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Old 03-09-2005   #1
randfish
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Question Concerned about Validity of Overture & WordTracker Numbers

A website I optimize for is ranked #1 (in some cases #1 and #2) for several terms that receive the following traffic numbers according to WordTracker(WT) & Overture(OV):

term 1 - 404/day (WT) 230/day (OV) - I get an average of 31 visitors per day for this term

term 2 - 161/day (WT) 127/day (OV) - I get an average of 18 visitors per day for this term

term 3 - 46/day (WT) 22.8/day (OV) - I get an average of 0.5 visitors per day for this term

I'm very worried that this is uncommon for the industry. Have your (collective) experiences indicated that you receive about 10% of the traffic from being #1 in the SERPs at all the major engines. Are these two statistics that far off?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 03-09-2005   #2
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Flawed metrics across the board

In our experience, this is nothing unusual at all.
For one, both Wordtracker and Overture metrics are aggregated.
They won't specify which position received which click-thru rate.

Nor are they really comparable: whereas Overture is referencing solely
the data they collected on their own platform (and its many outlets via licensing
partners and affiliates, of course), Wordtracker monitors meta search engines -
quite a different animal overall.

Moreover, it's been our long standing contention that OV metrics are so wildly off mark,
it makes your eyes water. Unfortunately, they are less than transparent about how
and in which manner these stats are generated.

For example, what exactly constitutes a "unique click" - a click-thru from a unique IP, ok,
but within which time frame? 6 hours? 12 hours? 24 hours? A week?
And how do they handle ISPs that will assign separate dynamic IPs with every fresh
browser window opened (such as AOL, for example)?

So there's no safe, reliable way to actually tell, I'm afraid.
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Old 03-09-2005   #3
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Fantomaster, thanks for answering, it's great to see you here (I hope you know you're famous in many SEO circles).

I may have been unclear in my initial post. I don't have top positions in the paid results, these are #1 positions in the organic SERPs.

I also checked the Overture stats, for which we're on the first page too, and it says that for that first term, we average 250 impressions per day... I'm really confused, because our listing is quite strong, I couldn't ask for a better description from Google or MSN (although Yahoo! has our directory listing which is less powerful). I guess I'm just at a loss - I thought that something above 70% of searchers click on the first listing, which should give us a minimum of 175 unique visitors from the Overture-served properties (MSN, Yahoo!, Ask)...
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Old 03-09-2005   #4
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Thanks for the kudos.

First, let's not forget that the 70% clicks studies tend to show are, of course, only achieved
under specific test conditions.

In any case, simply applying this figure derived from one specific setup to the data from another
(OV stats) to gauge yet another, third set (your server traffic logs) seems to beg the issue of exponentially
increasing the overall margin of error if only on methodological grounds.

Moreover, not all listings are created equal. On some platforms, OV results #1 thru #3 will be
displayed, on others it may be #1 thru #5, etc. That would make your #1 position in the organic
listings an overall #4 or #6 respectively which will skew your traffic stats correlation even further.

Add to that the fact that Overture's stats are notoriously unreliable (there are those who would
even go so far as to say: downright overblown ...) in the first place, and you're in for a statistical nightmare
when matching one set of data with another.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you should give it up altogether as a bad job; it's just that
more likely than not you'll always encounter this kind of issue when working from essentially incompatible data sets.
There's no easy solution I'm aware of if you're actually aiming at reliable and verifiable numbers.

I'm currently doing some research in preparation for an article on the whole issue of click fraud and the fundamentally
flawed attempts at gauging ROI on PPC bids reliably - and of course the slice of traffic taken up by organic positions
competing with sponsored listings plays a major role in this discussion, as well.
And what I've seen to date isn't very pretty, I'm afraid ...
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Old 03-10-2005   #5
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Fantomaster,

Thank you for the explanation. I realize that the incompatibility of the two data sets certainly makes for inaccuracy. I never guessed it would be so bad. Orion actually mentioned something about this during the final SES session on keyword research tools (simplex optimization); it's probably important that I look into it post-haste.

It sounds like your suggesting that the only real use for the Overture & Wordtracker tools is as a reference or comparison point - a relative measure if you will, which is certainly better than no measure at all. The one thing they are pretty accurate about is noting which terms are searched for more/less than others, so I'll continue to use them for that purpose and rely more on PPC testing campaigns at Google & Overture to try to estimate real traffic numbers.

This does beg the question of why the tools are reporting such inaccurate measurements. By my estimation, Overture is off by no less than 40% on those 3 terms and I will be doing some further testing to check their overall reliability.

