Using Google Trends for SEO analysis

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 by Chris Pitt

Using Google trends for SEO analysisI recently had to create a 12 month SEO campaign for a tourism client, so that they could report back to the company board on performance of all of their marketing activities. Even though I knew that I had made a very positive impact on SEO campaign; some of the data coming from Google Analytics (GA) presented the campaign achievements in a different light.

This is because GA is an ‘after the fact’ tool. It tells you about market behaviour once they have arrived at your website – but not about market behaviour before they arrived at your website. Let me explain that…

Using conversion tracking in GA, I was easily able to demonstrate that the ratio of conversions vs traffic had risen. This was as a result of my optimising the landing pages to best match relevant queries.

Hero keywords that the client wanted to track had also performed well and the client had seen noticeable differences in where their site ranked. However, despite these positives, the incoming traffic had not increased as strongly as one might expect – given the uplift in rankings. My client, quite reasonably, wanted to know why.

Introducing Google Trends
Google Trends is a free-to-use service that allows people to view and track search demand for a particular keyword/group of keywords. By using Google Trends we can visually see market demand over a period of time for any keyword(s) that we choose.

Now then, that was an important sentence and one I want to repeat.

By using Google Trends we can visually see market demand over time for any keyword (s) that we choose.

What this means is that as well as tracking traffic to our site with GA, we can also see whether that performance is reflective of a market trend.

How do you use Google Trends?
Let’s use my previously mentioned client as an example here. I take my client’s specific and representative keywords and enter them into Google Trends. Let’s pretend for a moment that those keywords are:

  • Weekend breaks
  • Short breaks
  • Weekend holiday

I enter these into the Google Trends search box and am presented with the following graph:

Google trends graph

The default date range in GA is currently 2004 to present. This is changeable, but in this case I left it as is. To be clear, this data is not actual traffic numbers but traffic trends that show peak and low activity.

As can clearly be seen, over time the search market demand for these keywords has been steadily dropping. I was able to use this data to demonstrate that even though the traffic growth was slower than hoped, search market demand for their services was dropping. Therefore, any traffic growth was arguably indicative of a strong or potentially increasing market share for my client.

Google Keyword Tool vs Google Trends
I need to take a second here and make a differentiation between Google’s Keyword Tool and Google Trends. Both tools rely on and present historical data in reaction to the criteria you set. But there is a marked difference.

The keywords tool presents us with The approximate 12 month average of user queries for the keyword on Google search”.

In simplistic terms, this means that the estimated traffic figures you get from the tools are exactly that – an estimate – and one that could be heavily skewed by a seasonal trend or unusual flurry of interest in the market.

Take the term ‘Olympics’ as an example. Google’s Keyword Tool estimates that there are a massive 30,400,000 monthly searches per month for that term, based on the activity over the last 12 months. Of course we know that last year’s event will skew the results and that until the next event interest will fade. But imagine that we didn’t have that knowledge. We might pursue this keyword traffic based on an estimate that is inaccurate and potentially a waste of resources.

Now look at that keyword in Google Trends:

Google trends for keywords analysis

It presents a different picture doesn’t it? It shows that, depending on when you research the keyword, you will get massively different results.

Google Trends is a fantastic stand-alone tool that can help to understand market demand and search trends; and its use is not limited to SEO alone. Changing search demand will affect every aspect of your business and may be indicative of offline market trends. The information it provides is highly valuable and a business can use it to make decisions about market strategy.

Used in conjunction with other tools, Google Trends can provide an insightful and alternative perspective. Otherwise positive or negative results may appear differently when seen from a market wide view, as opposed to a narrow snapshot of a single metric or KPI.

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About the author

Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt

Chris joined Vertical Leap in April 2012 as a Campaign Delivery Manager. He previously worked as the marketing arm for a number of finance, tax and accounting companies. His background is almost entirely marketing based, although he did enjoy a few years touring the country as a semi professional musician and played in front of festival audiences in excess of 4,000. He recently became a first time father and can no longer remember what it is like to sleep past 5am. Follow me on Google