How to Play Around With Google Suggest to Come Up with Content Ideas
[Updated November 1, 2022]
Google is pretty much the only search engine that matters. Yes, others may be used more in certain regions, such as Baidu (with around 8% of overall usage, followed by Bing at 7%, according to Smart Insights). But even with those and other search engines, Google takes more than 77% of the searches across the globe.
On top of their general search features, they have become a staple for marketing efforts. Having a solid SEO strategy is a fundamental of promotion. With so much noise out there and around 40,000 searches every second, you have to make sure your website is coming up above it all and reaching the audience it needs to. That’s never easy – especially now that everyone is aware of SEO. There are free plugins to optimize any site, and almost anyone can learn it.
Google has a ton of awesome products and services – most of them are search-related. One of the features that I think it is especially valuable to understand is Google Suggest, which is good for more than just finishing sentences.
How Does Google Suggest Work?
Google Suggest (also called Autocomplete) has been around since 2008. In that time it hasn’t changed a whole lot in its function. Sure, there have been some updates such as the autocomplete feature being applied to URL searches instead of just in the search bar of the main page. It has also become much more intuitive and does a better job of suggesting what you might be looking for.
Autocomplete is also populated for brand names as well, so it is a great idea to check these out for reputation management purposes as well.
You might remember the commercials released a few years ago by Bing that talked about “search overload”. This wasn’t just an advertising ploy. It was actually a problem that some users might not remember Google having. Its suggestions were not always very relevant, and the search results could be frustratingly broad. That problem was fixed in subsequent updates. Consequently, Bing never managed to carve out more than a tiny share of the search market as a result.
Now, Google will narrow down through the entire process of you typing out a key phrase. It adapts with each new addition. So you have fresh, relevant suggestions right away, helping you find the answers that you need quickly. It is a very helpful feature if you are lazy like me and don’t want to type everything out. It’s perhaps even more helpful if you have an idea of what you are looking for, but don’t know the exact name.
But what makes Google Suggest especially useful is one fact: all search suggestions come from common searches other users have made. The more popular the search, the more likely you are to see it autocomplete. The more you narrow your phrase, the further away from the most popular overall phrases you get and the deeper you go into niche territory. It gives you insight into what people are looking for.
You probably see where this is going.
Google Suggest For Content Ideas
There are two primary ways you can play around with Google Suggest and improve your keyword research game. The first is through basic searches that give you ideas on the most popular phrases that are related to your niche.
But the goal isn’t just to come up with keywords. It is to take what people are asking or searching about and being the one to provide the answer.
Do a search on your topic and add “how to” at the beginning and see what popular phrase pops up when you begin typing it into the search bar. That’s a quick way to get inspired!
You can always dig deeper: Select any phrase and let Google Suggest provide suggestions for it:
Well, you now know that you should write a piece about that question, showing people how to do it. You find something your audience wants to know about, then give them the answer.
If that all sounds like a little too much work or time than you have to dedicate, you can find tools that do the heavy lifting for you. There are dozens out there, but my personal favorites are:
WebCEO’s Keyword Generator for Writers
WebCEO offers a handy keyword generator for writers that uses Google’s Autocomplete as one of the sources. These are keywords Google shows as people are still typing my main keyword into the search box. These will be my main keywords I use as subheadings / subsections of my content.
This one will dig deep for you by expanding Google Suggest results by each letter of the alphabet.
This one will run Google Suggest for you, find questions that pop up in its results and organize results by question words:
Google Suggest For Topic Research
The second way you have to use Google Suggest is to find related phrases that might be more effective for your SEO strategy. Google Suggest may help you expand your content beyond the most obvious terms. I have described this here: With a quick trick, you can see how Google actually understands your query. For example, it would suggest:
- nearby location (“troy”, “Schenectady”, “glens fall”)
- synonyms (“pets” and “pet” instead of “cats” and “lost” instead for “missing”)
- related entities, e.g., services and organizations that may solve your problem (“pet connection facebook”)
- related, but not exactly synonymous terms (“found” instead of “missing”)
To get these results, here’s a quick exercise you need to perform:
- Type your phrase (3 words minimum) into the search box and click “search”
- Once you see the results, show Google that you are somehow lost by clicking somewhere inside your query
Here’s another example of related suggestions:
In this case, Google assumes that, since you were searching for GIFs, you may also be interested in memes and quotes…
Play more to understand your topic and relationships between the concepts better!
Please Share Your Thoughts
Do you have any ideas on how to use Google Suggest? Let us know in the comments!
Related reading: Your Complete Content Plan Part 1: Keyword Research
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