When putting together a blog post, completing and applying keyword research is not as straightforward as it used to be. Not even close.
Search engine algorithms and bots are constantly becoming more and more sophisticated, and to keep up, we need to keep refining our keyword research strategies. At the same time, tools that used to give us data and ideas for free, such as Google’s Keyword Planner or even Answer the Public, are no longer as helpful (unless you’re willing to pay). It’s time to get creative, so today, I’ll be sharing with you the wonders of using Google Trends for conducting some solid keyword research. And the best part is that Google Trends is absolutely FREE.
But First: What is Keyword Research?
Keyword or keyphrase research is the process by which we find terms or phrases that we would like to rank for on search engines. The “keyword” portion of the term can be a bit misleading because ranking for individual words is pretty darn difficult to say the least. We usually aim to rank for longtail keywords, which are essentially phrases.
There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing relevant keyphrases for our posts. Some include:
- The popularity or search volume of a particular term or phrase. (Are enough people searching it to make ranking for it worthwhile?)
- The difficulty of ranking for a term or phrase. (Are websites with a lot of authority already ranking for it?)
- Our blog’s level of authority. (As assessed by search engines – not us.)
- Possible variations of the term and related phrases
If we want to increase our organic traffic, our keyword research findings will have a huge impact on what content ends up going into our blog post and how we write it.
Now, this post won’t be breaking down a solid keyword research strategy from start to finish (but I do hope I can bring that to you one day soon). Instead, we’ll be taking a close look at how Google Trends can enhance and improve our keyword research. And the site has so sooooo many incredible features and tools.
What is Google Trends?
Google Trends is a site operated by our nearest and dearest Google, and it can provide us with free data about popular search queries entered into the search engine. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that it’s been around since 2006 and I had absolutely no idea until 2019! It seems to have been a well-kept secret.
Just to give you an idea, Google Trends is not limited to but can:
- Show us the popularity of a particular query over the course of a year or YEARS. (Query = a Google search entry).
- Compare the popularity of different queries over time against one another.
- Show us what part of the world most of these queries are coming from.
- Suggest related queries.
All we need to do is enter the term or phrase we’re interested in and BOOM! Results! This tool is such a game-changer!
So without further ado, here are 5 simple and actionable strategies for improving your keyword research with Google Trends in 2020.
1. To identify when to publish, promote, and re-promote posts
For the most part, different topics are more popular and searched more frequently during different times of the year. Just as an example, in North America, Google searches for tires are most popular in the late fall (Winter is Coming = Winter Tires). On the other hand, searches for iced coffee explode from early May to late October every year. Publishing and promoting a post when there is more demand for the information increases our chances of getting more eyes on our content, more engagement, more sales, or anything else we may be looking for.
NOTE: I stressed publishing and promoting together because according to studies done by AHREFS, ranking in the top 10 search results for a keyword on Google can take quite a bit of time. For the most part, it could take longer than a year. Publishing a post when a topic is popular might not have much of an impact on our ability to rank quickly, but it may increase the likelihood of social shares! We can also re-promote old content on an annual basis when it’s in demand again too!
Searches for “Santorini” spike in the USA every year from late February to late July. If our audience is based mostly in the States, these months may be a good time to promote or re-promote content on the topic. Read more tips below!
TIP 1: When using Google Trends, the site will automatically search the popularity of a term in a specific country. Even though I’m in Canada, my searches default to the United States. That works for me to start because I’ve checked my analytics and know that at least 20% of my blog readers are based in the USA. After that, I might search the popularity of a term in the UK since approximately 15% of my traffic comes from there. I recommend checking your Google Analytics prior to using Google Trends to see the different countries your readers come from. Then, search accordingly. (You can switch the location of your search in the top right-hand corner of Google Trends’ home page or even test out the popularity of a term worldwide after your initial search).
TIP 2: If the topic or term you have in mind is super specific or is made up of many words, Google Trends may not have as much data to report. If this happens, try generalizing or simplifying the topic or term.
All in all, knowing when different topics are trending can help us develop a content calendar where posts are being published and promoted at the optimal time. As well, data on the popularity of different topics can help us identify what content we may still need to create. For example, if we notice that our traffic is lower in the winter, we can analyze keyphrases from our existing posts on Google Trends. In my case, I quickly realized that I had very few posts on winter vacation destinations.
2. To determine the potential longevity of a topic
One of the most common blogging tips we will probably ever come across is that we need to write “evergreen content”. This means that our posts should cover topics that are currently relevant and will stay relevant.