Thanks for your help with this issue, hope to see you around here more often
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Old 03-10-2005   #6
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WT and Overture are really only representing search volume for the particular phrase. Click thru rates will be considerably different based on any number of factors such as title, description, etc. While we have found that the wordtracker numbers are considerably under-inflated for any particular search, the click thru rates are at or around 10%. Again, give or take depending on position, title, description, competitors titles and descriptions, sponsored ad titles and descriptions and the like.
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Old 03-10-2005   #7
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Just wanted to post these so it's clear where the positions I'm talking about are.

St0ny - You're suggesting that WT numbers are under-inflated, but I'm getting less than 10% of the daily traffic they say types in that term despite being #1 at all engines...

In any case, this is an eye-opening experience as most of my efforts in the past have resulted in much more logical numbers in comparison to what Overture and WT give me.
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Old 03-10-2005   #8
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Exclamation Simplex Optimization

Quote:
Originally Posted by randfish
I realize that the incompatibility of the two data sets certainly makes for inaccuracy. I never guessed it would be so bad. Orion actually mentioned something about this during the final SES session on keyword research tools (simplex optimization); it's probably important that I look into it post-haste.
Indeed. I have warned many in the industry not to mix and match metrics from different databases to come up with a new metric. I felt obligued to make a statement before the SES, NY audience. I also strongly disagree that this kind of approaches "is the best swag out there." There are indeed better approaches. It just that the seo community has not been introduced to those. That would soon change. More on this here

"Ultimately, metrics based on search results are not just affected by relevancy scores. They can be the result of tokenization and similar procedures taking place at the level of the individual IR architectures. Overall, search engine result page metrics (SERPs) are the result of ranking algorithms, not necessarily of users' search behaviors (how often a term or phrase is queried). As a matter of facts, a ranking algorithm can care less about how frequent was a term searched this or the previous month, week or day; of course, unless we talk about paid services (e.g. pay-per click scores).

Thus, combining SERP metrics with metrics from other search engines that account, let say, for user's query behaviors (i.e., search volume from a search engine or meta engine) to come up with a new metric is a highly questionable approach. SEOs, SEMs and keyword research firms should stay away from such practices before their metrics lose credibility in the industry or with clients." http://www.miislita.com/fractals/ove...-patterns.html

With regard to SIMPLEX Optimization, a process improvement and optimization technique (often used in chemometrics and statistical optimization methods) I use to work and research on Simplex back in 1982-1986 for my MS grad school at Univ. of PR. When I moved to ASU, AZ, I used to present seminars on the topic. This is a standard technique for multivariative optimization rather than one-variable-at-a-time approach. It was introduced back in the 60's and resurfaced in the 70's.

As I often mention at my site, Simplex has been used ever since in Economics, Chemistry, Statistics, Engineering, etc, you name it. Simplex can be applied to almost any optimization problem. Speed and convergence to the optimum is faster than traditional methods for improvind a system's state. It is just another great tool that should be part of the toolbox.

Orion

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Old 03-10-2005   #9
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The other thing is there is a big difference between impressions and clicks.

WordTracker and Overture etc. are giving overall impressions whereas you are counting the clicks you get from those numbers.

Unfortunately there is really no way to track impressions.
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Old 03-10-2005   #10
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Quote:
St0ny - You're suggesting that WT numbers are under-inflated, but I'm getting less than 10% of the daily traffic they say types in that term despite being #1 at all engines...
everything OT and Overture needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Unless they had access to search information from Google (which they don't) and other major engines their numbers will always be simply guesses from their system. In our experience they are underinflated, however I'm sure in some cases they may be over-inflated. either that, or visitors are bypassing your#1 position in favor of the #2... which I know can happen as well. It certainly does seem to be an anomoly, in any case.

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Old 03-10-2005   #11
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There are several things to bear in mind about Overture's numbers:-

(1) They rarely show plurals. They combine singular and plural versions of phrases and there is no way of knowing how many of the reported figues were singular and how many were plural. This will seriously inflate the numbers.

(2) Their figures are unreliable. I say that because I've seen many examples of listed searchterms, that had a fair number of "searches", that were so contrived and obscure that the searchterm could only possibly have been dreamed up by one person. So where did all the searches for it come from.

(3) Their figures are also unreliable because people who have PPC accounts with them, and other similar people, are responsible for many of the searches due to frequently checking their positions in the search results. That's just a guess, but it has to happen a lot. This will also inflate the numbers. In many or even most cases, it will seriously inflate them.

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Old 03-11-2005   #12
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Is it possible that this is one of those terms that is searched frequently by firms trying to optimize for this term, and thus the number of searches is artificially inflated? For example, I would expect the CTR for high rankings for a term like "search engine optimization company" to be much lower than the general average CTR, since I'm sure there are a large number of SEO companies trying to optimize for this term, and doing a good bit of manual rank checking and such to inflate those numbers.

