Google Trends shows real-time search data. Here’s how to interpret it and compare popular search terms.

Google Trends shows real-time search data. Here’s how to interpret it and compare popular search terms.
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A smartphone opened to Google's search engine shows a list of trending searches. A blurred Google Chrome logo is in the background.
Google Trends lets you look up data on search terms and topics — including when and where the terms are most popular.

  • You can use Google Trends to understand how often people search for certain terms or topics.
  • Google Trends lets you customize search data by region, time period, category, and type of search. 
  • You can also compare search terms to see how each fares among different audiences.

Have you ever wondered how something became viral on social media? Or whether people in your state are actually excited about the latest iPhone? 

Google Trends allows you to search, track, and compare Google search terms and topics over a period of time and by location. 

It can be particularly useful for business owners to understand how their brand fares with customers, showing how often they search for it and when it hits peak popularity.

Google Trends is helpful for content creators and product developers, too, since you can easily access when certain terms are most popular. This includes seasonal trends (for example, “Christmas presents for mom” ticks up in November and December in the United States).  

From the outside, Google Trends can seem tricky, so let’s break it down. 

How to use Google Trends to search for a term

1. First, go to trends.google.com and type in the search term you want to view or start with an example. 

A screenshot of the Google Trends homepage shows the search bar with a red box around it and a red arrow indicating where to type.
Google Trends’ homepage auto-fills the search box with suggested terms that have been popular within the last 24 hours, like “PGA Championship” or “Bridgerton.”

2. Specify your search term — this is important if the company or product has a more general name, like Alphabet, so be sure to select “Alphabet Inc.” — not the letters. 

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A screenshot of the Google Trends homepage shows several suggested searches for the word "Alphabet," including the company "Alphabet Inc." which is emphasized with a red box and arrow.
Google Trends will suggest terms related to your search, such as Alphabet the corporation or alphabet the collection of 26 letters.

3. Google Trends will then generate a series of charts based on your search term, which we’ll break down below.  

How to customize a Google Trends search 

1. To customize your Google Trends search, first search for a term or topic — here, for example, using Apple.

2. To customize the “Interest over time” chart for your search term, use the four drop-down menus to see more specific metrics for region, time period, category, and the type of search (these include searches for web, Google Images, news, Google shopping, and YouTube).

A screenshot from Google Trends shows a red arrow pointing to a bar with four dropdown menus to filter results for a search term, including for location, timeframe, category, and type of search.
Using the dropdown menus, you can filter Google Trends results for specific locations and timeframes.

3. For this example, we decided to see how often Alphabet Inc. was searched on Google News over the last 30 days in the United States in all categories.

A screenshot of a Google Trends search for Alphabet Inc. shows a graph measuring "interest over time," with a red arrow illustrating peak interest in the company.
The customized chart will change every time a different variant is chosen.

What we see above is a peak on April 26, 2024, just one day after Alphabet’s earnings call, during which it reported major beats and the company’s first dividend.

Below the “Interest over time” graph is an “Interest by subregion” graph — where you can specify where in the country (metro, city, or subregion) the search was the most popular. 

A screenshot shows a Google Trends map labeled "interest by subregion," with a red arrow pointing to the "Metro" option on the dropdown menu.
Customize the subregion graph by using the drop-down menu on the right.

How to interpret what each graph on Google Trends means

Once you’ve searched a term or topic and customized some of its variants, understanding what the peaks (represented with a 100 on the graph) and plateaus actually mean can be confusing. Here’s how Google describes it:

  • “Each data point is divided by the total searches of the geography and time range it represents to compare relative popularity. Otherwise, places with the most search volume would always be ranked highest.”
  • “The resulting numbers are then scaled on a range of 0 to 100 based on a topic’s proportion to all searches on all topics.”
  • “Different regions that show the same search interest for a term don’t always have the same total search volumes.”
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For the example we used above with Apple, this would mean that on August 18, Apple was one of the most popular search terms when compared to every other topic, for those searching on Google News in the US. 

A zero rating, however, wouldn’t mean that no one searched for Apple, but only a small number compared to the peaks. 

How to compare search terms on Google Trends

1. To compare search terms, click on Compare and type in your terms or topics. 

2. For this example, we will compare Alphabet with Microsoft and Meta, adding each by clicking on the “+” icon. 

A screenshot of Google Trends shows the "+ Compare" button emphasized with a red box and red arrow.
You can compare multiple search terms in Google Trends.

3. A series of graphs will be generated below, which you can then customize with time frame, category, region, and type of search. 

4. After searching for a comparison between Alphabet, Microsoft, and Meta in the United States in the last 30 days in all categories on web search, we can see that Microsoft beat out the bunch in terms of frequency and volume of searches overall.

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A screenshot of Google Trends shows a line graph comparing "interest over time" for the search terms Alphabet Inc., Microsoft, and Meta.
Google Trends lets you compare up to five terms at a time.

How to use related queries on Google Trends

Located at the bottom of your Google Trends search results is a box titled “Related Queries.” Here, you will find the popular terms that often accompany or follow your selected search term. For example, people who searched for “Alphabet Inc.” also searched for Alphabet, Amazon, and Google stock prices. 

A screenshot of the "related queries" box on Google Trends shows five search terms related to Alphabet Inc.
People searching for Alphabet Inc. are also searching for these related queries.

Within the “Related queries” box, you can click on a related search term like “Alphabet stock price” to see its search popularity and compare it to other searches. 

See Google’s ‘Year in Search’

Every year, Google compiles a list of the year’s top search trends in various categories like news, people, deaths, movies, sports teams, and more.

You can even see the top categories for searches people performed using Google Lens — Google’s image recognition technology — and Google Maps.

Tragedy and destruction were key themes for the top-searched news events in 2023. The top five search terms were all related to war, death, or natural disasters:

  1. War in Israel and Gaza
  2. Titanic submarine
  3. Turkey earthquake
  4. Hurricane Hillary
  5. Hurricane Idalia

The top-searched people of 2023 were mostly athletes:

  1. Damar Hamlin
  2. Jeremy Renner
  3. Andrew Tate
  4. Kylian Mbappé
  5. Travis Kelce

The deaths that sparked the most Google searches in 2023 were all celebrities:

  1. Matthew Perry
  2. Tina Turner
  3. Sinéad O’Connor
  4. Ken Block
  5. Jerry Springer
Read the original article on Business Insider

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