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April 29, 2013

How to Use Google Trends to Boost Your Business

Maintaining a successful online business requires a multitude of disciplines, not the least of which includes a watchful eye on the changes and trends in your industry. It’s now imperative that you understand the needs and interests of your demographic, and that you respond to large-scale shifts as quickly as possible.

Likewise, it’s just as important to spot trends that are just quick blips on the digital landscape. These are the waves you can ride out without adjusting your business strategy. The question is — how do you stay on top of what’s trending in your industry, and which trend do you need to respond to? There are many worthy tools that help you see the big picture, and one such gem is Google Trends.

Google Trends has been on the scene for about a year now, and it features data dating all the way back to 2004. It’s a free tool that displays historic search query information, updated hourly, which is sliced and diced in various ways to optimize full scale analytics. It’s most useful to small business owners who are about to embark on a new frontier, or who need to assess how their current offerings are faring in the world of search. With this tool, you can amass data about specific locations, age groups, niches, and related demographic info.

Google Trends gives you the power to study any search term and see how it measures up to other keywords, during specific time periods and/or in specified geographic regions. It’s important to note that you won’t learn how many individuals are searching for your selected keywords, but instead be able to gauge the popularity of a term over time. This is precisely the kind of invaluable insight that can help propel your business to new successful heights.

Types of Google Trends Data

In Google’s own words, Google Trends “analyzes a portion of worldwide Google web searches from all Google domains to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you’ve entered, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time.” Since the results are updated hourly, the data is about as current and relevant as it gets. Here are a few aspects of the data your business might be interested in analyzing:

1) Seasonal Results

If you run a business that sells sports equipment, there will be obvious sales spikes for certain sports items based on the time of year. Google Trends will show you exactly when baseball bats start trending more on a yearly basis, as an example, and can help you map out your marketing campaign strategies down to the day and hour.

2) Comparing Degree of Interest

Looking to see how different products compared to each other based on search volume and traffic? Google Trends will show you. You can slice this data based on location, keywords, or time of year. For example, if you run an online florist store and need to compare the interest level of roses versus carnations for a given time period, Google will chart the results side by side. Likewise, you can see if Louisiana is more interested in roses than Nebraska for the same time period. The side by side comparison options are hugely powerful.

3) Forecasting

Since studying trends should be a long term task, setting up forecast searches that you absorb on a regular basis is also a potential business booster. Watch and see how your targeted keywords fluctuate over time. Choose time chunks that range from weeks to months and years, and monitor predictable shifts. If you notice, for example, that for your flower company roses are less popular search terms in September, and Gerber daises are in fact more popular, you have insight on an excellent marketing shift.

4) Singular vs. Plural

Have you ever wondered if it matters whether your search terms are singular or plural, and which are more popular? Every letter of your keywords does indeed matter, so understanding exactly how your users are searching for these terms is critical. If your company sells exercise equipment, as an example, you’ll need to know if people generally search for “exercise bike” or “exercise bikes.” Google Trends will tell all.

5) What’s Hot

You can also eyeball the hottest searches from the past 24 hours, or look for searches that have had significant shifts in traffic. These insights are fabulous for media outlets and bloggers looking to report on hot and current topics.

Top Tips for Getting the Most out of Google Trends

The obvious top way Google Trends helps boost your business is through the accurate selection of keywords. Use the tool for extensive studies on which of your targeted keywords are actually used the most, and in what exact format. Trends will also suggest similar keywords and provide an analysis. It’s best, however, to use the information you find here in tandem with other keyword and analytics tools. Because this simply charts overall popularity, you don’t want to bank your entire keyword strategies only on Google Trends results, but you absolutely want to carefully consider everything you uncover.

Next, you need to analyze the quality of the search popularity, and not just assume high numbers means high interest. Oftentimes keywords trend in a negative fashion, due to scandals or current news topics. You obviously don’t want to associate your business with negative news stories, so be sure the spikes in popularity you are studying match up with the tone and spirit of your business. One of the best features of Google Trends is that it highlights which stories may have spiked the keyword trend for the given period you are plotting.

Use the tool to see how well your competitors are trending as well. Additionally, you can analyze the results to see which keywords they may be using with more success, and adapt your strategy accordingly. Likewise, look for search terms that directly relate to your industry; see which are currently popular, which have maintained popularity over time, and which are simply not used much at all. This allows you to monitor your specific brand, competitors, and overall industry.

Highlighting current trends in your marketing strategy is a great way to attract more traffic. For example, if you sell novelty items and have noticed the current moustache trend, you know for sure you want to include related keywords in your content and marketing materials.

Lastly, Google Trends is a great tool to help you spark content ideas. As mentioned above, if you’re looking for popular current search terms to shape a marketing campaign, or to write compelling content about, Trends is a goldmine. It’s the perfect place for social marketers to get ideas on what to talk about. Relevant and engaging content is the single greatest SEO tactic available, so use Trends to help you chart your next great piece of media.

Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.