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Tech Matters: How to use Google’s Year in Search to build business

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 14, 2022

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Leslie Meredith

Google last week revealed its annual Year in Search report for 2022. While sobering world events — the war in Ukraine and the death of Queen Elizabeth — ranked in this year’s top five global searches, the winner was Wordle, the popular online word game now hosted by The New York Times, and two cricket matches featuring India. The results may say more about the popularity of Google in India than anything else.

You can also search by country to see what U.S. users searched for. Here, Wordle still tops the list but is followed by election results and three people who died: Betty White, Queen Elizabeth and Bob Saget. But the real insights start when you dive into local searches. For the first time, Google offered a local search hub. Type in a U.S. city or zip code and Google will reveal the top trends in that area. In addition to giving a list of the top 10 searches in major cities, Google highlights anything particularly unique about the city’s search trends. While the results will make for interesting dinner table conversation, the real value is in their potential for business owners and content creators.

Let’s take a look at the Salt Lake City metropolitan area that includes Ogden and everything in between. Google highlights unique findings such as that Salt Lake is the only area in the country to have blueberry compote as its top trending recipe. Of the two places that had showtimes as a top trending “near me” search, the Salt Lake area searched for it the most. The other area was San Francisco. Similarly, we were only one of two areas that searched most frequently for a roast beef sandwich near me. Denver craves roast beef too. Our most-searched animal was the Pallas’ cat. When it comes to music, searches related to country music topped our list. We also wanted Lasik surgery, at-home COVID tests, a pilates studio, cheap gas and a dog wash.

How do you take this seemingly random and unrelated information and use it for your business? If you’re a restaurant owner or make food to sell, it’s time to whip up some blueberry compote and add a roast beef sandwich to your menu. But that’s only the first step. You’ll want to get the word out but don’t rely solely on word of mouth. Leverage SEO, an acronym for search engine optimization, as a way to drive traffic to your website and social media accounts.

In simple terms, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business. The higher your website pages rank in search results, the more interested people will visit your site. You want to be on the first page for search terms. While there is no magic formula for a Page 1 ranking, it’s essential to know what people are searching for that’s related to what you’re selling and then use that knowledge to optimize your website for those terms.

Google uses bots to collect information about every page on the internet and then organizes it into a massive index. This index is used to call up the most relevant pages to match a user’s query. Google aims to provide the very best page matches every time, and since it’s by far the most popular search engine in the world, we can say it’s doing a pretty good job.

You can pay for search ads, but you can’t pay search engines to get higher search rankings, which means you have to do the work to rank higher. In the old days, some website writers turned to keyword stuffing, writing articles that included specific search terms many times. Today, Google has evolved its ranking algorithm to penalize websites that use these types of tactics. Google recommends that you write copy that is clear, organized for readability and useful if you want to maximize your ranking.

If you manage a website, you should be using Google’s Search Console, a free service that helps you monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. For instance, Search Console will tell you how often your site appears in Google Search, which search queries show your site, and how often searchers click through for those queries. Rolling out to this tool is Content Ideas, a new experimental feature that, as its name implies, offers a list of topics to write about based on search data.

In the meantime, have fun with the Year in Search review, analyze your own website search data in Google Analytics and craft a plan for better SEO to start 2023 off with an influx of new business.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness, and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com


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