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The Ultimate Google Trends Guide: How to Use Google Trends to Improve Your SEO

A successful SEO campaign is built on carefully chosen keywords, but how do you anticipate changes in search interest? Read on to learn how Google Trends can inform your keyword research to help you publish the right content at the right time.

Jan 7, 2022

8 m read

Google Trends is a free tool that draws directly from the trillions of queries that take place on Google each year. Using real-time and historical data, you can see what people are looking for during a specific time range and within a specific geographic location. You can analyze forecasting and trend data to spot patterns and leverage keyword trends to better craft content that meets the needs of your target audience, making Google Trends a super helpful resource for content marketers.

In this Google Trends guide, I’m going to share practical information on how to use this same data to gain insight into your customers’ search habits and inform your keyword research.

What Is Google Trends?

Google Trends is a keyword research tool based on anonymized and aggregated data from all Google searches since 2004. A Google Trends search shows how often people search for a specific keyword in relation to overall searches for the same period of time.

When you enter new keyword ideas into Google Trends, you can see:

  • Real-time searches
  • Searcher patterns from 2004 to the present
  • Searches by geographic region
  • Related queries or keyword searches
  • Related topics
  • Trending searches

Other keyword research tools show the search volume for a term, but Google Trends offers a view into what people are thinking about by showing relative search volume in specific places or moments in time. You can filter the Google Trends data and look at changes in search volume — in some cases, even seeing how data for a keyword varies at the city level.

Using Google Trends for SEO

Open Google Trends to start keyword research on related topics for your business or niche. Use the dropdown menu at the top to select a location.

how to use Google Trends for keyword research

Enter a Keyword Phrase

When you plug in a topic — such as “backpack” — you’re presented with a line graph that shows interest for specific keywords within a particular time frame and location.

Google trends report example for the word backpack.
  • The graph shows interest in relevant topics as a proportion of total searches at a particular time and place. A ratio allows more accurate comparisons of data from different periods and locations, showing a snapshot of what’s trending upward.

  • Google Trends data is indexed to 100, with 100 representing the maximum interest. In this example, the week of August 8-14 is indexed at 100 because that’s when search interest peaked during the time range.

Choose a Region

Refine the data using the dropdown menu above the graph. You can see search data worldwide or in a specific country.

Regional filter for data.

You can also scroll down to see search interest represented visually on a map. The darker parts of the map indicate where your target keyword is most popular.

A map of the world that indicates keyword popularity.

Click on parts of the map to narrow results.

For example, you can move from country to state…

A map of the U.S. showing California.

and metro area… 

Map of California showing the Los Angeles metro area.

comparing how popular the search term “backpack” is in specific cities in the Los Angeles metro area.

Data for Santa Ana, California

Set a Time Range

Google Trends gives access to real-time data. Using the dropdown menu above the graph, filter your query to see activity as recent as the last hour or all queries from 2004 to the present.

A date filter that includes the past hour to the past week up to to the past five years.

Expanding the date range can help you spot seasonal keywords. If you only look at the last 12 months, seasonal keywords can look like trending terms. But when you expand the timeline, you can spot seasonality spikes.

On the other hand, keeping an eye on those cyclical patterns can help you know when to produce content that is likely to be highly searched in seasonal trends and inform the timing of your annual marketing activities.

For instance, in this example, backpack queries have a regular seasonal trend, except for a sharp drop when schools were closed due to the pandemic in 2020.

A line graph shows peaks and valleys for the phrase backpack.

Specify a Tool

Data is pulled from Google web search by default. Use the dropdown menu labeled “web search” if you’d like to see what users are looking for on specific platforms. In Google Trends, you can limit the data to view image search information or trends in Google Shopping, Google News, or YouTube video.

A web tool filter. Choices web, image, news, shopping and YouTube.

Filter by Category

As Google explains, some queries have multiple meanings, such as the word “jaguar.” Use the category filter to limit the data and conduct keyword research for relevant categories such as animals or cars.

A web tool filter. Choices web, image, news, shopping and YouTube.

What Can You Do With Google Trends?

Now that you know how to access this data, I’ll show you how to use Google Trends to find keywords and understand what your customers are searching for. Then use Google Trends data to optimize how you create content for your SEO strategy.

