A look at how to use Google Trends to support your SEO, content marketing and strategic planning, plus some fantastic tips to help you get more from this massively underutilised tool.
Google Trends is a free tool that provides search data for keywords and topics. Unlike the Keyword Planner in Google Ads, this tool allows you to view search volumes by location and view how they’ve changed over time.
So, if you want to see how search volumes for Bitcoin and other crypto currencies compare over the past five years, Google Trends is the tool for you.
That’s the most obvious way to go about using Google Trends but you can get much deeper insights if you know how to find them.
Here’s what we’ll be covering today:
Google Trends is a completely
free tool that shows what people are searching for. Aside from looking at
search volumes for specific keywords and topics, you can compare search volumes
over time, look at geographical volumes, explore related keywords/topics and see
what the most popular search topics are at any given time.
Naturally, this makes it a handy keyword research tool but it’s important to understand the key difference between Google Trends and the Keyword Planner in Google Ads. Google Trends only shows you data for search volumes but the Keyword Planner tells you how much traffic those search terms are actually generating. That’s a crucial difference.
This doesn’t mean the data
available via Google Trends isn’t useful, though. There are multiple ways you
can use this tool to improve your SEO strategy without any technical
understanding of how it works.
The first thing you’ll probably
use Google Trends for is keyword research and the obvious place to start with
the “related queries” tab. Type in your list of keywords and see if anything
new crops up here that could be valuable – couldn’t be much easier.
Next, you can go back to your
list of keywords in Keyword Planner and type them into Google Trends.
This will give you historical
search volumes for each keyword (as far back as 2004) which helps you predict
how much life your keywords have in them. For example, you may have just
started a new campaign and found some great keywords generating loads of
traffic but Google Trends reveals there’s been a sudden spike in interest
recently – a warning sign that interest could also suddenly disappear.
This is very common with
seasonal trends or searches related to major news events.
One of Google Trends’ biggest
strengths is that it gives you real-time data on what people are searching for right now. From a content marketing
perspective, this is an invaluable tool for generating new content ideas
because it shows you what people are actually looking for. It also keeps you in
the loop on the most current talking points and interests in your industry –
all for free.
Taking things further, you can
compare search volumes to results pages to pinpoint popular searches lacking
relevant or quality content. These are major content opportunities you can
capitalise on. For sudden spikes in interest, you can aim to be the first brand
to provide this content and introduce yourself to new audiences. Likewise, you
can look at historical data to pinpoint evergreen content opportunities that
haven’t been snapped up yet.
If you’re looking to start an eCommerce venture, expand your range of products or discover new affiliate opportunities, Google Trends can help once again. You can type in specific product types to get historical search data and distinguish between products that will be steady sellers and hot new products that’ll bring in a lot of profit over a shorter period of time.
For a lot of retailers, staying
on top of the latest trends is crucial for maintaining sales and you can also
use this data to determine which products should feature most prominently on
your homepage, landing pages and email newsletters.
Aside from discovering new products, keeping on top of search trends may also help you pinpoint when interest in certain products is fading so you can reduce future orders or drop products altogether.
Now let’s take a look at some of the more advanced ways you can use Google Trends to get advanced SEO insights.
This graph shows the decline in
UK search demand for the phrase cheap flights. This may reflect falling overall
demand, but it could also mean the audience now has ways of finding cheap
flights other than organic search.
Remember, the trend graph is not
an exact match for search volume. It is a score out of 100, showing demand
relative to a peak.
This graph clearly shows that
the demand level for ‘cheap flights’ has declined rapidly. Thinking about it,
this makes sense. We now have access to smartphone apps from airlines and other
travel companies, so we are less likely to search for cheap flights.
Also, since Google launched its Flights service, and with people
using more long-tail questions, we no longer need to search for cheap flights
on Google. We can just select the airports and hit go.
This graph shows the search
demand over time for yoga versus aerobics. Probably no surprise that aerobics,
which was big in the 80s, has low demand compared with yoga, whose popularity
is still growing.
Think about how many movies and
TV programmes feature someone going to or talking about yoga. How often do
people talk about doing aerobics these days?
There is a clear upward demand
for brand searches for Slimming World, compared with a general decline for
Weight Watchers – suggesting contrasting fortunes for each of the brands.
You can do the same thing, comparing your brand name with the brand names of your competitor. See whose name has the highest demand. Bear in mind though that any brand name that is also a generic phrase is likely to have a false graph.
By querying Google Trends for
single question words, you can get an idea for which words appear more frequently
As the graph below shows (for UK traffic), ‘how’ questions out-rank all others, with ‘what’ coming a clear second.
This kind of information can
help you with your content planning. Users are more likely to search ‘how to
change a lightbulb’ than ‘why to change a lightbulb’.
Google Trends is great for
spotting seasonal trends. For example, in the graph below, we can see the
seasonal peaks over five years for the phrase ‘Christmas party venues London’.
A few years ago, the peak demand
was in November, but this has now come forward to October, which means all the
good London venues are likely to be booked by then.
In this second example, I have compared
the queries ‘wedding venues’ and ‘wedding dresses’.
Now, all year round, people are
planning weddings and there is a wedding fayre taking place once a week
somewhere in the UK. However, this trend graph clearly shows that there is a
Demand drops considerably over
the Christmas period, before hitting the annual peak in the beginning of the
new year. Despite weddings taking place all the time, January seems to be the
time when the majority of people go looking for information.
