Google Trends: A Useful and Interesting Research Tool for Online Publishers
I have always believed that tracking what people are typing into the search engines is a very powerful way of monitoring global trends.
Imagine if you were writing an article about the rise in popularity of English wine (yes, really, it is becoming popular!). One useful indicator of increasing success would be to look at the number of people searching for ‘English wine’ on the internet.
This would be even more useful if the number of searches for English wine could be compared with the number of people searching for French, Australian and New Zealand wine.
This is now possible thanks to a new, free tool provided by Google called Google Trends (www.google.com/trends). You don’t need to have a Google account, or even to log in. You simply do a search on the keyword or keyword phrase and Google creates a trend graph based on the number of searches. To compare multiple search terms you simply put in the search terms you want to compare, separating them with comas, for example, ‘english wine,australian wine,french wine,new zealand wine’
Below is the graph comparing searches for wine from the four countries.
The graph shows that searches for English wine only reached significant numbers at the end of 2005 and by the end of 2007 had reached similar levels to searches for New Zealand wine. Interestingly searches for French and Australian wine have fallen over the past four years.
Likewise a football journalist can easily compare the popularity of David Beckham and Ronaldo by studying which of the two football players are searched for most frequently.
It is also interesting to see where the searches are coming from. Beckham has a consistent fan base across the world. Ronaldo should consider his next transfer to a club in Mexico where his popularity is very high.
Google Trends is not without its significant limitations. For one, it does not give any indication of the number of searches that people make. It just gives trend graphs. It also only graphs keywords with a significant number of searches which greatly restricts what you can use it for.
For all of its shortcomings, Google Trends is a useful and fun tool for researchers and content creators.