Today it’s my privilege to introduce you to Andy Crestodina. Andy is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. The author of the incredibly helpful SEO book Content Chemistry, he’s amazing when it comes to helping your website receive exactly the type of traffic you want. I’ve invited him to share about a tool I’d never heard of before: Google Trends. You’ll easily see how this can be used for your nonprofit’s website and even regular blog posts! You can find Andy on and on Twitter @crestodina.

Headshot of Andy Crestodina on How To Use Google Trends

How To Use Google Trends


Ranking starts with research. If you want to rank in search engines, you need to be deliberate about what phrases you target. That means keyword research. To do this you’ll need two main tools. These tools are both easy to use.

  • Google Keyword Tool*
    Suggests many phrases and lists specific monthly estimates of how many people are searching for the phrase (aka “search volume”) in the US and around the world.
  • Google Trends
    Shows relative trending of search volume of phrases over time. Best when used to compare several phrases. It also shows more specific regional interest.

How to use Google Trends & Google Keyword Tool
*Note: Google has recently announced that this version of this tool will eventually require first logging into Google AdWords.

Since keyword research starts broad before narrowing in, the Keyword tool is a good place to start. It suggests dozens of possible phrases, giving you more ideas.

But you’re not done researching a phrase until you check trending. Here are two examples of how to use Google Trends:

Suppose you’re starting a business that helps bring traffic to company’s websites. You probably know a business or person who does this. How do they describe themselves? Do they say they do digital marketing, web marketing or content marketing?

Regardless of what they call their services, the phrases that people search for are becoming more and less popular over time. Also, people use different phrases in different places. Here’s how to see the big picture.

  1. Visit Google Trends
  2. Enter those three phrases
  3. Choose the “United States” as a filter
  4. Click “search”

Here’s what you’ll see…

Keyphrase Trending

Image of Google Trends for content marketing, web marketing, digital marketing

Yellow line: “digital marketing”
Red Line: “web marketing”
Blue line: “content marketing”

Notice the changes over the last five years. The phrase “digital marketing” declined in relative popularity. In 2012, it became a less popular phrase than “web marketing.” And more recently, “content marketing” has surpassed web marketing in popularity.

Had you researched these phrases in 2011 using only the Google Keyword Tool, you may have concluded that “web marketing” is the ideal phrase, but it was actually on it’s way to becoming the least popular of the three!

What are these seasonal trends?

Look for trends indicating that a phrase consistently becomes more or less popular during different times of year. These seasonal trends are very common and often dramatic. Spotting seasonality may help you estimate monthly trends in demand for your products, services and content.

Why are so many phrases declining?

Actually, Google Trends is showing only the relative popularity of a phrase. Since there are more searches every year for ever-growing number of phrases, many phrases show a declining relative trend, even if the actual total searches for that phrase is increasing. The Google Help Docs explain this nicely with an example.

Geographic Differences

  • “Digital Marketing”
    How To Use Google Trends-Digital Marketing Regional view
    “Digital Marketing” search popularity is mostly distributed across the major markets, a bit similar to the distribution of the US population.

  • “Web Marketing”
    How To Use Google Trends-Web Marketing Regional View
    “Web Marketing” is slightly more concentrated in Utah and Florida. Interesting…

  • “Content Marketing”
    How To Use Google Trends-Content Marketing Regional View
    “Content Marketing” seems to be concentrated in certain areas. Do these states have something in common? They seem to be the locations of some of the bigger content marketing companies!


Google Trends is a way to validate your keywords, to double-check to make sure they’re not slowly dying. It’s especially useful in these cases:

  • Check the main target phrases of your website for up or down trending. Especially those that appear in the title tags of your home page and main service pages.
  • Also check geographic difference of these main phrases.
  • Break the tie if you’re having trouble choosing between two apparently good phrases.

If you still have questions about how to use Google Trends (or anything related to keyword research) send us a tweet or leave a comment below.

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