185 million reasons for UK car dealers to be worried?


According to Google, UK internet users searched for the term “cars” on Google 185 million times in October. The historical 12 month average has been 226 million – so there has been an 18pc decline in search term usage.

And as we know, new car sales in the UK slumped 21pc in September.

Should we draw any connections between these statements? Before I have any Freakonomics fans on my case, the answer is – not necessarily.

For a start, I’m still trying to get my brain around the figure of 185 million. If we accept that the UK internet population is around 35.6 million, that would mean we online Britons searched on the term “cars” over 5 times each last month. Clearly not every UK internet user is interested in cars, so that suggests that there are some people who are searching on the same search term in an almost obsessive fashion. And why would you do that? Perhaps people check multiple times because they believe they will get different results – which will almost certainly be true in terms of ads served – and even natural rankings.

Then again, there may be other possible explanations:

1. Google’s numbers are rubbish

2. There are automated searches on the term “cars” which is hugely inflating numbers (though of course this contravenes Google’s Terms of Service).

3. The term “cars” is not just related to automobiles, but covers other things such as the Pixar film, etc.

Leaving this aside for the moment, if we drill down into some more specific terms such as “new cars” and “used cars”, we get something that seems a bit more realistic.

New cars 368,000 (Oct 08)

Used cars 1,500,000 (Oct 08)

(NB: Google Trends shows that people seem to search on term “used cars” most often on Sundays – which is worth knowing if you are looking to sell a used car).

If Google is to be believed, then these search volumes are the same as the historical 12 month trend. Which might offer cheerier news for car dealers. Then again, they may want to keep monitoring Google Trends carefully to see whether this holds up.

So what does this all mean? As a nation of Internet users, are we attempting to ignore the credit crunch by searching for “cars” all day? (Then again, we apparently searched on the term “shoes” 101 million times last month as well).

I still stand by my view that SEO Keyword Tools can be very helpful in helping to formulate a PR or marketing content strategy. However, like any tool, you need to be aware of its limitations – and how to use it properly. And have some confidence in the underlying data.

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