- Google Trends reveals where your audience is and how they search.
- Use Google Trends data to forecast traffic and revenue goals and strategically allocate budget between paid and organic.
- Leverage Google Trends to spot emerging content ideas and secure a foothold before your competitors catch on.
- Track mentions of your brand AND your competition with Google Trends.
- Use Google Trends to add color and depth to keyword research.
Let’s say you’re a national beauty retailer. You’ve just started carrying a new line of organic skincare products and are deciding where to focus your marketing efforts. When you think “organic skincare,” you might assume the majority of your audience lives in the Northeast or West Coast. And for the most part, that assumption would be right.
But in SEO, we don’t base marketing decisions on assumptions, do we? We use data.
So, to figure out who is actually searching for organic skincare and where they live, you hop into Google Trends.
And you realize if you had based your marketing decisions on assumption alone, you might have missed a large part of your audience. In Idaho, no less.
Google Trends is a powerful tool that provides long- and short-term insight into how people are using the world’s most popular search engine. Since what people are searching for opens a telling window into what people are thinking about, the tool can be harnessed within fields ranging from sociology to finance. And while we love all the creative uses people are finding for the tool, we think it’s a perfect fit for ecommerce SEO.
Here are 14 ways ecommerce companies can leverage Google Trends to make keyword and content decisions that bring in increased organic traffic.
BIG-PICTURE BUSINESS PLANNING
1. Map out more accurate revenue and traffic goals
During annual planning, many companies set their quarterly revenue goals for the upcoming year. Teams sometimes woefully miss their mark one quarter only to knock the ball so far out of the park that you can’t even see it the next. This happens when goals are either averaged out across the four quarters or are created before you have an accurate read on seasonal shopping behavior.
Prior to setting revenue and traffic goals, use Google Trends to chart the seasonal movement of the top products you sell. This strategy is a better fit for ecommerce companies with a tighter focus like DSW, which can consider boots its top revenue-producing product without needing to add a whole catalog of search terms. (That said, the more search terms you add, the more you can validate what the data is telling you).
For stores like Macy’s, which sells a huge variety of rotating apparel, or Target, with an even larger breadth of products, it’s hard using Google Trends to get a seasonal read on revenue at a high level. But you can still hack the tool by using the queries that only an active shopper at your store would make. Watch what happens when we try the keyword “Target deals:”
Now we can see a huge spike in Black Friday shopping and a small spike on July 14. We can also adjust our timeline to make sure the information we saw in the past year wasn’t just a fluke. Here are the past 5 years:
Since we’re looking at a consistent heartbeat pattern year after year, we can adjust our revenue and SEO traffic goals to reflect the peaks and valleys.
2. Discover trending products
You can also use the tool at a high level to help your company discover new trends to tap into with your SEO efforts. For example, Whole Foods may want to track the progress of searches for kombucha over time and note that the trend hasn’t peaked yet.
Scroll down to Related Queries beneath the chart and you’ll notice the emergence of one query in particular.
Scoby is the live culture that makes tea turn into kombucha (it’s the “starter”). A quick Google search reveals that people can either make their own scoby or purchase it online. But you can’t purchase it from Whole Foods. Given the increasing interest in DIY kombucha (see also: “kombucha recipe”), Whole Foods might want to add scoby or a DIY kombucha kit to their product line and start creating content around kombucha-making to capitalize on this trend for an organic traffic boost.
GOOGLE TRENDS AND YOUR CALENDAR
3. Content calendar inspiration
The seasonality of product searches underscores a fairly obvious point: people have different needs during different times of the year. They need to research different pain points, explore different solutions, try different how-tos and plan their approach to different events and holidays. And they experience different feelings and motivations.
Search Google Trends for the topics you commonly cover to determine when to focus your content around those topics to get the most SEO value. One strategy you may want to employ is to produce evergreen pages, but update the content prior to every new seasonal spike – this ensures that your page continues to strengthen its SEO equity while also making sure that site visitors get up-to-date, timely content.
You can also search for trends related to events and holidays to find inspiration for additional content. Use different queries and keywords in conjunction with the holiday to discover topic ideas. For example:
RESEARCH AND MONITORING
4. Track mentions of your brand
Use Google Trends to track brand awareness and monitor the overall health of your company by exploring branded searches over time. You can also monitor your CEO, specific products (“iPhone”) and any reputation issues you want to stay on top of (“Apple product recall”). Because reputation management relies so heavily on good SEO, being aware of any negative mentions will allow you to tackle or mitigate reputation management issues.
And if your company is called Apple, you’ll also want to use the Categories toggle as you search for your brand:
See how we switched the query to Computers & Electronics? This helps us avoid mixing up our data with searches related to the fruit. Use the Categories feature whenever there are multiple semantic uses for your keyword. And if there aren’t, it’s still a good idea to compare the two views.
One additional reason for tracking your brand mentions is to understand the cities and regions where your brand awareness is strong.
