Sylvia Shelby
Jan 11, 2020 | 15 min read

Google Trends is a free tool that shows which topics are trending on people’s minds around the globe at a given time. It spots all kinds of events, ranging from big to small, global to local, and everything in between. It knows that every four years the entire world rushes to discuss the Olympics for about two weeks, as well as that the “climate strike” term Greta Thunberg used in her ardent speech at the UN was on everybody’s lips for a whole week after the summit.

This online search tool analyzes samples of search data to measure user interest in various topics and then conveniently presents it as a graph. Google Trends stores tons of data that goes way back to 2004, and ever since the search giant’s major expansion in 2015, all the data has been updated in real time. The best part is that the tool is readily available to everyone – you don’t even need to create an account like you do with Google Analytics or Google Search Console. 

So, I invite you to join me on this guided tour of Google Trends to unravel its full potential and get valuable insights into your customers’ interests. There are dozens of ways the tool can be used and I’m positive that you will find some opportunities to support your SEO and marketing endeavors, regardless of the business you’re in. 

Finding trending topics to cover in your niche

Keeping a close eye on Google Trends will help you stay on top of all newsworthy events relevant to your business niche. If a story has recently made the news, you’ll definitely be able to find it in the Trending Searches section of the tool, which, by the way, can be accessed from the left sidebar.

Trending Searches section in Google Trends

This section contains two tabs, namely Daily Search Trends and Realtime Search Trends. The Daily Search Trends tab shows 20 of the most searched for keywords on the current day, the previous day, and so on. Just press Load more at the bottom of the page to view historical results. You can also expand the search term you are interested in to get detailed data, as shown below. 

Daily Search Rends tab in Google Trends

Next to every popular search term, you’ll find its search volume and related news pieces. This means that Google Trends doesn’t just tell you which topics are currently making the news, but also provides you with plenty of context. You are welcome to check out articles published by different media to see which events sparked people’s interest in the keyword. For example, an actress received a prestigious award and people started Googling her name. 

Along with the article titles, you can also see exactly when they were published. If the story was presented a while ago, make sure it hasn’t yet lost its appeal before producing a similar piece of content.

To spot trends that are just emerging, go to the Realtime Search Trends tab. Here you will find stories published just a few hours ago. When expanded, each search term comes with a graph that shows if the interest in the news is still growing or already fading out.

Graph in the Realtime Search Trends tab

Moreover, you can pick the search category you’re interested in. The choice is rather limited though: you have business, entertainment, health, tech, and sports categories to choose from. But don’t fret if your niche doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. You can still draw some topic ideas from Google Trends, but you’ll just have to do it in a different way. This leads me to the next point.

Using Google Trends’ Explore tool for keyword research

Browsing through the Trending Searches section of Google Trends may sometimes give you no results. Your business niche may be too specific or the news relevant for your business may not make it into the top 20 results. 

So, if for some reason you haven’t found any ready-made suggestions, go to the Explore section of Google Trends that’s accessible via the left sidebar. It holds information on all the search queries whose search volume is higher than zero, so you’ll definitely find some keyword ideas here.

To get started, enter the seed keyword into the search box at the top of the Google Trends interface, and find the Related topics and Related queries tabs at the very bottom of the Explore section. 

Related topics and Related queries tabs in Google Trends

You can use different filters to get the most relevant results:

  • When entering your search query into the search box, you can choose whether to discover it as a topic/category or as a search term. It’s better to go for the first option as, otherwise, you may get some non-relevant keyword suggestions. For example, if you choose to discover fashion as a search term, and not as a topic, keywords like A Christmas in Royal Fashion (which is a film name) will pop up among the related topics.
Filters in Google Trends Explore section
  • You can also pick the time span that works best for your query. By default, Google Trends analyzes the last 12 months, but there are plenty of other available options that range from “past hour” to “since 2004”. For our fashion topic example, you’ll want to get insights into recent news, which means you should choose a time span between the last couple of hours and a week. 
  • You may also restrict your search to a certain category or subcategory from the suggested list. You have 25 categories with multiple subcategories to choose from. 

