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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.

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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

Want more where this came from?


Google Universal Search:Universal SERP Strategy for Digital Asset Managers

Written by Terry Van Horne   
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 15:42

(The following is a guest post from Terry VanHorne)

Managing Digital Assets To Manipulate Universal Search SERPs

The Google Universal SERP mystery begins with what triggers a Universal SERP and ends with the media/content displayed, information types and vertical searches that make up the SERP. To some extent the mystery can be solved by Digital Asset Managers looking at the evolution of the Google Universal Search SERPs.

Universal Search: The Mystery in Google SERPs

The evolution started November 2003 with the infamous Florida index refresh which began a transformation to a more behavioral centric user intent aware SERP from a textual relevance centric algorithm. This likely included "labeling" query spaces, IMO, this might have also included a label/algo addition for transactional/informational searches ie: behavioral in basis. Context Aware Query Classification is a post I did on research that Microsoft did and I felt was close to a reverse engineering of what Google did with Florida update.

Webmasterworld thread indicates GBase was at the top of the SERPs in April 2006, however I recall that in or about the fall of 2005 Froogle results were in the SERPs. The next big change was the rollout of Big Daddy in December 2005 which seemed to dampen the links from user generated content possibly by measuring a page's link integrity (IBL/OBL).

In July 2006 Google started including Google Maps business listings in the form of Local OneBoxes in the main Google search results. On December 9 Google integrates the PlusBox in the main search results. On December 19 Google added a feature that lets you add multiple destinations to your driving directions. Still with me?

Evolution of Universal Search

On May 16, 2007 Google rolls out Universal search results including more Map information on the main Google results page. That was the "official launch" of Universal, however, IMO, UNI started it's ascent on the SERPs in 2005 when Froogle results provided the first "Shopping Paks" at the top of the SERP "triggered" by user intent indicated in the search query. Primarily intent was determined by transactional keywords like buy, cheap etc. and brand/product keywords in the query.



Starting from the top

What is significant is that every new "Pak" starts at the top of the SERP and are some sort of a vertical search result with informational resource or reference or transactional user intent. One could argue the "Shopping Paks" were the first rich snippet, however, IMO that is really the distinction that is owned by "sitelinks".

SEOs fretting about the potential for reputation management issues with Real Time Search results can rest assured the RTS results will not be "slotted/hand jobbed" to the top of the SERP for much longer.

I believe that as new Universal verticals are rolled out they are started at the top of the SERP to gather "user experience" data on the vertical. At some point it is rolled into the SERP. IMO, video is so popular that has been "relegated/handjobbed" to below the fold in many query spaces. At the end of the day, what we do now is that there is query analysis at the root of it all.

Universal over time

Why? For some of the same reasons images or news with pictures are clicked more frequently by users. If videos and images appear above the fold they deflect users attention from sponsored ads and other more "lucrative" results or Google properties. We can also consider the ongoing query analysis and tweaking of the various algorithms responsible for them appearing (when and where).


Digital Asset Management (DAM): The Enigma in Google SERPs

Once you view the enigmatic nature of the Universal Search SERP in the context of user intent you realize that directly manipulating the Universal SERP with onpage optimization and indirectly with offpage/authority links is less effective in a temporal/behavioral environment. Now various search verticals like local, images, news, product/shopping/feeds/, video and RTS; social networks; RSS Feeds (Salmon protocol) are more effective in a temporal environment. Enter the new SEO class in town the "Digital Asset Manager" or DAM (no trademark, feel free to use it lol).


Universal Search Vertical Targets

Below is a list of Vertical Search query spaces with its corresponding behavioral or time sensitive characteristics. By determining the characteristics of the query space DAMs can design campaigns to trigger the targets using "trusted resources", signals from other Vertical Searches and content/media choices.

  • News/Blogs: Temporal and/or informational query space with heavy weighting for QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) signals especially for news
  • Shopping: Positions in some query spaces may be "slotted" seasonally but for the most part is a transactional query space
  • Local: The toughest to understand with Geo, Temporal and Transactional influences in this vertical search query space
  • Video: ? not sure
  • Real Time Search: Temporal, Temporal, Temporal!
  • Images: Informational query space


    Universal Search Vertical Triggers

    Now that we're looked at the Query Space and Vertical Search influences you can develop marketing campaigns using SEO techniques to optimize vertical signals to corroborate appropriate relevance for query space influences and freshness in the query space. Managers should also be using PR techniques,(no, not that Googly thing) to create a buzz that can "trigger" activity in the appropriate Vertical Search.

    • News/Blogs: Buzz in Real Time Search is possibly one of the "Triggers" for news and blog verticals to be included in the query space. Other "Triggers" may be citations/links from authority blogs or news sites.
    • Shopping: Transactional Keywords and some brands and product category keywords in the query "Trigger" shopping results
    • Local: Transactional, brand and Geo keyword "Triggers"
    • Video: Availabilty of video makes determining the "Triggers" tough but does seem to be Transactional or keywords in query
    • Real Time Search: Brand and keyword buzz
    • Images: Informational query space and sometimes in combination with other Search Verticals such as news and shopping


    Universal triggers for Google SERPs

    DAM: SERPs Out Content Strategy

    Generally SEO campaigns are built from the keywords out because the available traffic data enables prioritizing of keywords for profitability and meeting the clients goals. DAMs work from the SERP out because Universal Search is all about determining the content or media that can be used to enter the SERP. I like to target tough keywords that may take the site quite some time to enter in the traditional manner.

    There are a number of things for the DAM to consider:

    1. What types of Universal Search components are included in the target SERP?
    2. What types of Universal Search components are missing from the SERP but have been included in the past?
    3. Shelf life of Universal Search component target (News may only last a day or two in most cases)
    4. Where is the Universal Search component located (Above or below fold) and does it move up and down in the SERP
    5. Regardless of click bias some Universal SERP components like images and videos have inherently higher CTR (Click Through Rate)

    Understanding the influences and characteristics of the Universal Search SERP enables Digital Asset Managers to develop campaigns including the components that are required for gaining a foothold in a SERP. The strategies developed using the above information will give DAMs a leg up on those who approach Universal SERPs with traditional keyword strategies.

    Today we've only touched the surface. Be sure to stay tuned for more real soon.. and leave your own thoughts in the comments


    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.


    NOTE: We will be doing some research with the SEO Dojo gang over the next while on Universal Search - we shall let you know what we find or better yet, why not join us to get the full story?


    Site links for directory structures; concepts in IA

    Written by David Harry   
    Wednesday, 24 March 2010 13:44

    Every now and again people ask one of the old classics in this thing of ours; directory structure or sub-domain. Which is best?

    The conventional thinking is usually that if it is substantially a different site/element, use a sub-domain. But is this a fast and hard rule? Not really. Personally I am more inclined to consider it if there are language issues (or other geo-targeting issues) or a definitive break in focus.

    As just a quick highlight it should be noted that one can train ol Google to understand structural elements… some site-links;

    Main Blog – this one uses some site wide ‘popular post’ links and includes the Dojo module link (SEO Training);

    Site Links Fire Horse Trail

    Dojo – is generally also using the more prominent, site wide, navigation links;

    Site Links

    Read more... [Site links for directory structures; concepts in IA]
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