Data geeks rejoice - Google Trends has been given an upgrade, and a significant one at that. Google's data tracking tool has been in operation since 2006, providing users with access to a range of insights into the most popular search terms, how search terms are used by location, associated words and many other valuable bits of information that can be used to fuel everything from SEO strategy to academic research. This latest upgrade takes Google Trends up a notch, incorporating real-time data, as well as additional context from Google News and YouTube.
Keeping Up to Date
Google Trends has always been useful to get an idea of search trends over time, including search volume and comparative popularity of terms. Google's now expanding this further, boosting Trends data with the addition of real-time information. From Google's official announcement:
"You can now explore minute-by-minute, real-time data behind the more than 100 billion searches that take place on Google every month, getting deeper into the topics you care about. During major events like the Oscars or the NBA Finals, you'll be able to track the stories most people are searching for and where in the world interest is peaking."
This upgrade is significant, in that you will now be able to use Trends to get a real-time pulse of search volume and use that to bulk up your campaign efforts. This is similar to tracking trending topics, enabling you to see what search terms are trending at any given time - so if you saw a certain hashtag was getting a heap of attention, you could cross-check that in Google to see what search terms and keywords are being used in relation to that topic, providing a more comprehensive view of how people are engaging with that trend.
For example: During the NBA finals, you might see that 'Steph Curry' is a trending topic, but what might be of interest, from a marketing perspective, is searches for 'Steph Curry shoes', people looking for products related to that trend. Seeing what terms people are using in relation to a trend could help target your keyword and marketing efforts to meet search demand, or target relevant ads just at the right time.
Looking ahead, it'll be interesting to see if, eventually, we see real-time tweets incorporated into Trends data. Google's deal with Twitter enables them to include real-time tweets in search, how far that capacity extends, however, isn't clear at this point. But that would also be a significant addition to Trends in future.
Staying on Trend
Another element of the latest update sees the Google Trends homepage transformed into a listing of the major stories getting traction at any given time.
Additionally, Google is adding in new data sources, taking in information from YouTube and Google News, to help fuel their new trending content. This is significant - YouTube is considered to be the second largest search engine in the world, processing 3 billion searches per month, so adding in YouTube's data brings a heap of additional context and a different angle to the comprehensiveness of the information being presented. It also means you can search for how search terms are being used on YouTube specifically, giving you more perspective on how users are finding video content, and the terms they're searching for around your target words or trending topics.
One of the restrictions of Google Trends past has been the limited access you have to data from specific regions, particularly local search volume for topics. In response, Google has now added more data on niche topics and smaller geographies.
It's hard to say how much of an impact this will have, it'll largely depend on the specific topic you're looking up, but more data can only be a good thing, and providing access to more regional search trends could prove hugely beneficial for the SEO efforts of local businesses.
Google's also adding curated data sets to GitHub, enabling users to access the back-end search data behind their vizualisations and reports in Trends - so if you were ever wondering how they worked out the correlations shown on their maps and graphs, you'll be able to track it yourself here.
Google also took the opportunity to outline how major news organizations have been using Google Trends in their research, highlighting the potential value of the data.
From Google's announcement:
- The Washington Post launched an interactive data visualization on climate change where viewers can discover the most pressing environmental issues in various cities.
- The Guardian and Buzzfeed used Trends data to tell the story of the recent U.K. election; Buzzfeed produced a map of most-searched party leader in each constituency, and the Guardian used trends during the campaign to showcase what voters were asking Google about the candidates.
- HLN integrated Google Trends data into their television programming during LGBT Pride Month to explore when terms like "transgender" became widely used around the world.
- CNN Politics published monthly updates on search interest and top questions around U.S. Presidential candidates as they announce their candidacy.
These are great examples of how Trends can be used to provide context and clarity around news topics. But for most of us, it's the smaller details that matter, the comparatively minor insights, like what search terms are popular in your local area, what words people use to find businesses related to yours. With this update, such insights are now more readily available, and it's worth checking out the new Google Trends for yourself to see what you can find. Sometimes you can get caught up with all the possibilities of the data and find yourself going down the rabbit-hole, but if you focus on specific information, on locating related terms specific to your objective and the information you need, Google Trends is a powerful resource - and even more powerful, thanks to this latest update.