How to use Google auto suggest for keyword research

Follow along with our free guide


Isn’t it convenient when your best friend knows exactly what you’re thinking without you having to tell them very much at all? Auto suggest is a little bit like that, and that’s why this feature can be considered a webmaster’s best friend.

What is Google auto suggest?

Auto suggest is a feature you’ve definitely seen before if you’ve made a search on Google since December, 2004. You’ve probably used it hundreds of times without even thinking about it. It’s the website’s component that will try to guess what you’re searching for as you type it, and it changes its predictions as you continue to type in the search bar. It looks like this:


This feature not only saves users the time of typing out their whole query for certain searches, it also lets them know what other people are commonly searching for with those same starting words and phrases.

On one level, it’s a feature that provides convenience, and on another level, auto suggest gives us a look into the collective human psyche. You can see what searches are trending and the most popular among other users around the world, which can reveal a lot about what society wants to know and do on the internet during that time period.

Not only is Google auto suggest helpful for typical internet users and contemporary anthropologists, it can also help webmasters and digital marketers a great deal by revealing important information about their target customers’ internet activity.

If you are trying to improve the Google rankings of your website and tailor content to show up for specific audiences(the potential customers for your products and services), one of the most common ways to get there is to implement the proper keywords into your website’s elements and content.

Sounds simple enough, but the process can get complicated when it comes to finding the right keywords to incorporate in your website. To do this, you’ll need to perform keyword research.

There’s hundreds of SEO articles focused on the topic of keyword research alone, and we have a complete guide on the topic here.

To keep it brief in this article, keyword research comes down to finding the common words and phrases within search queries that align with the search intent of your target personas. That way, you’ll be using the same verbiage your customers are using, and you’ll be much more likely to rank for the searches they’re making.

There are many different tactics and methods to keyword research, including looking for longtail keywords and identifying LSI keywords. Today, we’re honing in on how you can use Google auto suggest to your benefit during keyword research.  

Before we explain how you can use autosuggest for keyword research, it’s important to understand how the tool works.

Where does Google get auto suggested keywords from?

According to Google, the predictions of what the missing words are in a user’s search query come from the most common and trending queries that other users are making on the search engine.

However, there are many factors that will alter the predictions Google gives one particular user compared to another. We’ll go through these now, to give a deeper look into how Google determines a user’s predictions.

What factors affect Google auto suggest predictions?

Freshness

Google also considers news, recent issues, and updates when creating suggestions. Predictions that refer to newer searches and searches that are experiencing a significant spike will be more likely to be utilized by auto suggest.

Location

Google autocomplete will “follow” the user wherever they go. A user in one country will get much different auto suggest predictions than a user halfway across the globe. For example, if a user in Brazil and a user in Japan both type in “Cheap haircuts in,” Google will provide them with very different suggestions.

Language

The language the user has set will also affect what predictions Google makes. Someone using the English settings on Google will in turn get predictions in English, while another user with Spanish settings will get their predictions in Spanish.

Search history

Google will take your search history into account when providing search predictions. If you search similar topics repeatedly or have certain search patterns, Google will pick up on this and adjust its suggestions accordingly.

Google’s Autocomplete policy

Not all predictions are allowed to display, they must lie within Google’s Autocomplete policy. If the prediction is deemed inappropriate, it will be removed from the auto suggest list.

Predictions violate the policy if they contain violence or gore, if they use sexually explicit, vulgar, or profane language (with the exception of medical and scientific terms), if it contains hate speech, sensitive information about named individuals, or dangerous predictions (searches that may lead to serious harm to people or animals).

The search engine does its best to remove inappropriate predictions, however in the case a prediction that violates policy slips through, there is a way for users to report a prediction

How to use Google auto suggest for keyword research

So Google auto suggest relies on common searches and a few other factors to make predictions for its users. How can you use this tool for SEO practices?

Start typing in keywords that are relevant to your business, and see what suggestions come up. These suggestions could provide more keywords to you, or longtail keywords. However, when you’re doing so, keep the following tips in mind:

Go incognito

Before performing keyword research with Google auto suggest, you’ll want to use an incognito or private browsing window so that your search history does not affect the predictions you receive from Google.

Otherwise, the keywords you extract from suggestions will most likely be skewed and not the best for your SEO goals.

Use a VPN

If your target audience is based in a different country/location, you’ll want to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This will allow you to “trick” Google into thinking that you’re searching from somewhere other than your physical location.

This could be helpful, for example, if you are based out of England but your target customers are in the United States. You could set your VPN to be based out of the US, and Google’s suggestions will be what users are searching in the US instead of England.

Try singular and plural forms

Surprisingly, typing in the singular or the plural form of a keyword could turn up different suggestions. In order to be thorough and get the most out of your keyword research, see what comes up for both terms. This means if you’re typing in “baking apron,” you’ll want to type in “baking aprons” as well.


Go through the alphabet

Feeling lost on how to get more useful predictions from Google? Type in your chosen keyword, and then go through typing each letter of the alphabet, one by one, to see the different results that turn up. This could send you down a meaningful path of research.




Move your cursor around

Did you know that auto suggest will add to different sections of a phrase you’ve typed in, depending on where your cursor lies? Experiment with where you have your blinking cursor and observe how Google auto suggest reacts. Again, this helps you perform due diligence and the most thorough research as possible.




Find keywords for local SEO

If you have a business in a physical location, you’ll want people to be able to find you on Google when searching for businesses of your kind. To ensure you’re targeting the right keywords and phrases for local SEO, type in your business type and your city and see what else comes up.

Let’s say you own a sub shop. Are people looking for sub shops in certain neighborhoods, on certain streets, or near certain landmarks? Try to dig and see if, for example, people are looking for “sub shops near Amtrak train station.” These details could help bolster your local SEO and bring you increased foot traffic from search.

Further uses of Google auto suggest for SEO

Online reputation management

Google auto suggest is also a great way of seeing what people are searching for surrounding your particular business. What is Google (and therefore users) associating with your business? Is it positive searches, or negative? Is there something that people are often confused about your business that you would be able to clarify?

Google’s suggestions will help you monitor your brand image, and point you in the direction of where the business’s image needs to be improved/clarified. You will also be able to identify and address problems that are revealed from the predictions.

Get inspiration for content topics

Search predictions can help you further understand what your target audience wants to know, and you can in turn build out content on your website that answers these questions and covers the topics your target users are searching for. This content could come in the forms of blog posts, infographics, video tutorials, or many others-whatever suits the subject matter the best.  

Conclusion

If the world existed without Google auto suggest, we’d all be typing a lot more in the search bar. We’d also be missing out on a powerful tool that gives us a ton of data on how people are using Google for their searches. Utilizing Google auto suggest will give you inside information about your customers, so you’ll want to take time to extract the most information from the search bar using the steps we gave you today.

Join hundreds of marketers to get exclusive SEO tips, guides, and resources in your inbox

We’re always sharing insights, findings, and case studies with our subscribers. Sign up to get our best SEO tips and advice in your inbox.