How to See if a Title or Key Phrase is Popular Words

By Robert F. Abbott

Ever been in a situation where you had trouble making up your mind
over a name or title for something? Perhaps you created a new product
or report, and wanted to appeal to as many potential users or readers
as possible?

For example, at meetings of a publishers’ association to which I
belong, publishers often ask for feedback on proposed titles. That
sets off a round of suggestions based on intuition, experience, and

Only rarely do we get any evidence-based suggestions. Yet, evidence
about the popularity of individual words and phrases is available, at
little or no cost, and with little effort.

Consider the service offered by Overture (formerly GoTo), a
pay-per-click search engine, to its customers. After a couple of
clicks, you reach a special search page in which you enter a keyword
or key phrase. In just a matter of seconds, Overture tells you how
often its millions of searchers looked for your word or phrase, as
well as counts for related words and phrases.

I recently did a search for the keyword, ‘communication’ (by the way,
Overture makes no distinction between singular and plural words, so
this search brought back results for ‘communications’, as well).

I’m particularly interested in the distinction between ‘communication
skills’ and ‘communication strategies’ and I quickly see that
searchers looked for ‘communication skills’ 10,992 times in the
previous month, while they looked for ‘communication strategies’ only
1,198 times. Obviously, ‘communication skills’ is a better term for
online marketing, and probably better for offline marketing, too.

But, I’m not sure, so I’ll use another service as well: WordTracker,
which offers both trial and pay-for-service plans. It’s considered
the big-daddy of keyword tracking, because it brings back results
from a number of search engines (including Overture) and not just one.

Checking on MSN searches, for example, it found that ‘communication
skills’ was the 35th most frequently searched term under the umbrella
of ‘communication’ while ‘communication strategies’ ranked 88th. That
confirms it makes sense to build an advertising and promotion
campaign around ‘communication skills’ rather than ‘communication

Now, in the course of researching these two keyword phrases, the
services returned a number of other words and phrases. And, as I
review them, it’s quite possible that I might find another word or
phrase that I like even better than those with which I started. For
example, ‘business communication’ ranks highly and it certainly ranks
above the comparable phrase, ‘corporate communication’.

But, there’s another factor to consider: How do the terms integrate
with the strategy? In my case, I wanted to emphasize the strategic
part of communication, rather than the skills component, because that
better differentiated my newsletter from others. And that takes me
back to the hard decision.

Whatever your case, the key is to remember that creating names and
titles doesn’t have to be solely intuitive any more; we can gather
evidence about the popularity of words and phrases quickly, easily,
and inexpensively.

Robert F. Abbott, the author of A Manager’s Guide to Newsletters:
Communicating for Results, writes and publishes Communication
Strategies & Skills