6 Ways to use Google Trends for Your Business image Google trends logoI recently started playing around with a fairly new tool from Google that opens up quite a few possibilities from a business perspective for both small businesses and nonprofits. Google Trends has officially been around since late last year, but they’ve added some nice features along the way.

In short, Google Trends allows you to search for any word, term, or phrase, to see how it stacks up in terms of search volume on the web, both in relation to its own history, and to other terms. The key is to understand that you are not seeing how many individuals have searched for the particular term, but instead a graph of the popularity of the search term over time.

Once I started messing around with Google Trends, I found it hard to stop. It was quite addictive, plugging in media terms, random terms, names of businesses and friends, and the like, and then comparing them to one another. It’s quite cool.

So here are six ways you can use Google Trends:

1. Keyword Research – One of the most important aspects of SEO and the entire search process is the keyword. Keywords are what your customers are using to find you online via search engines. With Google Trends you can see how popular various keywords are, along with suggestions for similar keywords. You can use this information as you optimize your online properties and create SEO friendly content for your blog. Tip: Don’t use this alone. Use your results here in tandem with the keyword tools you can find elsewhere, including in your Google analytics and Webmaster Tools.

2. Brand and Industry Monitoring – While it may not work for every business due to low volume of searches, this is a great way to see if folks are searching for you or your competitors. You can also search for terms related to your industry to see what people are talking about. Here’s a comparison between Coke (blue) and Pepsi (red):

6 Ways to use Google Trends for Your Business image coke pepsi

3. Sentiment analysis – This one is a bit trickier, but we need to remember that a high search volume doesn’t always mean good things. Sometimes a high search volume might be related to negative news. For instance, this chart for Tiger Woods has a huge spike at the end of 2009. The height of his popularity? Not exactly. That’s the time stories about his numerous affairs were hitting the news.

6 Ways to use Google Trends for Your Business image Tiger Woods chart1

Google helps out by attaching letters to the graph that you can hover over to see what news story was happening at any given moment that might be related to a particular spike.

4. Trend research – If you know what to look for, you can search to see what is trending, both in general and specific to your industry. You can see if there is a lot of buzz surrounding any particular trend that might help you in your marketing. For instance, if you’re looking to jump on the latest viral video trend, this comparison of the Harlem Shake (red) with Gangnam Style (blue) might give you some hints.

6 Ways to use Google Trends for Your Business image harlem shake

Also, as you search for things over time, you’ll see seasonal trends. Obvious results here, but this chart shows the seasonal ebb and flow (and comparative popularity) between baseball (blue) and football (red), of course factoring in that some (or many) of those searches for football will be weighted with searches for college football, or even soccer. Comparing MLB to NFL will yield slightly different results. This is a great way to do historical research on trends, as well.

6 Ways to use Google Trends for Your Business image baseball football

5. Content Ideas – As you search, you might find various trends or related terms that trigger ideas in your mind for content ideas, either for blogging, or for platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Remember, unique, relevant content is perhaps the best form of SEO. I’ve gotten a few ideas while playing around, but you’ll just have to wait for those…

6. Just plain fun – I admit it, I got sucked in. You can spend a lot of time just playing around with different searches and seeing if you can identify certain patterns. You can actually make a game out of it. Since it’s the start of baseball season, here’s a view of the Braves (blue) vs. the Phillies (red) over time. See if you can pick out the year that the Phillies won the World Series.

6 Ways to use Google Trends for Your Business image phillies braves

Go ahead. Pick any two or three terms of your choosing and see what you find. See if you find any interesting and fun trends.

While the chart defaults to showing you 2004 to the present, you can narrow that down to pretty much any date range to get a picture of what you’re looking for. Plus there are lots of other tools and settings to further refine your searches. You can also check out hot trends/searches, as well as isolate by region of the world, type of search, and categories of search, as well as see rising trends. Lots of possibilities!

So try it out, and have some fun. How have you used Google Trends? What other possibilities do you see?

This article originally appeared on Inkling Media and has been republished with permission.

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