Are you maximizing the Free and Open On demand research tools from Google?

Most Enterprise corporations have lots of tools and vendors to survey their existing customer base. These large corporations run periodic surveys through their Apps, Call Centers, website and other channels. However, every now and then, it pays to step back and take a look at the larger changing landscape and see if the ground is shifting beneath their feet.

There are two free tools that Google provides that can be used to keep a pulse on what is going on in the consumer mind. With Google being the most visited website in the US according to ComScore in March 2020, is there a better way to see what actual consumers are interested in?

The two free Google Tools are:

  1. Google Trends
  2. Google KeyWord Planner Tool

Google Trends

This is a free tool and is available at https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US

As a user, you can input the following fields:

  1. Search Term/Topic - A search term is a specific keyword with close literal associations while a topic represents a group of search terms that share the same concept in any language. Here is Google’s official link to the distinction between a search term and a topic.
  2. Geography (Country/State/City) - You choose most countries, states in large countries and large cities of the world from where Google collects large enough data.
  3. Time Horizon - You can go as far back as January 1, 2004 as of the time of writing this article.
  4. Category - You can enter your keyword/topic and limit the data to searches in a certain pre-defined category. As an example, when you search for the word ‘visa’, you may want to set the category to be ‘Travel’ because you may not be interested in data for ‘VISA’ the credit card.
  5. Google Platform - You can choose to view results coming back from Google web search, an Image Search, News Search, Google Shopping Search or YouTube search

As an example, lets assume we are a US based, hand soap manufacturer and our goal would to be find a unique insight or two to explore or validate so that we can help more people get into hand washing and of course sell more of our own soap in the process.

For the topic of ‘Hand Washing’ in the US, for the last 5 years, in the Health category, when it comes to web searches, we are coming off a peak as shown in the screenshot below. You can also view this on Google Trends by clicking here

As you scroll further below the page, you can see the main states where searches rose the most. Remember that the data you are looking at is based off an index and does not represent the absolute number of searches.

If you wish to see specific details or any state, please click on it. As an example I clicked on West Virginia and this is what I saw:

Surprisingly, the peak for hand washing related searches (as a topic) were higher in the second week of May 2015 than the current period. A Google search reveals that in May 2015, the Department of Health & Human Resources in West Virginia had issued a health advisory which seems similar to the advisories of 2020. There was thus a flu outbreak in 2015 in West Virginia.  It is however still surprising to see that the interest in handwashing today is lower than in 2015.

The 100 here represents the highest search interest for the topic chosen in the time range defined above. These weekly trends could be correlated to the demand for actual bars of soaps from larger retailers to a sense of accuracy.

As you scroll down further you will see two key tables of information:

  1. Related Topics - These are topics that users searching for your chosen term/topics are also searching for. Breakout here refers to an increase in searches by more than 5,000%.
  2. Related Queries - These are keyword searches that users searching for your target term are also searching for.

Both of these blocks of information can be sorted by two dimensions:

  1. Rising - Rising searches are terms that were searched for with the keyword you entered (or overall searches, if no keyword was entered), which had the most significant growth in volume in the requested time period.
  2. Top - Top searches are terms that are most frequently searched with the term you entered in the same search session, within the chosen category, country, or region. If you didn't enter a search term, top searches overall are shown.

By switching to a ‘Top’ view it becomes clear that official government sources of health related information like CDC etc. are not really top of mind when it comes to hand washing, and hence there is an opportunity for other players to produce content and get some traction.

As you navigate further through the rankings you will note that web searches for ‘hand washing for kids’ is insignificant.

Key Insights:

Vietnamese Hand Washing Viral Video

The big question though is what may have caused the interest in the Vietnamese language and the country. A possible clue may lie in the popularity of the Vietnamese hand washing song which has gone viral. A dance video by Quang Dang from HoChi Minh City focusing on catchy hand-washing dance moves was released on TikTok. The song was cleverly converted into a hand-washing PSA by lyricist Khac Hung and Vietnam’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Since then many people have added their own moves to the rendition of the original song. Challenge moves were created and the video and its clones went viral.

As a brand, of course, something like this opens up and reminds us the importance of partnering with social media influencers and finding ways to align yourself to your larger trends.

There are many other tools that are better suited to spot fast rising social/viral trends but our goal here was to show how you can use Google Trends (a free tool) for this purpose).

YouTube Content may be better Targeted for Parents of Younger Children

By switching from Web Search view to YouTube search on Google Trends, we get an interesting view into how YouTube searchers may be different from the regular web searchers.

In the YouTube, Rising search view as shown above, it is clear that on YouTube, there is much more interest in hand washing for children, which was very low on regular web search. This represents an opportunity to be examined closely for the kind of content a bar soap company could make for YouTube.

Google Keyword Planner

Until a few years ago it was easy to access this tool. While this tool remains free, you do need to have an active Google AdWords program (Paid Search) to access this tool.

Thus trends can always be spotted much faster on Google Trends rather than the Google Keyword Planner tool.

Getting A Rough Idea of the Search Volume

If you really want an approximate sense of the search volume in absolute terms, you can always use the Google Keyword Planner. You can pick a known keyword that is very popular and add it to Google Trends for benchmark purposes. As an example we could add the keyword ‘car insurance’.

From the Keyword Planner, you would know that ‘car insurance’ is searched approximately 368,000 times a month on Google. The keyword planner is updated only a monthly basis hence (around the middle of the next month) so pick a stable keyword for benchmark purposes.

In order to do a ‘like for like’ comparison, you need to ensure that we only compare ‘search terms’ on Google Trends.

Based on the chart below and the ability to download the index values from Google trends, you can extrapolate and estimate the search volume of the keyword you are interested in.

If there are any other free research tools, I would be interested in knowing about them. Please mention them in the comments below.

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