As the world’s most popular search engine, Google has access to decades of information on what users are looking for online—and that information is accessible via the Google Trends tool. Researchers have used Google Trends search data for everything from predicting the stock market to monitoring the spread of disease. Read on to learn how you can put this powerful free tool to work for your business.
What is Google Trends?
Google Trends is a website that shares anonymous, aggregated data about what people search for on the web. Using a random sample of billions of daily searches, Google Trends measures the relative volume of search queries over time, stretching back to 2004.
Take note: Google Trends only provides relative search volume, not absolute search volume—or the total number of Google searches a term received. Google Trends data is indexed to 100, meaning that the maximum search volume for a particular query over a set timeframe is 100. If you look at trends over time, 100 is the day with the highest search traffic for your keyword. If you explore Google Trends by region, the location with the most search interest within a set timeframe has a value of 100.
How to use Google Trends for your business
- Plan ahead for seasonal marketing
- Find the best day of the week to run ads and publish content
- Use regional insights to create valuable content
- Identify additional keywords
- Discover breakout queries
- Find the right phrasing
- Optimize marketing by channel
- Understand your competitors
As a business owner, you can use Google Trends for more than just staying on top of the zeitgeist. Here’s how it can help you with keyword research, competitive analysis, and more.
1. Plan ahead for seasonal marketing
If you use Google Ads, you know that Google provides you with the monthly average search volume for search terms on the platform. The difference between Google Ads and Google Trends is that Trends provides real-time data rather than a monthly average, so you can use it to pinpoint searches around particular events or to see how searches change over time. These insights allow you to plan ahead for seasonal marketing campaigns that promote products during the time when searches for related keywords spike.
“Hiking sandals” is an example of a seasonal keyword. Every year from 2004 to 2022, search interest for the term “hiking sandals” in the US peaked in June and dipped in November. To capitalize on this pattern, you can increase your ad spend in late spring and early summer, when most people search for hiking sandals.
2. Find the best day of the week to run ads and publish content
You can use Google Trends to see if your search term performs better on certain days of the week. For example, both “hiking sandals” and “walking sandals” receive the most traffic on the weekend, so consider running more ads and leaning into content marketing campaigns that land on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
3. Use regional insights to create valuable content
You can get more specific with search volume data by selecting a location and narrowing your parameters from, for example, worldwide to the US—or even further to just California. If you select California, you’ll see search volume sorted by metro area. For example, in 2022 the term “hiking sandals” had the highest concentration of searches in the San Diego metro region. You can use this information to localize advertising and to improve the targeting of your content marketing efforts. For instance, you might consider publishing a blog post on the top hiking trails near San Diego to promote your walking sandals.
4. Identify additional keywords
Use Google Trends to conduct keyword research for SEO by viewing related search topics. When you use Google Trends to explore a term, you can scroll down past the “interest over time” and “interest by region” data to a section of related search topics. Toggle between “rising” (highest increase in search frequency over a given period of time) and “top” (highest overall search frequency) for a clearer picture of each term’s performance.
In 2022, rising related topics for “hiking sandals” in California included “ankle” and “backpack,” while some of the top related topics were “sandal” and “hiking boot.” If you sell hiking sandals, looking at topics can help you brainstorm what other products your customer may be looking for—such as hiking boots and backpacks. You can click on those topics to assess if they are worth pursuing. Exploring trends by topic can give you additional information about search interest that you may not have discovered otherwise.
5. Discover breakout queries
Rising related queries usually have a percentage next to them, indicating how Google search volume has grown. However, some queries and topics won’t show a percentage increase in search volume. Instead, you’ll see the word “breakout,” which is Google’s way of indicating that search volume for this term grew by over 5,000%. For a search term to experience that much short-term growth, it likely initially had very low search volume. These newly popular keywords can be an important part of your SEO strategy.
6. Find the right phrasing
Google Trends’ “compare” feature can help you choose the perfect phrasing for your search term. For example, in the US in 2022, “walking sandals” got slightly more interest than “hiking sandals”—except in Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, where “hiking sandals” was the preferred term. This feature can help you decide which keywords to prioritize in your marketing efforts. A brand selling sandals might use the term “hiking sandals” in the Southwest and “walking sandals” elsewhere.
7. Optimize marketing by channel
Google Trends gives ecommerce store owners the option to refine search volume data by type of search. Web search is the default, but you can also see trends in image search, news search, shopping search, and YouTube search. Benefits include seeing how the trends for shopping search and image search differ from web search. For example, popular web searches for “walking sandals” include the word “best,” while image and shopping searches are more likely to contain the words “for women.” If you want to rank for web search, consider compiling a list of the best walking shoes. If you want to make sure your product page ends up on image and shopping pages, know that searchers are looking for products that work for their body and gender identity.
8. Understand your competitors
One handy feature of Google Trends is the ability to compare up to four different search terms at once. Once you’ve decided on a region and time period for your first search query, click “+ compare” in the light blue box to the right of your original search term to see how these two terms compare. You can add up to two more terms, which can be helpful when conducting competitor analysis. Compare your brand name to your three biggest competitors to better understand your niche and improve your marketing efforts.
Google Trends FAQ
Is Google Trends a free tool?
Yes, Google launched Trends in 2006 as a free tool for the general public.
How accurate is the data on Google Trends?
Google trends data is accurate, but it doesn’t provide absolute search volume. Since Google performs billions of searches daily, including every single search in its data set would take a long time. So, Google Trends uses a sample of searches. Google notes that its Trends data “is not scientific and might not be a perfect mirror of search activity.” Some searches will report with a search volume of zero, but that may mean that the search volume was too low for Google to consider it significant; the actual volume may be higher than zero—but still low.
Can I use Google Trends for international data?
Google Trends data shows global search queries, so it’s a solid option for international data. Depending on the region, you can search for data by country, state, or metro area.
How does Google Trends determine search popularity?
Google Trends determines search popularity by taking a random sample of daily searches for a particular query and then translating that sample into a number out of 100. The term with the highest search volume at a particular moment in time is the benchmark for 100, and every other query’s popularity is shown relative to the most popular search.
What is 100 in Google Trends?
If you see the number “100” next to a search term, that doesn’t mean it has an absolute Google search volume of 100. Since Google uses normalized values, a score of 100 means the term in question has the highest relative search volume.