It’s Official: Google Wonder Wheel is Back, and It’s Called the Contextual Targeting Tool [Tutorial]

Contextual Targeting Tools in Google AdWords

Keyword research is a critical component to a solid and rounded SEO strategy.  When you break it down, you need to know what people are searching for in order to target the right terms.  Keyword research fuels your content generation strategy.  I use a wide range of tools when conducting keyword research and each has its own purpose.  In the past, one of my favorite free tools was Google’s Wonder Wheel.  You’ll notice the word “was” in the last sentence.  That’s because Google shut down the tool last year, while many search engine marketers screamed a collective “NO!!” while it was happening.

Many people in the industry used Wonder Wheel to visually find related keywords, which often helped expand your keyword research (down the right path based on data).  Wonder Wheel’s related terms were based on Google data (same session searches), so you knew the terms being displayed made sense.  Also, the visual nature of wonder wheel made it very interactive and easy to use, while returning a smart path for search engine marketers performing keyword research.

As you clicked a word, related terms appeared around that term. As you clicked related terms, it became the anchor word, with more terms appearing around it.  So on and so forth.  It was a phenomenal way to find related keywords in an interactive and visual way.  Needless to say, we all missed the Wonder Wheel.

An example of using Google Wonder Wheel to find related searches:
An Example of Using Google Wonder Wheel
Image from Tech Source

Alternatives, and Confirmation at the Google Agency Summit
I had the opportunity to attend the Google Agency Summit last week in New York City at Google Headquarters.  It was a great day packed with presentations covering the latest in Mobile, Video, Analytics, Social, etc.  One of the first presentations was by Jordan Rost covering some of the free research tools that Google provides for marketers.  As Jordan was covering Google Correlate, I asked if it could be used in a similar way to the old Google Wonder Wheel.  He shot me a quick look and said, “Not exactly, but I’m getting to the Wonder Wheel soon.”  Needless to say, I was excited to learn more!

The Contextual Targeting Tool
I do a lot of paid search work, so I’m extremely familiar with the Contextual Targeting Tool (CTT).  But it seems the CTT contains a surprise that many search marketers don’t know about.  Sure, it was often listed as an alternative to Wonder Wheel, but was it a solid replacement?  Does it provide the same great same session data we were getting from Wonder Wheel?

Well, Jordan explained that the Contextual Targeting Tool is run by the same engine that fueled Wonder Wheel.  Note, I’m not referring to a similar type of engine.  It’s the exact engine that ran the Wonder Wheel!  That’s awesome news, and it was great to receive confirmation of this.

Sure, it’s not as visual as Wonder Wheel, but it can still yield the same results.  So, I’m going to walk you through a quick example of finding related terms by using the Contextual Targeting Tool below.  Again, the purpose of Wonder Wheel was to find related terms, based on actual Google data.  Let’s dig in.

An example of using the Contextual Targeting Tool in place of Wonder Wheel:
Let’s say you focused on computer security and you were just beginning keyword research.  You know several keywords and categories you want to target, but want to find related terms, based on Google’s wealth of data.  That’s a smart move, since you don’t want to leave keywords (and targeted traffic) on the table.

Let’s head over to the Contextual Targeting Tool to do some research.

1. Log into AdWords, click the Tools and Analysis tab, and then select Contextual Targeting Tool.  Note, the primary purpose of the tool is to help search engine marketers build tight themes of keywords for Display Network campaigns.  But, we’re going to use it as a replacement for the Wonder Wheel in this example.

Find the Contextual Targeting Tool in AdWords

2. In the text field at the top of the page, enter “computer security” without quotes.

Entering keywords in the Contextual Targeting Tool

The CTT will display several rows of data containing related keywords, based on the initial keyword you entered.  You will see the anchor keyword on the left and then five related keywords in each row.  This is where you can start to gain great ideas for related terms.  Again, these keyword grouping are being driven by the Wonder Wheel engine.

2. In our example, I see “internet security”.  Maybe I didn’t know people were searching for that keyword, in addition to “computer security”, and I want to use that term as our keyword anchor (to find more related searches).  When I enter that term in the text field, I now get more rows of data, based on that new keyword.

