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Warning; Do Not Always Trust Keyword Research Tools

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 03 May 2010 12:55

By Nick LeRoy

One of the first tasks when creating an SEO campaign is to target appropriate traffic driving keywords.   Many of us use keyword research tools such as Google keyword tool, Word Tracker, Keyword Discovery or many of the other tools available.  SEO’s are sophisticated; they know that none of these services offer exact results but an educated guess based off data they have available. With that said most SEO’s will simply use a couple of these tools to examine the results for a particular keyword. 

If each tool returns positive results, that’s enough to put that keyword in the “further to investigate” pile. But what do you do when all keyword tools report no value? Most would discard this keyword, but is that truly the best option?

Look at my example below for a keyword that many keyword tools told me was nearly worthless. After a little work I found a little gem that produces over 300 visits per month.  Yes, the same keyword that they had no results for.

Keyword Tools Are Only Meant For Estimates!

I have a great example to share from a client website (which is why the keyword will not be exposed, sorry!).  This keyword is not very competitive, in fact were ranking number 2 without any major effort outside of on page SEO. 

This keyword sends somewhere between 300 and 400 visitors per month.  Now just imagine if I ignored this keyword because keyword research tools didn’t offer me any value for it?  See below for the results I receive when I place this keyword within some of the more common keyword research tools.

Read more... [Warning; Do Not Always Trust Keyword Research Tools]

SEO for Universal SERPs:Time Sensitive Elements in Universal Search

Written by Terry Van Horne   
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 13:14

Managing Universal Search Temporal Verticals

by (Tin Foil) Terry VanHorne

Pew Internet released a study called Understanding the Participatory News Consumer which indicates the role of Internet News with internet users.

Six in ten Americans (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news.

According to PRWeb 80 million people turn to the Internet for news daily

So it seems with so many users getting news online the news in Universal SERPs must be real click magnets. Note that blogs, article and Press release archives are also accepted for inclusion in Google News.

Temporal is geek for time sensitive. The following Search Verticals are Temporal Elements in Universal SERPs:

  1. News and Press Releases
  2. Video
  3. Blogs
  4. Realtime Search

Attacking Universal Search for SEO


Google News: Real News, Press Releases, Article Archives and Blogs

Google News provides a promoter amazing distribution via a high traffic site and News syndication network. The Submitting Your Content: Google News will guide you through the registration. Note single press releases etc. are only accepted after a review by a Google staffer so either use a aggregator or the email address (on the page above) for human review. If your site is a news, press release or articles archive/aggregator or topical blog with lots of good content then you may meet the criteria for inclusion in Google News.

Inclusion in Google News as a "Source" and one step closer to breaking imto the Universal SERPs. Google News is also a major News distributor across many sites. The distribution depending on the number of sites displaying your category or geo location. In the past there were problems with Google News requiring urls formatted in a specific way. The new Google News Sitemap removes this problem.

The best way to ensure complete indexing and fast pickup of your content is to register your News Sitemap in your WebmasterCentral account. Many of the popular CMS's provide plugins or scripts for generating a Google News Sitemap.

Google News Algorithms You Must Consider for Search Engine Optimization

Google News has a few algorithms that are new to many optimization professionals. Another consideration for news optimization is that the aggregators no longer pass much if any PageRank to press releases from the home page so most SEO link benefits are from secondary sources. Be prepared to build links to the release and deal with scrappers and content theft by setting up Google alerts on the Title of the release.

Personalized News

A Google paper which Bill Slawski covered in his post Google News Personalization provides some insights into how Personalization works for News. I was not going to include this info, however, recent chats in the SE0 Dojo made it clear that as we searched the same Universal SERP we were getting differing results, in particular, the news and blogs contained different results and looked to have been using more personalization then we had seen in the past. That said, for the most part the Positions of Universal Paks were very similar.

There is a lot of new "IR lingo", for me in describing the methods at play. The best layman's version of the methods I could find was an explaination of covisitation counts. Bill provides a great overview of the implicit signals Google is using to Personalize News. David Harry and I are very interested in explicit signals and while doing a search on "the Masters" Dave found explicit signals in the SERP.

Dave found a Starred result at the top. The explicit signals in Google Personalization are outlined in a google blog post Stars make search more personal. I think we can assume to some extent that all or most of both implicit and explicit signals in the Personalization of News will/are at play for RealTime Search, blogs and videos as well.

Universal SERP News Paks

Universal News Elements or as I cmll them News Paks are a combination of links to news often accompanied by an image related to the story. These results show 3 or 4 news articles from a cluster or topic. Note a story can have multiple clusters with varying angles on the same story.

