Conducting market research on customers and potential customers can range from difficult to nearly impossible depending on your business’s budget and resources. After all, focus groups, keyword tools, surveys, and customer interviews can be time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, Google has made affordable and readily-available research a reality with Google Trends.
Google Trends is a free tool developed by Google in 2008. Using Google search engine data from 2004 to the present, it’s used for market insights and analysis. To use it, you type in a keyword or phrase and then Google will show you how popular or “trending” that phrase is, where it’s most popular, when it was or is most popular, and other relevant phrases related to that topic, all based on search volume data.
Search volume data is more than just a number. It’s a numerical way of determining attitudinal behavior related to a topic, or more specifically, your business. After all, search isn’t just an engine; it’s a behavior that can tell you what customers want. Here are five ways you can start utilizing Google Trends to improve your business.
On the homepage of the Google Trends website there are lists of recently trending search phrases. The functionality allows you to dive deep into each trending phrase to discover what people are searching for and any news media surrounding that topic. This provides instant insight into what’s sparking interest in the public’s mind regarding that subject, which can be highly beneficial for small businesses who don’t have access to custom polling and ongoing marketing research.
For example, you may see a large coffee chain is trending and quickly determine it’s because they have announced they are no longer serving a customer-favorite item on the menu and people are upset. If you own a coffee shop, restaurant, or café, this could be a great opportunity to begin offering a similar product yourself.
Staying updated on relevant, trending topics is crucial to successful marketing. A popular topic can spur a successful blog post, tweet, or new product or service offering. Or, on the other hand, it can prevent a misstep and save you valuable time, money, and face. Knowing what people are talking about and why they care is key to understanding your market.
Google Trends doesn’t just tell you what is trending, it also shows you during what period of time it is most popular. You can see data from any time range, whether it’s the past hour, the last 90 days, or over the past five years. If you have a specific amount of time in mind, you can create your own custom time range.
Understanding when people are searching for your business, products, or services can help determine when to run marketing campaigns and when to offer particular products. For example, below you can see that over the past five years, heavy search interest for the Pumpkin Spice Latte starts to trend around mid-August and end around mid-November. Considering this is a fall seasonal item, this makes sense.
But you may find your products and services also have a recurring popular timeframe. If you own an auto shop, you may find there are more searches for defrosting spray in December and more interest in windshield wiper replacement in April. Knowing and capitalizing on these customer needs can make the difference in both brand awareness and revenue.
Not only can you see when your products and services are trending, but also where they are most popular. For some products, this is more obvious. For example, as seen below, it’s no surprise that the phrase “winter coat” has more popularity in northern states.
However, especially if you sell products online, you may learn that you have a market in another state or country that you were not aware of. Or, if you’re a retail-only store looking to open another location, this tool could be extremely helpful for determining which geographical areas are most interested in your services. Alternatively, it can spur competitive research into where your competition is currently succeeding and where there may be room for you to garner market share.
With this new knowledge, you can create strategic geographic marketing campaigns. Whether that means running a localized paid search campaign in an area interested in your services or tailoring your products and services to interests in that location, there are several opportunities to capitalize on geographical interest.
It can be difficult to measure brand awareness and attitude as a small business. You can get customer feedback and measure Facebook followers, but how much does that really tell you about your business within its industry landscape? By using Google Trends, you can get valuable data on your business’s popularity against other competitors in just a few clicks.
Google Trends has a “compare” functionality where you can compare two different search queries. This makes it easy to directly compare your business’s name against a competitor’s. Then, the tool will show you how “trending” you are versus your competitors in search volume, location, and seasonal popularity. If you’ve ever wondered who the top players are, type in your industry like “coffee shop” or “hair salon” into the tool and you’ll see the most popular, relevant search queries. This is also an exceptional way to learn who is doing what well, and emulate similar strategies.
To begin understanding how people feel about your business, try typing in your business name and see what relevant search queries populate below. Using a coffee shop as an example, if you see positive terms like “best coffee” or buzz around new products like “caramel mocha”, you can assume people have positive associations with your brand. However, if you see “bug problem” as one of the related queries, you know where you have room for improvement.
One of the best ways to utilize Google Trends is ideation for content creation. With the latest stories, recently trending, and related queries functionalities, it’s easy to know what information people are already seeking out. Creating content around relevant, timely topics is an easy way to increase engagement for both current and potential audiences. When you see a trending topic relevant to your business, capitalize on that interest with blog posts, marketing emails, and on your social media. After all, Google Trends is already doing the majority of research for you.
While market research and data analysis can be expensive and time-consuming, Google Trends is free and easy-to-use. Learning how to use the basics to inform everything from marketing strategy to new storefront locations can make the difference in engagement and revenue.