If you’re a seasoned internet marketer, then you already know how to use Google Trends to give you a well-refined, data-driven marketing strategy. But for those of you who are new to the game, this post will help you gain a general understanding of Google Trends and how to use its data to make informed marketing decisions. So, let’s get started.
What is Google Trends?
Google Trends is a search tool that shows you how often a particular search term is entered into the Google search engine. It displays and ranks its data according to search volume and uses search data from regions all over the world. The Google Trends home page also has a list of “featured insights” on events and topics happening all over the world, as well as a list of trending news stories.
To begin our journey into Google Trends, let’s take a look at the parameters you can set while on your data hunt.
Setting Your Parameters
When you go to Google Trends, the first thing you’ll do is type in a search term or topic you’re interested in viewing data for. After that, you’ll want to set your parameters. This includes location, time frame, category, and search type.
- Location: This can be worldwide, a region/country, a subregion (like a state), a metro area, or a city.
- Time frame: This can be set any time between 2004 and the present date.
- Category: There are a number of preset categories to choose from. Setting a category can be useful if you have a broad search term but are using it in relation to a certain category. For instance, someone may want to see some data on the term “cars,” but instead of the automobile, they mean the movie, Cars.
- Search type: This allows you to see data for specific kinds of searches, such as images, news, Google shopping, or YouTube.
Now that we understand the parameters you can set, let’s examine a Google Trend’s chart.
Google Trend Charts
On a Google Trend chart, the numbers to the left represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time frame. The values range from 0 to 100. The horizontal axis represents time.
For those of you who are unaware, Grumpy Cat is an internet meme that shot up in popularity in late 2012. Looking at the Google Trend chart, we can see that “grumpy cat” as a search term had relatively no search volume until September 2014. This is unsurprising since the original Grumpy Cat video was posted to YouTube on September 25, 2012. We can also see that “grumpy cat” was at the height of its popularity in December 2012. Since then, the term as seen a steady drop in search volume with the exception of a few sporadic spikes.
The pattern you see here is typical for most viral internet memes and videos. They peak soon after they’re discovered, drop suddenly, and then fade away, rarely returning to the height of their popularity.
Interest By Region
In the “Interest by region” section of Google Trends, we can see in which Regions of the world Grumpy Cat was most popular during a specified time frame. Reading the map is fairly simple.
The regions with the highest search interest appear dark blue. You can also hover your mouse over the region to get the search interest by number. As I mentioned, Google calculates search interest on a scale from 0 to 100. The region that displays 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location. A higher value means a higher proportion of all search queries, not a higher absolute search count.
For instance, a small country where 90% of all the search queries were for “trampolines” will get twice the score of a large country where the same term made up 45% of the queries. So we’re not looking at total searches here. We’re looking at what percentage a given search term is searched for in relation to all the different terms used in that region. Okay, let’s get back to the data.
Since Grumpy Cat is an American meme, it makes sense that the United States ranks the highest in the world for search popularity. But as we can see, Grumpy Cat also caught the interest of Canadians, Hungarians, New Zealanders, Latvians, and Australians. (You can view the regions in list format by clicking on the bulleted list icon in the bottom right corner. The embedded map only lists the top 6 regions by popularity, but you can view up to 25 on Google Trends.)
As a side note, you can also switch to view the top Cities in the worldwide view by going to the three stacked dots in the right-hand corner.
But what if you’re not interested in a global perspective? Easy. All you have to do is click on the region you’d like to focus on, and it will give you new search interest scores based on the Subregion of that location.
On this map of the US, we can see that West Virginia was the state most tickled by Grumpy Cat, followed by Oklahoma, Idaho, Maine, and Indiana.
From here we can go a few different routes. We could take a Metro or City view of the entire country. (Do this by clicking on the three stacked dots in the bottom right-hand corner.) Or we could zoom in on West Virginia to see in which metro areas and cities “grumpy cat” was the most popular.
The related topics section will show the Rising and Top topics related to the search term you entered. This section can be helpful when you want to know what other topics people searched for that are related to your search term. If we use the search term “kayaking” as an example, we can see that the first two rising topics are “zip-line” and “standup paddleboarding”. If you go the three stacked dots in the bottom right-hand corner, you can change it to display the Top related topics.
Related queries works similarly to related topics except that it displays the actual search terms people have entered related to yours. The Rising tab of both of these sections will display Breakout topics or terms. These are terms that have seen a huge increase in search volume within your set time frame. If you’re using these two sections of Google Trends to find breakout terms, make sure you set a narrow and recent time frame. This will help ensure that the terms and topics it gives you aren’t old news.
A Few More Trend Charts
As you begin to use Google Trends more regularly, you’ll start to recognize chart patterns and what they indicate. We’ve already gone over what a “viral chart” looks like with Grumpy Cat, so here are a few different patterns you’ll likely encounter.
This is your typical seasonal trend chart. You can tell by the peaks and valleys that repeat themselves every year. Camping is most popular in July and interest falls to its lowest in November. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Still, knowing if your search term is affected by seasonality will make a huge difference when developing your online marketing strategy.
As is the case with most TV shows, interest spikes at the start of a new season. Since the second season, The Walking Dead has had a mid-season break every year. This explains why we see this two spike pattern. It would appear, however, that during the last two seasons, fewer people were interested in the mid-season premiere than they were for the season premiere. This is something the studio execs are surely taking note of. Overall, the data shows that the program has steadily increased in popularity since it first aired, which we can be sure they’re quite happy with.
With the launch of a new product, businesses hope to generate interest. This chart for the term “iphone,” shows search volume spiking at every new product release. We can see that search interest was at its highest in September 2012. (This was during the iPhone 5 release.) We can also see that Apple hasn’t been able to generate enough search interest to surpass this date since.
While interest in 4k televisions is still relatively new, we can clearly see that it’s on the rise. Interest was at its highest in November 2015 (holiday shopping season). It will be interesting to see if November 2016 outperforms last year’s spike. Comparing the popularity scores of September 2015 and September 2016 suggests that it will. When you see a trend like this, you know that you’re in a good position to do some effective marketing.
Falling trends, on the other hand, are difficult to work against. If you’re selling a product or service that’s been around for a while, and its trend chart looks like this, you’re going to have a hard time generating excitement when the public interest just isn’t there. Looking at this chart for “newspaper subscriptions,” you can see why people have been saying the newspaper business is in decline.
Comparing Multiple Trends
Another great feature in Google Trends is the ability to compare the trends of up to five different terms on a single graph. This chart shows you the search interests of the motor companies: Ford, Honda, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche. As you can see, the companies with the more affordably priced vehicles rank highest while the luxury car companies rank the lowest.
Note that the values are relative to the highest value on the graph. So all values here are relative to Honda’s search interest since it had the highest value at one point. This is despite the fact that the data for Ford shows greater long-term interest.
Well that’s pretty much everything you need to know about Google Trends. Now you can go out and start data mining for all the terms your heart desires. Leave any questions you have in the comment section, and I’ll be happy to answer them.