I was keeping an eye on the internet this week eagerly awaiting the April Fools shenanigans from my favorite tech giants. Google created Cold Searches for Google Trends and it got me wondering whether this tool had been featured previously.
April Fool’s: Google Trends: Cold Searches:
While we did feature Google n-grams, which are very similar in appearance, it could not find a post about this tool. Google Trends is exactly what the name implies, it is a graphic visualization of search trends. You can enter search terms, look at the most frequently searched items during a specific time period, filter your searches by geography, and get a list of similar search terms.
Unlike n-grams, Trends can only go back to 2004. Even with a relatively short periods of time, however, Trends can give you an understanding of emergence, peaks and troughs that you didn’t have previously. In the example you can see that Harlem Shake had the higher search volume, but it seems to be fizzling faster than Gangnam Style.
The graph sets the highest volume for your search term at 100 on the x-axis, no matter what terms you enter. Google recently added Google+ searches and YouTube searches to Trends so you can look up nearly any term or phrase. If you leave the “News Headlines” box at the top right of the graph checked, Google will give you reference materials at various points along the timeline.
In the lower portion of the screen are tabs for each term (and terms can be added or deleted from the left filter menu). Those show the geographic distribution for the searches as well as the other search terms that have been used related to your trend terms. And if you are just curious about what people are searching for now, you can skip the terms and just click on Explore Trends from the home page. You’ll see a listing of the terms most commonly searched within the time frame you have chosen.
Other than curiosity, Trends can be used for teaching as well. I found an article from The Atlantic that outlines how the service can be used to start a conversation. Understanding the volume and trends of a term might also help you determine whether a subject should be broached with a particular audience. It could also be used when thinking about branding and marketing. What other uses can you think of?
The Atlantic – The Newtown Shooting Really Has Changed the Conversation on Gun Control, as Google Trends Can Show:
This is a guest post by Chris Bulin (@Arduanne), a graduate student assistant at the Taubman Health Sciences Library.