Google Trends: what it is and how to use it for Google search trends

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Catherine Le Nevez
@catherinelenevez
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What's trending on Google? Learn how to use Google Trends to find trending searches and compare topics.

With Google's ubiquity, seeing what people are looking for is pretty cool. By looking at the trending searches, you can easily find what are the hottest topics, the terms that interest people, and gain insight into the minds of internet users.

Did you know that Google provides a powerful tool called Google Trends that allows you to access and filter this information with ease? Let's take a look at Google Trends and see how to find the trends right now and so much more.



What is Google Trends

Basically, Google Trends is a web service that allows you to check trends on Google and what people are looking for. While useful for business research, it offers a lot of fun for casual use as well.

In the following you will see some initial examples of topics to explore.

Keep scrolling down and you will see trends inspired by current events. For example, during a sport's playoff season, these might show which regions are looking for which teams.

Further down the page, Google Trends displays the latest trends.

At the bottom of the page, you will find the year sorted in the research archives. In these, you can find the most popular terms on Google for a given year in a variety of categories, such as car models, dog breeds, games, and GIFs.

If you wish, you can view these summaries for a different country or select Global. Google also provides a short video overview of the biggest stories of the year through search.

This is just the homepage, though. Google Trends can do a lot more.


How to search for trends on Google Trends

Google Trends really shines when you use it to research something that interests you. Enter a search term in the top bar and you will see detailed trends for it.


Depending on what you enter, Google Trends considers it a search term or  topic

The explains that search terms show matches for all terms in the specified language, while topics are groups of terms in all languages.

Google Trends search criteria

Once you have entered a search term, you can set a number of criteria below it.

Use the first box to set the search region. You can choose Worldwide to see anywhere or even drill down to specific regions of a country. For example, Spain.

The second drop-down menu allows you to choose the time interval. The default is Last 12 months, but you can select up to the last hour, up to 2004 or define your own time range. This allows you to see trends over the years and how a term's popularity has increased or decreased in the short term.

Change the All Categories box if you want to search in a specific area, such as Books & Literature. Usually, you can leave it on All Categories unless a term no longer has meanings. To be more granular, you can choose a sub-category, such as Mobile and wireless in the Internet and telecommunications category.

Finally, you can change the default Web Search to Image, News, Shopping or even YouTube Search to see the trends on those Google sites.


Once you've set your criteria, you're ready to check out the results to find out more about what's trending.

Google Trends search results and comparison

On the search results page, you will see different data views of what you searched for. One is an interest over time graph, which represents interest on a relative scale of 0 to 100 for the time period you have chosen.


Below that, the Interests by sub-region box allows you to take a closer look at the breakdown for your term. You can see which areas are most and least interested in what you have entered. Move your mouse over one of these maps to view the search details and click on them to explore the area further.

At the bottom, you will find related queries and topics.

Comparison of trending topics with Google Trends

Seeing trends this way is interesting in itself, but Google Trends really shines when you use it to compare topics. At the top of the results page, click Compare to add another topic. You can compare up to five terms.

As you add more, you will see them color-coded throughout the page. When you search for multiple terms, the Comparative Breakdown by Subregion section lets you see a heat map of which states, countries or regions you are most searching for which topic, as well as the breakdown between them. It's a neat way to see what people think about competing topics.

To dig deeper, click the three-dot menu on a search term at the top and choose Edit Filters. This allows you to change the region or time period for an item. You could use this to see how MacBook interest in Australia compares to Canadian interest in Laptops, to take a potential example.


Explore the trends on Google

You can have a lot of fun playing around with the Explore features above, but other tools reveal more about Google's trending searches. Open the scrolling menu on the left and choose Trending Searches to see what the world is looking for right now.


This page, under the Daily Search Trends tab, contains the most frequent searches in your area per day, along with their search volume and related stories. It's a great way to get a snapshot of the trending news for each day. Use the drop-down menu below the search box to peruse a different region, or switch to the Live Search Trends tab to see terms that have quickly gained a foothold in popularity.

If you are interested in keeping up with trends on Google, you can also get email notifications for trending topics. Click the Envelope icon at the top right of the Daily Search Trends tab to receive regular emails on the most important topics. You can also subscribe via RSS.

Subscription to Google Trends updates

The Trending Searches tab allows you to subscribe to notifications on hot topics, but the Subscriptions section of the left menu allows you to receive updates on any term or topic you like. Just click the Plus icon in the lower right corner to add a new subscription.

Enter a search term or topic that interests you, set the region and specify if you want updates once a week or once a month.

If you want regular updates on the performance of a given term but don't always want to manually check Google Trends, this is a convenient option.

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