Get to Grips with Google Marketing (1 of 2)

Trends – the Lowdown on Who Wants What.

For the SME, marketing is often a problem. With small budgets and considerable time pressure, it can be difficult to run a coherent campaign that targets your market, or even to know where to get started.  Many small businesses rely on advertising in local media, posting flyers, even door to door or cold calling. Few can afford to pay a professional SEO team to optimise their website and rely on knowledge gleaned online or from books. The digital age has well and truly dawned. Although they may work in certain settings, these traditional options, when compared to some other methods available, can be seen as inefficient, time consuming and resource intensive.

As a subset of the marketing options available to SMEs, this blog series deals with the resources offered by the worlds largest internet search engine, Google. This blog in particular is concerned with a nifty little market research tool called Google Trends. Located at www.google.com/trends, google trends offers the facility to see what other people have been searching for online, and not just a few people either…everyone. (And it’s free.)

Early versions of the software simply pulled all data relating to specific search terms and presented it as a ‘trend’ or line graph showing frequency of searching by unit time with resolution of something like a day, and allowed comparisons between different search terms on the same axis.

google analytics 1

In its latest incarnation, the level of detail is much higher, with a number of different options for how you view the data. From the perspective of market research, one of the most useful features is the ability to look at regional interest within your country. Take, for example the Spinningfields development in Manchester City Centre:

google analytics 2

A simple search reveals a growing level of interest beginning shortly after development was announced in 2006, and a breakdown by region shows the majority of the interest originates in the North West Region, Stretford in Particular, and some in London. Notice that in this example, the graph line is dotted. This denotes a version of the software currently in beta testing which filters results based on the intended target of the person searching, a feature that google calls ‘topics’. This allows discrimination, between, to use the first example above, a search for Wimbledon the place and Wimbledon, the annual tennis tournament held there:

Google analytics 3

Notice, too, the check-box on the middle right which says ‘forecast’. This allows you to generate a projection of how the trend will likely behave over the next few months or years, based on previous trends. It’s worth noting that the software does not take into account the context or type of search term that’s used here, only previous data in the set – so it’s never going to be completely accurate.

If you haven’t realised it already, let me point out how useful this software can be to the cash-strapped entrepreneur: Let’s say you’re thinking about starting an e-commerce business selling digital cameras. A quick look at google trends might give you pause: Interest in ‘Digital Camera’ as a product query has declined sharply over the last 3 years implying, perhaps that fewer purchases of this type are now made online. Having seen that, perhaps you might consider selling umbrellas instead, everyone buys umbrellas, right? Wrong! Not online at any rate. Although interest in ‘Umbrella’ has remained fairly constant over the last 3 years, a regional breakdown shows that the searches are dramatically concentrated in the South of England. If your distribution centre is located anywhere else, your costs are likely to be much higher than more nearby competitors:

Google analytcis 4

The software allows you to mix and match filters, comparing search terms across any region or country worldwide, and any timescale since 2004 with a resoultion of >1month. The interface is intuitive, and there are a host of other features that allow you to see the biggest online trends in each country, what’s trending right now, and to share your results with others in your team.

Sounds great doesn’t it? One tiny word of warning: There’s a reason that market research is expensive. What you’re getting from Google trends is a surface level look at some (admittedly comprehensive) data on people’s online behaviour. The drilldown from this software, aside from the regional information, is virtually nil. As a market researcher, you’ll want information, not just about people’s searching habits, but also their buying habits, and some kind of breakdown by demographic – age perhaps, or gender – so you can better target your ad campaign. Increasingly, developments in data mining mean that Google has this information but as yet they’re not sharing it. Watch this space for new developments, but in the meantime, use this service wisely!

Feb 26, 2015