TUTORIAL: A Google Gem That’s Trending Near You
September 4th, 2014 by
My clients frequently ask me how long it takes to rank higher on Google search page results. I explain that the process is gradual and not guaranteed due to a number of factors, such as the 200 plus “signals” that make up Google’s algorithm, the time it can take for Google to read our “signals,” creating a consistent online presence, etc. — the questions usually end there. I recently had a client challenge me beyond a basic explanation of SEO, digging into my keyword research, and inspiring me to explore the seasonal average search value.
When the client asked me if I examined seasonal search value in my keyword research, I had to admit that I had not. It typically makes sense to look at average yearly search volume because, as stated above, the SEO process is gradual and we don’t want to target a term that will only help our clients in the short-term. This still left me wondering about seasonal search value, so I researched it. I was suspicious that seasonal search could help identify outside factors that affect the progress of SEO campaigns, and it may help lock-down industry standards that I wasn’t aware of.
Google Ad Words’ Keyword Planner does allow you to select different date ranges to examine the monthly average value, but I wanted to find a tool that identified possible patterns in keywords. I should have known that Google already had a product for this: Google Trends.
|Google Trends’ Fun Facts:
– Started in 2006
– Remember “Google Insights for Search”? This tool put search data into graphs and merged with Google Trends in 2012
– Medical researchers have attempted to predict outbreaks with this tool over the past few years
– You don’t need a Google account to use this tool
When you visit Google Trends, you will see three columns of interesting data, so where should you start? The best place to start is with your goals in mind. Do you have specific keywords in mind that you would like to research and compare, or do you want keywords generated for you based around a topic? Either option is available here, along with many other unique features that make it a useful tool for SEO experts.
Here you will find 3 main categories: “Trending Now,” “July 2014 Charts” and “Explore in-Depth”. The first two categories could be used to brainstorm social media and blog ideas because you can see what’s being searched the most that day as well as a review of the past month’s top searches organized by topic.
I am going to examine the third column on the page titled, “Explore in-Depth” because I find it most useful for SEO purposes. Still keep in mind the other two columns, however, because they relate to recent news and pop culture that’s also trending. The “Explore in-Depth” column shows two examples of ways you can examine topics and keywords. Click “More to Explore” at the bottom right-hand corner to see all of your search options.
How to search by Keyword
When you start adding “Topics” that you are interested in gaining search value for, you will also see a drop-down box appear which gives you different types of searches to select. The example below shows “Search term,” which would be the keyword or query, “Transportation Mode,” which is a category. Google will find keywords that fall into that category, and “Book by Deanne Sclar” which indicates a branded search for that book. Once again, think about your goals. If you have specific terms in mind that you want to research, then select the “Search Term” option. If you want to explore a category and see what keywords were searched the most under that category, select the category.
I first selected “Search Term” and filtered the dates of our search to July 2013-July 2014. As you’ll see below, I receive an “Interest over time” graph, but I am also given a “Regional List” category of countries who have searched for “auto repair” the most. I have also been supplied with “Related Searches” at the bottom of the page. Let’s explore these resources.
Note that the numbers on these graphs are not absolute numbers. They are relative to each other to reflect a trend.
“Numbers represent search interest compared to the highest point on the chart. If at most 10% of searches for a given region and time were for ‘pizza’ we’d consider this 100. Each point on the graph is divided by the highest point and multiplied by 100. When we don’t have enough data, 0 is shown.” -Google Support
1. Interest over Time
This graph gives us a snapshot of the overall trend of searches for “auto repair” between July 2013 and July 2014. Hover over any point in the graph to see the exact score that Google Trends gave that time period of searches. After hovering over these points and comparing the highest score to the lowest, I realized that there was no dramatic change, but there was a slight decrease in late fall and early winter months.
You may notice the letters next to what seems like random points on the graph. These letters represent times when news headlines included that keyword. This is an interesting tidbit of knowledge to consider. Knowing if the trend increased dramatically is important because it could be due to an outlying factor.
Fun Fact: Look at how the trend for the keyword “hurricane” was affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
You may notice the “Forecast” check box to the right of the “News Headlines” check box. This feature attempts to predict the upcoming trend of your search term. Note that you have to extend your start and end dates to make this option available. To yield the most accurate forecast, open the start and end dates to as wide as possible. This yielded the below results, showing the possibility of slight decreases in the fall and early winter months, with a continuous increase in the spring and summer months. Note that I had to hover over the graph points to figure out the dates because the graph does not let you zoom in.
You could use this chart in conjunction with other keyword research tools such as Google Ad Words’ Keyword Planner to expect possible decreases or increases in certain keywords due to seasonal search value. For example, it’s not surprising that “ac repair” is not a particularly common search word during the winter months. Other keywords with seasonal value may not be as obvious, however, so resorting to Google Trends serve as one tool to help you crack the code when dealing with what seems to be seasonal increases or decreases in the search rankings.
2. Regional Interest
“Regional Interest” displays larger areas that are searching for your keyword the most. While this is a useful tool for pinpointing countries and large cities, it does not typically show small cities or rural towns. In a global search (as shown below) the results help to narrow down the top countries searching for a keyword, and then the largest cities by clicking the “City” tab. The numbers represent the same calculated numbers as in the “Interest over time” section, so they are normalized and are the outcome of comparing the search volume to the area that searched for your keyword the most.
For a business with a statewide, national or a global target audience, this map could help you pair the keyword with specific locations. It is possible that more people search “auto repair” in Detroit, while more people in Los Angeles search for “car repair”. This sounds like a slight difference, but the more precise you can be when choosing keywords, the higher your possible rate for success will be.
In this case, the United States shows a dramatically higher interest in “auto repair” than any other country. You can click on each country to see a breakdown of interest within each one. You may also click the “City” link next to “Region” for the cities with the most interest in “auto repair” despite the country (demonstrated in the 2nd photo below).
3. Related Searches
If Google identifies your keyword with other similar terms that are being searched for, it will list them in the Related Searches section. This section is broken down by “Topics” and “Queries”.
In this case, I received queries, but did not receive any topics. The message under “Topics” read, “not enough search volume to show results”. In keyword research, however, I would prefer to look at the queries because they are exact keywords. For example, “car repair” and “auto body repair” are the top two related queries listed for “auto repair” (shown below). You could use this list to find keywords that you may not have thought about researching, or to examine the similar keywords in relation to the keyword you are searching.
The “Rising” tab under “Queries” shows terms that have had a significant increase in searches compared to the previous year. As shown below, “mobile auto repair” has risen 160%. This does not mean that “mobile auto repair” is one of the highest searched terms overall, but it may be worth monitoring throughout the campaign to see if it continues to rise and could be important to rank well for. With the rise of mobile Internet usage, it makes sense that this term could continue to increase in value.
Google’s Algorithym: http://www.google.com/intl/en-US/insidesearch/howsearchworks/algorithms.html
Google Trends data calculation: https://support.google.com/trends/answer/4355164?hl=en&rd=1
Google Ad Words’ Keyword Planner Tool (must be logged into Google Ad Words):
Finding a Pattern:
I started researching more specific auto terms and found that there was a seasonal pattern for the service, “auto detailing”. I would not make this seasonal observation a factor in whether to choose the term as a targeted keyword or not because there is consistent search value. Although, it may help explain a decrease of site traffic in the winter months if that occurs.
It is easy to get caught up in looking for a direct cause and effect between SEO practices and search engine rankings or site traffic, but expanding your research to recognize seasonal patterns can give you a larger idea of how your industry is searched for online.
My next tutorial will examine search results by “Topic” instead of specific keywords. Stay tuned to learn more about how this can help your SEO practices!