Use online search trends to identify business opportunities

Gathering insights

Time to complete:

5 minutes


With so many unpredictable changes in the world, how can you prepare for rapid shifts in customer interests and identify what topics people are — or are not — searching for?

The answer is a free tool from Google called Google Trends. With Google Trends, you can see what people are searching for on Google, and how those searches change over time, by season, and by geographic location so you can get relevant insights into what your customers are researching online.

This lesson covers best practices for using Google Trends to explore what’s top of mind for your audience and how to adjust your marketing efforts to meet their needs.

Comparing topics to discover what’s popular

With Google Trends, you can compare two search topics simultaneously to understand which is more popular with users. By comparing keywords for products or services you offer, you can get a quick and helpful picture of which offerings are in greater demand and likely to have an effect on your sales volume in the short term.

Let’s say you own a small flower shop and Mother’s Day is approaching. You want to know which of your products to prioritize promoting online. By using the comparison feature in Google Trends, you can compare search interest for the topics “flower delivery” and “gift baskets.”

Use Google Trends to better understand swings in demand.

Expanding your search by time to identify seasonal trends

Maybe you don’t want to know what’s popular right now. Maybe you want to know if a topic's popularity is steady, seasonal, or influenced by an isolated event.

Using the timestamp dropdown menu, you can adjust and expand the dates of your search with options ranging from “Past 30 Days” to “Past 5 Years” to “Since 2004.”

Here are a few reasons why this is useful to your business:

  • Annual holiday shopping trends. Take the flower shop in our earlier example. Exploring “Mother’s Day gifts” in Google Trends reveals that searches tend to spike in early April.
  • Random spike or real trend? If you want to determine whether a spike you’re seeing is a recurring trend or the effect of an isolated one-time event, expanding your Google Trends search to the past few months or years can reveal it. For example, search volume for “cut your own hair” began trending in popularity vs. searches for “hair salons” from March to May 2020, but expanding that same search comparison to the last 5 years reveals that “hair salons” were much more popular historically.
  • Planning your promotions. By understanding which trends are seasonally cyclical and when they peak and wane, your business can better plan and prepare to seize these opportunities to reach customers right when they’re searching for what you offer.

Adjust dates ranging from “Past hour” to “Since 2004”.

Using Google Trends to discover new opportunities

Another powerful Google Trends tool allows you to discover additional topics and queries related to your search term that you may not have considered.

When you search for a term, Google Trends automatically shows top and rising topics and queries related to your term. This can be extremely useful in uncovering customer needs that you’ve overlooked or discounted.

Rising terms. “Rising” queries are those with the biggest increase in search frequency during your selected time period compared to the previous period.

For example, if you search for rising terms during 2019, it will show you those with the biggest growth in search frequency compared to 2018.

Breakout terms. Results marked "Breakout" had a tremendous increase in search popularity, probably because these queries are new and had few (if any) prior searches.

For example, when you search “Mother’s Day” in Google Trends from April to May 2020, you’ll see that one of the breakout queries is “Mother’s Day eCards.”

When you understand more about what your customers are searching for and why, you can uncover new customer needs that you didn’t think of in the first place.

If you see “Breakout”, it means that the search term grew by more than 5000%.

Refining your search by region or city

Whether your business is nationwide or locally-focused, Google Trends can help you better understand what customers are searching.

When you search for a term in Google Trends, you will see a heat map that shows you where that term is most popular. If you hover over a particular region, Google Trends will show you what percentage of total searches from that area contained your search term. It will also list the top cities and regions where people searched for your term.

This is especially helpful for determining different customer interests across different regions. For example, Google Trends shows that search interest for “Mother’s Day gifts” increased nationwide in late April in 2020, and was searched most in the San Diego metropolitan area.

Ready to start your own trend-spotting adventure? Go to Google Trends and try entering some search terms. You can also sign up for email notifications that alert you to changes in trends for terms you are interested in.

And if you want to learn more about advanced search resources, check out these helpful tips.

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