Optimization of Press Releases:

Optimization of News and Press releases is complicated as many of the considerations are out of the control of the SEO. You can build your own News Source but most will be using aggregators. A major portion of the Google News algorithm is the source and other characteristics of the article such as named entities so careful consideration and analysis of the topics/story clusters and aggregator you use for distribution will play a role in your ability to break news into the Universal SERP.

News Source:

Bill Slawski has an excellent overview of the "Systems and methods for improving the ranking of news articles" Google patent in his Google News Rankings and Quality Scores for News Sources. If you are building or maintaining a news/press release/articles archive or blog there are a number of signals included in the "Source Rank" algo that should be considered for building trust and "Source Rank".

  • Number of non duplicate articles
  • Length of Articles
  • Breaking news score: How Fresh is the news and the Source's ability to break news
  • Metrics about the Source for instance: circulation, number of employees, international offices, number of topics covered, named entities and more (these definitely seem to favor the major new sources)

Under The Hood: Google News & Ranking Stories explains the clusters or News Paks often found in Universal Search SERPs. Danny Sullivan wrote this article with direct input from Josh Cohen of Google. One ranking factor mentioned in the article is that Google News uses click analysis within the News Paks/clusters. It is apparent that between News Personalization and this cluster click analysis that one of the reasons for the mystery around News rankings is the use of both explicit and implicit ranking signals. How Journalists Optimize for Google News is an excellent story with definite tips and tools on how to optimize breaking News stories.


News and Press Release Distribution

When optimizing Press Releases there are other considerations beyond the usual distribution factors. "Source Rank" is a "Trust Factor" for news sources determined by the the sites record for frequency of; quality of and ability to break new news being very important. Your ability to break news into the Google Universal SERPs starts with the distribution service you use or your ability to persuade a Google reviewer to include your press release in Google News by an email request. A major consideration is the source where the Press Release is found/submitted to Google from help the release break into the Universal query space. Alexa Traffic Stats for News sites will give you an idea of the importance of Google News and the traffic of the others.


Wire Services and Paid News Aggregators

There are 2 major online Wire services with many Paid Aggregators leveraging their content and news contacts. The PR Newswire and Businesswire Services are the only real online Newswires. The others may have the ability to reach a small niche set of traditional contacts. IMO, PRWeb are the best Source to submit to because of the distribution, bookmarking, RSS Feed and stats you get about the releases distribution.


Free Aggregators

Free press release and article archives have been a well known SEO tactic for what seems like forever. Like all manipulative SEO link techniques these are long in the tooth and near useless especially those that provide only citations not actual links. This is not just a characteristic of News Aggregators but almost all "user generated" content has little if any link integrity without keyword rich inbound links.


The Future is RSS Feeds

RSS Feeds is one way to leverage a press release. Many of the big and small aggregators are providing RSS Feeds of your press releases so piping these feeds into Google's SubPubHubBub and others along with your blog, Twitter and other playgrounds in the Social Neighborhood is a great strategy for content discovery and content distribution.


Press Release Strategy

The days of doing the occasional press release in the hopes of coverage and links has been replaced with more frequent media rich press releases with promotion using bookmarking/tagging, Social Network sharing and blog posts to corroborate the news value and freshness. IMO, the way into the Universal SERP with news is to do a co-ordinated Press release on a Trusted Source using all the corraborating sources of blogs, Realtime Search to validate the freshness and newsworthiness of the content.


Getting a grip on the News Uni

With 59% of Americans getting news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day it makes sense for Google to include news in as many query spaces as appropriate. It is also an excellent strategy for sites that qualify register to the News Feeds of the major Search Engines.

For Members of the SEO Training Dojo we are preparing a Universal SERPs PDF which will cover all the elements and include not only the previous 3 posts but the chat sessions with Laurie Sullivan on prospecting Media and Nichola Stott's powerful chat on Publicity and Press Release Distribution. The PDF will also include tools for free press release distribution and a list of sites.


About the author; Terry is an old school SEO geek that works out of International Website Builders and the founder of - You can also hook up with him on Twitter.


Parts I and II of Understanding Universal Search SERPs

Universal Search for Digital Asset Managers
Google Universal Search: A Mystery and Some History

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Five Advanced Keyword Research Tools

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 13:09

(the following is a post by Elisa Gabbert)

Sometimes a basic, free keyword suggestion tool just isn't enough. If you're ready to move beyond the limited functionality of most online tools to do more in-depth keyword research for SEO and pay-per-click campaigns, here are five advanced keyword research tools well worth checking out.

