Mind Reading with Google

Ah, October the time of year when many wonder about things unknown and mysterious. What if there was a way to know what others were thinking?  To see it graphed out on chart? In a way, Google Trends already does this by allowing users to eavesdrop on search patterns , no privacy violated or psychic ability required.

Search queries are really expressions of thought, which is recorded when entered into search engines. En masse, patterns emerge and can be analyzed to provide insights for businesses wanting to learn more about their markets and monitor trends. It’s the closest us non-psychics can get to knowing other people’s thoughts. This article will cover Google Trends as part of a series I’m writing to spotlight Google’s more useful offerings for businesses.

What is Google Trends

Google is the #1 global internet property, reaching 84% of internet users.* This makes them privy to massive amounts of search term data which they normalize and scale to protect privacy. Trends works by analyzing a percentage of web searches that have met Google’s undisclosed traffic thresholds. Fortunately they share this data with the public through Google Trends which was released in September and is a merged version of Google Trends and Google Insights. As a search engine marketer, this is one of my favorite tools and can be useful when developing a paid search strategy for clients.

How to Use Google Trends

Google Trends allows users to input up to five search queries to compare. This will return a line graph comparing the popularity of these keywords over time along with a related terms list. Search queries can be limited to only display web, news, image and product search data which can be further segmented  by region, timeframe and category.

Witches, Vampires or Werewolves

Here’s an example on how one might use this tool. Let’s say you run a business that sells Halloween costumes and want to find out which costumes get the most search interest out of: witches, vampires and werewolves. The chart reveals that “witch costume” has been the leader in search demand for years.

Further down the page, there is a heat map graph and related terms list that reveal more insights. Clearly, there are some states like Utah and Tenessee that have higher search interest for “witch costumes”. Further, when reviewing the related terms there is specific demand around “candy corn witch” and “glinda witch costume” .

How to Use This Data

In only a few minutes of checking, it’s easy to see patterns that could be leveraged to help market witch costumes to the most interested consumers. From this data an action plan can be created to increase sales. These actions may include:

  • Ordering more Candy Corn and Gilda Witch costumes from the manufacturer
  • Setting up a paid search campaign targeting the highest search states like Utah and Tennessee
  • Adding Candy Corn and Gilda Witch related keywords to the website and promoting it through social media

Please note, Trends is a fun tool but is only a starting place for research. From here, I’d use the Google AdWords Keyword and Traffic Estimate tools to scope out the traffic opportunity and understand what the advertiser competition looks like for the paid search campaign. Those tools will provide more specific information where starting budgets and sales forecasting can be estimated.

If you haven’t used this tool, I recommend that you try it. It’s fun to get insights into trending topics and to learn about what other people are searching for. I hope you enjoyed this article and would like to get your thoughts or experiences on this tool. Thanks for reading.

* Data represents Google Search and Content Network, including Google properties;

Source: comScore Key Measures Report, March 2009; Attributor, Dec. 2009

** images from Google Trends and SodaHead.com


About Sheila

Sheila Fruge is the owner of Fruge Consulting Inc. and specializes in helping organizations attract qualified leads online to increase exposure and grow sales. She is a Google AdWords Certified Partner and has spoken to UC Berkley and UC San Francisco classes about search engine marketing best practices. Learn more about Sheila at www.frugeconsulting.com


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