Finding related searches using the Contextual Targeting Tools

3. I now see “internet security software” in the list, and decide to use that as my anchor.  I enter that word in the text field and I now see more terms related to this specific keyword, including “security rating”.  Interesting… I wasn’t going to focus on that while building out content.  Let’s go down that path now…

Expanding related searches with the Contextual Targeting Tool

4. You can also click the plus sign (+) to expand a certain category, which will reveal additional rows with related keywords.

Exapnding ad groups in the Contextual Targeting Tool

Valuable and Addictive
You can see how this can become both valuable and addictive.  :)  Sure, this isn’t as visual as Wonder Wheel, and it takes a few extra steps, but the data is the same.  To me, running through this exercise is an essential component to performing thorough keyword research.

Let’s face it, you won’t know every keyword that people are searching for.  Actually, many people are too close to their own industries, products, and services to know how the average person is searching.  Using Wonder Wheel, I mean the Contextual Targeting Tool, you can find some gems that you might never uncover normally.  That’s why I love this functionality.

Summary – Long Live Wonder Wheel!
Again, this is the same engine that fueled Wonder Wheel, and that’s confirmed by Google.  So, if you are performing keyword research, I highly recommend you check out the Contextual Targeting Tool for uncovering related searches.  Like I said earlier, don’t leave keywords and targeted traffic on the table.  Now, if Google would only bring back the slick visual UI of Wonder Wheel!  OK, I’m getting greedy now. :)


+1 Reports in Google Webmaster Tools – How To Analyze the Search Impact of +1 Annotations

How To Use +1 Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools

Google+ has now been around for close to a year, it has grown significantly since it launched, and Google is integrating its new social network across products.  Based on what I just listed, many business owners are wondering how Google+ has benefited their companies.  Unfortunately, I think many of them wouldn’t know how to answer that question.

And what about the +1 button?  How do +1’s impact exposure, click-through, and trust?  Sure, we’ve seen those +1 buttons show up across the web, in the search results, in ads, etc., but do they make a difference?  And since Google is primarily a search company, how are +1’s affecting performance in the search results?  These are all good questions, and I hope to shed some light on the situation in this post.

Based on what I do for a living, I find myself analyzing data in Google Webmaster Tools a lot.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, Google Webmaster Tools is essential for webmasters.  It provides a wealth of data and functionality (directly from Google).  The problem is that I’m still finding many companies that aren’t aware of Google Webmaster Tools, the reports available, the functionality that Google provides, etc.  So, it’s not a shock to find that many webmasters are unaware of the +1 reports available in Google Webmaster Tools.  The reports provide a wealth of information about how +1’s are affecting the search results, click-through rate, etc.  If you want to know how +1’s are impacting your search performance, then the set of three reports in GWT is a great place to start.

+1 Annotations
Before I dive into the reports, let’s quickly cover what +1 annotations are.  When you search Google, you can +1 a search result in both the organic and paid listings (when logged in).  In addition, you can also visit a webpage and +1 that content via a +1 button embedded on the site (similar to a Facebook “Like” button).  You will need to log into G+ for the +1 to stick.  Those +1’s cast a vote for the webpage and are captured in your Google+ account.

+1 data is used as a ranking factor (yes, getting +1’s can help your content rank higher in Search), and it helps Google personalize the search results for users.  After you +1 a webpage, there’s a chance that your vote could be attached to a search result as a +1 annotation (when your social connections search Google).  The +1 annotation can help your social connections understand that you “recommend” that content.  By the way, your thumbnail and name can show up in the +1 annotation.

Here are some examples of +1 annotations in action:
+1 annotations in action

+1 annotation in organic search results

In addition, as you search Google, you might see +1 annotations based on the actions of your social connections.  For example, if your friend +1’d a product page on Zappos, then that search result could provide a personalized recommendation from your friend (in the form of a +1 annotation).  And yes, ads can show +1 annotations as well (via Social Extensions in AdWords).  Both paid search ads on and display ads on The Google Display Network can display +1 annotations.