1. Research Keywords

Enter a term for your industry or niche into the Google search trends tool. Scroll down the results page, and you’ll see two tables:

  • Related topics
  • Related queries

These are trending keywords used by people entering the same term you entered. For example, when I plugged in the search term “peppermint tea” for the United States, related queries included “lemon tea” and “peppermint tea for upset stomach.”

Related topics and related queries tables.

Not only can the related queries section help you discover additional Google keywords, but it can also provide insight into related topics to consider for future content. Sift through the lists to decide which topics might inform social media posts or make a great blog post that fits within your content marketing strategy. 

2. Identify Keyword Trends

Google Trends helps you identify real-time search trends to see what’s happening in the moment in the context of news search trends.

Related queries table sorted to show rising trends.

The related search queries table shows terms that are currently seeing an increase in search frequency. Look at the column on the right of the tables to determine the spike in interest.

  • Rising searches in Google Trends have the most significant growth in search volume for the specified time range. The percentage value next to related topics shows the rise in interest as compared to the previous period.

  • Related searches labeled as “breakout” jumped more than 5000%, possibly because the topics were new.
  • Top searches in Google Trends (choose this from the dropdown menu) show the popularity of topics on a relative scale. The first topic is the most commonly searched and is given a value of 100. A topic with a value of 50 is searched half as often.
Related queries for peppermint tea sorted by top volumes.

3. Identify Seasonal Trends

Google Trends can help marketers identify cyclical patterns based on seasons, occasions, or holidays. Searches for red roses peak around Valentine’s Day, but the line graph shows the upward trend starts during January.

A line graph that shows peaks and valleys for red roses.

Similarly, searches for school backpacks generally begin increasing in June and peak in August. 

Disruptions to cyclical trends are just as important to watch out for. Notice the smaller-than-usual search interest in June-August 2020, when pandemic-induced uncertainty impacted search interest.

A line graph shows peaks and valleys for the phrase backpack.

These Google Trends patterns can help you find the best window for reaching customers. Build your content calendar so that your content is in place and optimized before search volume surges.

4. Compare Search Terms

Google Trends lets you compare multiple search terms at the same time, helping you prioritize keywords based on your target audience.

In this query for pho, ramen, and soba noodles, you can see that on average, ramen is the most popular term worldwide, including in the United States.

A map of the world that shows comparative data for related terms in the U.S.

If you’re interested in how the data looks in different countries, you’ll see that just north of the American border, Canadians are searching for pho and ramen almost equally.

A map of the world that shows comparative data for related term in Canada.

This query compares searches for “winter jacket,” “winter coat,” and “parka” for the United States in the last 12 months. Google Trends shows that users in most states are more likely to search for “parka.” Minnesota residents tend to search more for “winter jacket,” and many people in Midwestern states prefer to use “winter coat.” Keep scrolling to see the related keywords for each search term — “winter coat sale womens” and “plus size winter coat” for example.

A U.S. map shows related terms popular in various regions.

To compare terms:

  1. Enter the first of your search queries in Google Trends
  2. Click “+ Add Comparison” to enter another query
  3. Change filters for each  phrase by hovering over the search box and clicking on the three stacked dots
How to add additional terms to compare trends.

5. Optimize Content for YouTube Search

More than 2.1 billion people around the world visit YouTube to watch a variety of DIY, entertainment, and educational videos. It’s useful to know about Google trending topics for YouTube if your business wants to produce video content like a product demo or video tutorial, which might necessitate a video SEO strategy.

To retrieve information for YouTube search trends only:

  • Enter a keyword phrase on Google Trends.
  • Click on the dropdown menu above the resulting line graph labeled “web search.”
  • Click on YouTube.
where pandemic-induced

Using the same analytic techniques described above, you can now identify trending searches, find new target keywords, and look for variations by geographic location. This information can help you create videos that users are looking for and optimize the listings with keywords, so your content ranks higher.

Unleash Your Business’ Potential with Victorious

Using Google Trends for keyword research makes sense as part of your overall SEO campaign, but it’s just one tool in a vast toolbox for increasing search visibility, attracting more traffic to your website, and getting more customers.

If you want help to boost search results, contact us for a free consultation. We offer a full suite of SEO services to build an SEO strategy that supports your business goals and budget.

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