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Search Leeds: Sophie Coley – Search Listening: How and why we should be using Google data way beyond traditional keyword research

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Sophie is talking about how and why we should be using Google data, way beyond traditional keyword research.

Sophie is the Director of, a search query data visualisation tool, which maps out keyword predictions that you see when users make a Google search, allowing us to start answering our public/audience a lot better.

She starts by discussing the art of using search data to uncover motivations, attitudes and truths about audiences that are typically lacking in standard research methods. By ignoring these attitudes and behaviours that consumers display when they search, businesses are missing out on a wealth of incredibly valuable insights which come for free.

Jokingly, Sophie makes a Spice Girls reference in telling us that “consumers don’t tell marketers what they want, but they do tell google what they want, what they really really want”. But it’s completely true, users treat Google as a confessional box, inputting some of their deepest darkest thoughts, giving us, the marketers, so much valuable insight on what goes on in a users mind when they turn to Google for a solution.

“Google searches are the most important dataset ever collected on the human psyche”

She makes the point on how long-tail searches are grossly undervalued, and how there is a huge amount of potential when looking into these deeper through different methods of keyword research.

Traditionally, keyword research has been performed to better understand what phrases searchers are using to find content. And as marketers, the Google data set that we can access is huge, with users talking to Google as though talking to a friend, we can delve into a huge amount of data, discovering users personalities and needs, with zero research bias.

Sophie then goes on to get the audience to think of all of the things we’ve told Google in the past? Would you share these thoughts with your close friends, family, or partner?

We really do turn to Google for absolutely anything, and in most cases users will act as though they are directly talking to the search engine – sharing their deepest secrets, catastrophic life events or even desperately trying to resolve a kitchen nightmare.

She then begins to share more insight around Answer The Public and what their tool actually does for marketers. But essentially, it’s a clever insight tool that combines the suggested searches from Bing and Google and extracts them in to a “keyword wheel”, doing the job of auto complete suggestions for you.

Search listening tip – use spaces within Google autosuggest as wildcards to uncover rich attitudinal and behavioural insights.


Sophie then goes into search listening a little deeper, and how you can use it to explore tribalism in your audiences world. She then uses the example of looking into searches for queries around “dresses like” and how by doing this, you could get valuable insight on key personalities that are influencing particular products, e.g “dresses like Megan Markle’s”. This would also be extremely useful for looking into your competitor sets.

Using another example around hairstyles, you can start to understand who the influencers are in the social world, e.g “hairstyles like Kris Jenner’s”. Allowing you to gain insight on what real women in the world want, and what they are telling Google.

If you’re working with a new client or a business that doesn’t have any personas to work with, this is a great starting point. You can look at users, and how they relate themselves to your products and why they are looking for them, building personas from this.

By doing this, you can uncover labels, both literal and inferred, that your audience gives itself and then focus on these.

Sophie then explains, that you can really get a snapshot in time by using search listening, and understand the most pertinent questions and sentiment around important topics being searched for recently – societal or commercial.

To be a better marketer, you need to understand your audience, and to do this, you need to understand their intent and what they need. If not, they’ll only go to a competitor who better understands them and relates to their needs a lot more.

At the end of the day, as marketers, we are the gatekeepers to a massive source of insight, so we need to really think about how we can make use of this search data.

To summarise, Sophie shares the key learnings from today’s talk:

  • Think about the entire purchase journey
  • Make use of wildcards and look out for tribalism
  • Look at searches to understand the most influential brands and personalities
  • Understand shifts in audience sentiment by comparing search content over time