So What’s the +1 Impact?
For those of you involved in Search Engine Marketing, you know that slight changes in the search engine results pages (SERPs) can pay huge dividends click through rate-wise.  For example, if you take 5 search listings, and one has a +1 annotation, it gives that listing a big advantage visually.  Standing out like that can absolutely help drive clicks.  But can you prove that?  How can you know that +1 annotations are impacting the search results and your search performance?

That’s where +1 reporting in Google Webmaster Tools comes in handy.  You can view three +1 reports in Google Webmaster Tools that help marketers better understand how +1’s are impacting search performance.  Let’s take a look at the trio of reports currently available.

+1 Reports in Google Webmaster Tools
1. Search Impact Report
After logging into Google Webmaster Tools, you can click the “Traffic” tab, which will then reveal the “+1 Reports” link.  The first report is “Search Impact” and will display the number of +1 annotated impressions, +1 annotated clicks, and the search impact of +1 annotations (by showing the click through rate of listings with and without +1 annotations).

The Search Impact Report in +1 Reporting

What this essentially shows you are the pages receiving annotated impressions, how many clicks those pages are getting (with and without +1 annotations), and then the percentage of click through rate change with the +1 annotation.

For example, here’s a page that shows an 11% click through rate without the +1 annotation and a 27% click through rate with the +1 annotation.  Needless to say, that’s a big difference in CTR.

Example of click through rate impact of +1 annotations

2. Activity Report
The second report in the list is the “Activity Report”.  This will show you new +1’s to your site during the timeframe selected (from your own site and from outside your site).  For example, you can view the number of +1’s from your own buttons on your site versus +1’s from the search results or on ads.  You can also click a toggle button to reveal all +1’s to the site in aggregate.  To clarify, the columns contain information about +1’s from your site (via the +1 button), as well as +1’s form other sites.  “Other sites” would be +1’s from the search results or via ads.  You can also click a specific URL to drill into results just for that piece of content.

The Activity Report in +1 Reporting

3. Audience Report
The third report in the list is the “Audience Report”, which displays information about users +1’ing your content.  There’s a trending graph of the number of users that have +1’d your content, along with graphs and charts for gender and age.  There’s also a button at the top of the report which will show you the location of those users (by country).

The Audience Report in +1 Reporting

Yes, You Might Be Surprised
Once you analyze the +1 reporting, you might be surprised with what you find.  I have the ability to analyze a wide range of websites across industries, and the data isn’t always what you think it will be.  For example, you would think that +1 annotations would yield higher click through rates across the board, but that’s not the case.  For some sites, you will see higher click through rates without +1 annotations.

There are several reasons that could be happening, and it really depends on the site at hand.  For example, user intent, the competition in the search engine results pages, etc.  Some sites I manage are seeing a big increase in CTR based on +1 annotations, while others show a slight decrease for +1 annotations.  Since every site is unique, I highly recommend checking your own reporting today to see the impact.

Authorship Markup Could Skew Results
Before ending this post, I wanted to bring up one point about authorship markup.  Using authorship markup (rel=author), your search listings can show up with author details, including a thumbnail image of the author in question.  Here’s a screenshot of one of my listings:

Author Details in the SERPs

Needless to say, this can have a big impact on click through rate in the search results.  When analyzing +1 reports for sites using authorship markup, I’ve seen less than stellar search impact from +1 annotations.  That very well could be occurring since most of their listings show up with author details already.  So, a SERP jacked up with author details could be skewing the results.  For example, even if the listings don’t have +1 annotations, they still have author details.  Users searching Google might click through based on seeing the listing with author details, which would be increasing the click through rate of non +1 annotated search results.  It’s worth mentioning this in case your own +1 data doesn’t show strong results.

Summary – Analyze your +1 Reporting
If you’re like many webmasters, you want to know how certain changes impact the search results, click through rate, and traffic.  With the launch and growth of Google+, it’s important to know how +1’s are impacting your business.  I highly recommend logging into Google Webmaster Tools today and analyzing the +1 reports.  You might find that +1 annotations are providing a big lift in click through rate.  And if they are, you should be looking to gain more of them.  :)