Monday, February 22, 2010

Measuring the impact of offline events with Google Insights for Search

Keep an eye on the impact of offline events with Google Insights for Search
If you don’t know Google Insights for Search yet, I recommend having a look at it right away. In spite of its name, it is not just another tool for optimizing organic or paid search. It is much more than that as it can be used for many other purposes. And it is 100% FREE!

Last year, I covered a practical example showing how it can be used as a "competitive intelligence" tool. In this post I would like to show how it can be used for measuring impacts of offline events and the kind of actions you can take. Actionable data, that is what really matters!

Caught in crisis - What Google Insights for Search can tell you?
Caught in a crisis? Get some useful info from Google Insights from SearchIt can happen that sometimes companies go through hard times and become the centre of attention of media and people, whether for good or bad reasons. Believe it or not, Google Insights for Search can be use to see the general impact of a crisis – if impact there is. Whenever there is something hot, what most of us do is to go on Google and search for it. So if such crisis has a significant impact, it must reflect in Google Insight for Search (or Google Trends).

How to use the tool?
  • Search for your brand, on most relevant locations
  • Look at last 7 or 30 days to get a detailed view and latest hot trends
  • See if any outstanding peaks and add context to the data! Put these in parallel with any external events.
  • Look at rising terms section ( i.e. the "hot" terms) and find out if there are any terms relating to the “hot” topic.
(Tip: The great thing with Google Insights for Search is that all data can be exported in CSV so you can build your own dashboard (with comments, annotations) or aggregate these into any existing one).

What actions can you take?
  • Communicate: Found some interesting findings? Then communicate these to key stakeholders. Don’t keep the info for you, share it. And don’t forget to provide background information, explanations & definitions so your stakeholders can easily understand the information.
  • Optimize for search: If you are providing official information through your online channels, you want people to find it. Make sure you optimize your content based on the rising terms, those used by customers. And as a short-term action, consider putting in place appropriate SEA strategy to support your SEO efforts.
Want an example?
Ok, anyone heard about the Toyota worldwide recall following the issue with the gas pedal and the Prius brakes? I am sure you did (DISCLOSURE: I am working for Toyota Motor Europe - see short intro text on top right).

A search for “Toyota”, with location set to worldwide, showed the following trend line for last 30 days (at the time I started writing this post). Peaks are clearly visible and happened following key announcements or coverage in the media.

Interest related to Toyota term in search, following recall announcements (worldwide)
The cool thing with Google tool is that I can select specific countries and compare trends. It is not just about the US. Remember, I am working in a European context. So let’s do the same search for UK, Germany and France. Similar trends but with different amplitudes – look at the huge peak in UK around the 3rd of February.

Interest related to Toyota term after recall announcements in Germany, UK and France
Having a look at the rising terms, terms about the recall and the accelerator problem are all over the place. And “toyota recall” is 2nd in top searches. This clearly shows what impact the recall had on search behaviour and interest around Toyota brand.

Rising terms section is full of terms related to the Toyota recall (UK)
Got it? Let’s move on to another application.

Does your latest TV ad trigger interest?
It is the dream of most marketers to do a really cool TV ad that will trigger positive interest, emotions and buzz. And yes, you may find the answer with Google Insights for Search- at least if your TV ad managed to get some interest. Again, if it is the case, people will talk about it and will search for it.

How to use the tool?
Proceed same way as in previous case. For such purpose, I even advise to do this on a regular basis.
  • Search for your brand, on most relevant locations
  • Look at last 30 days to get a detailed view and latest hot trends
  • Look at rising & hot terms section. Anything related to your TV ad? If yes then drilldown to get interest trends and compare related terms.
  • Again, add context. Do peaks coincide with start of your TV campaign? Or with any buzz in press / TV show / social media? Find it out and check with your colleagues from media department.
What actions can you take?
If people are searching for your TV ad - make it easily available, get your brand exposed! Aim for #1 spot in search results.
  • Share on social media: Post it on You Tube and any other popular video sharing platforms. And don’t forget to provide relevant description using terms reported by Google.
  • Broadcast your ad on your website: Add your TV ad on your site, create a specific webpage and get the You Tube video embedded in it.
  • Optimize for search: Optimize your TV ad page for organic search using terms you got from Google Insights for Search (and relevant variants).
Want an example?
This time I will take an example from a competitor. Recently, Peugeot, the French car manufacturer started a TV ad campaign to support the launch of its new logo. The TV ad shows the brand history - past, present & future - in a nice display of computer generated images.

Let's have a look at the "Peugeot" term, in France. This first interest trend may not show anything outstanding. That is where the "rising terms" section proves to be really helpful. A quick look shows the section is topped with terms related to the latest ad. People searched for the TV ad (usually a positive sign) and also look for info about the music (seems they liked it - even better!).