SEM Rush

SEMRush: SEMRush is a competitive research tool that's useful for both SEO and PPC keyword research and analysis. It has several pricing levels; most of the keyword information is available in the free version, but paid versions return more results. SEMRush offers several features that can help you determine the value and competitiveness of keywords:

  • Keyword Trends, Cost and Volume – SEM Rush scrapes data from Google to tell you the average and current monthly search volume of a keyword, whether the keyword is trending up or down in use, and how competitive it is.
  • Top Competitors for Your Keywords – You can view a list of the domains that rank for the same keywords as you, and you can also see how much overlap in keywords you have with a given domain.

This data is helpful for determining how you measure up to competitors for your top keywords. If you're falling behind, you may need to drill down into your keywords and determine where you can increase relevance—potentially by expanding mid- and long-tail keywords. The downside is, all competitive tools have limited use, since what your competitors are doing isn't necessarily going to work for you.Independent keyword research is crucial for gaining a competitive edge.


Compete: As the name suggests, Compete is another competitive intelligence tool. A Compete account allows you to compare traffic and engagement metrics for competitive sites as well as analyze competitors' keyword strategies.

Analytics tools include:

  • Search Analytics: Find search referrals for a given site or category or enter a keyword to see which sites get traffic from it.
  • Referral Analytics: Enter a site or category to see which websites send traffic to it and get traffic from it.

Compete kw research data

With a Pro account you can also create custom ranked lists based on growth trajectory, upstream and downstream traffic and more. As with SEMRush, Compete can give you a better idea of how your keyword marketing measures up to that of other businesses in your space. However, you'll need to supplement this data with your own, personalized research.

Read more... [Five Advanced Keyword Research Tools]

Google SEO Report Card

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 19 April 2010 13:09

How a search engine does self analysis

A while back Google did a self analysis from an SEO perspective and Matt (Cutts) even did a session on it during a recent SMX session, (video at the end). I thought it might be an interesting excercise to actually go through it, point by point, to see what exactly they were considering important elements. It bears noting that they obviously aren't giving away the farm here, nor is this a Google how-to for SEO.

At the end of the day, much of this is second nature to search geeks... but there were a few interesting tidbits. It does make for some interesting reading and I felt it was worth noting... Enjoy!


Read more... [Google SEO Report Card]

Universal Search Strategy for Digital Asset Managers

Written by Terry Van Horne   
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 13:11

A guide to Query Space Management

(the following post is by Terry VanHorne)

Many are calling the techniques outlined here DAO (Digital Asset Optimization), however, I use the term DAM (Digital Asset Management) because I see optimization as a smaller part of the process. More important is managing the query space and choosing what Universal content verticals to add to the SERP.

Query Space Analysis

Presently there are no tools that monitor the verticals in a Universal SERP and more importantly their movement around the query space. There should be because tracking the movements of and inclusion of Vertical elements in a SERP will be a "Content discovery" tool for DAMs.

I strongly suggest that for your important SERPs or those you are working on, that you create a spreadsheet and do at least weekly recordings of the Verticals and their positions. It likely wouldn't hurt to include a column for notes in the sheet to enable easy lookups of observations as well.

This enables:

  • Tracking of movement in positions of Universal Elements in the SERP
  • Recording Universal Elements that appear and disappear
  • Tracking Seasonality of Universal Elements
  • Discovery of corraborting Universal Elements that "trigger" appearance of Universal Elements

One characteristic of Universal SERPs I discovered was that adding videos into a query space, you are already ranking in, can knock the text relevant page right out of the SERP. Not an ideal situation.

The above scenario occurred when videos debuted in position #1 in the Universal SERP. We didn't act when our #2 position page was replaced with the video it was all good. Then one day the video started moving down in the SERP. Presently the same videos are still in the SERP in the 8th position. The web pages have never returned even though they had held those positions for a long period of time before the videos were introduced into the query space.

Solving the Universal Search puzzle


Query Space Strategies

The techniques and strategy outlined below are conjecture based on limited testing. They are based on Vertical "triggers" I've observed in a SERP, hypothesis based on Search Engine patent filings and approvals + years of SERP monitoring. The complexity of Universal SERPs provide a daunting task for DAMs entering a new query space.

I would try and get as much intelligence as possible from the client on what verticals have been in the SERP and then removed from the SERP because this indicates what vertical content can enter a SERP. I would target these to see how long the vertical stay in the SERP and how profitable that is for the client.

If the vertical content has a short life in the SERP with low conversion I would try another vertical. Otherwise you should schedule and budget for more of that vertical to try and keep the content fresh in the SERP. Once you have established a presence in the SERP you can start to introduce new vertical content into the query space until you're ranking for a vertical that has maximized ROI for the SERP. Did you get all that?

If there is a vertical in the SERP which we believe can be outranked and it is in a preferred position for the vertical I'd target the query space with competing content. The position in the SERP of the present vertical is important because in many cases a vertical may be "slotted" above or below the fold with 1 or a Universal Pack of results. IMO, the Packs are the result of implicit signals ie: click through rate, gathered from users.


