According to a McKinsey study, word-of-mouth (WOM) recommendations are the primary factor in 20 to 50 per cent of purchasing decisions, but how can marketers measure this valuable channel?

Writing on Search Engine Watch, Paul Burani said that data from Google’s pay per click marketing tool AdWords can be mined to provide an "objective, relative view" of the online conservation users are having about a particular core keyword.

For example, someone wanting to explore WOM channels for the phrase discount wine could enter it in the AdWords Keyword Tool, with the Use Synonyms option checked, which would produce two lists – related terms and additional terms.

Taking these lists together and removing the core keywords discount and wine leaves the most common search modifiers being entered by consumers.

These terms should be sorted by global search volume and a separate column should be added with each of these figures divided by 1,000 to create an "adjusted search volume".

Finally, each keyword should be multiplied by this adjusted volume figure and the results dropped into a tag cloud generator to create a visualisation of the top search modifiers for discount wine.

This word-of-mouth data offers insights for search engine optimisation, as it can be used to develop content positioned for "maximum visibility", Mr Burani said.

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