How to use Google Trends for advanced marketing insights

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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.

Google Trends search volumes for Bitcoin

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:

  1. What is Google Trends
  2. How to use Google Trends for keyword research
  3. How to use Google Trends for content marketing
  4. How to use Google Trends to find products to sell
  5. How to use Google Trends for advanced insights
  6. How to use Google Trends for strategic planning
  7. How to use Google Trends for technical SEO
  8. How to use the Google Trends API to extract data

1. What is Google Trends?

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.

2. How to use Google Trends to find keywords

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.

3. How to use Google Trends for content marketing

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.

4. How to use Google Trends to find products to sell

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.

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5. How to use Google Trends for advanced insights

Now let’s take a look at some of the more advanced ways you can use Google Trends to get advanced SEO insights.

a. Track downward trends

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.

Google Trends search volumes for cheap hotels

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.

b. Comparing niches, related trends

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.

Google Trends search volumes for yoga and aerobics

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?

c. Compare your demand with a competitor

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.

Google Trends search volumes for weight watchers and slimming world

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.

d. Find out which questions are the most popular

By querying Google Trends for single question words, you can get an idea for which words appear more frequently in searches.

As the graph below shows (for UK traffic), ‘how’ questions out-rank all others, with ‘what’ coming a clear second.

Google Trends search volumes for words like how where what who and when

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’.

e. Find peak seasonal periods

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’.

Google Trends search volumes for Christmas party venues

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’.

Google Trends search volumes for wedding venues and 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 seasonal pattern.

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.

Google Trends search volumes for Glastonbury

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.

f. Compare demand in different countries

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’.

Google Trends search volumes for dog friendly and pet friendly hotels

g. Find out when searchers start browsing

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.

Google Trends search volumes for villas in spain

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.

h. Track behavioural change

Retailers take note – customers no longer want fast delivery, they want same day delivery. Where will it go from here?

Google Trends search volumes for same day and fast delivery
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6. How to use Google Trends for strategic planning

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.

Google Trends for skiing in Austria

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.

Google Trends for skiing in Austria

You can also cross-reference this data by location to see which parts of the country are most interested in your hero terms.

Google Trends showing interest by sub region

Already, you can see that we’re getting valuable information from Google Trends. But how does this translate into better marketing and business decisions?

Use seasonal data to generate leads throughout the year

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.

Target high-intent searches during shoulder seasons

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:

  • Adapt your messages: For example, ski resorts will promote off-season activities.
  • Incentivise: Run promotions encouraging people to book now.
  • Targeting: Target high-intent leads that are more likely to convert and require less investment to close.
  • Customer retention: Reach out to existing/former customers and tempt them into making the next purchase.
  • Referrals: Run referral campaigns with existing customers, encouraging them to recommend your business to their friends, family members, colleagues etc.
  • Differentiate: Use seasonal trends data to differentiate your brand and mitigate the negative impact, e.g. all-year-round skiing.

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.

7. Use Google Trends for technical SEO

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.

Bar chart showing what has the most impact on your decision to click on a search result

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.

Related queries for 'womens clothes'

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.

Organic listings showing sitelinks

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.

8. How to use the Google Trends API to extract data

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.

Crucially, Apollo 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.

Watch our online tutorial ‘How to use Google Trends’

Speak to our SEO experts about Google Trends

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 Light profile picture
Tom Light

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.

More articles by Tom
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