Let's look at Video

Videos in a query space seem to reduce the chances of multiple, (indented) listings in the SERP. This may be due to the higher than average CTR on videos (easily the highest CTR), but regardless of the reason, introducing video into a query space you are already ranking in is not a recommendation I'd make.

"Deeper analysis indicates that search engine users click "news" results more than twice as much (36%) within blended search results as they do when they use the vertical "news search" (17%), and click more "image" results (31%) within blended search than when utilizing vertical "image search" (26%).

The extent to which they report clicking "video" results within blended search results (17%) also far exceeds the percentage of users who click a vertical "video search" result (10%). Only 19% of search engines users report that they have not clicked a news, image, or video search result within the blended search results. This compares to 35% who have not used vertical search. "


Note that the above report covered all three engines so some of those will numbers will be skewed for Google as indicated below:

Comscore Report covered by SEW
That data, gathered during one week in January, showed that there were 220 million universal search results, of the total 1.2 billion search queries in the U.S.

That means 17 percent of all searches on Google showed at least one result with video, news, images, maps, weather, or stocks.

More interesting to me are the stats from the same Comscore report:


...of the 87 million people who searched during that same week in January, 57 percent of them saw some type of universal search result. Of those, 38 percent saw a video result, 34 percent saw news, 19 percent saw images, and 15 percent saw multiple types of results.

What is significant here is that Videos appear in the Google SERP frequently but laying the other data over shows it to have the lowest CTR indicating that perhaps the click analysis has a low weighting or that the CTR in the iProspect data iss skewed by Yahoo! and Bing SERPs.

The last factor I would take into account is the CTR (Click Through Rate) for the vertical. News, shopping, local and video "Universal Paks" can often include images or maps in the case of local. Images and maps have higher CTR because they attract the attention of users. The Paks with groupings of text results also attract more attention. The higher the CTR for the vertical the lower it can be in the SERP and remain a query space target.

Various Universal search elements

The above scenario can be a little annoying since video is often below the fold. In reverse, a text based item could attract enough links and be optimized enough to knock a video with good ROI out of the SERP. In the post Google Universal Search A Mystery and Some History we looked at the SERPs Out approach to SEO.

Personally I have used that method from day 1 as we don't always have to win a battle of relevance. You want to get the click from the SERP which means position 1-3 with a strong CTA in the Description and Title. If our price point is #1 ie: the best damn price around, then I definitely want that in the title! WHY? Simple Ecommerce is 70% price point and 30% trust!


Seasonal Movement in Universal SERPs

We've also seen seasonality in the Universal SERP, in particular, during the Holiday shopping season. During that period the algo increases the number of transaction type sites/stores in the results with more of these above the fold. The most affected Universal element is Shopping/Product Search which often will move a referential site (eg: Wikipedia) lower in the results. I have seen Wikipedia drift from #2 to 7/8 position returning to that position in March.

Although I saw this in many related SERPs we didn't test it thoroughly because as there isn't a benefit large enough to warrant the time and resources needed to truly dig deep. Not to mention Personal search always being on. IMO, all you can do is keep track of the things you see, take them under advisement and move forward without losing your focus by chasing the enigma that is the Universal Search Ranking Algo.

In 2008, 39% of search engine users believe that the companies whose websites are returned among the top search results are the leaders in their field.

This figure has grown from 36% in 2006, and 33% in 2002. Another 42% feel neutral on this question, with only 19% believing that top search engine rankings do not automatically denote an industry leader.


I manage the resulting flux in the Ranking Algo by anticipating seasonal flux in the SERP and optimizing or promoting content for the targeted query spaces when it will have the highest returns. This provides me with the ability to promote and release the content in a way that takes advantage of more visibility and higher rankings.


Don't miss out on oportunities

I am definitely one who believes that if you aren't in positions 1-3 you are missing most of the prime sales opportunities. Too often I've seen even a drop from #1 to #2 lose significant sales and traffic. It bears noting one last time; start to get back to a SERP out strategy. Because with all the verticals and universal search, there is a wide variety of possible oportunities we should not let go to waste. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, this is still an area not discussed a lot in SEO circles

About the author; Terry is an old school SEO geek that works out of International Website Builders and the founder of - You can also hook up with him on Twitter.


Some More/Interesting/Related goodies;

Universal Search Strategy for Video is not Universal - Reel SEO

Google Universal Search Patent Granted - SEO by the Sea

Google's Universal Search Patent Application & Assigned Patents from Infoseek - SEO by the Sea

How Google Universal Search and Blended Results May Work - SEO by the Sea

Universal Search Now In Google Suggest For Mobile - SEL

Eye Tracking On Universal And Personalized Search - SEL

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