If you find an important city where your brand awareness is weaker, for example, you may want to supplement that city with some Google Ads until your brand is achieving sufficient branded organic search traction.
5. Track mentions of your competition
Monitor mentions of your competitors to stay ahead of the curve or catch trending newcomers as they emerge. This will help you be proactive in adjusting your SEO strategy to keep up with your ever-changing industry landscape. Competitor research is also a good time to make use of the “Compare” tool.
6. Local market research
If your store has local brick-and-mortars, use the location toggle on the far left to track the performance of products, topics or content ideas in your different locations and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. For example, sweaters would have different popularity levels and seasonality peaks in Maine and Florida.
You can also watch cultural differences emerge across locations, leading to better content as you target each local audience. If you’re a fashion retailer writing a post called “Fashion Inspiration from Your Favorite Celebrities,” you may want to tailor your celebrities to the audience.
This information helps with local merchandising too, especially as it relates to sports teams, favorite hangouts and other local “in” culture.
7. Discover related topics and queries
Use Google Trends as you build or expand your list of seed keywords to discover additional seed queries. Say you’re Nordstrom and you’re performing keyword research for your Cardigans page. A look at the related topics and queries shows keywords like “soft cardigans” or “colorful cardigans” may be valuable. And if you sell Merino cardigans, that might also be a good thing to highlight.
It looks like we’re pulling up some unrelated searches here, which is a sign that we need to adjust our Category toggle to Shopping to see if we get different results. In this case we do:
It’s always a good idea to try different views and timelines for your priority keywords.
8. Discover long-tail keywords
With our cardigans query, the related searches turn up long-tail keywords like “black and white cardigans.” A keyword like this wouldn’t be great for an ecommerce category page. But it’s excellent for a product page. You could also let the keyword inspire a blog post like “10 Black and White Looks We Love.” The same rule applies with “lightweight summer cardigans.” The Marie Kondo search should also get your content ideas churning (“Fashion Inspiration from Marie Kondo”).
9. Validate your keyword research data
Different keyword research tools generate and display their keyword research data in different ways. For example, some tools calculate their 30-day search volume by averaging out the annual volume over 12 months. Others use data from the past 30 days.
If your tool uses real-time data, when you perform your keyword research sometimes affects your final keyword decisions. Cross-reference your data with Google Trends to make sure a seasonal spike didn’t inflate or deflate the importance of certain keywords.
10. Compare keywords
Torn between two different keywords? Your keyword research data and the SERP should be your first point of reference, but Google Trends makes for a handy tie-breaker. Compare your keywords to see if one is trending upward. An upward trend can trump search volume as you select your primary (long-term) keywords.
11. Optimize for vertical search engines
The toggle on the far right is set to Web Search by default. But you can also set it to Image Search, News Search, Google Shopping and YouTube. If you’re optimizing for any of those vertical search engines (most likely YouTube), you can use many of these same strategies to discover content and keywords for the vertical search engine.
12. Write about current trends
On the home page of Google Trends, pay attention to the recently trending searches.
As important as it is to map out your content marketing ideas ahead of time, you should leave room in your strategy for timely, trend-oriented content. Newsjack relevant trending items by putting your brand’s spin on it. Respond to news events, provide tips or have fun with a popular meme to take advantage of spikes in traffic for an SEO boost.
In the screenshot above, we can see searches related to an upcoming Raiders game, the Europa League soccer tournament and the Cricket World Cup (we’re toggled to the United States, we swear). For most brands, sports make for fun and neutral newsjacking material. Just make sure to target your Raiders shout-out to Oakland, not New York.
Checking in on trending news daily can also help you plan next year’s content calendar as you gain granular insight into seasonal search. For example, if you’re a large fashion retailer then the Cricket World Cup would be a fun and quirky way to frame a blog post about men’s fashion and take advantage of the SEO traffic surrounding the event. But we’re pretty sure you didn’t remember the Cricket World Cup when you made this year’s content calendar, so next year it is.
13. Add depth to your customer personas
Let’s look back at our organic skincare example. If all of your customer personas represent the tastes and needs of the Northeast and West Coast but “organic skincare” is used most heavily in Idaho – and the South doesn’t fall too far behind – you may want to learn more about the other people seeking organic skincare so you can refine your SEO strategy.
Related searches can also add insight.
Here we can see that people who search for organic skincare also search for chemicals, presumably to find out which common chemical ingredients are safe to consume or put on their skin. And an interest in CBD oil might signal curiosity about or openness to alternative treatment approaches.
Now you can adjust your SEO and content strategies to target who your audience actually is – not just who you think it is.
14. Have fun
The best way to use Google Trends to its full potential is to just experiment. Test different keywords, topics and comparisons. Use different timelines, categories and geographic settings. Keep an eye on trending searches. Get curious. The more you explore, the more you’ll unearth important keyword information. Leverage that information to make sure that no matter what your audience thinks about, your website is there with a response.