What Is Google Trends?

by | May 9, 2018

If you’ve read through my blogs you would have seen I am a bit of a data geek (I’m probably in the right job for it). One site that I always find interesting is Google Trends, it’s essentially a way of finding out what’s hot and what’s not on the internet using data, and the great thing is there is data which dates back to 2004 (inception of Google), so you can complete analysis over time.
The best way to really explain this is visually, so let’s jump over to Trends and try some words out (I intend to use some items which were trendy in my youth, you’re welcome to try anything).
First off let’s get familiar with the layout:

*Note the drop down menu bar as indicated in red is configurable, I’ve selected New Zealand and 2004 – Present because I am familiar with those attributes in relation to the search term.
If we scroll down a little we see the same analysis split by region (if your search didn’t isolate New Zealand the granularity would be country):

*We can toggle between Subregion and City as indicated in red.
Finally, if we scroll down the very bottom we get queries and topics that are related to the search term.

*We can toggle between rising and top as indicated in the red.
Next, we can try and add some comparison search terms in (in terms of a trend life cycle it coincides with the market – it would be odd if fidget spinners peaked before yo-yo’s):

We can also view the regional distribution and related queries if there is sufficient data.
Let’s take a step back and check the first chart out again, paying close attention the to axis:

And consider that representation again the new chart where we have all the other search terms of interest:

Obviously, something isn’t quite right here, how could Tamagotchi descend from a rank of 100 to slightly over 25 for the same period? Isn’t it odd that both of these charts top out at 100? surely there would be days where more than 100 searches are executed? Well, what this boils down to is what is it that this magical 100 number represents….?
While it’s not apparent, as we can generally associate these peaks in activity with points in time, there’s a little math that’s happening in the background. The out of 100 is relative to the number of search comparisons with corresponding data we have, to put that visually let’s look at Bill Gates versus Mark Zuckerberg:

You see while Facebook has existed since 2004, it wasn’t the juggernaut it is today, hence Bill Gates remains quite high at the start of the chart, notice the depression / leveling off around 2008 – 2009 as Facebook takes traction and Mark Zuckerberg is a commonly-searched term, finally notice the jump Mark Zuckerberg is taking and the dive Bill Gates is currently taking, given the current media there’s little surprise we are seeing this pattern.
So to sum it all up, Google Trends is a great way to gauge how things perform comparatively, provided you understand what you are looking at. If you’re in the world of e-commerce it can be an awesome way to loosely predict what products are beginning to take off, and others taper off.
I hope you enjoyed this random deep-dive into the world of fun data. If you’d like to read more about Trends I’d recommend you have a look at this article.
Thomas – MacGyver of code
Thomas blogs about reporting platforms, data warehousing and the systems behind them.

Read Thomas’s other blog posts, including master calendars and link tables here.

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