Perhaps one of the biggest trends resulting from the rise of the internet and social media is the change of use of the word ‘trend’ itself. Did it ever used to be a verb? Once a pretty oafish word that your parents might use when they wanted to show off their latest dress sense or taste in popular music, it now refers to the words and topics that are grabbing the attention of the online world.
In fact, there’s a neat way we can have a look at the way the word ‘trending’ has been trending over recent years, with a quick trip over to Google Trends. The tool, if you’re not familiar with it, gives you a guide to how often words or phrases have been Googled over time.
If you’re a bit boring and nerdy like me, you can entertain yourself for hours with Google Trends and immerse yourself in detective work. For example, this graph of the development of the word ‘trending’ is symbolic of the rise of Twitter. Though established in 2006, the microblogging site boomed between 2008 and 2010. By February 2010, Twitter users were bashing out as many tweets in 48 hours as they were in three months back in 2008, and its use has continued to rocket since. And that massive spike between November 2014 and March 2015? That’s likely to have been a result of people looking for what had been trending during 2014, a year during which the world lost Robin Williams, Ebola was devastating West Africa and Brazil were thumped 7-1 by Germany in their own back yard.
The tool gives interesting insights into patterns of searches over time. To illustrate, take a look at the below graph for the trending of the phrase ‘world cup’.
You’re probably not surprised to see that searches soared in the summers of 2006, 2010 and 2014 as the FIFA World Cup was building up and taking place. See the two small ripples that follow them in 2007, 2011 and 2015? Those will be the Cricket World Cups and Rugby World Cups of those years.
We can look at what people are Googling on a daily basis too. For example, if you don’t understand why Rebecca Black peaks every Friday, you’re obviously not familiar with this. And now you’ll hate me for introducing you to it, but hey, it is Friday after all!
It can even be used to make comparisons between one search term and another. Here’s an interesting look at how ‘google’ (blue) and ‘yahoo’ (red) compare since 2004.
So, is all of this just for giggles or is there any practical use to it? Well, it’s actually a great way of finding out what people are Googling, then using that information to adapt your online content.
As an example, let’s imagine that you sell white goods, and that fridges are your biggest seller, but what are people Googling – ‘fridge’ or ‘refrigerator’?
There’s your answer. Until 2010, ‘refrigerator’ would’ve been your safe bet, but ‘fridge’ is now pulling away. The reason for the zigzag lines, incidentally, is because searches for both terms peak every summer – who’d have thought, eh?
Remember as well though that this is a reflection of global search results. If most of your business comes from the U.S., there’s an altogether different picture of ‘refrigerator’ dominance, but ‘fridge’ gaining ground.
Then again, if you’re a UK-only business, you might as well forget about ‘refrigerator’ completely.
If nothing else, it’s great fun to have a play around on Google Trends, but it’s also a very tidy way of working out what people are searching for, perhaps giving you ideas for which words and phrases to tie into your content if you want to make an impression within popular searches.