How to Leverage Search Trends – An Introduction

As a marketer, you always want to stay on top of trends that can affect your business.  Some trends are more general (the growth of social media, seasonality, etc.) while others are smaller and more immediate, like keyword search trends.  Today, I wanted to focus on search trends and where you can get easy access to this information.  Down the road, I’ll try to get into more detail on how to use search terms in your marketing programs.

First a Little Look at the Big Picture
The internet has been one of the greatest developments for marketing since the printing press.  Not only is it an amazing way to connect with consumers, it also provides access to an incredible amount of information that can be used to market more effectively.  In the days before the web, companies had to pay for consumer surveys and other data to hopefully get an idea of what consumers wanted or needed.  Surveys and focus groups are expensive and also take time to carry out and then analyze the results.  Meaning there was always a significant lag between learning about some new consumer interest or trend and being able to roll out a campaign to capitalize on the trend.

In the online world, marketers have access to an incredible amount of information on consumer trends, much of which is in nearly real-time and also free.  From a marketing perspective, all this data is incredibly valuable.  It gives you an idea of what consumers/internet users are interested in at any given time and the specific keywords they use when searching for more information on those topics.  You can find terms that are consistently searched on over time and also identify terms that have only recently become popular.

Obviously, this kind of information is great for search marketers.  But, it is also valuable for pretty much any online marketer – whether you utilize search marketing or not.  Those same consumers who are searching on Google for a particular topic are also on Facebook, are checking their email, and are visiting sites based on the topics they are focused on.  You can leverage those search trends to optimize landing pages, create social media ads, put together an email campaign or just about any other type of marketing you can think of.

With all this in mind, let’s look at three free and relatively easy-to-use tools for gaining insights into what consumers are interested in, by analyzing what they are searching for on various search engines.  Google Trends, Google Insights, and Trends Buzz (thanks to Logan Thompson for posting about Trends Buzz a few weeks ago) are three great tools for keeping your finger on the pulse of what people are searching for online.

Google Trends
Google Trends is the easiest to look at initially.  The homepage includes a column called Hot Topics – which includes the most popular current ‘topics’ (not keywords) being searched on in Google.  A second column called Hot Searches is actually a real-time list of the most popular searches (keywords)  on Google.  You can also type in a keyword(s) into the Search Trends box and get some data on historical search volume for that specific keyword or keyword combination, as well as geographic information on where the searches came from.  This data can be useful in looking at how long a search term has been popular, how its popularity has trended over time, and what countries/cities are driving most of the searches.

Trends Buzz
The Trends Buzz homepage includes minute-by-minute information from Google Trends from its Hot Searches list, but also includes similar information from Yahoo! and Bing, as well as hot topic trends on Twitter, Alexa, and Wikipedia.  The site also includes daily compiled trend information from Yahoo!, Search.com, The New York Times, and Wordtracker.  Typing a topic into the search box delivers a variety of results on your search term from news sites, blogs, photos, videos and a variety of other types of results.  This isn’t quite as useful for deciding whether a keyword would be useful in your marketing campaigns, but still can give you an idea of the kinds of results users may find when searching on a given topic.

Google Insights
Google Insights lets you dig down into the trend data a little more deeply than either Trends or Trends Buzz.  The homepage allows you to enter a search term and view the search volume on that term over time and view geographic information on the searches (similar to Google Trends, but slightly more detailed).  But, it also shows you the top keyword searches related to the term you are interested in, as well as related keyword searches that are rising in popularity.

The information on rising searches is an interesting list to keep an eye on, but also one to look at carefully.  These are search terms that have increased by the highest percentages.  Keep in mind that a term with very low average search volume could easily pop up on this list, because even a relatively small incremental increase in the number of searches might represent a large percentage increase.  So, don’t look at this list as a goldmine of new search terms that are definitely going to help drive a ton of traffic to your offers or help connect with a huge number of consumers.  They could be useful for your, or they could just be small blips that will disappear as quickly as they first showed up.

If you aren’t already using these sites (and possibly many others) to keep  tabs on search trend data, I recommend you start looking at them regularly.  Remember, this data is giving you insight into the minds of internet users.  If you were a store owner in a gigantic mall, how valuable would it be to know what each person who walks into the mall is looking for?  If you knew that more and more people were looking for a certain product that you didn’t currently carry, what could you do with that information?  Utilize the power of search trends to help you more effectively target consumers and drive response.

  • JG

    Hi Tom,

    You just reminded me of a conversation I had recently, in regards to the ‘evolution of marketing’.

    If you can think back to the time when a FAX machine was ‘incredible’. Instant communication and the possibility of an instant response…

    My, my.. we have come a long way.

    Thanks for a great read, as always:)
    Jea

  • Twitter’s trending topics can be a good source of info for up-to-the-minute news and/or info. For example, I recall someone creating a “Trapped Miners” domain and information site based on some Twitter trending topic info.

    I think it’s very smart to pay attention to trends, especially because timely articles and/or information that hooks into a trend is a great source of links.

    One other thing I like to do with Google Trends is look at the previous year…If you know what was popular last Nov. 28th, you’ll have an idea of what you can write about this Nov. 28th.

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