Lately I've found myself using Google Trends to help gain valuable insight into new niches I'm exploring, which can be invaluable at the start of a link building project. Google Trends is an awesome early phase tool, and all SEOs should take a little bit of time to experiment with it.
Why is Google trends so awesome? Well, here's what I like it for:
True, it's not the most in-depth tool ever created, and it can be overly broad. But Google Trends is useful for big picture gathering, niche insights, and tracking and capitalizing on trends - especially if you'll be doing any resource/content creation.
One of the reasons I absolutely love link building is that it's anything but a static job. Not only is Google evolving at an extremely rapid pace, but the web itself is constantly evolving.
Link building is like the wild west of the web. Every day we have the chance to innovate, create, and even improve our own industry.
And there's yet another component to all this advancement and growth - we're constantly working within different online niches. It's pretty rare for an SEO to focus completely in a single online sector. It's basically impossible for a dedicated link builder.
So, we have to constantly research, investigate, and delve into new online niches. What works in one online sector doesn't always work in another - for example guest posting is huge in most industries, but what about niches where blogs aren't common? Resource links are another solid element of a link builder's repertoire, but what if your client is strictly ecommerce and isn't interested in creating content?
So as link builders a diverse set of skills is a necessity. Being quick to adapt, learn and grow is at the top of that list.
And lately, I've found Google Trends to be pretty beneficial in helping me understand a niche a little faster - and for free.
Why Google Trends Is Overlooked
There's a few reasons I believe Google Trends is overlooked:
The thing to keep in mind is that we're using Google Trends (GT) as a first touch tool - an initial glimpse into an industry. We're trying to get a sense of the big picture, before drilling down further, likely with more advanced tools.
Understanding Industry Trends
Google Trends does a terrific job of painting a visceral picture of trends within a given industry.
What's moving up? What's in decline? What is and isn't popular? Is the keyword seasonal? What is the season? What are common variations?
Google Trends can help answer all of these questions. For the sake of this article I'll be using examples from my own industry, link building.
So, let's see what we can discover in industry trends, given some background knowledge on fads/keywords in link building.
Here's a graph that illustrates current trends in link building:
Blue= link building
Red= inbound marketing
Gold= content marketing
Green= relationship building
Purple= growth hacking
This illustrates the current environment in link building - the actual phrase link building is losing popularity, while content marketing and inbound marketing are all seeing an upward trend.
As a link builder I understand the subtext behind all this, but if I was fresh to the industry it would show me things I need to look out for and understand, if I want to match the 'lingo' of the industry.
Understanding Brand And Product Trends
Another great example of the power of Google Trends is understanding brand and product trends. Let's say, for example, I wanted to compare tools for backlink analysis.
I've heard a lot of hype, and there's a wide selection, but which ones actually get more attention in Google search? This will also show tools that are relatively new and trending up, what's old and stable, and what's old and in decline.
We can see by this picture the relative age, popularity, and recent trends concerning Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, Raven Tools, Ahrefs, and SEO Spyglass. Of course this is by no means thorough research - but all things considered it highlights some interesting trends, and definitely gives us a starting point for further research.
Google trends creates a lovely visual for competitor comparison as well. Although it lacks deep data, it provides a nice quick and dirty overview of overall performance, based upon brand searches.
When comparing competitors I like to try and make sure I'm capturing a decent portion of branded search. For example, this is what I searched in GT for comparison:
The quotes are important, as are the +'s. These search operators make sure that these three specific phrases are the only results shown, and they're all included in one plotted line. This of course means that the search term (the company name) needs to be unique to the brand - if you're searching for a company whose brand is a common word, such as "Distilled", the results will be skewed.
Here's what a competitor comparison might look like if I were to do one for my company, Page One Power.
This graph gives us a solid look into how other brands such as SEER, Internet Marketing Ninjas, Vertical Measures and iAcquire are performing, and our company in relation to theirs.
Industry Keyword Research
With the impact of (not provided) keywords are losing some of their power within the SEO world. Regardless, it's still important to understand key industry terms, the overall search volume currently as well as historically. Google Trends is great for industry keyword exploration.
Here's a graph from Google Trends that does a great job illustrating the fall of old link building terms and the rise of new:
Blue = "article marketing"
Red = "guest post" + "guest posting" + "guest posts"
Gold = "Directory links" + "directory link"
Green = "content marketing"
Purple = "reciprocal links" + "reciprocal link building"
Blog Popularity Comparison
Blogs have always been fertile grounds for link building. When entering a new niche, it only makes sense to explore and find the authoritative blogs within that industry.
Once again Google Trends works well for measuring and visually representing the popularity of industry blogs over time. This is based of course upon branded searches for the blog - not a 100% efficient representation, but good enough for initial research into an unknown industry.
The concept is you start searching for blogs within the unfamiliar niche. You grab some the ones you determine to be authorities, and then plug them in to see the results. Here's an example form the SEO world:
Blue = Search Engine Watch
Red = Search Engine Land
Gold = Search Engine Journal
Green = SEOmoz (including Moz was too broad - skewed the results)
Purple = HubSpot
It's also important to note that both HubSpot and Moz are SaaS companies, so are popular for other reasons besides their blog. Still, you can assume that there's extra eyes on their blogs because of it.
Google Trends is great for laying the groundwork on content/resource ideation. Although it will by no means show you exactly what to create, it will show you what's currently popular and what's gaining popularity - exactly what you need to know prior to creating a new resource or piece of content.
In the online marketing (and link building) world, the point of making content and resources is to create something worth sharing, which will further your own authority and visibility within your industry. What better way to find something sharable than to find what is currently trending up within a niche?
Better yet, you can quickly determine what's downward trending. There's nothing worse than creating a new piece of content on a subject that is quickly losing favor within the industry. A best you can get a momentary share, at worst you can jump on an unpopular trend, leading to negative branding.
All in all Google Trends is far from perfect - but properly utilized, it can be a quick and dirty tool that efficiently illustrates important trends, which is extremely useful when exploring a new industry or online niche.
Jon Ball is the CEO of Page One Power in Boise, ID. P1P is a link building firm that focuses on relevancy, transparency and specialization. Jon is also an avid mountain biker and photographer.