“Google Trends” is one of Google’s most simple and accessible tools, and provides great quantitative insights on the following:

  • Overall product or service search popularity in your industry (and in your region)
  • Popularity of your different products or services (compared to each other)
  • Common terms people use to find your services (compared to what you ‘think’ are the terms people use most commonly)
  • How people use search terms differently in different regions
  • Topics that Google believes are related to your product or service terms
  • Seasonality of your products or services across the industry
  • And so much more…

I won’t focus on all of these bullets independently, but this data will make itself evident to you as you explore the tool.

USING THE TOOL

Just search for “Google Trends” on Google itself, or navigate directly to trends.google.com and you will find a simple field at the top of the screen where you can type in the term you’d like to learn about.

Type the key phrase that best represents the service you offer. The example we’ll use today is “hair styling.”

As soon as you type in the first key phrase you will notice the interface change. You are now looking at the comparison view. There is a lot you can learn about a single term with Google Trends… but it is foremost a comparison tool. So let’s add another variation of the term that also represents our business. Like “hair stylist” maybe.

You will immediately see an easy-to-interpret visualization of the search popularity of these two terms worldwide over the past 12 months.

You can compare up to 5 terms at once to more thoroughly view how people are searching for terms related to your business!

Not sure what terms people use most? Google will show you related terms that users are also using related to the terms you entered above.

 

You would be surprised at how many businesses don’t use ANY concrete data to back up their strategies. They just assume they know everything already because they have been in the business for years and years. Don’t fall into that trap.

DON’T FORGET TO FILTER

I mentioned above how the default view is worldwide, and for the last 12 months. But if you are a local business, you may only care about your state or county and the most current month’s trends. The past can teach us much, but let’s live in the present for now.

Change the filters right under the terms you entered to focus on your state and the last 90 days.

Now you will see some very interesting differences in your data. Potentially very different from what you’d see nationally or worldwide.

As you can see, there is only a slight difference in search popularity between our two primary terms on a local level in the last 90 days.

We won’t get into all the ways you can filter right now, but this is also where you could get an idea of the seasonality of your products or services by changing the range to the last 5 years.

DON’T FORGET USER INTENT

Be careful not to judge topics and key terms on trend volume alone. We don’t always think about the intent behind a search. Are they just educating themselves on the topic? Or are they searching for a vendor? Google Trends does not account for searcher intent in the aggregate data it collects. That is up to you to figure out.

A simple test to make sure your terms have “buying intent” is to drop each into their own Google search and see what kinds of results you get. Are most of the results on the first page for informative articles? Or are you seeing local listings for hair professionals and salons near you, etc?

 

In this specific example “hair styling” has 5 of 12 results on the first page targeting buyers, while “hair stylist” has 9 of 11 results targeting buyers. So not only is “hair stylist” a bit more popular as a search term. But it is also about twice as likely to result in buying behavior!

Generally speaking, in professional digital marketing, we try to avoid optimizing our conversion oriented web pages for terms associated with self-education, job-searching and general satisfaction of curiosity. We want people to find our pages who are ready to buy now. Building the top of the funnel is important too, but that is a story for another day.

CONCLUSION

Get out there and learn about the terms that drive your bottom line. Don’t assume you know the best terminology to describe your products or services online. There are many other SEO tools that you can use to better understand search behavior related to your business, but starting with Google Trends will give you a strategic edge in a matter of minutes.

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