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Analyzing Search Keywords using Excel : Array Formulas in Real Life



Jarad asks me in an email “how word frequency can be generated from a range of cells using excel formulas?” This got me thinking and lead to this post, where we learn how to calculate word frequency using array formulas and use it to analyze a bunch of search keywords.

Array formulas are one of the powerful and often underutilized features of excel. They are often difficult to understand and use. But once you develop the ability write array formulas suddenly you see new possibilities.

If you are new to array formulas, read our excel array formulas tutorial

Step 1. Get your data

You must be so bored to see the same step no matter what we do. But getting the right data solves half the problems. Let us assume, our fictitious website has the following search keywords (well, really key phrases)

As a smart reader, you can already guess that in real life you will have not 10, but hundreds of key phrases that you would like to analyze. But the ideas you will be learning today should work in the same way.

Step 2. Calculate Word Frequencies using Array Formulas

First we must define the list of words for which frequency should be calculated. I just chose 9 arbitrary words. You can see them in the middle table.

Now we use array formula to calculate word frequency.

First the formula:

Assuming the keywords table (on the left) is in the range B4:B13 and the keyword for which you want to calculate the frequency is in D4, the array formula looks like,


Now the explanation

The frequency of the word in D4 (in this case it is “windows”) is calculated by,

  • finding the length of the entire text in the range b4:b13
  • finding the length of the entire text in the range b4:b13 after removing all occurrences of the word “windows”
  • Then, frequency is the gap between above 2 divided by the length of the word “windows”

Now look at the above formula.

SUM(LEN($B4:$B13)) is doing in the first part

SUM(LEN(SUBSTITUTE($B$4:$B$13,D4,""))) is doing the second part

/LEN(D4) is doing the last part.

Step 3. Finally Prepare a Tag Cloud from Keyword Frequencies

This is the simplest part of all, provided you have the tag cloud chart macro installed. When you have loads of keywords, tag cloud can help you visualize the important keywords.

What next?

You can take this basic model and extend it to include parameters like number of searches each key phrase has, how long the users stay on the site etc. to enhance the way tag cloud is generated and colored.

Also read some of the related text processing tricks using excel:

Sorting text using Excel Formulas

Find if a word is repeated in a cell

Cleanup incorrectly formatted phone numbers

Fuzzy text search using excel

Share with us how you use array formulas, your favorite tricks.


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12 Responses to “Analyzing Search Keywords using Excel : Array Formulas in Real Life”

  1. Very interesting Chandoo, as always. Personally I find endless uses for formulae such as {=sum(if(B$2:B$5=$A2,$C$2$C$5))}, just the flexibility in absolute and relative relative referencing and multiple conditions gives it the edge over dsum and others methods.

    I've added to my blog a piece on SQL in VBA that I think might be of interest to you http://aviatormonkey.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/lesson-one-sql-in-vba/ . It's a bit techie, but I think you might like it.

    Keep up the good work, aviatormonkey

  2. Andy Pope says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    You might find this coded solution I posted on a forum interesting.


  3. [...] under certain circumstances.  One of the tips involved arranging search keywords in excel using Array Forumlas.  Basically, if you need to know how frequent a word or group of keywords appear, you can use this [...]

  4. Chandoo says:

    @Aviatormonkey: Thanks for sharing the url. I found it a bit technical.. but very interesting.

    @Andy: Looks like Jarad, the person who emailed me this problem has posted the same in excelforum too. Very good solution btw...

  5. bob says:

    Realy great article

    "You can take this basic model and extend it to include parameters like number of searches each key phrase has, how long the users stay on the site etc. to enhance the way tag cloud is generated and colored."

    How would you go about doing this? I think it would need some VB

  6. Thiago says:

    I found the usage very interesting, but is giving me hard time because the LENs formula that use ranges are not considering the full range, in other words, the LEN formula is only bringing results from the respective "line" cell.

    Using the example, when I place the formula to calculate the frequency for "windows" brings me only 1 result, not 11 as displayed in the example. It seems that the LEN formula using ranges is considering the respective line within the range, not the full range.

    Any hint?

  7. Hui... says:

    You have to enter the formula as an Array Formula
    Enter the Formula and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter
    Not just Enter

  8. Gary says:

    is there a limit to the number of lines it can analyse.
    Ie i am trying to get this to work on a list of sentances 1500 long. 

    • Hui... says:

      In Excel 2010/2013 Excel is only limited by available memory,
      So just give it a go
      As always try on a copy of the file first if you have any doubts

  9. Sumit says:

    Apologies if I am missing something, but coudn't getting frequency be easier with Countif formula. Something like this - COUNTIF(Range with text,"*"&_cell with keyword_&"*")

  10. Ray says:

    Apologies if I missed, but what is the Array Formula to:

    1. Analyze a list of URL's or a list of word phrases to understand frequency;
    2. List in a nearby column from most used words to least used words;
    3. Next to the list of words the count of occurrences.

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