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The New Google Trends: Both an amazing research tool and amusing rabbit hole


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When Google launched its redesigned Google Trends site back in June, you might have thought that it was aimed as a tool primarily for journalists, bloggers, and students. And, you may be right in guessing this. But, you are missing out on a great exploratory tool if you aren’t in any of those categories and decided not to explorer the updated Google Trends. Here’s what you’ll find if you visit google.com/trends.


The first thing you’ll notice are the three “featured stories” going across near the top of your browser window. Selecting one of these featured stories leads you to a new page that provides categories of in-depth information. These categories may include news stories, a list of people pertinent to the story, information about geographical differences in interest about the story, a timeline of interest, and a list of related topics.

A list of “trending stories” followed the featured stories. These are generally newsworthy stories that have developed in the past 24 hours and are continuing to generate search interest. Selecting a news item from the list of trending stories results in an in-depth page too.


However, you aren’t limited to Google’s featured and trending stories. You can search for any topic or set of topics that have generated sufficient search interest for Google to produce meaningful related information. With Microsoft Windows 10 set for release in just a few weeks on July 29, 2015, it seemed like a good topic to throw to Google Trends. I tried a few of the Google Trends story tuning options for this search. First, I limited the search region to just the United States instead of the default region of the entire world. Next, I reduced the time frame to searches in the past 12 months. The default is to consider all searches since 2004. And, finally, I selected the checkbox to turn on indications of news stories about Windows 10 during this period. I could have also narrowed the categories of sources and the type of sources (web search, image search, news search, Google shopping, and YouTube search).


You should be careful on how you interpret Google Trends’ output, however. For example, in the screenshot above, you can see I once again restricted searches for the past 12 month period in the United States and then searched on the words “football”, “basketball”, and “baseball”. If you don’t think it through (as I failed to do), you might believe that the search for “football” might be mainly about American Football instead of what the rest of the world refers to as Football and we in the U.S. call soccer. Then, like me, you’d be wrong because based on the news stories associated with the search, at least some of the searchers for “football” are about soccer.


Google doesn’t restrict the kind of terms you can use for trend searches. In this final screenshot, you can see I searched for the words blue, red, yellow, and green. You can see from the chart that the color pair of blue-red started out relatively close in search interest in 2004 as did the pair of yellow-green. However, over the years, the word “red” appears to be in significantly more searches than blue. And, the search for yellow and green has bifurcated over the years too. Why this is the case is for a much more in-depth research than I conducted. I think though, it shows the kind of questions that can arise from what may have started as a playful or even apparently nonsensical searches. Google Trends can be both a tremendous research tool or a amusing rabbit hole to wander through.

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