Mind reading and other Google tricks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could figure out what your constituents were thinking about? Well, it turns out that Google’s Insights for Search might make you a mentalist after all.

Insights has been around for a good long while, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. Check out this comparison of the terms “donate” and “give.”

You can see that, in 2010, “give” had a significantly higher search volume than “donate.” You can also see that there is no big spike in the fourth quarter – something you might expect.

So what does this mean? Should you switch all your “donate” buttons to “give” buttons? Not necessarily. The usability testing we’ve done has shown that either label works fine for site visitors. In other words, when given a generic task – like “How would you support this ministry financial?” – users would have no problem figuring it out, whether the button said “give” or “donate.”

So, back to the question, “What does this mean?” This insight into what people search for should change what terms you optimize in search. While it may not matter what you call your give button, once someone gets onto your site, using “give” as a keyword should result in more traffic – because there are more people searching for it.

I recently went through some optimization training from MecLabs, where the mantra is that they don’t optimize landing pages, they optimize mental processes. Said another way, the more your website reflects what your users are already thinking, the lower the friction and the higher the conversion.

You can also narrow the results to a particular geographic area, especially helpful to regional ministries like rescue missions. For example, how could you answer the question “Are folks searching more for ‘homeless’ or ‘hunger’?”

You can see that “homeless” tracks above “hunger,” but they tend to move together. You can also see yearly patterns, where interest increases in the fourth quarter and trends up over time. This is a good thing for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, who focuses on these issues in the fourth quarter.

By monitoring and understanding these trends, you can begin to get a sense of how folks think about issues around your cause, and you can begin to speak in ways that fit these thought patterns. The next level is to make your website responsive to the income search terms when someone clicks from Google. Google sends the search terms someone uses when they click to your site from organic search results, and you can customize your homepage or even send folks to purpose-built landing pages to even further enhance the experience.

There is an awful lot of noise out there. If you can hone you’re messaging to match what people are already thinking, your message will stand out significantly.