Monday, 21 September 2009

A guide to Google Insights and keyword research

Google Insights guide - Manchester SEO blogGoogle Insights is an easy way to discover popular searches in Google.

For instance, which is the more frequent search – 'Manchester SEO' or 'Search Engine Optimisation Manchester'?

Why this is important

Knowing popular terms allows SEO copywriters to optimise a site for relevant and popular searches. Google Insights is an important tool in this process.

Think of a website as a high street shop. Imagine there are two stores selling the same product. Each venue is located on a different road.

Each road represents a keyword a user may type into Google.

Store number one is located on a busy street which gets a lot of traffic from shoppers. This road is a very popular search term. Many people walk past shop one and, as a result, a number of customers enter to browse for products.

Shop two is placed on a small road away from the high street. This road represents a less popular keyword. Fewer people walk down this road and so, fewer people visit the store to buy things.

Keywords explained - Manchester SEO blog

The same principal can be applied to online searches. If a site is ranked on the results pages for a popular search, it is more likely to have a higher number of visitors than a site which appears in the rankings for a lesser term.

How Google Insights works

Google Insights examines the popularity of a keyword over time and geographical location

Users can compare different keywords to determine the popularity of various terms. In this example, I compare the frequency of searches for 'Manchester SEO' versus 'SEO blog' over a 12-month period.

Manchester SEO versus SEO blog

As you can see, 'SEO blog' is a more popular term than 'Manchester SEO'. The peaks and troughs in the graphs show the relative favour of each keyword over a monthly basis.

How to use Google Insights

Search popularity over time

Users can examine trends over three years, 12 months and 90, 30 or seven days. This allows individuals to spot seasonal peaks in keywords - for instance, the popularity of the term 'Christmas trees' spikes around the winter months. Who wants to buy a Christmas tree in June?

Geographical searches

Geographical filters allow users to establish which area – global, country, county, city – is doing the majority of searches for a keyword. This is a useful tool for businesses keen to optimise a site for a specific type of visitor.

For example, a hotel chain may wish to add a 'short stay' section to its site if it is getting a number of visitors from nearby towns or locations - these customers may only wish to visit a city for a few nights.


Popular keywords are usually the most competitive. Many websites are optimised to rank highly for these terms and, as a result, it is harder to achieve high positions in Google for common searches.

Generic keywords may not bring in the 'right' type of visitor. It is argued that users who search with generic or popular keywords are merely 'browsers'; people not intent on buying a product. Users who focus their searches – for example 'extra large jeans' - may be more likely to buy said product than individuals merely searching for 'jeans'.

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