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Google Suggest, introduced in 2007, has become in a few years a central element of the Google search. Its powerful algorithm is able to suggest keywords related to the typed words. On average, there are 3 to 5 suggestions of keywords, but sometimes it can be a dozen. An Internet user who performs the search can click on any keyword in the auto-fill list and immediately see the search results page. This system, which is similar to auto-complete, provides a fast and intuitive user experience.

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How does Google Suggest work?

When a user types letters into the Google search bar, the form sends the data to Google servers, which anticipate how the query might proceed. Suggestions are defined according to the terms most frequently used with the keyword typed by the user. This function is based on Ajax technology, which allows the content of the page to be modified without having to reload it completely.

turn-on-google-suggest

Google takes into account the overall behavior of users to suggest search phrases. For example, if "comparative car seat" has been entered frequently in the search field, it is very likely that a query that begins with the keyword "car seat" will first be completed with the term "comparative".

Several factors can influence the nature of the suggestions offered:

  • Search frequency: the more a word is typed on Google, the more it will appear on Google Suggest.
  • Frequency with which phrases or combinations of keywords are searched.
  • User's search history: Google can base its suggestions on the user's previous searches, especially if the user is logged in with his Google account.
  • Location: suggestions are adjusted according to the user's location. Some search terms with low global search volume will even be displayed at the top of the search result page if the search engine's algorithms give more weight to local results.
  • When the search term is related to a trend or a new model, it will also be suggested in the results more often.

However, this very powerful tool has limitations. Indeed, Google imposes very strict rules concerning pornography, copyright or apology of violence. All the terms related to these themes do not appear in the suggestions. This can sometimes have side effects, especially on ambiguous terms.

The auto-completion system of Google Suggest can also have some negative consequences, especially on the private life of some public people. In 2012, the wife of the former German president, Bettina Wulff, sued Google for associating her name with "escort" or "prostitute" in its search suggestions. Unfortunately, these are collateral damages that are difficult to predict because they depend entirely on Internet users' searches.

How is Google Suggest useful for SEO?

Since suggestions are algorithmically determined based on factors such as search volume and popularity, you can use them for your keyword research and especially to define the search intent (what is the user who types this keyword really looking for?).

Structuring the article by determining the user's research intention

Let's say you want to write a blog post about Nutella. Google Suggest can help you to know if users searching for "Nutella..." are more interested in: a recipe, the number of calories, its composition, etc.

Once the intent is defined, you can then continue to play with auto-completion to find other phrases related to the same keyword niche.

In this case, in our example, here are the keyword suggestions:

nutella-search

The intention behind the word "Nutella" is a recipe and obviously a recipe of "homemade nutella". Then come the keywords "organic”, “composition”, “palm oil". Your article can therefore be based on a homemade nutella recipe, with organic foodstuffs, enriching it semantically with the idea of avoiding a composition that is too chemical and containing palm oil that is bad for your health, etc."

If you have the opportunity, you should look at another tool like Yooda Insights to confirm that these phrases have reasonable search volume and competition.

Managing your e-reputation

Google's search suggestions are also a good way to check the evolution of your reputation on the web. You can indeed see in a few seconds the keywords suggested according to the name of one of your products or your brand. Therefore, if you notice that the suggestions around your brand often concern negative terms, it means that there is a problem with the satisfaction of your subscribers / customers / prospects.

Moreover, on these kinds of suggestions, we often see a "snowball" effect. Indeed, the problem with these suggestions is that they can be self-reinforcing: if people see "scammer" next to your name, they are more likely to click on that suggestion and look at the results, which in turn increases the search volume for that keyword. So it's in your best interest to keep a close eye on these suggestions to stop the problem as soon as it appears.

Conclusion

Google Suggest is a tool that we use daily without suspecting its SEO potential. It offers us an enlightened vision on the user's intention, which is nowadays at the heart of SEO content strategies.

   Article written by Louis Chevant

Further reading

The complete guide to using the Google Search Console

Google Search Console: free tool provided by Google to analyze the SEO performance of your website.

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