Now, depending on our niche, it may not be possible to consistently write posts that will be popular during all four seasons of the year. (I’m thinking about travel destinations, food, gardening, etc.). At the same time, topics that are relevant from January through to December tend to be more general. Therefore, the competition to rank from them may be quite tough. So I’m going to tell you not to worry too much about this aspect of “evergreen content.”
What I recommend doing is plugging the keyphrase you have in mind into Google Trends and taking a look at its popularity over the past 5+ years. Ask yourself:
- Is that line in the graph moving up, down, or staying the same? (If we notice that a term has seasonal popularity, are those annual spikes growing over time, shrinking, or staying the same?)
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. If a line is (or spikes are) heading downward, that’s not a good sign. It pretty much means that the term is decreasing in search popularity and it isn’t likely that the particular phrase is going to be evergreen. A line that’s staying the same from year to year over time is definitely more promising, but if that line is growing, then we may have hit the jackpot. (The same goes for seasonal spikes). A rising line suggests that a particular topic is gaining popularity over time. As long as something drastic doesn’t happen in that niche, the search volume for that keyphrase should keep growing. Should that keyphrase also happen to be easy to rank for, then we have found ourselves a great opportunity for getting organic traffic.
Even before social distancing practices were put into effect and the sourdough starter craze began, the topic was steadily growing in popularity over time.
3. To discover similar keyphrases and queries
This one is going to be quick, but it’s a good one. Google Trends also lists alternate topics and queries users search for when looking up the term/keyphrase we are testing. After punching in our search, all we need to do is scroll down to find this info. Google will also tell us which of these related topics and queries are more popular than others and which ones are gaining traction over time.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that Google’s Keyword Planner has been coming up with more general keyword suggestions these days, so Google Trends is a great place to go.
We can see Google Trends’ related topics and related queries for “cheap flights” just above. The results are currently set to display topics and queries that are growing in popularity. Clicking on “rising” and selecting “top” will show us the most popular results over time.
Top related topics/queries for “cheap flights” on Google Trends.
Alternate keyword ideas for “cheap flights” from Google’s Keyword Planner. The top results are a lot more general than the top results on Google Trends.
|READ MORE: 5 simple strategies for improving your writing and on-page SEO|
4. To target your audience more effectively
As touched on earlier, Google Trends gives us the opportunity to see the popularity of a term or phrase over an extended period of time AND its popularity in different locations.
Adjusting our search to “worldwide” will give us the chance to see which countries a particular query is most commonly searched in. Narrowing down our search to specific countries will show us in which provinces, states, regions, etc. the term is most frequently searched in. We can look at both sets of data and ask ourselves:
- Does this match the location(s) of our existing audience/target audience?
- Would a related term be better?
Google Trends results for countries that seem to be the most interested in “sourdough” during the last 5 years.
Google Trends results showing which states in the U.S. seem to have the most interest in “search engine optimization” during the last 5 years.
Once we know which countries and regions a topic is popular in, we can also do a quick Google search for news stories connected to that topic in the area. Are there any current issues or trends that our post could build off of? (I would also look into the longevity of the issue or trend).
Google Trends really enables us to do keyword research on a whole different level of thorough. In turn, this allows us to create posts that can be infinitely more relatable and relevant!
5. To compare the popularity of similar topics and keyphrases
Depending on how you look at it, I may have saved the best for last. After completing our first search, Google Trends allows us to throw an additional term into the mix by clicking on “+ add comparison.” Then, we get to compare the popularity of different terms over time against one another. This can give us insight into which phrasing of a topic could potentially bring us the most traffic. So far, I’ve managed to compare over 5 terms at once!
(One of the main pieces of data that won’t show up when searching multiple terms is the list of related queries. If we want access to that, we just need to look up the terms individually.)
Google Trends results comparing the popularity of “interrail” vs. “eurail” in the United States. If we’re writing a post about train travel in Europe for an American audience, using “eurail” over “interrail” is a better choice. (If you’re curious as to exactly why, feel free to give me a shout!)
When it comes to keyword research, there’s no denying that Google Trends can give us incredibly useful data for free. Now, I wouldn’t recommend using the site as your only source of keyword research as it doesn’t analyze the difficulty of ranking for specific keyphrases. However, Google Trends will definitely make the keyword research process easier and more effective!
Have you used Google Trends? Do you have any additional tips or success stories? Let’s connect!