Planning with Google

How can you effectively use Google for Planning?


Ever since the German APG (@apg_d) offered a workshop on how to use Google effectively for Planning (which never took place) I always had this question somewhere in the back of my head. Since then I had the privileg to work with Google on some amazing clients and would like to share which tools have proven most effective during my work as Strategist @LHBS.

Google Search Operators

The first thing we all do if we have a question is, we Google. Often digging through pages and pages of search results, on the quest to find the best resources on the web. Using Google Search Operators can make our lifes so much easier when trying to find something on Google while researching on a specific topic. Let’s say you’re trying to find a study on millennials, your search query could look something like this:

millennials OR “generation y” study OR survey OR research OR publication OR report file:pdf -site:wikipedia.org

This search query e.g. only returns pdf files on several keywords relating to the topic and additionally excludes results from wikipedia.org.

Example for using Google Search Operators

Google Forms

If you can’t find the answer you are looking for, one tactic to get the information needed is to conduct your own research. Google Forms is probably the easiest tool out there to conduct ad-hoc research. It provides all basic functions needed including conditional questions and data export. And the beauty is, it does it all within a page without any Schnickschnack.

Google Forms UI

Google Consumer Surveys

Google Consumer Surveys is a tool very similar to Google Forms, except that Google displays your questionnaire on their partner websites. Which lets you get results for a specific country in no time. In contrast to all the other services outlined in this article Google Consumer Surveys isn’t free of charge, depending on the amount of respondents, questions and filters used.

Example for using Google Consumer Survey

Google Trends

When working with clients one of the questions raised most is: “What are people searching for on Google?” There are some stunning cases on how brands use data-driven insights to create brand engagement e.g. Unilever’s All Things Hair. This can be a tricky question to answer though especially when not having access to Google’s entire pool of data. Google Trends is a very easy to use tool, to research and display the search volume over time for specific keywords and also in comparison to others.

Let’s say you created the hypothesis that there is a trend among consumers for decluttering, minimalism, or simply, for simplifying your life:

Example for using Google Trends

Google Trends Hot Searches

In addition to Google Trends, Google’s Screensaver is a very fun and easy to use tool to develop a general understanding of what people search for online and how these requests relate to current events — on the fly. In the preferences you can change the region for the results displayed, depending on which market you are analysing or trying to find insights for.

Google Trends Hot Searches Screensaver

Google Autocomplete

Google Autocomplete completes search terms based on their search volume — meaning, that the first autocomplete has the highest interest and so on. This can be a very fun tool to experiment with and see what keywords return the highest search volume for a specific phrase. Also it is a very effective tool to visualise and communicate what you’re trying to say.

Example for using Google Autocomplete

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner can be used to find the exact search volume over time and also to find relating keywords for a specific keyword. The example shows the demand for sunscreen in the US over the span of one year based on the search volume. While this example is quite simple other results are less obvious and can provide valuable insights on the product demand.

Google Analytics

What about … right, Google Analytics! Google Analytics, compared to all the other tools outlined so far, is by far the most complex but also the most powerful tool. If used right, Google Analytics can give valuable insights on how users interact with the brand across different touch points and unlock how brands can drive deeper conversions. Since the sheer unlimited options and possibilities offered by Google Analytics can be quite overwhelming, Google’s Analytics Academy offers a valuable introduction and resource to get started.

The example below shows, that 74% of all revenue is made by returning visitors, while only 9/10 visitors have visited the website regularly. This provides a huge opportunity for the brand to deepen conversions by increasing engagement through content.

Let’s wrap it up

Google offers a vast amount of, mostly free, tools valuable to a Planner’s and Strategist’s every day work. Some of the most useful tools have been outlined in this article. Since data today is ubiquitous and its very easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of data, here’s one last advice: Working with data is not a matter of collecting data, but finding that one strong question that leads to real insights. Since your initial question does not always return the needed answer, ask again, be adventurous.

Want more? Go and have a look around all the tools, articles and insights at Think with Google and some amazing content on Google Firestarters.

Thank you! In case you have any further questions, try Google. ;)


Hello, I’m Christoph, Digital Strategist based in Berlin, working @LHBS. Follow my journey.