Find Keyword Modifiers with Google Refine

// // January 15th 2011 // SEO

Google RefineKeyword research is a vital component of SEO. Part of that research usually entails finding the most frequent modifiers for a keyword. There are plenty of ways to do this but here’s a new way to do so using Google Refine.

Google Refine

Google Refine came about through the Metaweb acquisition in July of 2010 and is an evolution of Freebase Gridworks. So what is it exactly?

Google Refine is a power tool for working with messy data, cleaning it up, transforming it from one format into another, extending it with web services, and linking it to databases like Freebase.

I’ve been poking at Freebase for years thanks to Chris Eppstein and think that it was one of Google’s smarter acquisitions of late. But I just returned to Google Refine as I embarked on some keyword research.

Root Keywords

Lets say you have a site that sells boots. Clearly the term ‘boots’ is one of the root (or main) keywords for the site. Finding keyword modifiers can help you match query intent to products and site content. Modifiers can be applied to SEO and PPC campaigns.

There are a number of keyword tools but I’ll use Google in this example.

Boots Keyword Suggestions

There are 794 keyword suggestions and many of them overlap with one another. I could wade through them in Excel and apply some sort of filter or toss them into a Pivot Table but Google Refine actually makes this much easier.

Install Google Refine

You’ll need to download and install Google Refine and then point your browser to to get started.

Start a Google Refine Project

Create a Google Refine Project

Browse for and select that downloaded keyword file, type in a Project name and click Create Project.

Google Refine Interface

At this point it’s a lot like having a pre-formatted Google Doc. But that’s where the similarities end.

Apply a Word Facet

Google Refine comes loaded with a massive amount of intelligence. What I’m going to show you is probably the least sophisticated part of Google Refine. Select the Keyword drop down arrow and navigate to Word Facet. (Facet > Customized facets > Word facet)

Apply a Google Refine Word Facet

You’ll quickly get a new pane on the left hand side showing the result of applying this word facet.

Google Refine Word Facet Result

Sorting a Word Facet

Google Refine is telling me that it’s narrowed those 794 rows into 497 choices and ordered them by name. But instead I want to learn about the most frequent modifiers. No problem. Just sort by count.

Sort Word Facet by Count

Just like that I get the most frequent modifiers for the term boots. You still need to apply some smarts to understand why ‘for’ might be listed or how ‘high’ might be used as a modifier. But it’s a super quick way to get an at-a-glance perspective.

Word Drill Down

If you’re having trouble figuring out a specific word you can just click on the word to get a sample of those keyword terms.

Google Refine Word Facet Drill Down

Who knew wide calves were such a problem?

Google Refine and Keyword Research

Google Refine doesn’t replace other SEO tools. Instead it’s just another tool on your tool belt. That said, I have only showed you a fraction of what Google Refine is capable of. In particular, there are some very interesting clustering algorithms that could be applied to keyword research.

I’m just getting started and will keep playing with (aka learning) Google Refine to see just how it might streamline keyword research.

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Comments About Find Keyword Modifiers with Google Refine

// 4 comments so far.

  1. brian mcfarlane // February 01st 2011

    Does google refine only work in the states. I tried installing it and the IP address you gave us does not work?

  2. aj // February 02nd 2011


    I’m fairly certain it should work. Make sure you download and then have Google Refine up and running before you hit that address.

    I tested it without Google Refine running and it didn’t work, but with it running, no problem.

    Hope that solves it for you.

  3. Dee // June 11th 2011


    Great post. Do you have an update on some of the other functions that you’ve learned since you wrote this post?


  4. Pavlicko // January 15th 2013

    cool post, I’ve used Google refine but hadn’t even considered doing it for KW research – faceted navigation is a perfect use case. Thanks for sharing

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