volume Numbers

At SES San Jose last year, Yahoo! allowed all those that were not part of the Beta team an opportunity to see the great and new Panama. (That was almost a year ago and yet at the end of this month all Yahoo! advertisers will be transitioned to the new platform – so much for the strong arm of efficiency.)

I remember sitting in the crowded auditorium of the San Jose Center, listening to the Panama team announce the advantages of assists, and A/B testing (though you have to have a Platinum level to be afforded this luxury), while I choked down my free sandwich and Jones Cola – (others were running back to the Convention floor, stuffing swag under there seats and pretending nobody would notice them stealing 12 pens or Findology massager.)

The mass consensus was that Yahoo! had caught the Google bus, and was jumping off the auction system to try and ride the coattails of its Mountainview competitor. Hardly anybody was as aghast as I was that the one proprietor of free search volume metrics was going to transition to a range instead of quantifiable numbers instead. Then it happened, just before Christmas the Yahoo! API stopped providing search volume on bulk lists (you couldn’t even pretend to set-up an account to get the SV for 40 phrases and cut & paste together a real Keyword Analysis anymore) – every keyword tool was in shambles. Every SEO firm was looking for something to fill the gap, me included.

Were did I go? Everywhere!

Now don’t get me wrong. You should be able to draw up a strong Keyword list just from some analytics investigation, a thorough understanding of the target market, and a firm comprehension of your website/product offering – but everybody likes to be able to put numbers to their “gut” feelings.

But for those not willing to pay money for 3rd-party tools (tools built on a now defunct API), where could they go… surely the Search Engines would provide some numbers for advertisers to baseline on!


Google has a robust tool that allows you to display data by: search volume, cost and position estimates, search volume trends, and possible negative matches. However, Google doesn’t like to provide numbers, only ranges, because as any free market theorist will tell you, “ranges promote higher spending.” Google knows this, and Google makes a lot of money because they know this – Yahoo! just learned.

However, a range is relatively useless if you don’t know what the maximum and minimum values are. Besides, what about seasonality?

Google Trends to the rescue… not really. Again, there are no numbers to baseline anything, you can track some seasonality, but little else.

There are serious limitations; namely, 70 characters or 4 keywords – that’s all you can query at any one time, but you do get a quick analysis of:

  • Number of searched over the past year
  • A forecast of number of searches in the coming months
  • Keyword age distribution
  • Keyword gender distribution

In addition, no MSN adCenter account is required to use the tool.

In a Nutshell

“You take the good, you take the bad…” and although it might not be a grown up Tutti, these are the facts of life: the search engine’s are trying to make money – hence, no more freebies, like search volume. MSN may be giving it for a little time, but only because they are trying to net more and more advertisers… hoping that market share will come in tow like a hungry toy poodle (too bad it isn’t). And even though the tools are no longer complete, they are a pretty good second for understanding your market, product, and channel – and honestly, almost as good as any 3rd party solution, but that is another article.

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