While measuring the impact of your communications on a small budget is often a challenge, some of the best evaluation tools are free.
One that is well worth using is Google Trends, which allows you to track the popularity of search terms over time.
It is often used in search engine optimisation, because if you know the search terms people are using, you can then include them in the copy.
But it’s just as useful for evaluating communications because the things that people search for are often a proxy for what they are thinking about. And so Google Trends can give you a sense of how much your messages are cutting through.
Examples of how you can use it include:
- Looking at how people’s use of search terms changed when Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Campaign merged to become Breast Cancer Now could offer valuable insights to marketers.
- The volume of search for seasonal fundraising like Christmas Jumper Day or Jeans for Genes can help you understand how interest in them is holding up.
- When I worked for Diabetes UK, we took the fact that the peak for search volume for “diabetes amputations” coincided with our #135shoes campaign as evidence that we’d manage to get people thinking about the issue.
As good as it is to demonstrate impact, Google Trends is just as important for showing you that your messages aren’t cutting through.
When you get lots of media coverage and social media activity (not to mention everyone around you is talking about the issue), it’s all too easy to start to think that your work has raised the profile of your issue more than is actually the case.
The reality is that people are exposed to so many marketing messages every day that even with high-profile national media coverage many people will hardly notice your messaging.
And this is where Google Trends can act as a useful, if sometimes brutal, reality check.
If you see only a relatively modest spike in Google searches for a related search term following your comms activity, then it may mean it’s worth thinking again about how to make your messages more impactful.
Or, more likely, it could be a good reminder that campaigns are rarely overnight successes. Often, it’s only when campaigners start to get bored of talking about a campaign that the public starts to notice it.