Rising search terms related to Peugeot in January, in France showed strong interest around latest ad
Clicking on the "Peugeot pub" term (i.e. Peugeot ad) you give you a much more interesting trend graph that can be analyzed against campaign planning for example.
Interest trend for Peugeot ad related term in France, January 2010
Finally a quick search on Google France for "peugeot pub" will return as top results a video of the TV ad from YouTube or from Dailymotion (not posted by Peugeot but who cares) - giving the info people are after and exposure to Peugeot brand!
Peugeot TV ad is on top positions on Google France
These are two examples of how you can use Google Insights for Search for measuring impacts of offline events and taking some online actions (among others). Now, of course it requires that you regularly check results in the Google tool. Just a good habit to take and appropriate process to put in place.

What do you think about these applications? Are you also using Google Insights for Search? If so, any example you can share here? Comments are more than welcome!

Final note: I would like to take this opportunity to make following recommendations to Google (if they read my post :-)) in order to make Google Insights for Search even better:
  • Add the possibility to save queries (Still one can copy/paste query URL's or bookmark these)
  • It should be possible to receive summary of the top & rising terms on a regular basis by emails or even the full report.
  • Add the possibility to create own annotations.

Related posts & resources:


  1. Michael,
    Great post! We've been working with Google Insights for a long time and it's an unbelievable resource.

    We've actually developed a way of pulling Google search results, google news and google blog search results (for even a corporate blog) into an overlay onto google insights to do exactly what you talked about.

    One of these days maybe we'll turn it into a product, but for now we're just using it in the office.

    Also, we're combining data from to actually determine an online brand value that takes into account brand communication and domain use and audience as it relates to Google insights.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this! Great work.

  2. Hi Michael!
    Awesome post, very useful.
    In my company we also use it to find out what people are looking for in other countries and try to find what of our services could match their needs and create new targeted campains.

  3. Michael

    Thanks for sharing this post. I find the data about the Toyota recall and the Peugeot TV ad using Google Insights very helpful.

    I love this tool myself and use it as well for various purposes including Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well as Search Engine Advertising (SEA).

    But how accurate is Google Insights.
    We run some Google Insight data against our Google adwords data. The results showed to be quite accurate between 75% - 90%.

    I find also interesting the option that one can save the Google Insight data in iGoogle. Hence, the latter is like a convenient archive with charts. Saved in iGoogle one can click again on the chart to get back the full report in Google Insights

    Thanks for sharing

    Urs - @ComMetrics
    MyComMetrics - benchmark your blog => improve performance

    PS. I wrote a small post about the Toyota recall including videos and charts. However, I did not use Google Insight. Nevertheless, might be interesting to have a look.

    ==> Toyota recall - 3 lessons we can learn from this disaster

  4. @Andrew: Wow. I am really curious about your overlay functionality you are developing. Sounds really cool. is - from what I know - also a great source but for us, poor European analysts, it is not really useful to be honest. More for US analyst. Or did it changed?

    @Mayon: Thanks for commenting and sharing a bit of your experience on how your use the Google tool for market research.

    @Urs: Thanks to you as well for sharing your experience with Google Insights and investigations about accuracy.

    Now of course, there is no mention of accuracy level but it is certainly linked to volumes I assume. So if you are a big brand that generates high search volume, it is more likely to be more accurate than for terms with lower volume (closer to the threshold set by Google). Just some quick thoughts.

    And thanks also for sharing your post on the recall.



  5. Great Post! Again.

    It would be nice, if Google could integrate Insights into Analytics. Share annotations (for a start)...

    But at the and it would be cool to use the new Intelligence reports with Insights data.

    For example: You get notified, when the an important keyword (eg. Toyota) is "rising" on Google Search, but the search engine traffic coming to your side is not changing... So can have a look, if something is wrong and start to optimize.

  6. Hi Bernd,

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Email alerts would be a good start but I agree having a feature like Google Analytics Intelligence would even better.

    The idea suggested by one of the commenters of having your reports saved under iGoogle is a good one too, I think. I will give it a try.

    But I am sure Google will keep developing and enhancing this great tool.

    Cheers from Brussels,


  7. Remco van der BeekMarch 2, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    Hi Michael,

    I have been wondering about Insights for a while. The only added value I see vs. a good analytics tool is that Insights provides you with trend info beyond only those searches that ended up on your site.

    But if you enter your brand as a parameter in GI my hunch is that your daily visitors report in analytics and GI will show exactly the same trend. If not, you're facing a serious SEO issue.

    Feedback ?

  8. Hi Remco,

    I don't think that comparing Google Insights against "traditional" Web analytics tools is relevant. They simply serve different purposes.

    By querying GIfS with a brand term - you get a kind of a "barometer" of the search interest around your brand and related searches. And many don't especially go to the brand site. Let's take the Toyota example. The peaks on the European markets are clearly related to the recall issues and various events in the media. However people searched not just for "Toyota" but for "Toyota recall", "Toyota gas pedal", etc (as shown in the "rising terms" section). These didn't necessarily lead to the official sites (because official statements came often after the initial buzz in the traditional & social media).

    A traditional Web Analytics tool will tell you what search terms lead to your site while GIfS gives you more a view on what happened on Google search (i.e. outside your site). This - I believe - can be interpreted as general interest for the brand (or related issue).




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