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Making use of Google’s Search Suggestions

Since 2008, Google has provided searchers with the ‘Search Suggest’ option, which aims to predict the search terms that users are typing into the search query box. In 2010, this was combined with Google’s Instant Search service, which continuously changes the results list as the users types in their query. The suggested search term function is therefore a valuable tool for users, but also for search marketers.

The drop-down list of search suggestions that appear as users enter a search query on Google will sometimes display up to 10 options, although in most cases, there are 4 suggestions shown, which are continually refined as the query is typed. The aim of Google is to help the user complete their search query faster, by anticipating the search term they might use. These suggestions come from historical data on how people have searched, as well as the content of web pages indexed by Google.

The search popularity is the primary factor in what Google shows as a suggestion, yet the suggestions may also be influenced by a user’s previous search history, or by relevancy factors that are calculated by Google’s complex algorithms. There is also a “freshness layer”, so that if there are terms that suddenly spike in popularity, these can appear as suggestions, even if they haven’t gained long-term popularity.

What’s important from a search marketing point of view is how these suggestions may influence the results shown on the page, and how this information can be used for a business advantage. Although there are no figures on usage of these suggestions, many people say that they will look at the suggestions being shown and are likely to choose the relevant query to save typing in the full query. As a result, this tool can help to influence the way that people are searching and could increase the times that websites will appear in the rankings for selected search queries.

This is important for search engine optimisation (SEO) and for PPC advertising (Google AdWords). From an SEO perspective, marketers should see what queries are being suggested for the main search terms they are targeting through their optimisation, and then ensure that the relevant suggestions are also being targeted in their site content.

This is also true for Google AdWords, so that by targeting the relevant suggestions for the market – either as a phrase or exact match term – marketers can see how often those terms are being used as a search query, and whether they perform well in their campaign. Targeting these suggestions can also help bid pricing on specific queries, and in addition to this, any suggestions that are shown, but are not relevant, provide good information on negative terms that should be added to the campaign.

If you would like more information about Google’s search suggestions and how these can be used for your search marketing activity, contact us now.