Every day billions of people use Google to investigate the world’s knowledge. They plug in their personal curiosities and interests hundreds and thousands of times every second. If there were a way to harness that, it could revolutionize the content you are producing — or at least provide timely illustrations for your next lesson or sermon.
Google Trends does that harnessing. It helps you understand what the world is thinking about the topic you are considering. It can also be incredibly helpful to church leaders as they seek to engage with the world and produce content that grabs attention.
Use Google Trends to find illustrations and keep up-to-date
One of the most powerful features of the service is trending stories, those that are grabbing the world’s attention. On the front page of Google Trends, you will find a list of the top stories searched over the past 24 hours. If you want a more bird’s-eye view of all search terms, click the three stacked lines (looks like a hamburger) at the top left of the page to reveal several options including trending searches.
This is an excellent way to stay up-to-date on what is happening in the world and to discover great current event illustrations for sermons and lessons. Google Trends also includes a list of trending videos on YouTube. One might be just the multimedia illustration you need to vary the content in your lesson. Just be sure to check the copyright information on the video page and check out Discipleship Ministries' resources for Christian copyright solutions.
Using Google Trends to target online content
Though Google Trends can be incredibly useful for providing illustrations, it excels at helping you target online content like web pages and blog entries. Sometimes all it takes is the right phrase, keywords or title to help your content go to the next level in attracting web traffic.
Let’s explore this using a practical example. I am considering writing another piece on Sabbath for my blog. Though I could just write a piece and put it up, taking a moment to look at Google Trends can help me immensely. Once I enter the search term “sabbath,” I quickly see a nice graph showing a peak in interest in 2013 as well as an apparent uptick in interest over the past month or so.
Scrolling down, I see very quickly a search problem that I should have known. A band (Black Sabbath) is mixing in with the religious terms. In fact, the terms appear to reveal that the uptick in 2013 was the result of their tour that year. However, buried in that data is a nice clarifying term, “biblical sabbath” that is the second most popular topic related to “sabbath.” Making sure to mention “biblical sabbath” a couple times (and possibly in the title) will help ensure my entry is targeted correctly. This is a nuanced example, but the point is that you can find all sorts of interesting and helpful information about your topic.
The other helpful thing I can discover is in the “rising” tab of the related-search queries section. This list shows me what related searches are starting to get more attention. It turns out that “Sabbath Lesson” is up 400 percent. If I can craft what I want to say in the form of a lesson, and put “lesson” in the title, I might very well garner more search traffic for my article.
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Using Google Trends to create content
You want to keep your blog filled with fresh content, but sometimes you sit down to write and aren’t sure where to start. You may have an idea for a topic but are not sure exactly what you want to say about it. In that case, it’s time to head over to Google Trends.
If you are working on a blank slate, skip the targeting and go straight to the trending topics and videos, and ask yourself a simple question, “What does Scripture or Christianity in general add to this topic or idea?” Using that question as your guide, latch on to the topic about which you are most passionate. Be sure you include the exact trending term in your title and insert a couple of links to other popular articles. These steps will help tremendously with search engine optimization.
If you still aren’t sure which way to go with a subject, use the explore tool and type in the basic term. Once on that page, simply click the “+Add Term” button and add terms that describe your different directions. The resulting graph will display the relative popularity of all options.
Google Trends is not a web-traffic genie, but it might be just what you need to take your content to the next level and even teach you a bit about the interests of your culture.
When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Al. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!