I used to think that when you enter keywords into Google's search box, Google then scours the entire Internet to come up with your search results. But that's not how it works.
Search engines continuously gather information from the Web and index it on their own servers. Each search engine - Google, Bing, and others - has its own algorithms for how they rank search results. That's why you'll get slightly different results from different search engines. But all give high priority to serving up results that match the keywords that people type into the search boxes.
If you want your website, blog or public social media content to show up on Google's search results, it's important to include keywords and key phrases that your target audience is probably searching for.
How To Find Out What People Are Searching for On Google
Google has several tools to help you. They are aimed at potential advertisers who purchase ads on websites and "sponsored links" in search results. But you don't need to spend money in order to use these tools.
Google Trends shows you, at a glance, either current or historical search statistics. The default is what's currently most popular in the USA. However, you can filter by category. For example, here's a partial screenshot of today's search statistics in health topics. Note that obesity surgery and opioid addiction are among the top three. That means a lot of people are entering those keywords into search engines. If you know something about obesity or drug addiction, this would be a good time to write a blog post or tweet.
You can also search Google trends for specific topics and for specific time periods. For example, suppose you want to run a marketing campaign, but want to time it to seasonal searches. The screenshot below shows the number of searches for marriage counseling from January 2014 to October 2015.
You can see from the graph, that there are peaks when people have searched for marriage counseling. Although search history is not an entirely predictable indicator of future searches, it's apparent that April was a popular search month for this topic two years in a row - which suggests that April would be a good time to step up your marketing for marriage counseling services.
Google Instant Predictions
Have you noticed that when you start typing something into the Google search box, a list of possibilities pops up? (If you don't see this, check your Google search settings to make sure that "Instant Predictions" is turned on.)
Here's what came up when I started typing how to help spouse with depression. Before I even finished, Google showed me some recent searches by others
If the content on your website or blog has wording that matches these searches, it will more likely come up higher in search results.
As an independent mental health practitioner, matching keyword phrases will probably get you higher in the search results than simply matching on individual words such as depression. The major websites like Wikipedia, WebMD and others get priority in the search results for depression because they are internationally popular and authoritative websites.
When you match your content to phrases rather than to individual words, fewer people will be searching on those phrases. However, by the time someone searches for a phrase rather than a word, they have a pretty good idea of what they're looking for, and are closer to taking action.
Google Keyword Planner
The Keyword Planner is part of Google's "Adwords" advertising service. In order to use it, you'll need to set up an account. They'll ask for credit card information, but you won't get charged unless you run an Adwords campaign.
With the Keyword Planner you can both search for keyword ideas and see historic search volume on specific keywords and key phrases. You can even filter by geographic region.
Here's a comparison search for various keywords that people entered into Google's search engine over the past year, in New York City:
Note that far fewer people have searched for psychotherapist than for therapist, counselor or psychologist. Therefore, if you're a mental health professional in New York, you'll be more likely to be found in search results if you include the word therapist in your description or page title, than psychotherapist.
Your geographical area may have different results. Adjust your website content accordingly.
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