To make your keyword research a success, be creative with your seed keywords. You can start with a broad term like fashion, but you’ll have to be more specific and explore some narrower terms as well to get good topic ideas. For example, fashion media often write about high-end expensive designer clothing, so exploring the term haute couture is a good idea. 

With Google Trends, you can even explore search terms that aren’t related to any topic like “how to” or “what is” to get keyword ideas. Use the category filter to specify the (sub)category you’re interested in and find a list of new trending queries and topics relevant for your niche. This is something no other tool offers as traditional keyword research solutions require you to be more specific from the get-go. 

How-to keywords research in Google Trends

Another undeniable benefit of Google Trends is that it pins down the search terms whose search volume spikes and then rapidly goes back to zero in under a week, like names of new fragrances presented by fashion houses.

Temporary popular keywords in Google Trends

Traditional keyword research tools usually do not update their databases in real time, which means they may not have any data on such time-sensitive keywords.

Therefore, Google Trends can help you discover keyword opportunities that can otherwise be easily missed like fast-moving trends or popular how-to queries. And still, I want to stress that you should not rely solely on Google Trends for your keyword research needs. Traditional keyword research tools will be of greater help to you if your business niche is not subject to fast-moving trends. 

My advice is to compile a keyword list, drawing ideas from all sorts of sources, as I described in this guide. And once you’re done, you can use Google Trends to get all sorts of insights that will help you leave only worthy keywords on your list.

Analyzing the keyword popularity curve

You only want to take on keywords that enjoy stable public interest. To check if this is the case, simply enter the keyword into the Google Trends search box and check the Interest over time graph. 

Interest over time graph in Google Trends

In addition to validating new keywords, the graph can also be used to check up on the keywords you’re currently targeting. If you notice that some keywords started bringing in less traffic, chances are their days of glory are coming to an end. Check the popularity graph to see if your keywords really are losing public interest. If so, you’ll have to look for new keyword opportunities. 

Validating keywords with Google Trends doesn’t take much time, but the data you get is really useful. You don’t want to be spending your time on keywords that are losing popularity, right? That is why we at SE Ranking have integrated the Google Trends popularity graph into our SEO/PPC Competitor research tool. We wanted to give you the opportunity to conveniently view all of the necessary metrics in one place.  

Keyword popularity graph in SE Ranking

SE Ranking pulls up the default Google Trends graph that covers a period of 12 months. This time period is set by default because it allows you to see if the interest in the target keyword is growing or fading.

However, sometimes you may want to go to Google Trends to see the bigger picture. And by sometimes here I mean when you see a “keyword unicorn” — a keyword whose popularity skyrocketed but soon went back to nearly zero.

Normally, you’d want to drop such keywords, but sometimes what seems like a unicorn may turn out to be a seasonal keyword. So, if you suspect this to be the case, you’ll have to go to Google Trends to check this out. 

Staying on top of seasonal fluctuations

In order to analyze seasonality, you’ll have to change the default time span set in Google Trends from 12 months to 5 years. That way, you’ll be able to spot if the surge in a keyword’s popularity occurs every year at a particular time. Seasonal keywords aren’t useless like keyword unicorns, so you can go ahead and keep them on your list. However, you’ll have to treat them differently than regular keywords and plan your marketing campaigns with regard to their seasonal nature.

Spotting seasonal keywords in Google Trends

Use Google Trends data to understand when exactly a keyword’s popularity starts growing. For instance, everybody knows that costume rentals are searched for the most around Halloween and people need summer shoes for, well, summer. But with Google Trends, you can get more precise data. It will show you that people start looking for a Halloween outfit at the beginning of October, and the “summer shoes” keyword starts to get more searches in late spring with the peak observed at the end of May/beginning of June.

Analyzing seasonal keywords in Google Trends

To get the most relevant results, be precise in your wording, and try to use the search terms your customers or readers use. So, if you are selling summer shoes and not writing a fashion column about shoe trends, just go for the “buy summer shoes” keyword.

