Most of us will be familiar by now with Google’s autocomplete suggestions: it’s the little box that drops down when you begin typing a word or phrase into the search bar. The autosuggest feature is designed to save us time when we’re searching online, as well as helping us navigate easier when searching on mobile.
It’s easy to dismiss Google’s autocomplete feature as just a handy digital aid, but in the right hands it can be a brilliant SEO tool.
How does Google autocomplete work?
Google autocomplete works by reviewing the Google searches of other users who have begun their queries with similar words and phrases, and then displaying them to you with the intention of guiding you in your own search according to the terms they used. In addition, current online trends factor in, as do your own previously searched terms.
The autocomplete suggestions you receive will depend heavily on your location. For example, if you Google the phrase ‘locksmith’ and you’re based in Birmingham, it’s likely you’ll see autocomplete suggestions including this location and the surrounding areas. Similarly, the language you search in will impact your suggestions, so ensure they match the language of your browser for the most relevant results.
Autocomplete: The ground rules
Google has set out a few basic rules that dictate what can and cannot pop up as an autocomplete suggestion. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll run through them quickly as it’s still worth knowing.
No violent/cruel terms
Google won’t autocomplete anything you type in related to violence.
Similarly, Google won’t make any suggestions that are explicit in nature, for obvious reasons.
No hate speech/terms which may cause harm in any way
As we said: pretty self-explanatory stuff.
How to use autocomplete for better search engine optimisation
The first step you’re going to want to take is to log out of any Google accounts you may be logged into. Ideally, begin your search in an ‘incognito’ window too. This ensures that your autosuggest results won’t be skewed by your past searches.
Next, download and install a VPN to disguise your location. This isn’t crucial, but if you’re looking to check out autocomplete results in different locations, a VPN enables you to see the same results your customers will be looking at in those locations. This is only necessary if you’re based in a different location to your target customers, of course.
Finally, look into adjusting your Google browser’s language settings to ensure it’s matched to the market you are hoping to research. Again, this will ensure your results are as accurate as possible.
Autocomplete as a keyword research tool
Okay, now for the juicy stuff. Here’s how to use autocomplete as a keyword research tool for your SEO. When you’ve done all of the above prep, enter a simple keyword relating to your business in the search bar, and check the suggestions.
If you entered, for example, ‘denim jackets’, you might see results such as ‘denim jackets for men’, ‘denim jackets for women’, ‘denim jackets with fur’, and so on. These are what’s known as long-tail keywords: keywords that are less commonly searched because of their specificity, which makes the competition to rank for them on Google less fierce.
Once you’ve made a list of potential long-tail keywords, it’s time to check their potential using one of a number of free online tools, such as Ahrefs, Moz or Ubersuggest. All of these can give you extra info on each keyword, including the likelihood you’ll be able to rank for them when compared against what’s currently appearing in Google’s #1 spot.
Also Read: Why SEO is all about content marketing.
Quick tips for keyword research with autocomplete
Work your way through the alphabet
It always helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve when using autocomplete to generate keyword ideas. If you’re lacking inspiration, one great tactic is to type out your keyword followed by a space, then a single letter, like this: ‘denim jackets a’.
This will show you all the suggestions Google has for words coming after ‘denim jackets’ that begin with the letter A, which might be ‘denim jackets asos, denim jackets asda, denim jackets amazon’, and so on. Repeat this with each letter of the alphabet in turn, and you’ve got a great keyword finding tactic on your hands.
Add an underscore
In addition, you can also add an underscore sign in place of a missing word, like this: ‘_ denim jackets’. Google autocomplete then fills in this missing word for you with suggestions, such as ‘cheap denim jackets’, ‘custom denim jackets’, and so on. It’s an excellent little trick for generating tons of juicy keyword ideas.
Experiment with plurals
The difference between a singular noun and a plural isn’t always enormous, but for certain terms the autocomplete suggestion will vary slightly depending on which you use. To be thorough, it’s worth playing around with it!
Other uses for autocomplete
The above pointers should give you a solid grounding in how to use Google’s suggestions for keyword research. Autocomplete has several uses in addition to this, however…
Monitor your reputation
Type your brand name into Google and see which words are automatically generated after it. If it’s things like ‘products’ or ‘location’, you’re doing fine. If, however, your brand name is immediately followed by words like ‘awful’, you have a pretty severe problem on your hands. If the autocomplete is providing would-be customers with unflattering feedback about your business, you could be losing out on more custom that you realise.
You have a couple of choices for fixing this, should the need arise. You can (and should!) resolve the issues that lead to any bad reviews or angry Googlings of your company for starters. This won’t instantly fix the suggestion box, but it’ll help to ensure no further bad suggestions are added in the meantime.
You can also work on your brand image across social media and your owned websites by interacting positively on customers and sharing gleaming reviews from happy clients. Again, it’s not instant, but it can help win your reputation back.
Performing SEO locally—that is, optimising your site so that anybody searching for relevant goods or services in your area will see your site on Google—can be aided by autocomplete too. Type in each product or service you offer, and take a look at the suggestions. Are people generally searching by city, or town, or perhaps by postcode? Take a look at what’s popular and make sure you have the content to rank for it.
Use suggestions to inform your site’s layout
By checking which kinds of products people are searching for, and which terms they commonly apply alongside them, e.g. ‘denim jackets for men’, and ‘denim jackets for women’, you can divide up your website with an information architecture that compliments people searching patterns on Google.
Ready to get started with Google autocomplete for SEO?
Keyword research is simple, fast, effective and easy with Google autocomplete. If you follow the advice in this article, you’ll have a killer keyword list set up in no time at all. And if you don’t have time? Get in touch, and we’ll do the hard work for you.