It’s that time of year again – time to start planning for the holidays! But to be honest, in the PPC world, when are we ever not planning for something?

It’s no secret that paid search execution requires data driven preparation.  Google Trends is a fantastic and underutilized tool that can assist paid search planning in a variety of ways.

The most important thing to remember about using Google Trends is that the values you see are not actual search volume values, they are indices that show a term’s search volume as it relates to other points on the graph.

So in the example below, the highest points represent when the term is the most popular, and the lowest points represent when it is the least popular:

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Many people I know in the paid search industry use Google Trends to assess how their client’s brand name is trending, but in this post I want to discuss three more creative uses for this tool: planning for the holidays, analyzing trends in keyword popularity over time, and researching YouTube keywords to target.

1.  Holiday Planning

Say you are a retailer that sells craft supplies, and you have only been running PPC efforts for the past 6 months so you don’t have any data from last year’s holiday season. You want to know when exactly to expect search volume to start increasing for holiday crafts and Christmas crafts.  The Google Trends data gives insight on when you should be plan to increase bids and budgets or launch new keywords around holiday and Christmas crafts.

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Based on the trends, “Christmas crafts” is a more popular search term than “holiday crafts.” This means that having the modifier “Christmas” on different craft terms will generally yield more search volume than the modifier “holiday.” It should also inform how we position content on landing pages and even influence what copy we test in ads.  Also, beginning mid-October, these search terms start gaining popularity and around mid-December they start decreasing sharply. This information will help you decide when to start ramping up holiday season efforts and also decide when to start pulling back.

2. Trends in Popularity Over Time

Google Trends can also be useful to research how specific terms have gained (or lost) popularity over a longer period of time. Say you have a B2B company that sells billing software. You are considering bidding on root keywords (i.e. – billing or invoicing) with the modifiers “software” and “app”. You can use Google Trends to research the popularity of the modifiers “software” and “app” over time:

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From the chart, you can see that since 2007, the term “software” has been steadily declining in popularity (via search volume) while the term “app” has been steadily gaining popularity. Until 2012, “software” was searched more often relative to the term than “app”, but since 2012, the opposite has been true. This can be useful information in determining which modifier to use and what to expect as far as search volume from that modifier. The fact that “app” is becoming increasingly more popular can also alert you to the fact that CPCs for this modifier are likely to be increasing more rapidly than “software” terms.  It can also help with forecasting and projections around future growth.

 3. YouTube Planning

When planning a YouTube campaign strategy based on keyword targeting, it can often be difficult to determine volume for different search terms as there is no YouTube Keyword Planner tool. Additionally, the way people search on YouTube can be drastically different than how they search on Google. You may search “blue eyeshadow” on Google because you want to buy some blue eyeshadow, but on YouTube you may search for “how to apply blue eyeshadow” since this is instruction you want to see from a video demo. This can make it difficult to choose effective keywords to target in YouTube.

However, Google Trends lets you toggle a search option that reflects just YouTube search trends.  You can get an idea of what types of terms are trending on YouTube, which can help you capitalize on trending terms relevant to your product. Say you are a makeup retailer and you want to start advertising your makeup on YouTube with videos from your YouTube channel.

After you put in your search terms, make sure to select YouTube Search from the drop-down menu to view results for YouTube specifically:

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From this data, we can see that the “eyeshadow tutorial” term is much more popular on YouTube than just a search for “blue eyeshadow”, which is just as we expected. We can also see that the popularity of “eyeshadow tutorial” increases dramatically in December, which would be important to note so you can be prepared to increase bids, launch new videos (imagine if you were able to find YouTube content specific to putting on eyeshadow for Holiday and New Year’s Eve parties) or any other efforts to take advantage of the popularity increase.

Another useful tool in Google Trends for YouTube planning is the Related Searches chart. For the above example, we can see the following related searches:

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This chart can essentially be used as a Keyword Planner for YouTube. We can see that “eyeshadow makeup tutorial”, “brown eyeshadow tutorial”, “eye makeup tutorial”, etc. would be good keywords to target on YouTube in addition to just “makeup tutorial”.

Google Trends demonstrates that Google is just as much a data company as it is a search company. Are you taking advantage of this data? Have you found other creative applications for Google Trends?

Paid search professionals often react after the fact to data in AdWords or Analytics, but by using Google Trends, we can be proactive by planning ahead based on trends. Put this tool to work for you the next time you need to plan a new paid search strategy, whether it be for the holidays or beyond.