OpenPhrases.com is a keyword research tool for search engine optimisation coming out of Slovakia, introduced in 2007. We use it extensively at Pizza SEO because it offers information on Slovak keywords – something we cannot get in many other places. In this respect, OpenPhrases.com has very few competitors.
In addition to Slovak, OpenPhrases.com offers English, German and Russian. I have little to say on the latter two versions as we rarely if ever get to use them. On the other hand, we often get to use the English version both in our client work and the work we do on our own projects (to supplement, rather than replace other tools, as I explain below).
Unlike with Slovak, this is where OpenPhrases.com enters into a competitive arena with several heavy weight competitors. How does it stack up? Where does it fit in a search marketer’s tool box? The notion of mathematical coordinates for a specific location is about as old as the skill of mapping. Navigators have used the concept for centuries to plot courses for ships, get airplanes to their destination, and explore the world. Technology in the form of satellites and computers brought both accuracy and processing speed to the party, and by the 1990’s geographic coordinates were being used for a variety of purposes. The United States Postal Service essentially took its database of postal american address to coordinate conversion and added the geographical coordinates to each record to help move mail. Combined with the same data about roads and streets, the US government produced what are still known as tiger maps… digital databases of the road network on the US and the postal delivery addresses.The idea was to enhance mail movement, and it worked. Only the goal was to get mail destined to a specific location on to the correct mail carrier route, so things like correct street location, the exact location of each address, and even if the streets were complete didn’t matter all that much, as long as it was close enough to get mail on the correct route. Mapping data companies came to the process, using various methods to correct the mapping side of the data… the postal service moved to ever tighter zip code assignments (with associated geocodes) to improve that part of the issue. Those developments, coupled with increased computing power and transportation costs led to today’s availability and uses for the process.
Keyword analysis is bread and butter of any search marketing effort – both on the organic search optimization front and for paid search advertising. In performing keyword analysis SEOs usually look to:
1. Gather keywords and phrases to use in organic optimization and paid ads in search engines,
2. Assess importance of words and phrases (absolute and relative) in terms of search volume,
3. Estimate competitiveness for a given word in organic or paid search.
There are a number of tools usable for simply gathering keywords (e.g. to create a list of words for a PPC campaign) – you can mine logs, use suggestions from search engines or even a simple thesaurus. You can easily load tonnes of keywords in a pay-per-click campaign and see if they receive any searches.
Competitiveness of search phrases can be estimated using Google itself (popular method simply looks at the number of results for the given phrase, although this is only a proxy for competitiveness at the top of the SERPs). Tools within online advertising systems give an indication of competition in paid search.
There are only a few tools to look at search volumes and assess the absolute and relative search frequency of various phrases (especially since the highly popular Overture Inventory Tool went dead in December 2007). Three major tools are used: Keyword Discovery, Wordtracker and Wordze. For a serious search marketer these tools are a de rigeur regardless of their prices – some marketers swear by one of them but many use several to cross verify the info they get.
Having said that these tools can actually be quite costly – monthly subscriptions run from about $45 (Wordze) to $69 (Keyword Discovery). Lots of people do subscribe and there is obviously value to each one of them (see Copyblogger for a great review).
But OpenPhrases.com is completely free (“at least for some time” according to the creators’ blog). Therefore I think it only makes sense to compare it with other free tools or free versions of paid tools.
So I ran OpenPhrases.com head-to-head with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Free Search Term Suggestion Tool by KeywordDiscovery.com and the Free Keyword Suggestion Tool on Wordtracker. I chose the search for ‘real estate’ as one I expected to have reasonable search volumes. I also played around with other searches (‘shirt’, ‘Bratislava’, ‘sex’) but my impressions were very similar.
For Google I turned the Synonyms option off, for Wordtracker I left the default Remove offensive (results) option selected and for Open Phrases I unchecked Synonyms but left Stemming on.
For real estate Google’s results looked very reasonable (although Google does not give any specific numbers, just green bars and you can therefore only see the order by volume). ‘Real estate’ as a phrase appeared first, followed by ‘real estate listings’ and ‘commercial real estate’. The first geographically specific phrase and the only one in the top 10 appeared in the seventh position – it was ‘florida real estate’. Overall, the results looked quite US-centric.
The Keyword Discovery tool also showed ‘real estate’ in the top position, with an overwhelming 431,375 searches (to 23,033 for second-ranked ‘Las Vegas real estate’). The other geographic phrase in the top 10 was again ‘florida real estate’ in the 8th position. Several real estate agents (prudential, century 21) also showed. All in all the first 100 results (showed for free) appeared pretty sensible, too.
Wordtracker started off with ‘Marbella real estate’ and seven out of the first 10 searches were geo-specific (places like Portland, franklin tn, fort myers). ‘Real estate’ itself came sixth. Interestingly, search volume on Marbella was reported at 23,526 compared with 18,504 for real estate itself.
Results returned by Open Phrases were somewhat suspect: ‘brava costa estate real’ came first with 568 searches (about 300 of them on a single day according to the detailed info I got when I clicked on [DETAILS] next to the phrase, which brings up a cool 92-day histogram) followed by ‘califormia real estate ray and peggy pierce’ with 310 searches. All the other top 10 searches were also geo-specific, ‘real estate’ on its own appeared nowhere in the top 50.
Digging into the results gave some further clues on their quality: clicking on the third placed ‘crete estate real’ with 253 searches showed there were also five for ‘real estate crete’ indicating these could be drawn from distinct data sources (one that preserves the order of words and one that does not). Clicking on ‘real estate agents’ showed multiple variations with the word kanpur: ‘real estate agents at kanpur’, ‘in kanpur’ and ‘at kanpur.’.
Fun with keyword analysis?
OpenPhrases.com shows promise – nice interface with some great features such as the three-month search history, limiting searches by phrase length or frequency or looking for synonyms (as a side note, what I found quite annoying was the auto-suggest feature which showed phrases as I typed – when I hit enter using Firefox, the tool searched for the top auto-suggested phrase and not the on I had typed in).
At the moment, however, it lacks a database of sufficient quality to be a reliable source for keyword analysis. This is not surprising – finding usable and representative search data to play with is not easy in a world 80% dominated by one search engine. Say the creators: “Current database contains more than 45.000.000 unique keywords (unique search queries) and more than 500.000.000 search queries. We got them from world-wide used search engines, if you ask which, sorry, we keep this information secret.”
As a free tool OpenPhrases.com is great for individual marketers or amateur SEOs to supplement the Google Adwords Keyword Tool and free Wordtracker – i.e. it is great, as its tagline says, “…when keyword analysis is fun” (though maybe not when it is supposed to be serious work). It can provide extra info to anyone who does not need or cannot afford to pay for full access to one (or several) of the heavy duty tools.
If and when the creators get their hands on a more extensive search data feed and sort out minor usability and data parsing niggles, the Open Phrases tool with its friendly interface can become very useful.