How can you use Google Trends for Market Research?

Conducting market research can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. If you own a small business, you may not have the resources for focus groups, keyword tools, observation, surveys, and customer interviews. What if I said you could employ the help of the world’s biggest search engine to conduct market research for you and you could do it for free? With Google Trends, you can! Google Trends is a tool developed by Google that allows you to search the popularity of topics and terms within a given timeframe and location. Google Search is indisputably the king of search engines with over 1 trillion searches per year, which means you will be tapping into a wealth of data when you use this tool. As a savvy business owner, you can utilize the data to form business decisions. Whether you are planning when to launch your next marketing campaign, contemplating entering into a new industry or foreign market, or simply keeping an eye on your competition, Google Trends can be an ally. Let’s take a look at Google Trends’ data collection methods and then discuss 6 ways you can use that data to help your business become more successful.

How does Google Trends work?

As stated above, Google Trends’ aim is to allow users to view the popularity of a term over time or search currently trending topics. On the Google Trends’ homepage you have three main options. You can search the popularity of a specific term, phrase, or person, view daily trending searches and real-time trending searches or explore a year of trending searches. Google explains that daily search trends are topics that have seen a significant increase in traffic over the past 24 hours. Under this section you can see the exact query and absolute number of searches. Daily searches are updated by the hour. Real-time trending searches are recently searched topics that have jumped in traffic and are updated in real-time. Here you do not see the number of searches or the exact search that was made. Google uses an algorithm that collects data from YouTube, Google News, Google Search, and Knowledge Graph in order to deem what is “trending”. You can filter the searches by category allowing you to focus on trending searches for “entertainment” or “sports”, for example.  If you click on the trending searches, Google provides you current news articles about the term, phrase, or person. Google states that Google Trends data is unbiased and consists of only a percentage of searches. Google also explains there are three types of data that are not found in Google Trends: terms with very low search volumes, searches made by the same user in a short time-span, and searches using special characters. Now that you understand more about the data, let’s look at six ways you can use Google Trends to your business’s advantage.

  1. Get a jump on the competition by understanding seasonal trends

Google Trends is a great tool to help you analyze seasonal trends. Understanding the cyclical popularity of an item or service is important for planning what time of year you launch marketing campaigns as well as when to offer special promotions or sales. Certain products and services you sell may gain popularity around Christmas time or Valentine’s day or maybe in the beginning of the summer but customers and potential customers begin to search for those products and services months in advance. You may even be surprised to learn some of your products and services gain popularity at specific times of the year. Analyzing these cycles can help you stay ahead of your competition by meeting consumer needs early.

2. Stay relevant

As a small business, it will be imperative to create engaging content frequently in order to stay relevant. Actively keeping an eye on Google Trends’ recently trending feature is an easy way to find content. As we have seen, Google Trends allows you to view trending terms and topics from the past 24 hours or in real-time. With this information, you will have a feel for what the public is thinking and talking about at any given time. By writing and posting articles about the topics people find important, you will draw traffic to your social media accounts, company website, and blog. The trending topics feature is already linked to articles and videos, making your job even easier. If you’re just starting your business and you haven’t yet made a name for yourself, content creation will insert you into public discussion and with Google Trends, minimal resources are needed.

3.  Avoid investing in fads

Are you thinking of venturing into a new product or service? Google Trends allows you to search for the popularity of a term or topic over time to gauge if it is a worthwhile business move. You can set the time-frame of your search for the past hour, past 90 days, past five years, 2004-present, or you can create a customized timeframe. You will want to look for a product or service that has had a steady incline over time. This is a good indicator of a product or service that is still relevant. On the other hand, if there are peaks and valleys, but overall a steady declining slope, this product or service may be just a fad. Plot points on the graph have been given a value from 0 to 100. A value of 100 represents the time when the product or service was most popular. All of the other values are relative to that point. If you scroll down, underneath the graph you can see a list of related search terms. This means that when a person searches for the term you are analyzing, they also searched for these other terms. Viewing the popularity of related searches can give you a better idea of the industry you want to break into. If there is low interest in terms related to your potential product or service, demand is probably low.

4. Conquer local markets and expand abroad

Sometimes it is obvious where products and services will be most popular. Snow boots will be a more popular search term in cold weather climates than warm weather climates but in most other cases, it is hard to imagine if your product/service will be a hit or miss in a specific geographic location. Luckily, Google Trends allows you to filter searches by location. Maybe you own a company that sells fair trade clothing and you are doing well enough locally that now you want to focus on markets abroad. Before you invest money in a marketing campaign and hiring professional translators to translate your website to German, you will want to know what the Germans think about your fair trade clothing. Is there a demand? Google Trends will even tell you in which regions of Germany the demand is highest. Analyzing data of search trends in foreign countries that don’t speak your language can be difficult. If you search the term “fair trade clothing” in English then your results will reflect locations where English is used most frequently. Even if Germans feel very positively about fair trade clothing, Germany won’t rank highly unless Germans are typing their queries in English. If you want to cross language boundaries you need to use the “topic” option on Google Trends. This allows you find results of related words, alternative spellings, and translations of your term under one umbrella. The downside to this is that Google doesn’t allow you to examine the various terms that are compiled to make up a topic grouping. Google, after all is not human, and may focus on one word of your query, resulting in the inclusion of data that is not relevant to your search.

5. Search yourself

Curious about your brand awareness? Try searching for your company on Google Trends to see how you are faring (this will only work if enough data exists). Google Trends allows you to compare the popularity of your brand with your competitors, displaying the results in one graph that you are able to download, print, or share. If your business is not popular enough to appear on Google Trends, you can search a generic term for the products and services you offer to get an idea of who the top players are in your industry. You can take note of what they are doing well and from where people are searching for them.

6. Categorize competently

If you sell products on online platforms like eBay or Amazon, you know how important it is to correctly categorize your merchandise. Sometimes multiple categories are appropriate for your products, but Google Trends can help you select the one which will yield the highest number of searches. Again, using the compare feature, you can see the popularity of the category terms you’ve been considering. You can also test keywords in this way. Finding highly-searched keywords for your products and services will attract more  traffic to your social media accounts and business website. Google Trends is a wonderful source of data waiting to be used by any business owner who is smart enough to take advantage of it!