The guys at Google are probably lucky enough to have all kinds of trend data at their fingertips. For the rest of us, Google Trends is limited.

While Google Trends does offer some insights into demand for current affairs topics, without you asking, you don’t get all the answers.

If, for example, you know that GDPR is trending, you can’t use Google Trends to look up which search phrases are the most popular. The tool gives you levels of demand, on a scale of one to 100, for specific search queries.

It doesn’t suggest queries to you. That’s what Keyword Planner is for – even though Google has reduced that tool’s capacity to serve as an organic research tool.

You can do some clever things with Google Trends

Despite its limitations, you can do some clever things with Google Trends and I will take you through eight examples of these here.

1. Track downward trends

This graph shows the decline in UK search demand for the phrase cheap flights. This may reflect falling overall demand, but it could also mean the audience now has ways of finding cheap flights other than organic search.

Tracking falling demand with Google Trends

Remember, the trend graph is not an exact match for search volume. It is a score out of 100, showing demand relative to a peak.

This graph clearly shows that the demand level for ‘cheap flights’ has declined rapidly. Thinking about it, this makes sense. We now have access to smartphone apps from airlines and other travel companies, so we are less likely to search for cheap flights.

Also, since Google launched its Flights service, and with people using more long-tail questions, we no longer need to search for cheap flights on Google. We can just select the airports and hit go.

2. Compare one thing with another

This graph shows the search demand over time for yoga versus aerobics. Probably no surprise that aerobics, which was big in the 80s, has low demand compared with yoga, whose popularity is still growing.

Google Trends - comparing two things

Think about how many movies and TV programmes feature someone going to or talking about yoga. How often do people talk about doing aerobics these days?

3. Compare your demand with a competitor

There is a clear upward demand for brand searches for Slimming World, compared with a general decline for Weight Watchers – suggesting contrasting fortunes for each of the brands.

Google Trends - tracking competitors

You can do the same thing, comparing your brand name with the brand name of one or more competitor. See whose name has the highest demand. Bear in mind that any brand name that is also a generic phrase is likely to have a false graph.

4. Find out which questions are the most popular

By querying Google Trends for single question words, you can get an idea for which words appear more frequently in searches.

Question queries compared in Google Trends

As the graph here shows (for UK traffic), ‘how’ questions out-rank all others, with ‘what’ coming a clear second.

This kind of information can help you with your content planning. Users are more likely to search ‘how to change a lightbulb’ than ‘why to change a lightbulb’.

5. Find peak seasonal periods

Google Trends is great for spotting seasonal trends. For example, in the graph below, we can see the seasonal peaks over five years for the phrase ‘Christmas party venues London’.

Christmas venues search trends graph

A few years ago, the peak demand was in November, but this has now come forward to October, which means all the good London venues are likely to be booked by then.

In this second example, I have compared the queries ‘wedding venues’ and ‘wedding dresses’.

Google Trends - christmas venues

Now, all year round, people are planning weddings and there is a wedding fayre taking place once a week somewhere in the UK. However, this trend graph clearly shows that there is a seasonal pattern.

Demand drops considerably over the Christmas period, before hitting the annual peak in the beginning of the new year. Despite weddings taking place all the time, January seems to be the time when the majority of people go looking for information.

This kind of information can be useful in planning a PPC bidding strategy. The same is true in this next example, which shows demand for Glastonbury Festival.

Glastonbury search demand in Google Trends

Each year, when the tickets for the next year go on sale, people start searching. There are then spikes again when the line-up is announced, with the peak being when the event takes place.

6. Compare demand in different countries

English language search behaviour is not universal. In this example, you can see how US and UK searchers behave in contrasting ways.

Comparing regional differences with search data

The graph on the left is for US-based search traffic. The graph on the right is UK data. This shows that, in the UK, hotels should be targeting people looking for dog friendly hotels, rather than using the phrase ‘pet friendly’.

7. Find out when searchers start browsing

Using an exact phrase, with years attached, we can see when demands starts and ends each year. I was unsurprised to find that people search for a Spanish villa in January, but I was surprised to find that demand is heavy during the previous August.

Trend data for villa searches

This could be people who have just finished their summer holiday, looking to re-book, or it could be people who are still on holiday, browsing for next year while they are in the mood to think about more of the same.

8. Track behavioural change

Retailers take note – customers no longer want fast delivery, they want same day delivery. Where will it go from here?

Trend data for delivery searches

Want to chat about anything covered in this article? Just tweet me at @masterstips.