How you can use a free Google tool to read the mind of your customer

Google Trends lets businesses analyse search data and work out who’s interested in what, when.

By Aisling Blake Managing Director, Radical

WITH AN IMPRESSIVE 95% market share in Ireland, it’s more than likely your customer is using Google on a regular basis – but are you?

As a small business, Google’s search data is a powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who spent years parsing through the information, concluded it was: “The most important data set ever collected on the human psyche.”

He’s not wrong. And while plenty of people lie when filling out surveys or market research – they tend to tell Google the truth. The little white search box acts as a window into the mind of the consumer.

Here’s how your business can tap into it:

Step inside the mind of your consumer

Google Trends is a sample set of Google search data that is anonymised, categorised and aggregated. Think of it as all the things we type into Google, presented in a digestible form.

The tool is free to use and is a goldmine of data. It’s worth noting that the data is indexed to 100, where 100 is the maximum search interest for the settings selected.

The data can be a powerful lens into a consumer’s mindset and gives businesses insight into trending search queries.

For example, would you like to know where your brand sits in relation to your competitors? Or when there are spikes in search queries for your product or service? Google Trends can help.

For example, if you wanted to do a competitor analysis you’d simply input your brand’s name alongside competitors and analyse the graphs.

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Tip: If your market is based in Ireland, then make sure you set the location to Ireland only for the most accurate results.

Spot seasonal trends

Would you like to know what time of the year people are most likely to buy your product or service? Google Trends has you covered. Just pop your keywords in and it will spit out a graph showing the search peaks and troughs for those terms.

Using Google Trends this way can help you spot potential times for extended opening hours, create seasonal promotions and get a jump on your competition.

For instance, in the below example searches for pizza spike between 25 and 30 December. If you’re in the business of selling pizza, this could help your business decisions over the Christmas period.

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Tip: Set up a Google Adwords account and use the keyword planner tool to find keyword volumes around a particular keyword. This will give your business an indication of the size of the market.

Discover content ideas

Scratching your head trying to figure out the topic of your next company blog post? The Google Trends tool can help you plan content for your website and social media channels that people are genuinely searching for.

Playing around with the tool can reveal some interesting content topics. One easy way to unearth new ideas is by typing “how to” into the search box and then looking in the “related queries” section.

Check if any of the queries align with your brand. If they do, could you create content to answer some of these queries?

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High search trends aren't always a good thing

It is important to remember that high search trends or spikes in search trends aren’t always a good thing. For example, take a look at the graph below for Volkswagen over the past five years.

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You might notice a spike in search trends around 20 September, 2015. This spike was caused by the emissions scandal which drove a huge amount of search interest.

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Be mindful of any pronounced spikes when reviewing the data and cross check the dates to make sure what you’re viewing hasn’t been caused by something like a trending news story.

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Tip: The Google 'news' filter, which sits right beside the image search, is a simple way to discover if peaks are related to topical news stories.

Use it to get useful insights around the macro-environment

Another useful way you can use the Google Trends is to take the pulse of what’s happening in different countries.

For example, if you were a tourism business and trying to get an idea of whether tourism interest from the US is increasing or decreasing you can quickly find out using the tool.

Just change your location settings to 'USA' and use the search query “flights to Ireland”. This will give you a good indication of the trend.

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With some further digging, we can see that the spike in searches from the US around “flights to Ireland” also correlates with a 23% increase in tourism numbers from the United States this year.

Time to put it to work

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using Google Trends. It’s an incredibly useful and fun tool that help can help validate your business decisions and discover upcoming trends for your product or service. Happy trending!

Aisling Blake is managing director of ad agency Radical.

If you want to share your opinion, advice or story, email opinion@fora.ie.