Nick Wilson on Performancing.com asked the other day when is a blog not a blog. I responded “guilty as charged”, in regards to some of the non-blogs I have posing as blogs. A few days reflection brought me to the conclusion that the reason I am working on so many different weblog projects half-assed is that I’m afraid to commit to a single topic. And I still haven’t decided what that is. I haven’t been blogging “professionally” long enough, and more importantly, lucratively enough to make a decision yet. If you’re in the same boat as far as writing online goes, Darren Rowse and Steve Rubel point out a tool that may help your writing in a number of ways.
The tool is Google Trends. As Darren and Steve illustrate, Trends can be used as a research tool, whether or not you are writing online. It helps you compare the popularity of 2-5 search terms, and does a demographic breakdown by city, region or language.
If you have a website that sells something, you might use the trend information to target content, products, ebooks, services, etc., by country of your visitor. If you are actually writing online, the trend information can help you determine how to narrow down your topic focus, whether or not you use a regional breakdown.
For example, the graph at right (click for larger version) shows a comparison between the terms “food”, “recipes” and “cooking”. According to the trend chart, during the last two years, the term “food” outdistances the other two terms for searches. What’s more, the “News volume” secondary chart shows that the term “food” showed up more often in Google News stories than the other terms.
You might conclude, then, that it may be more worthwhile to write about food in general than just cooking or recipes. Of course, writing about all three topics might be even better. It might also be worthwhile to make sure that the titles of your online articles typically include one of those terms, to give yourself a better chance of being found.
You can also use Google Trends to help you decide between topics. In the chart at right, I’ve randomly compared 5 topics. It appears that of the 5 (technology, cars, jewelry, recipes, writing), the search term “cars” is more popular. However, cars has a lower News Volume than both technology and food. While this only means that Google news pieces did not mention “cars” as often, it might also mean that there are less articles on the Internet about cars than for the other topics.
It’s not a definitive conclusion, but this might mean that it could be more lucrative to write about cars, since there is a dearth of such articles. Had there been more car articles, relatively speaking, that may mean there’s too much competition for your articles against other sites, and it might be best to stay away from that topic. Ultimately, if you want to write about cars, your should probably do so anyway, but if you plan to earn a living doing so, you may want to leverage your online articles to land print articles. For most writers, print still pays far better than anywhere on the Internet, including your own site.
The best part about Trends is that it shows you seasonal fluctuations as well. Some topics are bound to be more popular during certain times of year. To maximize your readership of articles about such topics, you want to write them AND post them in advance, to give search engines time to index them. For this reason, many top bloggers say that you need to start preparing for the Xmas season several months in advance. It’s the same reason why Olympics bloggers start their websites a couple of years before the event.
What Google Trends does not show you is the actual volume of searches for each term. Nevertheless, Trends should prove to be a valuable tool for writing and research, especially for websites and weblogs.