I find it fascinating what trends can be determined by analysing search queries.

For instance, a report was published last year about Google being able to detect influenza epidemics (PDF) using search engine query data weeks before the medical authorities were able to. The logic behind this was that people who started sniffling and coughing were more likely to Google the symptoms and remedies before even contemplating going to see a doctor.

by fender5

In these tough economic times, Hitwise has reported a 36% increase to recipe websites suggesting that people are cutting-back on dining-out and looking at ways to create restaurant-styled meals in their own homes.

What a lot of businesses don't realise, is that knowing what people are looking for can be an incredibly powerful thing and better yet, all the tools to do so are publically available. There are plenty of tools out there, but here are a few of Googles which are quite effective:

Once you start playing with these tools, you can find all sorts of interesting and helpful information.

Lets take the 36% increase to recipe websites " if you were a restaurant owner you could leverage this by adding a recipe section to their site. This not only has the added potential of attracting a few links if your recipes are good, but also keeps your brand fresh in people's minds, so when they do decide to go out for a meal, you're one of the first places they think of.

This information can also be used for keyword research. Say you're a Chiropractor and plan on targeting the keyword Chiropractor on your site. Theres nothing wrong with this, but through the use of these tools, you'd quickly discover that if you also focused on the term 'back pain' you'd attract more than triple your traffic.

For seasonal businesses and retail outlets " there are certain times of the year that traffic naturally increases. By doing some research into the hottest products people have been searching for throughout the year, logic suggests that when everyone jumps online to look for Christmas presents, these are some of the things they could be looking for. Imagine how much additional traffic youd get simply by optimising your site for these terms months in advance.

These simple technique can be utilized by most businesses when establishing new products/services; for running promotions targeted around popular trends; for adding new content to your website and improving the keywords and content on sections that you already have... and those are just a few examples.

So next time you're looking for ideas on how to improve your website and attract additional traffic - have a look at what's hot in the search trends and start incorporating them into your site!