We’ve all used Google at some point in time to search for a product, service, news headline, or company name. What most people don’t pay attention to as they are typing in their search is Google’s suggestion. As you type in your search terms, Google’s algorithms begin cranking out suggestions it believes you may be searching for at the moment. The suggestions range from the mundane to the downright silly. Sometimes the suggestions are frighteningly accurate, and sometimes they are worth a good laugh.
How does Google suggestions work? More importantly, can you use those search suggestions to help you formulate keyword ideas for use on your website? In this post we are going to answer both of these questions and help you develop a simple strategy for researching keywords relevant to your industry, product, and region.
How Does Google Search Suggest Work?
As we’ve discussed, Google search suggest is the tool within the search browser that attempts to complete your thoughts for you as you type away on the keyboard. According to Search Engine Journal, the program is an autocomplete function that shows users possible search terms associated to the current search query typed in the search bar. The function is designed to save users time and provide additional information that might aid them in refining their search.
Google Search Suggest has been around for five years, which makes its foggy aura a bit confusing. How does a product from one of the world’s largest tech firms fly under the radar to the extent that Search Suggest has? It is particularly baffling that many marketing and SEO professionals are, if not altogether unaware of, incapable of using this feature to their benefit.
The platform works by instantly pulling a variety of information to complete queries. Each suggestion represents the combination of search frequency, search rate, search manner, and search location for given terms and phrases entered into the search field by a user. Let’s start with search frequency. If a particular word or phrase is searched frequently by millions of users, the odds increase that it will show up for other users when they begin typing a similar term or phrase into Google.
Likewise the manner and rate of particular searches will impact Search Suggest as well. Generic terms such as airline or airplane may, for a period of time, be influenced by events making headlines. As an example, the recent spate of airline disasters in Asia generates a lot of specific search terms surrounding those events. However, the impact will be felt by other searches which are entirely unrelated. While a user might be looking for “airline information,” they may see “airline disaster” or “airline missing” in their search suggest after simply typing “air” into the search bar because of the manner and rate of searches related to airlines.
Finally, location is an increasingly important factor in Search Suggest. When the algorithm was rolled out five years ago, search suggestions were broadly used to cover an entire country. Now, for the sake of SEO, search terms can be further narrowed based upon cities within a country. For example, if you were to type in “Italian restaurants,” you are more likely to see suggestions for “Italian restaurants near me” or “Italian restaurants in (YOUR CITY)” because the algorithm prefers locations over generic search terms.
How to Use Search Suggest to Your Advantage
Using Google Search Suggest to help you identify keywords for use in your SEO campaign is a tricky task. For starters, if you haven’t done your own research on keywords that are relevant to your industry, Google isn’t going to point them out for you. As noted on both MOZ and HubSpot the first step in your keyword research must be done by you. It is important to sit down and scribble out a list of possible keywords that are relevant to your business, to your area, and to your industry as a whole. With that information in mind, you can start using Google Search Suggest to help.
Hopefully you’ve come up with a long list of possible keywords you want to use with your online content. Now it is time to start narrowing down that list, and this is where Search Suggest comes into play. Start by going through each keyword on your list and typing into Google. See what type of suggestions come up in the drop-down menu as you type the keywords in. Are there changes in spelling compared to your words? Are locations commonly added or left off? Pay attention to these factors as they could play a big role in your visibility once you implement these keywords.
Another factor to keep an eye on is short keywords vs. long-tail keywords. You may have a list of short terms, but Search Suggest churns out longer keywords in its drop-down menu. Make note of these suggestions. From here, you need to do a little more work to determine the value of those keywords.
There are a lot of tools available to help you better evaluate the keywords you’ve identified through Search Suggest. Google’s Keyword Planner can show you search volume and traffic estimates for the keywords on your list. You’ll want to keep an eye on the terms that have too little traffic, and even too much traffic. As silly as the latter sounds, you don’t want to compete for attention in a high-traffic environment if you don’t have to.
Be Aware of the Risks
As we mentioned earlier, Google Search Suggest does rely on information that becomes outdated with time. The airline disaster scenario is a perfect example. Search suggestions can be swayed for a period of time by newsworthy events that drive search rates and search manners up, but when those events fade from the front page, keyword suggestions will change. Keep in mind as well that Google associates certain brands with fraud or negative terms. This can have a detrimental impact on the keyword research you conduct using Search Suggest.