Google Trends is one of the most amazing yet underutilized free tools for SEO that allows you to easily find out how your target keywords are being searched for over time, across the world.
However, don’t mistake it to be just another keyword research tool. While other tools give you the exact-match monthly keyword volume, Google Trends gives you a visual, dynamic portrait of a keyword’s lifetime – its past, present, and potential future. It tells you when your keywords and phrases were trending and if they’re popular now.
Here are 7 ways you can use Google Trends to improve your SEO:
1. Start Big & Narrow Down
In the past, Google Trends’ main dashboard required you to enter all sorts of parameters to get started (Worldwide, Web Search, etc.). Today’s dashboard is a lot easier to use.
It prompts you to start by exploring high-level topics before you narrow down to specifics.
So, start by entering a high-level, high volume keyword for your topic. For example, if you enter a broad topic like ‘umbrella’, it will immediately show how this target keyword’s search interest is trending over time, interest by region, related topics, and even related keywords.
From there, you can drill-down to get more specific keyword ideas and their search trends using the following options:
- You can use the location filter to get the keyword search trends for a specific geography. For example, you can see how the search interest around ‘umbrella’ peaks at different times of the year in different countries of the world.
- Time filter allows you to get a search trend from the past 5 years all the way down to the past 4 hours. This allows you to clearly find out when your search phrase was trending, if it has any periodic behavior, and if it’s still popular. It’s a great way to analyze short-term as well as long-term search trends for your target keyword.
- The category filter allows to specify the subject of your keyword. For example, when you’re targeting ‘Celtic Thunder’ music group, you don’t want to include search traffic about Irish weather patterns.
- Search Type (web, news, YouTube) is another important type of filter that tells you the source of search traffic – whether it was done via Google Search, Google News, or YouTube. This is covered in more detail in point #3.
Takeaway: With more than 10 billion monthly searches in the US alone, the key is to start big and then use filters to get more relevant information.
2. Focus on the Context
Google Trends works in a relative manner. Today’s search trend isn’t compared against the overall popularity of all trends, but only to the search trends of your previously entered search terms, or to the recent past.
For example, ‘Caribbean Cruise’ is an ever popular search term. However, if you look at its past 12 months’ trend, here’s what you’ll see:
You might conclude that its popularity is waning. But what if we change the date range from 2004 to the present?
You’ll realize that its overall trend is much more stable and that it follows a seasonal pattern.
Takeaway : Don’t ignore the context.
3. Get Advanced Insights with Specific Search Options
Google Trends gives you five options to derive advanced insights about your target keywords and search phrases:
- Web Search
- YouTube Search
- Image Search
- Google Shopping
- News Search
Each option allows you to see search trends for a different segment of your potential market. For example, selecting the YouTube option will show the search trend of your target keyword among YouTube’s audience.
You might find that a target keyword like ‘umbrella’ does really well in Google Shopping and, possibly, Image Search, but has no searchers when it comes to News Search.
This is really useful because it not only gives you more specific suggestions based on your root keyword (Caribbean Cruise) but also helps you identify upcoming search phrases that are becoming hot trends. If you click the ‘Rising’ option, you’ll be able to see the top overall keywords.
Clicking on any of these search terms allows you to drill down into it and get more related search terms that you can target in your SEO campaign.
These suggestions not only allow you to target high traffic keywords that are always popular but also include new trending search phrases in your content. There’s a good chance you might discover a new trend before it becomes a ‘breakout’ and get a top position for your latest post.
Takeaway : Use search type to figure out where to find your target audience (via Web search, YouTube, Google shopping). Understand your customers’ language using related queries
4. Use it for location-based targeting
Although the cursory use of Google Trends appears to be keyword-focused, it delivers its best results when you throw location into the mix, by providing geo-specific interest levels for your target keyword.
If we take our earlier example of ‘Caribbean Cruise’, here’s what the distribution of search interest looks like across the US in Google Trends.Clearly, people in Florida are most interested. If you click on it, you’ll see that Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne metro region is highest, followed by Miami, and then West Palm Beach.Such critical insights enable specific targeting in PPC campaigns as well as local search.
Takeaway: Don’t hesitate to drill-down into regions and sub-regions to see how search interest varies by location.
5. Predicting Trends
As you’ve seen, it’s really easy to use Google Trends to identify trending keywords and search phrases. How do you go a step further and beat other SEO marketers?
To get additional insights, you need to use available data to predict trends.
Newsjacking is an age old practice of capitalizing on the latest trending stories. Since Google Trends shows you exactly which news trends are the hottest, here are a couple of ways to use it to your advantage:
- Use category-specific and country-specific filters to identify trends that you can keep an eye on before it becomes a major worldwide story. For example, today’s top health story might not make it to the top Google Trends but its popularity might explode a week from now.
- Compare multiple phrases in a single trend – Is ‘Vote for A’ trending better than ‘Vote for B’ ? You just got yourself an informal poll.
6. Research long-tail keywords for your content
It can be difficult and time-consuming to rank at the top of SERPs for a high-competition keyword like ‘Caribbean Cruise’, but you can always aim to get to the top for a long-tail variation of a high-traffic search phrase.
For example, let’s say you run a music blog and want to write about an upcoming event, like the Grammy Awards. If you click on its Google Trend, you’ll see tons of additional information such as:
- Top questions asked on Google
- Most Searched Best New Artists
- And even questions about the host, such as “How old is James Cowden?”
All these insights can be used to come up with many different long-tail keywords that you can write about, or incorporate in your existing content.
If you want to go deeper, you can use tip #3 to find related queries for your long-tail keywords, or tip #2 to find more contextual search terms that are truly relevant to your target customer.
7. Use Google Trends for Video SEO
Let’s say you posted a YouTube video about Caribbean cruises. As you might know, any text-based metadata such the title and video description plays a huge role in ranking your YouTube video on Google. Here’s how you can use Google Trends to optimize its title and video description:
- Enter your search term in Google Trends.
- Select the YouTube Search Filter.
- Scroll down to the Related Queries and Related Topics sections. These will give you a list of keywords and search terms that you need to include in your title and video description.
- If you prefer, you can sort them by Top or Rising.
In our above example, you’ll see that people search for cruises based on ship classes (e.g., Vision, Radiance, Sovereign), and not just the ships themselves. Such useful insights will help you write highly relevant title descriptions that allow you to target customers better.
Google trends has changed a lot over the years but the underlying principle remains the same – it can be used to discover tons of useful insights if you’re willing to go beyond the basic search. The key is to stick to your keywords until you find actionable insights.
About the Author
For more than 8 years, Sreeram Sreenivasan has worked with various Fortune 500 Companies in areas of Business Intelligence, Sales & Marketing Strategy. He’s the Founder of Ubiq BI, a cloud-based BI Platform for SMBs & Enterprises. He’s also the editor of Fedingo blog, which covers a wide range of business growth topics.
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