Here’s a tool you might not have heard about.
Google Trends data in real time! A valuable tool for people worldwide to explore the global reaction to major events. With trillions of searches occurring every year, Google Trends is one of the largest real time datasets in the world. By examining what people search for, we gain insight into their current interests and curiosity.
But how can you interpret Trends data when a major news event occurs?
Trends data is an unbiased sample of Google search data that is anonymized, categorized, and aggregated. This allows us to measure interest in a specific topic across search, from global to city-level. Using the free data explorer on Google Trends, you can search for a particular topic or set of search terms. You can see real-time search interest, where it’s most searched, and what else people search for in relation to it.
There are two ways to filter the Trends data: real time and non-real time. Real time is a random sample of searches from the last 7 days, while non-real time is another random sample of the full Google dataset that can go back anywhere from 2004 to ~36 hours ago. The charts display one or the other, but not both, because these are two separate random samples. By sampling the data, we can look at a dataset representative of all Google searches, and gain insights that can be processed within minutes of an event happening in the real world.
Google Trends is a unique and powerful dataset that complements others, like demographic data from the census, as shown in the Washington Post. It allows us to analyze search behavior in real time as events unfold. However, combining data can be challenging. For example, it doesn’t make sense to compare Google Trends to other Google datasets that are measured in different ways.
What do the numbers mean?
Google Trends is useful for storytelling because it lets us explore the magnitude of different moments and how people react to them. We can compare different terms against each other or take the total searches for an event to understand its magnitude. The normalized Trends data is critical as we look at search interest over time for a topic. We’re examining that interest as a proportion of all searches on all topics on Google at that time and location. Normalization allows us to compare different dates, different countries or different cities.
The context of our numbers also matters. We index our data to 100, where 100 is the maximum search interest for the time and location selected. This means that if we look at search interest in the 2016 elections, March 2016 had the highest search interest value. If we look at search interest in only March 2016, we can see that March 16 has the highest search interest.
If you’re wondering how important the Trends data is, there are a few ways to assess it. The first is understanding relative search interest in the topic compared to others.
Curious about how people react to different moments and events? Look no further than Google Trends. This powerful tool allows you to compare search interest for different topics over time and in different regions. Even better, the data is normalized to give you a better understanding of the context and relative importance of the numbers.
By looking at search spikes and related searches, you can gain valuable insights into what’s going on in the real world. For example, after the Cavs won the NBA Championships, we saw their search interest surge past that of even Taylor Swift. And in the aftermath of the Oregon shooting, search interest in gun control spiked above that of gun shops.
It’s amazing what stories you can uncover with the help of Google Trends. And we’re committed to making it even easier to use and share – so let’s keep the conversation going!