Using KEI for Keyword Research in Wordtracker

If you’re using Wordtracker to do keyword research for search engine optimization, you may find this useful. Wordtracker is a great tool for keyword research, but it does have one puzzling quirk: Wordtracker gives us two indexes – KEI and KEI3 – and they don’t agree.

KEI stands for Keyword Effectiveness Index, and it’s a formula that takes into account how many people are using a keyword (search volume) combined with how much competition there is for that keyword. KEI is great for comparing the likely effectiveness of two keywords you’re evaluating. But what do you do with two KEIs for each keyword? There’s not much info out there – not even from Wordtracker – on how to use Wordtracker’s two different KEIs.

Here’s how I use the two KEIs in Wordtracker. This assumes you want a final working list of 10 keywords:

  1. Display your expanded seed keyword list. Click on Get Additional Metrics.
  2. Click the KEI header to sort the keywords by KEI. Copy the top 20 (bigger numbers are better with KEI, so make sure you’ve sorted from high KEI to low KEI) and paste them into a spreadsheet or even a text document.
  3. Click the KEI3 header to sort by that index. Again, copy the top 20 and paste them into your spreadsheet.
  4. Compare your two lists, and pick the top 10 that appear on both lists.

Remember that KEI is just one way to start comparing and selecting keywords. The only real test of search engine optimization efforts is the results you get after you optimize your site and track the search-referred site visits over time.

By the way, I’m often asked “What is a good KEI number?” I recommend you use KEI as a tool for comparing two keywords, but don’t worry too much about the actual KEI number.


  1. Mal Darwen on 15 December 2009 at 9:13 am

    Hi Ed,

    I’m Mal, and I work for Wordtracker Customer Support.

    it looks like you’ve got a fairly good method for the KEIs here – although our resident SEO expert, Mark Nunney, while working out a similair strategy, came up with the following hints also:

    Save the keywords you like to a List, eg ‘christmas gift POSSIBLES’. That way you can see your KEI1 and KEI3 choices together.

    If you have a good reason, feel free to include any other keywords to your POSSIBLES list. Good reasons include the following:

    • It’s good to target a mix of tough and easy keywords – you might get results.

    • you have a lot of relevant stock or a relevant service that is not going away

    • you know that you can get good relevant links

    • you already have good relevant links

    • you are already have traffic for closely related keywords, eg that contain some of the same keywords

    Incidentally, your point about comparing KEI numbers inside your niche rather than just looking at the absolute number is right on the money. Given the huge differences in search volumes and competition levels in each niche, it’s not really possible to say that ‘X’ or ‘Y’ is a ‘good’ KEI number.

    I hope this is of some use, but of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at support[at]

    All the best,


  2. Ed on 15 December 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for piping in, Mal. When Mark suggests saving the keywords you like to a POSSIBLE list, it sounds like he’s talking about the same list that I call “expanded seed keyword list.” The process I follow is to start with the obvious keywords (the seed list), use Wordtracker to suggest additional keywords, and add the promising ones to my “expanded seed keyword list.” Then I do the KEI analysis.

    The bulleted list of ideas you provided will help to build that seed list into an expanded seed list for analysis.

    I appreciate your note, and your input on using KEI as a comparative rather than absolute measure.

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