Market Samurai keyword analysis explained

Market Samurai, the favorite tool of many fellow online marketers, has a very powerful keyword research and analysis module. What’s better, this particular module remains active even if you do not purchase a full version after your trial expires. Yes, you can get the most powerful keyword tool for free.

However, for newbies it may be a little daunting with the sheer amount of information and details it provides, using somewhat cryptic abbreviations like PBR, SEOTC and such. My goal today is to explain them all to you, and make some suggestions on how to make the best use of these values to filter the best keywords out of long lists.

Below, you will find every factor from the keyword analysis explained in plain words. You can scroll down to the bottom to find some recommended presets.


Keyword factors analysed by Market Samurai

All factors (and columns in the keywords table) are split into four logical groups:

  • Organic
  • Adwords
  • Competition
  • Commerciality

Let’s deal with them one by one.


Organic column

The organic column groups metrics related to search volume

These columns deal mainly with search volume and seasonality.

Total searches

This one is possibly the easiest one to understand, although there are some caveats.

This column shows the total number of searches, as reported by the Google Keyword Tool, over a period which you can set in a drop-down menu called Period. By default, Market Samurai reports daily numbers, but you can easily change it to monthly if you want to follow someone’s recommendations for keyword research.

However, to make things a little bit more complicated, numbers of searches are different depending on what Match Type you choose from a drop-down list. There are three options.

If you choose Broad, the reported search counts will almost always be the highest. In this mode, Google Keyword Tool will add up the search volume of any other keyword phrases which happen to include your keyword, in any order. Let’s say that your phrase is “blue widgets”. In broad match, the reported search volume will include “blue widgets”, but also “blue widgets Florida” or “widgets blue Sacramento”. I hope you get the point.

Broad match is a good way to get a feeling for the overall market size.

If you chose Phrase, reported volume will be lower. Even though the search counts can still include phrases with some additional words, your phrase must appear exactly as it is, in the exact word order. In other words, search volume for “blue widgets” may include also “blue widgets Florida”, but not “widgets blue Sacramento”.

If you choose Exact, reported volume will be even lower. This time, the search counts show only the volume for your exact keyword or phrase. If your phrase is “blue widgets”, the search count in the exact mode will include only this very phrase.

If you’re researching some micro niches and looking for exact match domains, I suggest that you should always work in the exact mode.

SEO Traffic (SEOT)

SEOT is the volume of traffic you may expect if you rank no. 1 for a given keyword. It is just an useful approximation – a lot depends on CTR for your result which is affected by the snippet that Google shows in its results.

SEOT is calculated as Total Searches (discussed above) * 42%. This 42% is an average number based on a large pool of data according to which TOP 1 results usually get about 42% of all clicks.

Phrase-to-Broad (PBR)

This metric often is confusing to first-time users of Market Samurai – it was for me, I must admit. However, it makes perfect sense after you understand it.

If you don’t want to get into details, keep just this in mind: very low PBR value means that the words in your phrase may be in the wrong order, and the reported search volume is very likely wrong. By low, I mean PBR below 15%.

This metric uses two numbers – search volume in the phrase match mode and in the broad match mode. It divides the first one by the the second one, and the result is multiplied by 100%.

For example, if a phrase has 100 searches in phrase mode and 200 in broad mode, PBR would be 50%.

If you’re working with long lists of keywords, PBR is very useful to weed out keywords which make little sense but still get reported with (false) high search counts by Google Keyword Tool.


Little explaining is required here. The Trends column shows a nice little chart with demand for a keyword over the last 12 months. Some keywords have stable traffic throughout the year, and some have very high seasonal spikes.

The Trends column helps you adjust your strategy accordingly – plan for a peak season or choose keywords for stable traffic throughout the year.


Adwords metrics

Even if you don't do Adwords, you will find the CPC metric very useful to decide whether your niche is profitable.

Columns from this section tell you some important information about the potential profitability of keywords.

Adwords Traffic (AWT)

AWT tells you the number of clicks that no. 1 ranked advertiser could expect from that particular keyword. As I’m not into AdWords, I don’t use this metric at all in my regular keyword research, but it is simple enough to understand.

Adwords Traffic (AWCTR)

AWCTR is the average number of people who click on an ad of no. 1 ranked advertiser, out of all ad impressions for that keyword.

I must admit, before writing this guide I’ve never used this metric in my research. But it’s dawned on me that it actually might be useful. Keywords which naturally attract higher CTR could be winners for niche sites monetized with AdSense when compared with keywords with low CTR. I should test my theory in the near future.

Adwords CPC (AWCPC)

Now, this is the column that everybody is paying attention to and getting excited. There is a reason for that – AWCPC tells you how much a no. 1 ranked advertiser is paying for that particular keyword to be on place no. 1.

As AdSense earnings are closely correlated to what advertisers are paying, you would expect that the higher number here, the better. But it is more complicated than that, unfortunately. To make a sound decision, you can’t rely on AWCPC alone.

First, keep in mind that it is the CPC for a no. 1 ranked advertiser. Advertisers in lower positions may be paying much less than that.

You should also remember that advertisers paying big bucks are usually smart people and they often advertise only next to organic results, not in the content network (read: their high-paying ads will not be displayed on your site). It is also possible to set bids for the content network separately, so while paying a lot to rank highly in the search results, they could be paying pennies for the content network.

So, the best strategy usually is not to go for the highest paying keywords, but for keywords with a decent amount of traffic, reasonable AWCPC rate and strong competition among advertisers (i.e. there are many advertisters). This is your best chance to actually get high-paying ads on your site.