In many cases it can be more pronounced for a lesser searched term as well. Sometimes people think a term is searched alot, they optimize for it, they monitor their ranks manually and this drives up the searches, actually causing it to show as being searched more frequently - whereas these numbers are artificial since they don't represent real prospects.
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Old 03-11-2005   #13
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If you are asking about those phrases that only one person could have dreamed up, they are really obscure - and long. Unfortunately, I can't remember one offhand but nobody would consider targeting them. It could be that people just wanted to get those phrases into the list for a bit of fun.
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Old 03-11-2005   #14
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Great thread!

I've always been amazed after doing keyword research and then implementing an SEO campaign and ranking well how skewed results are. Meaning I rarely receive the clicks that I thought I would. I must say though that a lead is a lead, and something is better than nothing.

Another thing that is worth mentioning is all of the research that gets done out there adds to the overall numbers count, and if the words or phrases are popular then the research factor could over inflate counts dramatically. I check my campaigns 2 to 3 times per week so I'm adding to the false results, then add everyone else who does the same and I'm sure the numbers will be huge.

The search engines should create search API's for industry professionals where we could log into our accounts to do word and phrase research and have those numbers not be added to the daily/weekly counts.
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Old 03-11-2005   #15
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Very good point, ephricon. Search volume is invlated exponentially on popular phrases simply because people are doing nothing more than checking their rankigns. We check our rankings for our clients on a regular schedule, but sometimes we do checks in between. Our clients are also doing searches to check thier rankings (even though we provide reports) and all their competitors are doing the same. This creates a huge search volume "markup" that overinflates the value of that term, especially when it comes to getting leads.
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Old 03-11-2005   #16
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Thanks guys,

That seems like the most likely explanation to me (for this particular instance), there are certainly a lot of us who probably check those words from many computers each day.
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Old 03-11-2005   #17
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Old 03-12-2005   #18
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Randfish:

For the last year Month by month I ran overtures estimates for volume for my main keyword against aggregate traffic to my site. Similarly another highly ranked business/site for my industry checked his traffic volume with me. Remarkably the rise and fall of this term over the year reflected very closely our traffic volume month by month. Remarkable sinchronicity.

In January both my site and the other business had record traffic months. Meanwhile overture's reported volume for the term was about 2/3 of the highest month. It was dramatically off base with our experience. Our sites are both highly ranked(first page for all search engines) and often #1 for a variety of 2ndary terms, plus typically first for about 25 markets in the US.

Overture's January totals just didn't jive with our combined experience.

To the extent that you drive high rankings off of your position now depends on marketing rather than SEO. Your "snippet" under the title may drive people to your site. Check your description against those of other sites in the industry. Ultimately your marketing language has to be broad and compelling to drive visitors to the site.

Finally the topic is narrow and subject to widely different expectations and actions. You have to give the site time to generate leads and business from your new higher rankings. I'd check your logs for new visitors. Most users of the service aren't repeat customers, and new potential customers viewing the site will slowly grow with continued widespread exposure.

EGOL is a master at squeezing activity out of his site and his adsense ads. He tests language and words to drive traffic. He is relentless. Check his postings.

Dave
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Old 03-13-2005   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hiero
The search engines should create search API's for industry professionals where we could log into our accounts to do word and phrase research and have those numbers not be added to the daily/weekly counts.
Google has already done this, haven't they? There are several tools available on the web that use Google's API to check your ranking. My personal favorite is DigitalPoint Keyword Tracker. I have been using this for several months now, and I find it invaluable. I've built up a list of about 125 keyword phrases, and I can check them all daily with a single click of the mouse. It even keeps track of back data and can plot your rankings out on a chart. Pretty snazzy if ya ask me.

So I guess it depends if queries done through the Google API are counted in the search totals. But then again, nobody really knows what the Google search totals are! The two main tools everyone always mentions are Overture's Keyword Suggestion Tool and Wordtracker. Neither of those use Google numbers. So it seems like manually checking your ranking on Google would be a moot point as far as those tools are concerned. And doesn't Wordtracker claim to use metasearchengine data? So since virtually nobody checks their rank via metasearch, then it seems like Wordtracker would be immune. Wouldn't it?

Oh, and by the way, since this is my first post, thanks to everyone who participates in these forums. I've been lurking here for quite some time, and find it immensely informative, helpful and (usually!) interesting.

Last edited by jvracing : 03-13-2005 at 03:20 PM. Reason: Sudden realization I might be an idiot
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Old 03-13-2005   #20
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welcome jv! Glad to see you posting.

I too like the Digitalpoint tool, although I use different software personally. Hope we see more of you around.
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