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A Review of Google’s Search-Based Keyword Tool – Back to the Drawing Board

Recently, a few of the content optimization gurus at The Search Agency decided to give the new Google Search-Based Keyword tool [1] a try. At first, it seemed to be a cool new tool with a lot of potential. The tool suggests keywords based on the content of a website and also expands on keywords (without having to including a website). However, when you start digging deeper and testing further, you start to see that the tool cracks very easily. Here are some examples of how the tool isn’t ready for prime time.

The Aryn Kennedy Experience

When Dave sent me the link to this new tool, I was excited. I’ve had problems in the past with Adwords not being a true reflection of the level of traffic my clients can expect. A tool that only showed results for actual search volume, not including the content network, would be great. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped.

I started by searching for “real estate.” This is an area where I have a lot of experience, so I know the top keyword already. I expected to see “real estate” at the top of the list, followed by variations like “los angeles real estate” or “Chicago real estate” or “real estate listings.” Instead, I got this:

keyword 1 [2]

A big, fat nothing. I entered a website address and finally got some results, but I still didn’t see the top terms I expected to see. It appeared that it wouldn’t show me results for keywords that were also keyword category names (see Dave’s experience for the categories.)

Next I input the site FTD.com to see what keywords it would recommend based on the site’s content. I expected to see “flowers” at the top of the list. But what I actually saw surprised me:

keyword 2 [3]

At this point, I gave up and threw my computer against the wall. Well, not really. I just gave up and went back to Adwords. The idea of a search-based keyword tool is great, but this version is useless to me for two reasons: 1. It doesn’t show me top terms that I should be going after, and 2. It doesn’t work well if you don’t enter a site name. If I’m working on a brand new site, the tool simply won’t work for it.

The David Waterman Experience

In addition to Aryn’s observations on how the tool doesn’t suggest keywords that are fundamental (and quite obvious) to a website, the Google Search Based Keyword Tool also has categorizing issues. Here’s what I mean.

I decided to see how the tool works with a general term like “mortgage” (without including a website). At first glance, the tool pulls logical keyword suggestions.  However, when I looked at the “Categories for this search” column on the left, I noticed something very unusual. I saw the category “Apparel”. When I clicked on Apparel, I saw more detailed Apparel subcategories like “Clothing”, “Casual”, “Outwear”, and “Underwear”. Wait….UNDERWEAR?????? FOR A MORTGAGE CLASSIFICATION????? I was a bit confused. When I clicked on “Underwear” the deeper category “Boxers & Briefs” appeared. I scratched my head for a minute but then noticed a pattern within the keywords presented. Almost all the terms that were subcategorized as “Underwear” had the term “short”….”mortgage short sale”, “short mortgage”, “short pay mortgage”, etc. Since these “short”-related mortgage terms were categorized under “Underwear”….specifically “Boxers & Briefs”…I assumed the tool was equating “Short” with “Shorts” and “Shorts” with “Boxer Shorts” which can be classified as “Underwear”. And that’s how it probably ended up with mortgage terms classified as “Underwear”. Of course, none of us would classify these terms as such, but we’re dealing with a program…a program that needs some tweaking.

Here’s visual proof of what I saw:

keyword 3 [4]

So as you can see, the tool has some problems. Is this a peak into possible difficulties the Google algorithm has with classifying and identifying relevant keywords? Who knows! All I know is I don’t think anyone but a confused algorithm would not know the term “flowers” would be an ideal suggestion for FTD  and the term  ”mortgage short sale” should not be classified as “Underwear”.

p.s. If you’re curious as to what mortgage terms the Google Search Based Keyword Tool classified as “Jewelry”, I’ll give you a hint. Most of terms have the word “watch” in them. Good one, Google.

About Aryn Kennedy

Aryn Kennedy has been with The Search Agency for three years as an SEO Content Manager. She’s a bookish sort who has been seen lurking the halls waiting for her muse to return from lunch.