Competition research

With these metrics, you can discard keywords where competition is too strong. But use the SEO Competition module for a more in-depth analysis.

Some of the most important metrics are grouped here. If your human and financial resources are limited, you will most likely want to find such keywords which offer a good chance to rank, while still generating very good return on the investment.


SEOC reports the total number of pages globally which include a particular phrase in the specific word order, i.e. this is equivalent to searching in google with quotes around your query (like “blue widgets”).

Some people criticize this approach, saying that regular users usually don’t use quotes around their queries. While true, it is a completely irrelevant comment. Your competition in any case is just the TOP 10 websites, whether there are 100,000 competing pages or 10,000,000. What we want to find out here is how many pages have been specifically optimized for a particular keyword or phrase.

SEOC is best used in combination with SEOTC, explained below.

Title Comp (SEOTC)

SEOTC returns the number of pages which have all of the words from your phrase in their title (i.e. between the <title></title> tags). However, the words can be in any order. For example, if our phrase is “marketing services”, then a website with the following title “Our services: social marketing” would get reported as well.

SEOC and SEOTC are used to calculate a ratio (SEOTCR), explained below, which indicates how optimized your competitors are for a given keyword.


SEOUC is similar to SEOTC, but I don’t use this metric a lot. This returns the number of pages which have a particular phrase, in the same word order, in their URL. People who want to optimize their website for a given phrase will often make sure that it is included in the URL, as Google takes it into account. WordPress makes it pretty easy with its built-in permalinks settings.

Title/Comp (SEOTCR)

This a metric which I use a lot. It divides SEOTC by SEOC and multiplies the result by 100%. It tells you the proportion of pages with optimized titles to all pages which include your particular phrase.

As a general rule of thumb, the lower the SEOTCR, the weaker your competition is. This is not a way to make a final decision, but you can use SEOTCR to quickly identify potential targets. I usually set a maximum threshold for SEOTCR to 50.

It’s quite common in many niches to find SEOTCR values way above 100%. This usually indicates that such phrases are highly competitive and ranking for them  may require serious SEO knowledge and resources.

Adwords Comp (AWC)

In the past, Market Samurai used to report the actual number of advertisers bidding for a keyword, but it no longer does which is a pity.

Instead, in now provides a more general indicator of Adwords Competition called AWC. It’s expressed as a percentage, so you have no chance of knowing whether for example 90% means 5 or 20 advertisers.

However, if you are sure in general that there is a lot of advertisers in your niche (use SpyFu for that), you can sort your results by AWC to find keywords on which most of those advertisers concentrate.

Please see my comments for Adwords CPC above – generally, if your goal is to monetize with AdSense, you want to enter niches with strong competition among advertisers. High CPC but with low competition is very unlikely to ensure a good pay-out.


commercial intention researach

These metrics help you eliminate keywords used by people with no intention to buy anything.

You’ve found keywords with good traffic and weak or moderate competition. Are you done and ready to build a website?

Not so fast. Why waste your time if there’s no money in your niche? There must be money changing hands to make your project worth pursuing, unless making money is not your goal.

Columns from the Commerciality columns provide some good indication of the commercial value of your niche.


OCI is an experimental indicator of the commercial intent of a user who types in a particular query. The higher the percentage, the more likely that someone is looking to buy something, and the lower,  the more likely that someone is just looking for information.

OCI values are provided by the Microsoft adCenter Labs. Please keep in mind that this technology is highly experimental and not totally fool-proof, but it works surprisingly well in many cases. You can use it to narrow your list only to such keywords which are most likely to generate income.

Adwords Value (AWV)

It is simply a result of multiplying Adwords Traffic value (AWT) by Adwords CPC (AWCPC). I don’t use this metric in my research, but it could be useful for AdWords advertisers to estimate their budgets.

SEO Value (SEOV)

While I don’t use Adwords Value, I do use SEO Value a lot. It is simply SEOT (traffic if your rank no. 1 in Google) multiplied by Adwords CPC. In other words, it tells you how much it would cost to bring the amount of traffic you can get for free by ranking no. 1 if you had to pay for it.

SEO Value is great to estimate the monetization potential of any phrase. If a phrase generates tons of traffic, then even with a lower CPC value, it will still bring in a lot more money than a highly-paid phrase with very few searches per month.

I usually sort by SEOV in the last step of my research, after all my other filters have been set and I have what I believe to be a good set of keywords I can compete for.

Recommended settings

Find niche keywords with Market Samurai

Use these settings to find good keywords with potential and little competition (click to see a full image).

While this subjects deserves a separate tutorial which I am going to write, here’s a quick overview of the settings which I use when I’m researching keywords for my autoblogs. Autoblogs, by their nature, need niches which are not extremely competitive, but can still be nicely monetized.

If you want to find keywords which will not be too difficult to rank for, please use the settings as shown below.

About Marcin

I'm passionate about technology, especially SEO. I love how fast-paced this environment is. I also love numbers, finding hidden gems in statistics, and coming with unexpected solutions to typical problems.

One Response to Market Samurai keyword analysis explained

  1. charles
    November 6, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    Hi Marcin,

    Nice post. Just bought market samurai and senuke so, having a ball with them both. Have a handful of websites i am trying to get better ranked. I was using AMR, scrapebox, BMD but, decided to bite the bullet and go with senuke and then started using market samurai and love their PBR ratio, it sure saves a ton of time. Although, i have to control myself to not go after keywords under 10 PBR, since there are so many and they look so good but, trying to discipline myself. I have 1 computer just nuking full time so, want to keep it busy. Also, started using backlinkindexer and still trying to determine if that works better than senuke indexer. Again, best post i have read on market samurai.


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