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The data we often have access to via either internal reporting tools or web analytics tools such as Google Analytics is great, but those tools never highlight where the opportunities lie. Instead they simply report on what is currently happening or what has happened in the past, which is extremely important, but it isn’t going to help show you a path to further growth.

There are high end tools available on the market which highlight trends and opportunities within your industry although these are often out of reach for most companies due to the price. Thankfully, there is another way to identify annual search trends within your market with a bit of research.

The two main methods of researching how people are searching online for your products and services throughout the year include Google Trends and the new Google Keyword Planner tool which is starting to roll out and replace the old Keyword Tool.

 

Gathering Annual Search Trends from Google Trends

Google already provides trending data through Google Trends which allows you to see how different keywords are being searched for throughout the year. Google Trends is an ideal tool for a quick snapshot to see how people are searching, although it doesn’t really provide great insights when you want to dig a little deeper and use this data for planning.

The main limitations with Google Trends is that all of the data is indexed against each other between 0 and 100. What this means is that if you are looking at a single keyword such as “Halloween” then you can see that this keyword increases in popularity up until the end of October when people stop searching for Halloween related items.

 

Halloween annual search trends on Google.co.uk

Halloween annual search trends on Google.co.uk

 

No surprise there then, this follows what you would expect to see as a popular date in the calendar approaches. The same trend can be seen when searching for “Easter” and “Christmas”, the difference being that when you are comparing these against each other the data shows which keyword is the most popular;

 

Annual search trends on Google.co.uk for Easter, Halloween and Christmas

Annual search trends on Google.co.uk for Easter, Halloween and Christmas

 

Again, no real surprise about when those keywords are searched for. As mentioned previously, all of the data on the graph is indexed against each other from 0 to 100, so “Christmas” in this instance is more popular and is useful to see like this, but the data doesn’t say how many people are searching for the specific keyword.

Google Trends is also indexed as a whole against the total number of people searching on Google. What this means is that if more people are searching on Google, and the same amount of people are searching for your brand online then this would result in an apparent decrease in searches on Google for your brand – when in reality this is not the case.

Below is a graph to illustrate how your branded searches are increasing over time;

 

Actual branded searches over time

Actual branded searches over time

 

Below shows a graph to illustrate how the total number of searches on Google has increased over time;

 

Total searches on Google.co.uk over time

Total searches on Google.co.uk over time

 

As you can see there is an increase in both of these pieces of data. What this means for Google Trends reporting is that since more people are searching online then the increased branded searches is indexed against the growth in overall searches. So the data is benchmarked against the total number of searches to show how the keyword has performed either ahead or below the market as a whole. What this means is that the increase may not be as much as reality when looking at the data through Google trends which can be quite misleading;

 

How Google Trends would display branded searches over time

How Google Trends would display branded searches over time

 

As I say, the tool is great for quick snapshots of data, but it is always worth understanding how the tool works before using this data in your decisions. As with all data, there are discrepancies and things to bear in mind.

With this in mind, the next tool to look at gathering some more accurate data is from the newly updated Google Keyword Tool, the Google Keyword Planner tool which gives you more accurate numbers in terms of how many people are searching for specific keywords opposed to just trending data that is indexed against the total number of searches on Google.

 

Gathering Awesome Annual Search Trends Data through the Google Keyword Planner Tool

Recently Google announced they are launching a new Keyword Planner tool and one of the more interesting updates as part of this is that the tool will now allow you to download trending data for your keywords over the past 12 months. This is something that was previously restricted to accessing via their AdWords API, so this change now makes this data accessible to everyone without having to need to pay for access through the API.

So let’s dig into some of this data starting off with the obvious ones again as outlined earlier, “Easter”, “Halloween” and “Christmas”;

 

Annual search trends on Google.co.uk for Easter, Halloween and Christmas

Annual search trends on Google.co.uk for Easter, Halloween and Christmas

 

As you can see above, this data is more interesting and insightful than the Google Trends data above since it clearly shows how many people are searching for the different keywords each month. Knowing the amount of people searching, opposed to their relative popularity, can help build a picture of which keywords are more popular and by how much in terms of real people searching.

You may also note that this data for “Halloween” and “Christmas” both have high searches in the relevant months, which differs from the data from Google Trends graph isn’t shown earlier. This discrepancy is due to the indexing that happens on Google Trends as explained earlier.

As always, the data is never 100% accurate although it is far more accurate than the Google Trends data.

 

Insights into Product Search Trends

Ok so the examples given so far are nice to highlight the type of data that is accessible for viewing annual search trends using different tools, but what about more commercially focused keywords. Well from here on we are going to look at the Google Keyword Planner data since this is far more insightful and we are going to look at a few different industries to see how these differ.

 

Budget Travel

Below is a graph for three keywords related to budget travel, which shows how the searches for the different destinations differ throughout the year and where they lie in terms of actual numbers of people searching;

 

Budget travel annual search trends on Google.co.uk

Budget travel annual search trends on Google.co.uk

 

What is interesting when looking at this data is that you can easily plan your marketing activities around these times. The above data suggests the most popular time people are searching for “Cheap Tenerife Holidays” is in January, whereas there are more people searching for “Cheap Ibiza Holidays” in the summer months.

The question is, does this tie up with what traffic your website is getting for these keywords throughout the year? And most importantly, if not, then what additional activities can be done to capture some of these searches.

 

Luxury Travel

Below is a graph for three keywords related to luxury travel, which shows how the searches for the different destinations differ throughout the year and where they lie in terms of actual numbers of people searching;

 

Luxury travel annual search trends on Google.co.uk

Luxury travel annual search trends on Google.co.uk

 

Again this highlights some interesting data that people are searching more luxury destinations in January to March along with a spike for St Lucia around September and October time.

 

Gadgets

Moving over to the technology and gadgets area, it is interesting to see how people are searching for these types of keywords throughout the year. One item to note here is that the annual search trends are based on the previous 12 months of data that Google makes accessible, so as you can see the spike in September for “iPhone” related queries, this was due to the launch event in September for the new iPhone 5.

 

Gadgets annual search trends on Google.co.uk

Gadgets annual search trends on Google.co.uk

 

Branded Queries

Now taking this annual search trends one step further, how about taking a look at what your competitors were doing last year. By understanding previous trends this will help you plan marketing campaigns around your competitors (preferably before they run theirs). Go and take a look at the new Keyword Planner tool from Google to see how your competitors are being searched for online throughout the year, I’m sure you will find some interesting data.

Having this data allows your business to move from a reactive approach to competitors and annual market trends to a proactive approach where you can plan key activities throughout the year to capture the maximum amount of traffic possible.

 

Spotting Opportunities & Gaps

The next steps is to compare the market trends to see how well your actual traffic lines up with this. If there is a large discrepancy then you could be missing out on huge amounts of people searching throughout the year. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help to plan your organic search campaigns throughout the year to maximise the number of people searching for your products and services online.

The new tool can take a while to get used to since some of the functionality has been moved around within the interface, but it is quick enough to pick up. Once you know how to use the tool the data that is present is awesome. As you can tell, I am a bit of a data geek so I love sifting through data like this to find the nuggets of information and how they can then be used to feed into marketing campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation work.

 

Notes

All of the historical data within the Keyword Planner tool from Google is for Exact Match data. This blog post helps you to understand the match types within Google.

 

Sources

https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/3141229

http://adwords.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/introducing-keyword-planner-combining.html

 

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.