Google provides several products that can help you to understand and build your audience profile. By giving access to historic search data and offering tools to help you mine insights, Google can be a great starting point for building a comprehensive, rich and actionable audience profile. Although Google’s primary goal is to sell advertising by helping marketers understand the search terms that people are using to find information and content, the data that their tools contain offer unprecedented intelligence around what audiences are interested in, and how they’re looking for it. Three primary tools for building out your audience profile are Google Trends, Google Correlate, and Google Keyword Planner – below are best practices for how to view and use each of these to gain the necessary insights for constructing, optimizing, and applying your audience profile:
Google Trends has become an essential tool for researchers, planners and marketers. It’s a great way to track behaviour on the world’s most popular website, showing basic search volume trends and regional distributions. Google Trends allows you to see how popular specific keywords or subjects are over a period of time, with data going back to 2004. You can enter a term, a keyword or a subject into the search box and see how often and where it is used. The results are presented through graphs so that you can easily view the distribution of changes in keywords over time. Google Trends doesn’t show absolute search volume but rather the share of total volume on Google; all terms are relative to each other. You need to use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to find search volumes.
Google Trends allows you to compare five separate keywords or phrases at the same time, enabling you to see how much interest there is in each search term in relation to the others, and how this then fluctuates. You can filter results based on a number of criteria: timeframe (even down to within hours), geographic location (by country), within a specific topic category (for instance, Arts & Entertainment, Finance, or Health, etc.), and finally by the type of search (Web Search, Image Search, News, Google Shopping or YouTube). This provides you with a powerful tool when investigating your audience where you can ask questions such as:
- How much interest is there in one topic versus another? In the example above we can see the interest in tea versus coffee in the USA since 2004.
- How does this change over time; are there peaks and troughs; do these correlate to events that you’re aware of; how much is the subject matter seasonal in nature; are comparisons coming together or diverging? In our example, we can observe that coffee has moved ahead of tea from mid-2011.
- Where geographically is most interest coming from? If I was considering opening a tea shop in the USA, I’d start by looking at South Dakota!
In addition, Google Trends offers related queries to the terms that you’ve searched on, based on the top associated terms as well as those that are rising, i.e. showing the greatest increase in interest. You can break these out to dive in further and understand the trends behind these. For example, from our Google Trends data we can see that “Turmeric Tea” and “Bulletproof Coffee” are becoming increasing popular.
Google Trends therefore provides top-level data that when drilled into, can uncover some invaluable insights for your audience profile.
First rolled out by Google in 2011, Google Correlate enables you to discover search queries with a similar pattern to a real-world data trend that you provide (e.g. a data set of event counts over time). If you don’t have data of your own to upload, you can simply specify search terms and Google will find the trending pattern of queries and show matching patterns. It helps identify connections between Google Search trends and anything happening in the real world, such as seasonal changes, trends during a particular time period, or search volume influenced by major breaking news or during a major event. Think of Google Correlate like it’s Google Trends in reverse: with Google Trends you enter a query and get back a data series of activity over time or by geographic location; with Google Correlate, you enter a data series and get back a list of queries whose data series follows a similar pattern. In other words, the pattern generates the keywords, rather than the keywords generating the pattern.
Google Correlate contains web search activity data going back to January 2003, with data updated weekly. Like Google Trends, the data is presented as standard deviations over time above mean, rather than absolute searches. Results can be viewed on the Google Correlate website or downloaded as a CSV file to analyse further. It’s important to stress that correlation does not equate to causation; just because there’s a pattern where terms correlate to each other, this doesn’t mean that they share a causal relationship; Google Correlate is merely presenting that there is a juxtaposition rather than a defacto connection.
