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On my last post I talked about Why I’m teaching Content Marketing in the Writing Class. One of the reasons I gave was the close connection between social media, SEO, and content marketing.
Today, we must teach students to write for 2 audiences:
- Humans – you know, those organisms you interact with on social media.. oh, sometimes in real life too.
- Search Engines – Where wonders cease and answers are found.
For written assignments, students in Writing Across Platforms (see syllabus) will conduct keyword research to optimize their content for the web.
As one way to introduce my students to SEO and keyword research, I use the below in class exercise with Google Trends (formerly, Google Insights). Google Trends allows users to see and compare trends on what Googlers are searching for, by showing search volume across time. Users can break down trends by category, such as geography.
We also discuss keyword research via Google Adword Keyword Search Tool. But I like to talk about Google Trends first because it is easy to use and a bit more approachable with its visual layout, including interactive maps.
Google Trends Activity and Discussion (Time: 15-20 minutes). Note: Lecture notes at bottom of blog post.
In class, I explain how search engines like Google seek to rank content based on relevancy and credibility so they can deliver the best content to searchers. The algorithms for ranking content are complex and constantly changing. But the question for anyone seeking to get their content in front of the right eyeballs remains the same:
How can we optimize our content to increase the chance people will find it online?
- I explain how Google Trends can be used to see what characteristics or features of a topic people search for (you can see the slides below). I ask students to imagine they are writing content for a new Volkswagen. How can they know what features of the new car to highlight in their content?
- I use this example because Google already has a great video explaining the results of a keyword search topic. So after we discuss some popular features, I show them the video example.
- Then we go to Google Trends and try it for ourselves.
- I then give them an in-class activity with a similar scenario asking them to find out what people search for most regarding a particular topic. I prompt with:
- Imagine you work for a client who wants to promote a new gym. What do people seem to be most interested in?
- Look specifically at Maryland. What do they search for in Maryland?
- How could you apply this knowledge to target user interest?
- Students go to the following Google Doc (http://bit.ly/WAP_GTrendsEx) and follow the instructions and visuals to walk them through the steps on Google Trends.
- This brief activity is followed by discussion of what they found, and their thoughts on how this information could be used.
- In my experience (I taught this in a social media class in the past), students at this point are excited about this tool and want to compare a topic they are interested in – maybe ice cream flavors, celebrities, brands, etc. I’ll ask students to make predictions on what topic is being searched for most and why. Often, we are surprised by what we find, which makes for a great discussion. We have lots of fun spending a few minutes doing this kind of exploration!
- I end by emphasizing that one way to use Google Trends is to see what people care about the most when they search for a topic, whether it be cars, gyms, et cetera.
From there, we move on to discussing Google Adwords Keyword tool, which I’ll save for a future blog post.
Check out the associated slides for this class and the class before it where I explain SEO and linking below:
What is SEO and link building and why do they matter?
Keyword Research Activity: Google Trends and Adwords (relates directly to above blog post)
What do you think? How do you teach your students about keyword research and search engine optimization? Would love to hear your exercises and thoughts below.
- When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
- Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class
top cartoon: Some rights reserved by seanrnicholson
4 thoughts on “Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)”
Thanks Matt! Useful stuff. Do you have anything on grading students’ SEO learning?
Hannah, thank you for the comment!
Great question. I do not have a rubric. It would depend on what you are wanting to focus on/grade – keyword research, competitor research, use of the keyword(s) in the text the students are writing, how the site performs. For my larger writing assignments, I am looking at this as a critical thinking exercise with application. I’m looking at the keyword(s) the students use, the evidence they show (scree captures) of how they arrived at the keyword(s) and their rationale for using the keyword(s), and the use of the keyword(s) in the text (placement).
However, you could develop a quiz or other more direct knowledge check exercise where students select the best option from those available.
Thanks for the ideas and information. While I have taught this class before, this is the first time I am really discussing analytics and tools. Your activities and suggestions on how to teach these concepts have been really helpful. Thank you!
Thank you so much for sharing and for the compliment, Erin! I wish you all the best with your class!