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How to measure online search volumes using the Google Keyword Tool

Editors Note: Expert content needs an expert content writer and Yorkshire Powerhouse is pleased to publish this business advice article on Search Engine Optimisation, kindly written by a real expert in his field – Manpreet Singh from Bobble Digital.

Please consider contacting Manpreet for any aspect of digital marketing or digital strategy – just click on the advert links above or below – and please mention Yorkshire Powerhouse if you do make contact.

The modern world ‘assumes’ that everyone turns to Google when they need something but this isn’t necessarily true.  There is a wide array of platforms consumers can use from Google, YouTube through to Bing. The constant here is the ability to search for an answer.  Here are some thoughts and advice on whether you should be working hard on your search engine optimisation and pay-per-click campaigns … or not!

Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide (Source Google).  Based on this data there is a high degree of logic that suggests you SEO and PPC should form 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.

To understand whether SEO or PPC is right for you, Google provides you with a useful tool called their AdWords Keyword Planner.  To access this tool, you need a Google Ad Account (which is free). Once you’ve got your Ad Account you can access Keyword Planner from the tools section. 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 several keywords into the tool – these should be the words or phrases that you think your client would type into Google to find your products and services e.g. Socks.  Ideally, you should be aiming to enter a minimum of 5 key phrases 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 e.g. Yorkshire but you can be more specific and search by postcode, town, county, country, etc. You can also select specific ‘negative keywords’ too e.g. 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, you may get results like the example below:

  • Socks – 1k – 10k per month – not really very specific
  • Running Socks – 100 – 1k per month – good, shows a reasonable number of searches for a specific kind of sock
  • Cycling Socks – 10-100 per month – low volume so you can now decide whether this should feature in a future campaign

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 are actually type into the search bar.  In this instance, Google is now providing 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 Ad Group with a monthly total search volume of 100-1k – much better to optimise keywords for, or to run a targeted PPC campaign.

Google Keyword Tool – A word of caution

You need to treat these suggestions with caution as Google’s systems are simply throwing ideas at you that a computer has worked out. Review each one with care.  For example, in the above suggested Ad Group for cycling socks, Google had included the key phrase ‘novelty cycling socks’ which a serious sports sock retailer probably doesn’t want to target, so you would seek to remove any unwanted key phrases before moving forwards.

As expected, 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.

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, you may not want to depend on Google too much if search volumes are Low to Zero.

Specific ‘niche campaigns’ on SEO and PPC can be incredibly 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

You’ve read our article on the Google Keyword Tool – have you any questions?

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