Google Trends: Why You Can't Ignore The Wave Of Change Anymore

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

As PPC Heroes, we like to think we’ve got all sorts of magic stuffed up our sleeves. Truth be told, there are plenty of approaches we use that may be less common to the outside world. That’s why this week’s *Series Topic* is just that: Underutilized Reports. This week we’ll go over reports we use in AdWords, Bing, Facebook, and Analytics that we find to be particularly useful and perhaps a bit underused in the world of PPC.

One type of report that some account managers fail to utilize incorporates the outside world. To best encompass such large-scale behavior, our first stop is typically Google Trends.

Now, before you navigate to this page and spend the rest of your day investigating the most frequently searched celebrity breakup or what was the most popular blog search for 2013, let’s talk about why Google Trends is a valuable marketing tool.

For those of you who’ve been out of the loop since the mid 2000’s, Google has introduced a tool they call Trends, which breaks down what’s been searched most frequently through Google channels. The segmentation of this tool is extremely helpful when trying to gain actionable insights.

The segments break down into the following:

Search terms: These do not function just as AdWords keywords. Before typing in a term and then feeling confused about the output, double check what you actually want to search:

Google Trends Search Terms

Monkey Wrench Search Trends


Time periods: Pick your pony. You can look at interest over the past 8 years or just the past month. This can help you identify seasonal trends or major shifts. Using the term “monkey wrench” we can see how it’s changed over time.


Personal note: Is anyone else surprised that “monkey wrench” is still getting a lot of searches? #FooFightersFan4Life


Category: If you know you want to focus on one particular aspect of Google searches, the category segment will help. Similarly, the source of searches can also help narrow your results:

Category dropdownWeb Search drop down



Regional data Personal note: Is anyone else surprised that “monkey wrench” searches are dominated by Kentucky?

Forecast: This is Google’s fun tip on what’s to come. Based on current trends and past data (and maybe a little Google magic), they also provide an expectation for the coming months:



This graph forecasting the future searches for “monkey wrench” assures me that we have not seen the last of this classic song or this classic hardware repair tool. Or both.

If you’re interested in more details, I highly recommend you check it out (as long as you can allocate a few hours to having fun investigating what all Google’s seen over the years).

But if you’ve spent your time clicking randomly and are ready for some actual insights, read on, my friends.

Real world uses of Google Trends

E-comm: Product Popularity

For a client who carries a wide variety of shoes, Google trends can paint a picture of the brands that are dominating the market for search interest. I inserted the following four shoe brands into Google Trends so that I could see the shift in search traffic over the years: Converse, Reebok, Adidas, New Balance, and Puma.

Shoe brand searches


From this, I poked around at the varying degrees of search volume and made a few notations:

  1. Converse : Highest interest occurs during the back-to-school window. Do we need to pull back in non-BTS times to better allocate our budget elsewhere?
  2. Reebok: March and August (sport season start ups) are highest areas of interest. No surprise here, but how has our impression share fluctuated over these times? Have we been able to keep a strong average rank for the majority of our related keywords?
  3. Adidas: Fall & Spring are the strongest, though Adidas has seen lower numbers in the last year or 2. Perhaps this means there was a huge spike in previous years. May also mean increased competition has lessened the search traffic over time.
  4. New Balance saw a lift in January, which is weird, right? Of all the seasons in which shoes are popular, New Balance is holding its own in the harsh winter seasons. This encourages me to review our sales and verify that we’ve been having an aggressive presence during these less-traditional times of traffic.

What can I do with this data? I can watch for the expected traffic increase and immediately respond if I don’t see it during the typical seasons. Additionally, I know that some of these brands rank higher in overall interest, which lend themselves to the examination of competitive metrics, too.

Lead Gen: Negatives

As much as I like to think I’m on the cutting edge of all pop culture, there are things I may not be able to anticipate or catch on the upswing. Thankfully, Google trends has a feel for these things and can help me stay on the cusp of search-mania.

For a client who specializes in substance abuse rehabilitation, negative keywords are of the utmost importance. Between the average CPC and the high levels of competition around every corner, there’s already plenty of caution in how every penny is spent. Having celebrity names triggering unnecessary clicks is just unacceptable.

But how do I know all the new celebrities checking into rehab? Or even those who might be checking into rehab? Or worse, those who are definitely not going to rehab, but the general public seems to think they should?

Google Trends can help us see what exactly is running through the veins of America as they search for their favorite ‘rehab’ terms. I’ve run a trends report for the last 60 days and here’s what I found:

Negative Search Terms

Turns out, if I don’t already have Selena Gomez, Ke$ha, the Biebs, and Trace Atkins in my list of negatives, I might lose a fair amount of coin on folks who search for them and click on the first ad they see: potentially mine. This list tells me that there are some terms that are gaining momentum right. this. minute. There are some that have continued to grow in public interest that are still on the radar of American searchers. Either way, our PPC campaign does not benefit from clicks associated with celebrity rehab and thus we set them as negatives.

This in no way eliminates the need for search term reports, where wasteful search terms are sucking up your budget, but this can help anticipate terms that may be coming down the line. And because traffic is normalized, there is a better distribution between areas that have larger or smaller overall volumes, which means you might have to dig a little deeper to find it’s direct affect on your geotargeted campaigns.

There are countless other ways to use Google Trends, but I know these approaches help me keep a finger on the pulse of search trends.

Fun Facts:

  • Duplicate searches: Trends eliminates repeated queries from a certain user over a short period of time. This means one person can’t artificially inflate the search volume associated with them by simply looking up their own name 5000 times. Trust me, I tried.
  • You can’t automatically import your AdWords keywords into Google Trends. Unlike the Keyword Planner, which also provides you with useful traffic estimates, the Google Trends feature is currently just for the looking!
  • There are constantly new features added to Google Trends and data is being assembled in fun and creative ways. Seriously, reserve yourself a few hours and give it a go!