According to Google’s News Lab, ‘how to’ searches have increased by 140% since 2004.
It is well known that, generation after generation, we lose practical knowledge. Mankind may have made breathtaking advances in science and technology, but at the other hand of the spectrum, how many people could turn a sheep’s fleece into a thread ready to be woven? Even considering topics less niche, some skills are better explained by showing them rather than by writing a long article about them, and this is where the internet is unbeatable.
Although there are seasonal queries and geographical trends, the overall global numbers of ‘how to’ searches show how very pragamatic we are. The big winner is ‘how to tie a tie’ – they can indeed be fiddly things so no wonder. Second and third come romantic considerations with ‘how to kiss’ and ‘how to get pregnant’. Diets come in fourth and tenth positions, with ‘how to lose weight’ and ‘how to lose belly fat’. In fifth position, a bit of an oddity considering the other topics of the Top 10 ‘how to‘ searches, we want to learn how to draw. Other popular searches include how to make money and cook various dishes.
Over the last few years, it has become increasingly clear that we use questions more and more in our searches, and understanding how to ride the wave will help you rank better.
It will probably be no surprise that ‘how to lose weight’ and related queries tend to rank much higher at the beginning of the year (along with the number of gym memberships) when people make New Year resolutions, and before the beach season. In countries of the Southern hemisphere, these two periods overlap, but in the Northern hemisphere, it would give businesses the opportunity to target customers twice a year.
If your business offers products or services that become more relevant in summer, consider creating content that will integrate those popular ‘how to’ questions as you will drive traffic that would otherwise never reach your website. If you sell barbecues for example, you could write an article on low fat recipes cooked outdoors – on your barbecues of course.
Whether your customers are only in New Zealand or international, it is essential that you research the important dates for your market throughout the year so that you can be relevant.
Different cultures have different priorities and analysing ‘how to’ searches highlights them to perfection.
It looks as though, around the world, we like fixing things, or at least have a go at it! What we focus on, however, differs.
North Americans and East Asians seem to encounter no ends of problems with their toilets as how to fix them ranks top among household items that need attention. In Eastern Europe and Russia, they apparently won’t think twice about attempting to fix a washing-machine – perhaps a remnant of a time when consumer goods were hard to get by and you had to make what you had last as long as possible.
People in warmer countries search more often for ‘how to fix a fridge’. Which makes sense as food would spoil quicker than in colder climates if they break down.
Interestingly, problems with walls, doors and windows seem to be a worry we share across borders as fixing them are the most searched-for terms everywhere.
How about New Zealand? We are game for fixing washing-machines, fridges and toilets, although we are much more timid about it than other countries. We are happy to change bulbs, but where we really shine is in our willingness to fix electric outlets.
Our cousins in Australia show similar trends, although they seem to concentrate their efforts on fixing houses rather than fixtures.
All you need is love
If your client base is young, understanding its romantic concerns is the key to success. ‘How to tell if a boy / girl likes you’, ‘how to invite someone on a date’ or ‘how to kiss’ will be at the forefront of their mind and so will you if you offer them content that drives them to your site.
It is not to say that an older client base will be uninterested in romance, but their ‘how to’ may be more related to settled relationships and may include questions about how to propose, how to organise a wedding, how to celebrate wedding anniversaries… or how to get a quick divorce!
How to take advantage of these trends
1. Understand your customers
The very first step to take is to make sure that you understand your customer base. It means their demographics, gender, interests and dates in the year that may be significant in their lives. For example, if families are your market, the school calendar will largely rule their schedule.
2. Google suggestions
Google search page has a very clever feature: type in the first word(s) of your search and it will helpfully suggest endings based on popularity. This is invaluable as you may stumble upon questions you would have never thought of otherwise but, even more importantly, it will reveal modifiers, i.e. terms that narrow and focus searches with a specific time frame (a year, a season, an event) for example. This is crucial as it will enable you to develop a highly targeted marketing strategy which will be very relevant to your customers.
3. Google trends
Whether you are planning an Adwords campaign or content creation – or even better, both – Google Keyword Planner is your next stop. Based on a set of seed keywords of your choosing, Google will display several hundred other keywords related and their results. This is in itself useful – and often an eye-opener for website owners as to what their customers really search for – but what is really interesting is to check the trends over the past 12 months to identify patterns. This will tell you when to publish content and launch your campaigns.
If you would like to find out how to leverage search terms, give us a ring on 09 360 2299.