Identifying the points when the curve of interest starts growing can help marketers plan and start their campaigns at the right time. Like, a shoe shop can start promoting summer shoes on Facebook at the beginning of May, meaning they need to adjust their content plan and have all the texts published earlier on in April. Publishing content before the seasonal interest in the topic starts growing will also give a business time to build some useful backlinks. 

Updating cornerstone content before seasonal peaks is also a good idea, as both users and Google value fresh content. If you, say, run a travel blog and you have a post on a trip to Brazil during the Carnival, it makes sense to update it in January when the interest toward the topic starts growing.

Picking the best region to target

When you assess a keyword’s popularity using traditional keywords research tools, the data you get is the average for the country under analysis. Google Trends is unique in this regard because it gives you a chance to check how interest in your topic varies across the country or even across different cities of the region.

You’ll find the Interest by subregion section right below the Interest over time graph. Here you can check which regions of the country (states for the US) show more interest in the topic. You can click on every subregion mentioned in the table to narrow down the location and further see from which cities within the state/region the searches come from.

Interest by subregion section graph in Google Trends

If your service is not location-dependent – like you sell CRM software – you can use Google Trends to determine that your product is in greatest demand in Washington, NY, and Boston. You can then try location-based advertising to target these regions regardless of where you’re physically located.

The feature is also useful for businesses whose physical location is irrelevant, but who want to promote location-dependent services. For example, you want to start a review website that will get income from affiliate programs offered by yoga retreats, and you need to find out where such centers are in greatest demand. Google Trends will prompt you to partner up with rehabs in D.C., Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii.  

Producing in-demand type of content

By default, Google Trends uses web search data when analyzing search terms. But the tool also contains data from Google’s image search and YouTube, which can help you determine which content type is more popular among users. Some keywords can produce better results when paired with the right form of content — create a video for your YouTube channel instead of writing another blog post. 

If you feel like the search term you are interested in can make for both a good blog post and a video, take a look at its trend curve under the web search tab and then check out YouTube’s search results. Go for the one that looks more promising or create both a blog post and a video if the query is equally popular in web search and on YouTube. 

Analyzing YouTube search results in Google Trends

You can also check if a keyword is trending on Google Images. If this is the case, consider creating an infographic or an explanatory image on the topic. It will help you stand out in Google’s image search and get a lot of clicks to your website. 

Analyzing several keywords at a time

Another unique feature offered by Google Trends is the opportunity to analyze several keywords simultaneously. So, if you have several promising keywords to choose from and you can’t decide which one to take on, you can compare them side by side and pick the one showing a more positive trend. In the example below, it looks like the trend is changing in favor of the “drone camera” keyword. 

Comparing several keywords in Google Trends

Besides, you can also use the feature to learn the volume of traffic you can expect to get from a new keyword. Just take the keyword you rank for that already brings you traffic and compare it to a new search query. That way, you can filter out keywords that cannot potentially bring you any traffic.

Closing thoughts

Most SEO specialists occasionally use Google Trends to check how interest toward a keyword changes over time. And still, very few of us use the tool to its full potential, which is a real shame because Google Trends can help you gain really precious insights and even make some game-changing adjustments to your SEO strategy. 

I hope that some of the tips I shared in this post will now become a part of your regular SEO routine. Moreover, now that you have familiarized yourself with all of the sections and filters Google Trends has, you can come up with your own ways of using its data to perform an SEO analysis. 

So, don’t hesitate to share your ideas in the comments section below. And let us know which Google Trends features you use the most. 

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6 comments
  1. I don’t relly use Google Trends much in my SEO work – should probably try out couple of your tips. I personally like the Year in Search thing that you haven’t mentioned here. I check it out every year just out of curiosity:) And media also use it to write the end-of-year summary articles

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jared! Year in Search really offers some great insight for media at the end of each year.

  2. Thanks Sylvia for this wonderful article. I have never used Google Trends before but after reading your article I will probably be spending a lot of time there.

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