How to use Search Engine Provided Tools

As SEO has grown in popularity and as an industry, the search engines have started to provide more information about their data. It started with the queries listed in the preceding section and eventually turned into tools that are dedicated to making our jobs as SEOs easier. Bing offers a toolset called Webmaster Tools but it is not nearly as helpful as Google’s Webmaster Central. The two most popular search engine–provided tools that are expected to exist for a while are Google Webmaster Central and Google AdWords Keyword Tool. (Bing, please catch up. We could use your help.)

With Google AdWords Keyword Tool you can see Google specific information about how many monthly searches are performed on a given term. This is extremely useful for conducting keyword research and deciding which word a given page should target.

NOTE If you do not have an AdWords account (which is required for full access to this tool’s data), Google Insights for Search is another excellent tool that enables you to identify keyword trends and compare the relative popularity of up to five phrases at a time:

Google Webmaster Central: This tool is available at

Google Webmaster Central allows you to set specific settings for your website as well as see specific metrics of how Google sees your website. These metrics include link profile details and crawling statistics.

I use these tools when I want to:
See the relative competitiveness of a keyword (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
Check to see if Google has identified any problems with a client site (Google Webmaster Central)
Change a Google-specific setting for a site (Google Webmaster Central)

Key Data Points
As you use these tools, here are key data points you want to keep your eye on:

Google AdWords Keyword Tool: Global Monthly Search Volume:
This metric shows the approximate number of global searches for the given word or phrase. It is unclear how accurate this metric is but anecdotal evidence suggests that all of the data is relatively close to real. Unfortunately, this is the best we can do at this time. SEOs use this data to help determine keyword choices.

Checking Variations of Words
It is extremely beneficial to use this tool to compare the relative worth of variations of the same word. For example, at of the time of writing the query “music video” is searched globally 11,100,000 more times than “music videos” In this case, and many others, the inclusion of an “s” makes an enormous difference.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool:
Advertiser Competition :
Unfortunately for us, this metric is even less exact than the previous metric. It is depicted as a green bar rather than an artificially rounded number. Come on, Google! This information is useful for rough approximations of advertiser competitiveness. This applies only to advertisers bidding on Google keywords and merely correlates with the competitiveness of the natural search results. Professional SEOs use this in combination with the number of global searches to find high-volume, low-competition keywords. It is not an exact science, but again, it is the best we have right now.

Common Questions These Tools Can Answer
These two Google tools can help you answer two important questions.

What Is the Best Way to Write a Specific Keyword?
The best way to answer this question is to use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and both submit multiple variations of your keyword and check the “Use Synonyms” checkbox. As I mentioned in the music video example earlier in this section, one letter can make a huge amount of difference in traffic.