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Identifying search term trends

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday May 11, 2006 )

Google has just released a very handy application – Google Trends. It can be used to gauge historical, current and possibly future usage trends of specific search terms.

Google Trends analyzes a segment of searches carried out to determine the number of searches performed on that query relative to all the searches performed on Google over the last couple of years. Markers on the graph refer to a news item relating to the term which can help to gauge what was happening in that particular industry at a point in time.

Google Trends includes a feature to indicate not only the top countries performing those search terms, but also the cities.

Google Trends also allows you to compare multiple terms – this could be very useful when deciding the focus of a new site, or to hone an existing site by helping to determine where you should focus your content development and optimization efforts.

Using tools such as Yahoo Search Marketing’s keyword selection tool are good guides also, but they only give you a relatively recent glimpse on the performance of a specific term. What may have been popular last month might only be an aberration in an overall much lower trend. Or perhaps the term may seem to be popular now, but the frequency of searches is heading downwards rapidly. Google Trends provides an extensive history on terms.

For example, if you were thinking about setting up a marketing resources/services site and debating on whether the focus should be on the terms “web marketing”, “internet marketing” or “online marketing”, Google Trends can help identify which term is the most solid performer.

By entering these terms into Google Trends separated by commas and encapsulated in quotes, you’ll get an idea of the relative popularity of the terms over the last couple of years and possibly where the trend may be heading in the future.

Try the query

Below the results graph is a table indicating the top countries comparative frequency of search on those terms; an important aspect to bear in mind if you want to focus on attracting traffic from a particular region. In this example, it’s clear that the most popular term of the three used by people in the USA is “Internet marketing”.

Thinking of starting a site about pets, but torn between making the focus topic dogs or cats? Check the trend.

Looks like the dogs are the winner :).

Further refinement of your query can really narrow things down and help give you valuable direction in developing content to match the market you wish to attract.

The only problem I’ve found with it so far is that as you *really* start refining terms, Google Trends may return a “Your terms – “x”, “y” – do not have enough search volume to show graphs.” I struck this several times on searches I knew to be quite popular.

Google Trends is a beta product, so I’m hoping that they’ll improve this side of things, but I have a sneaking suspicion the extended functionality will only be made available to AdWords advertisers or perhaps as a premium service. I’m not basing that theory on anything I’ve read from Google about Trends, but it would make financial sense for Google to do so – it’s very valuable information. If Google Trends is made available as a premium service with that sort of power, it may be well worth the investment.

Learn more about using Google Trends


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