Keywords Grab Attention on Digital Signs

We all know that keywords are important for websites, especially SEO, but they’re also a key factor in crafting your digital signage messages. Consider that most of your audience is busy doing other things when they encounter your displays – thinking about the meeting they just had, looking forward to a nice cup of coffee, or on their way to an event – and you have under three seconds to get them to slow down and pay attention. That’s not much time.

Design strategies help – attractive images, high contrast backgrounds and the right amount of text. And the actual words you use can also get them to notice the screen and pay attention to your message. As any writer will tell you, choosing the exact right wording is crucial. Plus, in today’s on-the-go world, where people are constantly getting information from different sources and devices, words tend to trend. Certain words and phrases become temporarily popular across various platforms like websites, social media sites (aided by the modern trend of hashtagging) and even news articles.

If your messages contain trending words, they are more likely to feel current, and that’s what people want these days: the freshest information available. But how can you find out what they are? One obvious way is to simply pay attention. You’re more than just an IT manager or content creator for digital signage, you’re also an info-consumer. What words and phrases, either new or old, do you notice as you check your favorite sites and pages? Which ones catch your eye, or amuse you?

Trendy Trends

The term keyword means the terms people put in to search engines on the web when looking for, whether a single word or a string of words. These change all the time, because people’s interests change or new topics become “current”, and also because the algorithms search engines use are constantly improving (and even using machine learning to leverage data being entered in realtime).

Currently, the big search engines are Google, Bing and Yahoo. Yahoo has discontinued their Yahoo Buzz analytics service, but Bing offers a Bing Keyword Research tool (

A quick way to see what might be trending on Google is to leverage Google Auto-Complete. Just go to the main Google site and start typing something in. As you are typing your topic, Google will attempt to auto-complete your entry with the currently trending terms that start the same way. Another tip for Google is to put in your search string, then scroll to the bottom of the search results page. Google will give you a list of related keywords you can explore.

For more comprehensive information on keywords that are trending right now, use Google Trends ( There’s a massive amount of data there, and you can slice the pie as many different ways as you want. Look at trends by country, or region (state to state in the US).

You can compare two or more keywords to see which one is performing better. For example, should you use the term “social networks” or “social media”? Which one is likely to be more familiar to your audience? Go to Google Trends, open the left sidebar menu and click Explore. On the new page, enter “social networks” (a dropdown menu will try to auto correct it; that’s how you know the term you are looking for is in the database – click it in the dropdown menu), then click Compare and do the same thing with “social media”. Instantly, you see real-time information comparing the two keywords. “Social media” is FAR more popular than the other term, so you’ll probably want to go with that one on your digital signage message. Now, scroll down the page a bit, and you see a map of the world showing where each term is outperforming the other.

If you scroll down further, you see more maps, which allow you to pinpoint the popularity of search terms by city as well. You’ll also see related queries, so you get a picture of what people who search for these terms also search for around the same time.

That’s with the settings on “worldwide”. Back up at the top of the page, you can choose a country, as well as a time period, a topic category and a type of search. Changing the settings to a country, like United States lets you see the popularity of both terms you are comparing by state, metro area or city. Looking at those maps, you can make some decisions about how to word your digital signage messages. For audiences in Nevada, where “social network” was searched for zero times, you certainly want to use the alternative. But in California, where they are pretty close, it doesn’t really matter (and in Virginia, “social network” outperforms “social media”).

You can also use the Google trends site to see Trending Searches on both the web and YouTube, and Top Charts. You can subscribe to Trends stories, which are compiled and emailed to you. You can also use Google Correlate, which allows you to discover words that correlate with your target word. All this data lets you see what people in your region are looking for in the daily lives, and can give you some ideas for what to say on your digital signage messages and how to say it.

Facebook and other social media sites also offer analytical tools, though none have the comprehensive overview of Google trends. And the best thing is that it’s free.

A couple of other links to consider: