Google Trends, which launched on May 10, is great fun (see Steve Rubel’s 25 Things He Learned on Trends) and has potential as a tool for quick checks on any ‘what if’ musings one might have.
Without requiring a login, or invitation ;), it joins the Overture Keyword Selector Tool as another ‘use & go’ first-cut tool to use before deep dive research. If you’re curious about search popularity over time for something you see on WordTracker‘s Top 500 Keyword list or Google Zeitgeist , which are both snapshots, a quick jump over to Trends might satisfy your curiosity…or raise more questions.
Google warns not to take this tool too seriously, as does , and Eric Mattsonpoints out other weaknesses. So, are there any bonafide business uses Google Trends might satisfy? Yes, when you just need a quick ‘first cut’ to decide whether or not more time should be spent. Here’s a short list to get you thinking:
- Quick trending of hot or emerging public relations issues (see Joël Céré and Steve Rubel)
- Finding a timeline of news events (limited to Google News) for broad terms.
- Local geographic trending.
- Demonstrating how a paid subsciption to competitive/industry intelligence services like Hitwise or comScore might be of benefit. ‘Doing’ is always more powerful than watching a demo or reading a case study.
- If you can’t trend a word/phrase because there isn’t any data, it might be a promising a niche keyword/phrase that’s worth looking into your Adwords or other keyword research tools.
For an example, let’s take a look at pizza in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Are there any seasonal trends for pizza searches? Is there a detectable Super Bowl or CFL Grey Cup* effect? What about one of the popular brands we see here Pizza Pizza?
Start with just the term ‘pizza’ so that Google News items will be shown. Quick check to see if there are any issues that could influence the trend. There doesn’t appear to be any such influences….
Then filter by region to Canada, and add “pizza pizza”, the brand name. Since “pizza” dwarfs “pizza pizza”, remove “pizza” so that the shape of the “pizza pizza” trend will be uncovered.
December holiday season appears to cause a spike and there’s a slight dip in summer. There might be a bit of a February spike for ‘pizza’, which could be the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2006. There doesn’t appear to be a spike for the Grey Cup, which was on Nov. 27, since the year-end spike seems to be closer to the end of December. Is there anything more to dig for? Maybe if you’re Pizza Pizza wanting to see if there’s likely to be a repeat spike in Feb 2007, but with something more than Google Trends.
Just as free Google Analytics broadened exposure of the importance of conversion and the need for meaningful Web analytics, Google Trends may do the same for business intelligence and competitive/market analysis.
* destination page no longer exists