Using MSN Online Commercial Intention to Find Profitable Keywords

By: Brian Horn on: May 5th, 2010 19 Comments

Any good internet marketer knows that the key to a successful campaign is information. People spend thousands of dollars buying sophisticated software, which may offer an insight into a potential market and hopefully give them the edge over their competition.

Not everyone has the financial resources available to buy all the latest analytical technology, but the good news is there are very good free resources available for those on a shoestring budget.

Here we will discuss one of them. But before we do, let’s briefly discuss keyword research and log-tailed keyword phrases.

Keyword Research

Unless a marketer has a big budget for commercial advertising, they are unlikely to compete with historically established websites for popular keywords.

This problem has led to the development of niche marketing and the use of long-tailed keyword phrases. A marketer can spend days, or weeks, developing a keyword database and will have researched competition and global searches for each keyword phrase.

Once they have found keywords considered viable options (i.e. keyword phrases they think they will be able to rank for in a search engine), the marketer will get ready to create a website, email campaign or some other form of promotion.

Many marketers jump straight from the research to the promotion and never realize they are missing out on a vital stage, which could be the difference between total failure and profitable enterprise.

MSN Online Commercial Intention (OCI)

A marketer may have a good list of low-competition keywords, with acceptable global monthly searches, but there is one crucial question remaining.

Do the people searching for these phrases ever actually purchase anything?

There is no point trying to sell to a particular market if they are not interested in buying. A marketer may indeed get top spot in Google for their well-researched long-tail keyword, but that means nothing if they have selected a search phrase that is not associated with consumer purchases.

This is why the MSN Online Commercial Intention Page can be a very valuable tool.

The clever people at Microsoft have designed an algorithm that measures online commercial intention (the likelihood that someone will buy something, after searching for it). The MSN OCI measures commercial intent on a scale of 0 to 1, where 0 shows no intent and 1 is likely to buy immediately.

A marketer can simply add their chosen keywords into the calculator and find out if the keywords have any commercial intent, or may never result in a sale. The software may have some discrepancies and its accuracy has been questions by some, but for the most part the results have proved to show a definite trend.

The rule of thumb is that if a keyword phrase has an OCI of less than 0.6 (some marketers insists on 0.7) then the keyword shows no consumer promise and should be discarded.


Whilst the MSN Online Commercial Intent page may have its critics; many marketers see it as a valuable free tool. Certainly, any program that offers any additional information for a marketer is never a wasted excursion. The MSN OCI page offers the chance for a marketer to discover if they are about to waste time and effort chasing after a keyword phrase that will not sell.

If you want to check out the MSN Online Commercial Intention page, you can locate it at:


Brian Horn, of HornDog Search Marketing, is recognized by many as the "Glazer-Kennedy Secret Weapon", because of his role in helping not only Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer with search engine optimization and social media, but also many of the top Information Marketers in the world. Brian shares SEO tips for small businesses over at at his blog,

19 Responses

  1. Brian- to be honest, I never heard of this before. This is an incredible resource!

    (having said that, I would also trust my gut sometimes about what words may signal a buy that MSN wouldn’t pick up on. But won’t that mean that Google (or MSN, or Yahoo!) can suddenly charge much higher for Adwords whenever then have “ready to buy” words in them?

  2. mimimoses says:

    Thanks, Brian. Good information. I did a search and found that if I get a little more specific on my keywords, the OCI goes to 0.97 from 0.71 on the keywords I use today.

  3. Charles Ra says:

    great resource indeed,
    thank you Brian.
    I am using it right now.

  4. Lisa Sims says:

    Thanks for the great information. This is an interesting tool that I will definitely start using as of today.

    Thanks again!

  5. Rob Anspach says:

    I too have never heard of Msn Oci – so this is helpful.
    Although now that msn has switched to bing does this still apply?
    I’ve been hearing from clients that bing has not been there first, second or third choice and the only reason they use it is because Microsoft is heavy handed on their computer.

  6. Scott says:

    wow, I’ll check it out

  7. I’ve been using and recommending this great tool for a while, so it’s good to hear from The Master that it’s useful and for the most part, valid. Thanks, Brian!

  8. Lewis says:

    What is a Commercial intention?

    I learned the answer to this question the hard way, by spending a lot of money on Ad Words without making a dime. I spent about $2000 without any results.

    Please learn from my mistake.

    So, what is a Commercial intention (CI)? Why is it important?

    The concept is quite simple: if someone searches on a keyword (or keyword phrase), what is the likelihood the searcher buys your product or service and/or subscribes to your site?

    Knowing the answer before starting you keyword campaign could save you much time and grief.

    Most keywords have low CI and web site business spend untold time and money trying to convert searchers into buyers.

    Therefore, the importance of high CI is obvious: spend your time and money on keywords that will convert a return on your investment.

    Let me help you make money and not ‘spin your wheels’ on bad keywords.
    I well determine the CI of your keywords before you spend mega bucks and waste your time.
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  9. Michail Yagunov says:

    Can not open site

  10. kirk lamoy says:

    what happen with the msn OCI tool? seems it is down for a while now. are they coming back or just leave it that way. i have so many things to try this tool to.

  11. And once again the adlabs site is down. This makes me wonder if there is an alternative for all this.

  12. luvsun says:

    is this tool no longer available?? just get an error page when clicking on the link to it.

  13. it is still out there but from all the SEO people I have talked to, it never works

  14. Jason says:

    Ive had the same issues as you guys with not being able to use the MSN OCI tool..

    However, I have spent some time making my own that is now in BETA and available to the public if you guys would like to use it over at

    Feel free to give me feedback on the results you get.

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