No More Microsoft OCI? New Ways to Determine Buyer Intent

No More Microsoft OCI? New Ways to Determine Buyer Intent

Microsoft OCI Keyword Buyer IntentIf you’ve been around the site for awhile, you know that I use Microsoft’s Online Commercial Intent tool to determine whether a keyword has good buyer intent – something that’s critically important to determine when planning an affiliate marketing niche site.

Or, at least, I used to use it, until Microsoft pulled the plug on the tool 🙁

No one’s quite sure if its disappearance is temporary or permanent, but since most of the major keyword research tools on the market have pulled the option from their search results, it seems likely that we’ll be without this tool for some time. And that means that we need to find a new way to determine the buyer intent of our target keywords.


But first, the obligatory segway on why determining buyer intent is so important (or, at least, why it’s so important to me)…

Building affiliate marketing websites isn’t easy. There are a lot of different steps that go into it, from researching your niche and keywords, to building the site, crafting content, promoting it and testing different products/positioning as the site grows. Even if you’re lucky enough to be able to outsource some or all of the aspects of site production, you’re looking at committing at least a few hundred dollars to complete all of these necessary tasks.

So why would you want to waste all of this time and money on keywords that people aren’t searching for when they’re getting ready to buy something? Perhaps it’s easiest to illustrate this with an example…

Say that I build a website around the keyword phrase, “free information on building decks”, while you build a website around the keyword phrase “buy Nikon Coolpics 350”. When someone enters my keyword phrase into a search engine, do you think they’re getting ready to buy something or are they just looking for free information? Compared with the keyword that you’re targeting? I think you get the picture 🙂

In general, buyer intent refers to how likely it is that the searcher is actively looking for a product or information to purchase. In the past, Microsoft’s OCI provided a pretty good estimate of how strong the buyer intention of a particular keyword was, but in its absence, we’ve got to come up with some other methods. Here are some of the ones I’ll be using:


Buying Related Keywords

The biggest difference between the two sample keyword phrases listed above is the modifier keywords – “buy” versus “free”. Clearly, the “buy” keyword modifier indicates a greater commercial intent, so when I’m analyzing a list of keywords, I’ll look for this and related keywords to determine buyer intent.

For example, “purchase”, “shop”, “download”, “compare” and “reviews” are all keyword modifiers that indicate to me that a visitor is close to making a purchase decision.

Product Specific Keywords

Another interesting thing about the sample “good” keyword phrase listed above is that it contains a product specific keyword – “Nikon Coolpics 350” (and yeah, I made that up, so don’t shoot me if it’s not an actual product model).

Now clearly, this method of determining buyer intent isn’t going to be 100% accurate, as someone searching for this sample keyword phrase could still be in the investigation stage of the decision making process. However, I think we can safely assume that because the visitor has already selected particular models to research in more depth, he’s past the point of simply thinking, “Hmmm… Maybe I’ll buy a camera…” From here, we can use persuasive copy and product reviews to convince him that the Nikon in question is the right camera for him.

Adwords Advertisers

Again, this isn’t 100% accurate (not that Microsoft’s OCI ever was…), but the number of Google Adwords advertisers that are actively bidding on a particular keyword phrase can be a good indication that it’s a profitable keyword. After all, PPC is expensive, and if these marketers weren’t seeing a return on their investment, they’d quit targeting that particular keyword.

Not that I’d base a decision to build a site around a keyword phrase based on this info alone, but if I were selecting between two keywords, I might give preference to the one that has more Adwords advertisers.

Market Samurai’s SEOV

After eliminating Microsoft OCI data from its keyword research tool, Market Samurai (free trial at the link) introduced a new formula called “SEOV” – or “SEO Value.” Basically, Market Samurai generates a value based on the amount Google Adwords advertisers are willing to pay for the keyword, multiplied by the estimated traffic a site ranked in the top Google position could expect to receive.

I’m not in love with this formula, as I think it takes the wrong variables into consideration. Case in point – the keyword “car insurance information” has an estimated average CPC of $18.03, even though there’s nothing in my mind that suggests people searching for that keyword phrase are looking for anything more than free information.

But then again, I’m not nearly as smart as the people who run Market Samurai when it comes to SEO and keyword research, so I’m definitely going to keep an eye on how closely this metric correlates to my successful websites.

So these are some of the factors that I’ll be using to determine keyword buyer intent in the absence of Microsoft’s OCI tool – can you think of any others? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image: o5com

9 Responses to No More Microsoft OCI? New Ways to Determine Buyer Intent

  1. Jon says:

    Hey Sarah,

    Microsoft taking down that tool is news to me. Thanks for the heads up.

    I have a bad version of Adobe AIR installed and am having trouble uninstalling. This means STILL no Market Samurai for me. However, I will say that I’ve received more helpful advice from the Market Samurai ticket system than from Adobe.

    You make some great points about commercial intent. It isn’t enough to target words/phrases with high search volume; you HAVE to consider the mindset of the search engine user when they type in a given keyword.

    Then the fun begins tracing that mindset from search query to landing page language, relevance, layout and so forth.

    But it’s a fun challenge, wouldn’t you agree?


    • Sarah says:

      Jon – Absolutely! I love the psychology of the sales process, and figuring out how switching out simple words can make a big difference in conversions. Fun stuff, for sure 🙂

      And sorry to hear that you’re still having trouble with Adobe AIR, but I’m glad to hear that you’re getting good support from the Market Samurai team. Good guys all around, I’m finding!

  2. Marlee says:

    Hey Sarah!

    Thanks for the heads up. Like John I didn’t know that either. Honestly, keyword analysis makes me a bit batty.

    I understand the core of it and use Market Samurai (with some level of ignorance), but I’d love it if you talk more about the analysis process.

    You made this really clear here. I need more of that!

    • Sarah says:

      Marlee – Thanks for the feedback! I do go into keyword analysis on a lot more depth in my “Planning Your Affiliate Business” report (see sidebar above to download), but I’ll see about doing some posts on the topic in the future as well 🙂

  3. Moti says:

    Hey Sarah,

    I search for a solution to the microsoft oci, and found your blog.

    I agree with you. The best alternative is to combined Google adwords and SEOV information.
    From my experience, to get the really seov picture, is to divide him by 10.

    PS- You have a great blog 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Moti – Thanks for your kind words! Let me know how the combination of SEOV and Adwords data works for you going forward 🙂

  4. Hey Sarah,

    Thanks for alternative methods to find commercial intents.

    I am a newbie in internet marketing and really need the information like this.

    You opened my mind 🙂

  5. Matus Majernik says:

    That the Microsoft adlab online comercial intention tool was removed from the site was wrong news for me.Anyway I think the best method for high comercial intention keywords is to insert the detail name of product for example Nokia N95 + buy (or purchase,shop,review…..) This is in my opinion the best way to have high commercial intention keywords.

    This you can use for any product and there are milions of products on internet-you must use detail name of product + some buyer keyword(buy,purchase,review…….you have the idea)

    Regards Matus Majernik

  6. Jason says:

    It is a shame they took the tool down, but I have spent some time recreating it for myself and now offer it as a BETA service.

    If you need online commercial intent for your KWs, feel free to use my site ( ) and do a couple runs and let me know what you think.

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