What Is A KEI?

by Gabriella Sannino July 20th, 2010 

This is a true story. It goes something like this:

A friend of mine (who I will call Bob to protect the innocent) is a great copywriter. He asked me to help him with an SEO article. Now, I’m all about helping people, especially friends that have a curiosity about SEO. I asked if the client had pulled a KEI on their words.

Bob: What’s a KEI?

Me: KEI – Keyword Effectiveness Index. Dead silence on the other end of the phone. Are you still there, Bob?

Bob: Err, yeah, but what the heck does that mean and why do I need it for this client?

Me: You mean to tell me you’re writing a SEO article for a client and you don’t know if he’s done any keyword research?

Bob: Yeah…

Me: Bob, before you even start writing this SEO article, look up the words… you know what? Better yet, I’ll write an article about it for you.

Bob: I realize I’m not that smart about some things, but why is that something I need to know?

Me: Well, Bob, if you want your client to compete online, you really need to know what a KEI is.

Bob: Oh, so it’s that important. I thought that as long as we wrote fresh content we would get new customers.

Silence from my end of the phone.

Me: Well, yeah, fresh content is fine, but whom are you writing for? Do you know? How many people are actually searching for those keywords? Bob, listen, bud, I love you man, but do me a favor. Wait a few days and let me post this article; I’ll send you the link. Read it and then give me a call if there’s something you don’t understand.

KEI stands for “Keyword Effectiveness Index”. The KEI essentially helps point out which keywords are the most effective and valuable. Below, I’ll explain why the KEI is important, and exactly what it can do for your website when it comes to writing great SEO content.

The KEI of a keyword is actually a formula. It compares the number of searches for the word or terms with the number of competitive pages. What does this mean? Basically, the KEI points out which keywords have a higher search vs. lower ranking competition i.e. the most effective for your campaign.

Let’s take a hypothetical number of 500 searches a month for your specific keyword. Google shows 215, 400 results based on that keyword. In order to understand the ratio of competitive pages vs. popularity, take the 500 and divide it by 215,400. The result is 0.0023, a low KEI for a keyword that, most likely, isn’t a good one to use.

To put it simply, the ultimate keyword is one with a high KEI (1.0 and above). The higher the KEI, the more chance your site has for ranking for that word.

Does a High KEI Automatically Mean Traffic and Conversion Success?

Absolutely not. A KEI can’t tell you the quality of the competition, for instance. You might think you have a great keyword, very popular, with a KEI of 4.9. You think, “Wow! The keywords I want to rank for have very few competitors. I can get on page one easy!”

Slow your roll and hold your horses. The top ten competing pages may very well have SEO companies behind them, building back links, adding great content and optimizing the heck out of their website.

Tip: The more active a website is in SEO; the more fresh content they put out; the more strong, authoritative links they have pointing to them, the harder they’ll be to beat.

Remember that, for most terms, it’s easier to move from placement 100 to 50 than it is to move from 50 to 10, or 3 or 1. –And, as we may have mentioned before, you’re not competing with the 3.5 million search results; you’re competing with the top ten results.

As well, a high KEI doesn’t tell you if it’s relative to your website. As an example, “Google Analytics” has a KEI of 104.068, which is incredibly high. The competition is 30.7 million pages, while the search is 1.7 per month. Seems like anyone offering Google Analytics services has it made, right?

Not so much. You don’t know why those people are searching for Google Analytics. I’m willing to bet that most are just typing in “Google Analytics” to get to the analytics page and sign in. It is, after all, the quickest way to get there.

Tip: Try to figure out why people are searching for a term with a high KEI. The “why” is even more important than the KEI. If they’re not searching for your chosen keyword because they want to buy your product or service, you won’t get the conversions you hope for (although you might get a lot of traffic, most won’t stick around).