This kind of information can be
useful in planning a PPC bidding strategy. The same is true in this next
example, which shows demand for Glastonbury Festival.
Each year, when the tickets for
the next year go on sale, people start searching. There are then spikes again
when the line-up is announced, with the peak being when the event takes place.
English language search
behaviour is not universal. In this example, you can see how US and UK
searchers behave in contrasting ways.
The graph on the left is for
US-based search traffic. The graph on the right is UK data. This shows that, in
the UK, hotels should be targeting people looking for dog friendly hotels,
rather than using the phrase ‘pet friendly’.
Using an exact phrase, with
years attached, we can see when demands starts and ends each year. I was
unsurprised to find that people search for a Spanish villa in January, but I
was surprised to find that demand is heavy during the previous August.
This could be people who have
just finished their summer holiday, looking to re-book, or it could be people
who are still on holiday, browsing for next year while they are in the mood to
think about more of the same.
Retailers take note – customers
no longer want fast delivery, they want same day delivery. Where will it go
You can take insights from Google Trends to create SEO and content strategies that address your audiences’ needs as they change throughout the year. This process involves monitoring the search volumes of key hero terms over different timeframes (days, weeks, months etc) and comparing them to interest levels from previous years to spot patterns and emerging trends.
Let’s imagine a ski resort in Austria wants to target UK
holidaymakers as one of its key audiences. Like many businesses, interest is
highly seasonal, dependent on the weather and affected by calendar events such
as school holidays.
So the first thing this company might do is check how the search volumes for key hero terms vary across the year.
Now, by default, Google Trends returns data for the past 12 months. However, you can easily change this by defining a custom time range, which allows you to compare search volumes for every year going back to 2004.
You can also cross-reference this data by location to see which parts of the country are most interested in your hero terms.
Already, you can see that we’re getting valuable information from Google Trends. But how does this translate into better marketing and business decisions?
Over the past 12 months, search volumes for “skiing in Austria” declined in April and recovered in October, with a peak in late December/early January. As we would expect, interest is highest during the winter months but there are still spikes in interest to work with throughout the year.
People don’t normally wake up one day and decide to book a skiing trip for next week. They plan trips like this over a period of weeks, months or even longer. So the first thing you can do is use this data to predict when bids should be highest on your PPC ads. It’s also important to rank strongly in organic search during these periods because most of your leads are likely to come from people planning for the next winter season.
Shoulder seasons are the period between peak and off-season
where things generally die down. Lead quantity naturally declines but there are
a number of steps you can take to maximise profit during these periods:
Google Trends will even tell you how to adapt your messages, what kind of incentives work, which high-intent search terms to target and how to discover which interests you can satisfy through differentiation.
Now let’s take a look at how to use Google Trends to help with the technical side of things, such as optimising your page titles, meta descriptions and page content to match user interests. A recent study conducted by Ignite Visibility found that meta descriptions have the most influence on which result users click – by a long margin, too.
Relevance is everything here. Users read these previews to decide whether pages will provide the information they’re looking for.
So a clothing brand can turn to Google Trends and type in something along the lines of “womens clothes” and look at the Related topics and Related queries sections to see which items are currently in-demand.
You can then use this data to optimise your meta descriptions to include the most popular items right now and reorder your page content to show the most in-demand items first. Likewise, you might want to change your use of images in the hero sections of pages to reflect current interests.
Taking this even further, there might be some search trends that prompt you to create new pages entirely. Or you could create new category pages that could rank for emerging search trends and possibly even generate site links in your organic listings.
You can get quite granular with this too. For example, you can look at search volumes for the past seven days and compare this with weekly data for the past month, quarter, year and past few years.
You can then identify the days and times of day when interest is strongest, and compare this data with related topics and search queries to gain a more rounded view of what’s inspiring people to type these keywords into Google.
Now, you’re starting to get in-depth search insights. But there comes a point where you’re limited by the data available on Google Trends and the manual workload of comparing data.
Luckily, we can fix this problem.
By using the Google Trends API, you can extract data from the platform and play with it how you like. This is precisely what we’ve done with our Apollo Insights platform, which extracts data from Google Trends and search data from dozens of other third-party sources.
This allows us to
add Google Trends data into a much larger, comprehensive dataset and compare
insights. For example, we can build up a picture of how your brand is
performing against industry benchmarks and competitors.
gives us full control over this data so we can work with it quickly.
In the last section, we touched on the idea of segmenting search volumes weekly and comparing results to previous weeks across months or years. It would take a lot of time to extract this data manually from Google Trends before you even analysed, cross-referenced, visualised and then compared it with data from other platforms. Apollo allows us to do this almost instantly.
Which means we might see random spikes in search volumes and sales for the same products throughout each month. This will prompt us to investigate and find out why this is happening. Sometimes, these spikes might be occurring at different times across the country. Other times, there might be more widespread and, occasionally, almost nationwide peaks of interest.
If you’re not making the most of Google Trends , you’re not maximising your search potential. If you’d like to talk to our team about how to use it, contact us on 02392 830281 or submit your details and we’ll call you.
Tom is a Senior SEO Specialist at Vertical Leap and has been with the company since 2013. He specialises in local SEO and SEO strategy and enjoys music, cooking and playing the guitar.
Categories: Data Science, Machine Learning
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