Using these principles, Google Correlate can be a fantastic tool to help you build out your audience profile. Firstly, we can use specific search terms that are relevant to your audience to find correlations that will help you see a window into your audience personas. In the screenshot below, we’re looking for terms that correlate with “turmeric tea” in the United Kingdom; note how highly “yoga leggings”, “anytime fitness”, and “film online” appear – we can therefore surmise that the audience for turmeric tea are into yoga, look for fitness classes at around the clock (hence are time poor), and view films online…all extremely useful and valuable insights that suggest a busy, metro-centric primary target audience!
Similarly, when we analyse “Bulletproof Coffee” below, again in the United Kingdom, the correlating terms suggest an audience who are again into fitness (with the term “hiit workout”), who use online dating services (“harmony test”), who like to travel…especially to Japan (“skyscanner uk”, “gbp to jpy”), have children (“mothercare orb”), and could even work in IT (“ccna routing and switching”). Of course, this is all conjuncture, but it gives us a good and rich starting point to investigate further.
Secondly, not only can you view Google Correlate data patterns by country, but you can also use the ‘Compare US States’ feature to drill into where in the US data sets or terms correlate (you aren’t able to do this internationally at present). This can help you to understand your audience by geography; where in the US is there the greatest propensity to search for specific subjects, and how they relate to wider interests and trends. When viewing the results for “turmeric tea” we can select a related term that aligns to our intended solution or proposition, for example, we see “oil skin” has a strong correlation and may point to the health benefits of turmeric tea that we want to focus on for our audience. Using this we can look at the geographic spread of these two search queries on the maps below. We observe that the states of Hawaii, Alaska, Montana and New Mexico show high levels of search activity for both “turmeric tea” and “oil skin” and therefore may be candidates when we’re looking to launch a market proposition in this area.
There’s a trove of insights to be found in Google Correlate; to uncover these requires investigating different topics and terms, and loosely interpreting the findings to build an overall picture of your audience profile that you can then refine.
Google Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner is not only good for building PPC campaigns and focusing your SEO activity, it’s also a great starting point for creating your audience profile. Keyword Planner is a free tool, but it does require an Adwords account. A basic search allows you to enter one or more keyword phrases, websites or product categories into the Planner, and then apply targeting filters based on the locations that you’re interested in, specific languages, and whether you want to limit to just Google or include their associated search partners. You can also define the timeframe that you want to look at by specifying the month from and to that you want to pull data for. Remember, Google Keyword Planner is primarily designed as a tool for building search advertising campaigns, so most of the other factors that you can use in the tool to refine your analysis will be superfluous to our needs of developing your audience profile.
Once you’ve built your filtering criteria and hit ‘Get Ideas’, Keyword Planner will generate a list of keywords that are close variants for the terms that you entered together with associated search volumes based on the targeting options and date range that you selected. It offers these suggestions in two groupings presented by separate tabs: Ad group ideas and Keyword ideas. Ad groups are categories of related keywords that Google recommends you may want to target; you can click on each group to further explore the queries that people are using to search in each of these categories. Within these results, you’re able to rank the terms either by relevance, level of competition, or by average monthly searches. Search volume statistics are rounded meaning that when you get keyword ideas for multiple locations, the search volumes might not add up as you’d expect. Note that unless you have an active spending AdWords account (above $300 per month) Google doesn’t provide detailed search volumes until you start running campaigns; you’ll instead see ranged volumes such as ‘100K – 1M’ or ‘1M+’.
Simply by reviewing the related terms and looking at their search volumes you can start to build a picture of your audience profile based on how popular certain search queries are that correspond to the areas and topics that you’re interested in. From our keyword analysis of the term “turmeric tea” we can discover that there are significant health benefits that people are interested in, for example as an anti-inflammatory and in the ease of arthritis; also, there seems to be demand for green tea and milk tea variants. All of this from a basic Google Keyword Planner analysis.
The tools outlined above offer a great starting point to define, craft and build out your audience profile, providing unprecedented insights to help you understand who your audience is, and how you should communicate and engage with them. Let me know how you find using them, and if there are any others that are working for you?