Google Data Yields Consumer Insights for Free

How It All Began

About a year ago, a colleague asked me if I could quantify the entire Web’s interest in content about rock ’n’ roll music because he wanted to build a business case around a project. Having a strong background in search, and knowing that it is one of the most common Internet behaviors among almost all people in the United States, at least the 85 percent that have access to the Internet. I downloaded every single query I could to create an amalgamation of that would best represent the search interest, and therefore a model of the total interest in rock music.

I counted up all the query volume from search engines, accounted for click-thru rates and modeled likely pageview behavior from similar websites and provided enough to make a business case. But when I went back to my huge volume of queries, I realized there was something much more valuable there that I had missed. I had at my hands all the different ways in which people express their intentions, interests, and attitudes towards the category. I had been so focused on search volume, but the more valuable piece was the queries and the words that were there.

Finding the Consumer Insights

Remove search from the context of the Internet for a second. It is just a natural human behavior, if there’s anything we are it is needy and curious. We turn to search engines because they are simply extremely good tools that put us into contact with the information we want to satisfy those needs. Pairing that simple concept with the rampant use of search engines, and Google becomes not just a utility, but the world’s best consumer insights generator.

Take a tool like SEMRush, Soovle, Ubersuggest, or even the Google Keyword Tool, and type in the vaguest word related to the category you want to study. Compile as many related search queries as you can and start to study the words people use. Put special emphasis on the words that typically get thrown away, things like the bigrams “for,” “with,” and “to.” Things suddenly start to get very fascinating.

Here are some of the insights I’ve been able to pull quickly over the past few months:

  • There is a major education gap for consumers where organic food is concerned because of the prevalence of words like “why,” “what” and “how” that appear in queries.
  • Our palettes have never been more culturally diverse, but our cooking skills have never been worse. There is huge growing interest in different cultural cuisines, but searches for “how to cut an onion” are also rising year over year.
  • When people are shopping, especially for shoes, they are doing it with a specific purpose in mind — those most common word that appears across all queries for “shoes,” “style” and “fashion” is “for” (once you remove the actual categories themselves).

Change How You Think

In search marketing we have trained ourselves to be very concerned with what comes out of Google and other search engines. But the tools to which we have access allow us to pivot our interest and take a hard look at the words that go into Google and the patterns that appear there as well. The consumer insights gleaned from those patterns can be just as valuable to you as the results that are spit out after entering a query.

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Catherine Salzman
Catherine Salzman

Catherine is Empower’s first Data Journalist, converting data into stories and linking consumer insights through execution. She also has significant Latino research experience, having been published in several peer-reviewed journals. Catherine lives in Bellevue, Kentucky with her husband and daughter.