How to measure online search volumes using the Google Keyword Tool
“We want Google to be the third half of your brain.” – Sergey Brin
The modern world ‘assumes’ that everyone turns to Google when they need something but this isn’t necessarily true … here’s some thoughts and advice on whether you should be working hard on your search engine optimisation and pay-per-click campaigns … or not!
On average, Google handles over 40,000 search queries per second (source) and there is a high degree of logic that suggests you SHOULD care about Google as part of your marketing mix. But, this ‘logic’ should be reviewed and based on fact rather than gut feel – the customer’s urgency can mean that they don’t automatically reach for the search box – as can the exclusivity and novelty of the product or service you provide.
The good news here is that Google provide you with a useful tool called their Adwords Keyword Planner. To access this tool, you will need a Google account which is, of course, free! Once you’ve got your account and logged into the Google keyword tool, you can then accurately establish whether there is an actual measurable search volume for the product or service you provide – click on the option of ‘Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category’.
Using the Google Keyword Tool
The first starting point is to enter a number of keywords into the tool – these should be the words or phrases that you think your client would type into Google to find you. Ideally, you should be aiming to enter a minimum of 5 keyphrases here.
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You can also add in additional criteria here with the main option being the ‘targeting’. Here you can select the appropriate geographic area you are interested in (Yorkshire, obviously but you can select this by postcode, town, county, country, etc) … you can also select specific ‘negative keywords’ too – so a sports sock retailer might add into the negative list ‘walking socks’, ‘flight socks’, etc.
At this stage, don’t worry about the other targeting options as we’re simply trying to establish whether people use Google in the way you want them to! Hit the blue button and you’ll be presented with some results.
Understanding the Google Keyword Tool results
Following the above example, Google reports on approximate monthly search volumes for your specifically selected keywords:
- Socks – 1k – 10k / month – not really very specific
- Running Socks – 100 – 1k / month – good, shows a reasonable number of searches for a specific kind of sock
- Cycling Socks – 10-100 / month – low volume so you can now decide whether this should feature in a future campaign
HOWEVER … one of the most useful features of the Google Keyword Tool is provided if you click on ‘Ad Group Ideas’ as this is Google trying to help. Essentially, based on your initial keywords, Google is now using its vast knowledge banks of search data and trying to help you find what people ACTUALLY type in. For instance, Google is now providing me with an ‘Ad Group’ called ‘Cycling Socks’ within which 47 suggested keywords are put forward including ‘funky cycling socks’, ‘waterproof cycling socks’, ‘thermal cycling socks’, etc. Each one only has a small average monthly search volume but the combined net result is a highly targeted AdGroup with a monthly total search volume of 100-1k – much better.
Google Keyword Tool – a word of caution
HOWEVER (again!) … you need to treat these suggestions with caution as Google’s systems are simply throwing ideas at you that a computer has worked out … you need to review each one with care … for instance, in the above suggested AdGroup for cycling socks, Google had included the keyphrase ‘novelty cycling socks’ which a serious sports sock retailer probably doesn’t want to target, so you would seek to remove any unwanted keyphrases before moving forwards.
As you might expect, high volumes of search data are normally coupled with high levels of competition and low volumes of search would normally suggest a low demand (unless you sell something very obscure) … this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t still consider using Google … but keep your expectations (and budgets) low in this instance. Low volumes also normally indicate where your marketing can ‘take the lead’ in client education and proactive contact rather than waiting for them to find you on Google – email marketing, Linkedin, exhibitions, networking, direct mail, seminars and roadshows – traditional marketing techniques in general.
In summary, Google tells you whether your customers actively search for your products or services. If they do, then you should consider organic search engine optimisation and pay-per-click marketing as viable channels to use in your marketing efforts. However, if you sell underwater basket weaving kits then you might not want to depend on Google too much as, at the time of writing, Yorkshire has zero search volume for these!
Specific ‘niche campaigns’ on SEO and PPC can still be effective but if the search volumes are low, don’t expect too much. However, what you do receive from this will be of high value (to you) and low cost (for acquisition).
Guidance on the Google Keyword Tool from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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