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Working out what people are searching for now …

December 16, 2010 4 Comments

I'm giving a talk at News:ReWired today about how specialist publishers can compete with large news organisations when it comes to SEO. One of the things I'm talking about is how to work out what people are searching for right now, so you can create content accordingly. There are some paid-for services that can tell you this. But here are some free ones.

Google's tools

Google autocomplete is one of the best ones - which shows what you might be wanting to search for based on what you've typed so far.

Google autocomplete

Google autocomplete

Autocomplete gives different results on the Google web search page to the Google news search page. The former is based on search volumes over months. The latter makes suggestions on current search volumes. So make sure you use the latter - it's pretty quick at responding to a spike in people searching, as my experiments show.

You can also use Google Trends, pictured here.

Google Trends

Google Trends

The list on the left for the UK is based on social media and search terms. Ignore it. It's rubbish, usually full of gibberish and overrun with American social media trends.

The list on the right is purely based on search terms. And while it's for searches in America, it's actually far more useful. Though it won't be much good if you are a hyperlocal UK publisher.

Other useful Google tools / tactics include:

  • Google Analytics:  see what search terms have driven traffic so far that day when you get into work - you probably won't have much search traffic between midnight and 9am but you often see phrases that people are using that find old content - and which give you a clue what people are searching for now.
  • Google Webmaster Tools: see what searches show your pages in the results. The data is usually a day or two behind but it gives you some really good data for long-running stories or events.
  • Google Insights If you're writing about an event, you can look back at similar events in the past and see how people searched - comparing search terms, search volumes etc. This graph, generated today, compares people searching for I'm a Celebrity with and without the year 2009 back in late 2009.

Search volumes

Search volumes

Other real-time search data

There are other places that give you insight into what people are searching for right now, including:

  • Yahoo Buzz (UK): This is one of the best ones and seems pretty accurate to me. Quite celebrity focussed though. (It's quite hard to find the data, though. Go to the bottom of the page where there's a partial list. Click one of the terms and a slightly longer list will be shown in the right hand column).
  • AOL hot searches: the data is in the right hand column and under the pretty top 5 they have lists for products, people, TV, health etc. It's not updated very often and I don't think it's as good as Yahoo's lists.
  • Surchur: This is a dashboard that pulls together data from various sources to give a summary of what's hot and where. It's quite American biased.

Fortunately Microsoft has killed off Bing X rank as it was utter rubbish.

I also like to use the Hitwise data center. It's about a week behind but you can see fast moving search terms, top retail search terms etc. It's one its worth looking at every week to spot trends.Picture 189

You can also spot things that other sites may not realise people are searching for.

For instance, this chart from a few weeks ago has Kate Middleton engagement at number 7. And Kate Middleton bikini at number 10. You perverts.

Finally there is Twitter. What people tweet now, other people search for later. So look at what's trending. You can use services like Trendsmap to see what's trending where.

You might also like
  1. The news people are searching for right now
  2. … alternatively, the Adwords Keyword tool is spot on
  3. Why you shouldn’t use Google’s keyword tool for SEO
  4. Final proof that the Google Adwords keywords tool is useless in the UK
  5. What The X Factor tells us about Google’s keyword and search-volume analysis tools

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