Google Trends is a great tool for keyword research. It shows overall search volume for terms over time and space. You can type in one or more keywords you’re considering (separate them with commas) and see their comparative popularity.
In the example below, we’re checking four possible keywords for a sports medicine clinic: “sports physicals,” “sports medicine clinic,” “sports medicine doctor,” and “sports doctor” We see that “sports doctor” is by far the most popular — most of the time. Every August, “sports physicals” spikes far above any of the other options. “Sports medicine clinic” and “sports medicine doctor” have very similar levels of search volume.
Which of these choices would be a better option for our website’s primary keyword? We probably want to go with “sports doctor,” and we certainly want to include “sports physicals” in our summer content.
We can see the geographic differences at Google Trends, too. We see that “sports medicine clinic” is more popular in Washington and that “sports medicine doctor” is more popular in a number of other states. Our client has more in common with the yellow states, so we will rank “sports medicine doctor” as higher priority than “sports medicine clinic.”
For each term, you can see greater detail, including the top variations and the areas in which the term is most popular. With this information, we can see a good subset of keywords related to “sports physicals.” This gives us several variations of the keyword to work on.
In addition to the top terms, we can also see those that are currently on the rise. We see that “sports medicine doctor near me” is a breakout term for two of the keywords we’re considering. Google trends also gives us several more variations that make sense for the website we’re working on.
When we use Google Trends, we often discover that the keywords clients think will be their best options actually aren’t. In the example below, “frozen fruit bars” is an obvious keyword for a company that makes frozen fruit bars, but search volume is increasing for that term only slightly over time. “Gluten free snacks,” on the other hand, is zooming. People looking for gluten free snacks might not think to search for frozen fruit bars, but they’d probably be happy to get that suggestion — and optimizing a page at the website of the frozen fruit bar company for that term would increase their chances.
You can specify web search in general or specialized searches such as those for images, YouTube videos, or news. You can choose a region or narrow your search to specific years and categories.
We often use the Breakout searches as inspiration for blog posts. Breakout searches are those that are rising quickly. We like to catch the wave on these. For example, within searches related to “camping,” we see that “campgrounds near me” is a breakout term. Searches for information about camping peak in June, so this is the perfect time for us to do a post about local campgrounds for our outdoor gear clients.
Breakout terms can be deceiving, though, and may not give a useful direction for the long term. We have tried to find popular alternative keywords for “manufacturing,” for example, with no good results. Checking the related breakout terms gives us results about Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, which is really of no use for our manufacturing clients.
While data from your website can be the best data for keyword selection, Google Trends can give you excellent information about keywords you might not have considered. It can also give you much broader keyword information than other tools.