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Google Trends Fun - But Useful?

Posted on 5.11.2006

There is a lot of buzz about Google’s latest tool, Google Trends.  So, Website Services Magazine decided to take it for a test drive.

This new tool is designed to give users a search trend history of up to five different terms.  When a search term(s) is entered, a graph is presented that displays the trend of Google searches (by volume), as far back as 2004.  Multiple searches will display a color-coded graph for each search and it does a good job showing their relationship over a period of time. 

Another slick feature is the news graph and headlines.  Below the search trend graph is another graph that tracks news trends from Google News.  On the right side of the screen is a list of headlines from Google News for the corresponding spike or dip in the graph.

The scope of a search can be narrowed to languages, regions, cities, years and months.  So far, it seems that broad search terms provide nice results, but more refined terms sometimes show no results.  We searched “Internet magazines” and received no data.  When we searched the same term on Google Suggest, over 24 million results were found.  Clearly, there are plenty of sites that mention Internet magazines but, according to Google Trends, not enough people search Google for “Internet magazines” to provide trend results.

We did find a scenario that could be useful.  We imagined that we wanted to open an online business selling pet supplies.  Then we searched dog toys and cat toys (separated by a comma) limited to the United States.  Dog toys clearly won the search volume war, indicating that our consumers as a whole may be more interested in purchasing dog toys.  Cat toys followed the search trends of dog toys, dip for dip and spike for spike, but were searched far less.  Both categories’ searches spiked around the holidays and again slightly at mid-year.  The top city for dog toy searches was Chicago, followed by Denver, Austin, Columbus (the state was not available), Richardson (again, state not available), Tampa, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle and Orlando.  Denver and Philadelphia, however, had a higher cat toy search volume than Chicago.  Therefore, we might conclude that when marketing our dog toys, we would be wise to focus on Chicago, Denver and Austin.  But when marketing our cat toys, we should make Denver a priority.  In addition, we should focus our marketing efforts around the holiday season and mid-year.

This is a fun tool.  We spent a considerable amount of time searching trends on everything from chocolate to world cup soccer.  It remains to be seen, however, just how useful Google Trends actually is.  While the results are always interesting, the real value for the average Web user or website owner is still unclear.

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