Use KEI for Useful Keywords

What a KEI actually does is give you an idea whether a term is worth using. However, the KEI factor is not a “set-in-stone” formula. The numbers are subject to change depending on the words you’re looking for. For instance, some terms might be combined, while others might not. As well, search results can change because an extra word in the term turns on a filter. Example: Why use an SEO company vs. SEO company will bring different results.

What Does This Mean To Your Web Site?

The bottom line is this: if you’re serious about your website’s success, you have to be serious about your keywords. Many clients want to use our copywriting services, but give me a blank look when I mention keywords.

While you can be found without using keywords, the chances of being found by visitors actually interested in your website, your content and your products/services are much lower. It’s that simple. The KEI can help you choose the right keywords, as well as help you organize your strategy of how to use them. For example, you might use a keyword with a lower KEI but wider focus for your main site term, then tighten the focus with higher KEI words on interior pages.

Example: “SEO” has a higher KEI than “SEO Services”. SEO is the main site term, SEO services might belong on an interior services page.

The key to any keyword research is to build a list of your most-used terms. Answer questions like, “What are my customers looking for?” and “How do they search?” Most people don’t just use a single word, not anymore. Most are looking for specifics, whether it’s location, a certain color of product or pricing.

Finding the right keywords is an important step – perhaps the most important – in any SEO campaign. Don’t rush it. Take your time because, at the end of the day, if those who find you don’t care what you have to sell, it does no good to be found. As well, if those who care can’t find you, you’ve ultimately spent a lot of time and energy writing wonderful copy that goes nowhere.

Gabriella Sannino

For the past twenty years Gabriella has held positions as a consultant, web developer and creative director until she decided it was time to open Level 343, an SEO and copywriting company. She fancies herself an Italian rocker, rebel and SEO geek. She loves singing in the shower and keeps a notepad next to her bed.

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5 Responses to “What Is A KEI?”

  1. Angelo says:

    Your "KEI" formula is more or less meaningless. Not 100% meaningless but close. The problem is that the number of competing pages is not a robust metric at all. It doesn't matter how many pages are competing, it matters how strong the internal SE score those pages have for the target keyword. You can have 1,000,000 competing pages for a term but if all but the top few ranking have few, weak backlnks, are very new domains or have other weak factors, that's not much competition. By contrast you can have a term with 80,000 competing pages but the first page is filled with PR6, 7, 8 with tons of back links from authority sites.

    A better metric would be to factor the average PR and back links of the top 10 results for a term. That's a better indication of how hard it is to rank on the first page. Otherwise, your only calculating the size of your competition and not it's strength. It's like being in an ass kicking contest with 1,000,000 other people. Doesn't matter much if your the only one with two legs :)

  2. Judy Cook says:

    Oh! I had no clue. This stuff is work! Good piece, Gabriella. Thanks for the post.

  3. Gabriella says:

    Angelo – I appreciate you attributing the KEI to us as "our" KEI formula.. especially considering that many, many used the KEI until something bigger/better came along (KPI for example). Look, we write to people who have very little understanding of SEO for the most part. As a matter of fact the inspiration for this post came after a conversation I had with "one" of those people. They don't know how to "analyze and factor the average PR and back links…" That's Greek to them and it'll be Greek to them. You said, "not 100% meaningless but close". Okay, for you maybe, although I say that with no idea of how much SEO you know. However, for those that don't know enough to analyze and compare (i.e. those that are just learning), the KEI is a good beginning. Long story short, whether you use KEI, KPI, Frank's algorithm or George's, it doesn't matter. At the end, it still takes the human component.

    Judy, Judy, Judy now you on this side of the tracks? :) lol nice to see you

  4. Thanks for share it. Yes, KEI is very important in SEO to select a quality keyword. Keyword is a main player in search engine optimization. Good post.

  5. Sadly, there really exist people who say they know SEO but fail to understand the importance of keywords itself. Keywords are set-up or found right from the beginning, even before setting up a website. And it is not just any keyword but keywords that people search for, keywords that can bring in the money, keywords that can help people find you.