Google recently launched Google Trends, a tool that allows you to view keyword search trends by year and month. You can also view trends by news mentions and by region/country of searchers performing searches.

Here are some real-world ways you could use the data in Google Trends to help you get a jump on your competitors and assess their search penetration. Each of the methods gives an example of how to get the most from this truly useful tool.

One of the first keyword tools ever publicly available was the goto keyword suggestion tool (now overture keyword suggestion tool). Back in 1998-99 it was great, but like any keyword research tool it has its shortcomings, which are still inherent in today's incarnation of the tool. Here are two biggies:

- It makes many keywords default to the plural, so if I search for "accounting job" it lumps together the singular and plural into one figure, which won't help you determine if the singular or plural version is most popular.

- The number of searches shown is displayed only for the previous month, thus giving you no insight into trends that occur over time.

The Google Trends tool can help offset those issues in two ways, resulting in better data from the overture tool (and most other keyword tools).

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