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Google Trends doesn’t assume phrases. I know that Google Search doesn’t either, but the way in which Google Trends is presented on its home page, you can be forgiven for thinking that it is assuming that you are interested in phrases. Assuming it is using phrases can promote some fundamental errors in its use as a keyword prediction tool, which I am starting to use it as.

A key example is looking for help on a ‘London hotels’ search. Optimising a page for such a search could hinge on whether searchers look for singular or plural ‘hotels’. Google Trends suggests that the singular search is much more important (some 40%, perhaps) than the plural; if you leave the quotation marks out of the search expression.

UK only Google Trends: London hotel, London hotels

If you place the quotation marks in the search expression, looking then for the incidence of these expressions as phrases, not individual words, then the answer is fundamentally different, with the plural search coming in at over 100% more search volume.

UK only Google Trends: “London hotel”, “London hotels”

So, the moral of the story is clearly to take care to ask Google the actual question you need the answer for.

Those of you who are really paying attention may be wondering whether I am asking for the incidence of people who actually put quote marks around their search expressions, or whether I am isolating only those searches that have the words in that order. Hmmm… So am I. I fear it is the former. This wont invalidate the findings, as the patterns should repeat themselves if the sample is big enough, but this will rather make it an incomplete tool, shucks!

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Filed in Blog, June 5th, 2006. Leave a comment, or trackback from your own site. Follow comments via RSS

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