I can spend a whole day on the Google Trends platform.
It’s a powerful tool, especially when used in tandem with keyword research. Google Trends can provide a bigger picture context that’s often missing from other tools, shedding light on the seasonality and longevity of content trends and the intent behind Google searches.
But I’ve found that it’s one of the lesser-known and underutilized tools for bloggers and other online content creators…
Meaning many of you are missing out on this crucial research tool that other industries rely on for marketing insights!
In this post, I’ll cover some Google Trends search and filter basics, along with seven ways you can start using Google Trends more effectively today.
Google Trends search basics: modifying your search terms
When you open Google Trends to start a search, you can simply type in a basic search term like “camping” to see the broadest possible results, across the entire web.
But there are a few secret modifiers you can input to give you cleaner, more targeted results!
Use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase
If you just type in camping recipes, the results will display searches that contain both camping and recipes in any order. Results can include search queries like breakfast camping recipes or recipes for camping.
However, if you put quotation marks around the phrase “camping recipes”, the results will display that exact phrase, keeping the words in the order listed.
It may, however, include words before or after, like easy camping recipes.
Use a plus sign to connect multiple variations of your search phrase
Google Trends results don’t include any misspellings, spelling variations, synonyms, plural, or singular versions of the search term.
So if you input camping recipes, you will not get results containing the singular version of recipe.
To get results that include those variations such as plural, singular, and slight misspellings, you can type them all out with a plus sign between them so you can get the results for that entire bundle of relevant terms.
Use a plus sign to see one phrase OR another phrase
If you put a plus sign between search terms, you will return results that show searches containing either of those words.
For example, searching for camping + hiking will give you results that contain the word camping and results that contain the word hiking. This can be helpful if you have similar topics that are more specific.
Use a minus sign to exclude a phrase
This is the opposite of the previous tip. Using a minus sign between the terms excludes searches with that keyword.
For example, searching for camping -dessert will give you results containing the word camping, but you won’t get any results that include dessert.
This can be helpful if you’re finding your search results are getting flooded by a topic or brand name that’s not relevant to your search. For example, if you’re researching camping trends, you may want to subtract the word world to remove Camping World, the retailer, from your results.
Here’s a handy reference sheet:
Seven ways to use Google Trends more effectively
To get the most out of this platform, let’s jump into some of the best practices to set yourself and your search queries up for success!
Google Trends pro tip #1: Start with clear goals
When you have clearly defined goals, you can get the most out of your time spent in Google Trends.
Do you want to go after evergreen topics to future-proof your content? In this case, you’re going to want to avoid temporary, flash-in-the-pan trends and go after more sustainable topics.
Is your site known for being ahead of the curve and always sharing the hottest trends, even if they are short-lived? Then you’ll want to look for recent, intense spikes in search interest.
Or maybe you have a mixed approach, covering long-term trends to keep your business sustainable, but capitalizing on those intense surges of traffic that can come with hot, viral trends.
For example, “whipped coffee” was a terrific example of a trend that surged almost overnight but quickly dwindled in popularity. Publishers who jumped on this trend early benefitted from the spikes of new traffic to their site, and those with smart engagement practices were able to convert some of these new visitors into loyal, long-term audience members.
There is no wrong strategy, as long as you have a strategy! Keep your goals in mind so you can set up smarter filters and searches.
Google Trends pro tip #2: Verify growing interest and understand seasonality
The most important thing Google Trends offers you is the ability to understand the context of a trend. It allows you to verify that you have uncovered true trends that are both viable and sustainable.
Google Trends shows interest over time for the search term, relative to itself, for the region and time frame you choose. The highest value is 100 — that’s the point in the timeframe where that term had the highest search interest.
There will always be a 100 on the graph, no matter what time period you’re looking at, because there’s always one point where that search term was the most popular in that time frame.
Looking at the term’s popularity relative to itself means it’s really useful to compare different time frames to understand if interest is increasing or decreasing over time.
Play around with time ranges:
- Past 30 days
- Past 90 days
- Past 12 months
- Past 5 years
- Custom (build your own time frame)
Google Trends also helps you identify times of the year when the topic is more popular, so you can prepare your content well in advance and promote it during peak interest.
Here’s a quick walkthrough for using Google Trends’ time range feature:
Google Trends pro tip #3: Compare terms and topics to understand context
Google Trends lets you search up to 5 different terms to understand relative interest. You can compare popularity, see if seasonality impacts them differently, and decide which trends have the most long-term potential.
When you add another term to compare, the 100-point scale now shows both terms relative to each other. This is a great way to understand the relationship between two related keywords:
Here’s a quick walkthrough for Google Trends’ comparison feature:
Google Trends pro tip #4: Use the location filter to uncover regional trends
If you have any location-specific content, products, or services, this tip is for you!
Google Trends’ location filters and “Interest by subregion” map help you examine the results that matter most to you.
Google Trends defaults to showing results from the United States, but you can also choose to see “Worldwide” trends, get country-specific (“Canada”), state-specific (“Colorado”), or even drill down into some metro areas (“Los Angeles, CA”).
Looking at localized results can help you tailor your content to your audience, especially if you offer location-focused content (for example, local reviews or guides).
And the “Interest by subregion” heatmap can help you understand the specific areas that are driving interest in a topic or search term:
Here’s a quick walkthrough for Google Trends’ location filters:
Google Trends pro tip #5: Use the platform filter to explore search results on various platforms
Google Trends defaults to showing results based on web searches, but you can also see results for YouTube Search, Image Search, News Search, and Google Shopping.
Each platform has a different audience, so it can be especially valuable to look more closely at the trends for a specific format, like video, as you’re planning that type of content. Google Shopping trends can help you understand where people are spending their money so you can plan your content, products, and affiliate marketing around those insights.
Here’s a quick walkthrough for Google Trends’ platform filters:
Google Trends pro tip #6: Home in on relevant categories
Selecting a category filter can help you focus on the most relevant trends to your niche. Choose from top-level categories like “Food & Drink” or “Pets & Animals”, or click in further to get as specific as “Food & Drink: Cooking & Recipes: Baked Goods” or “Pets & Animals: Pets: Dogs”.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, start typing in a keyword and you’ll get related topic suggestions:
Don’t forget to do an “All Categories” search as well, so you have the full context for interest on the topic.
Here’s a quick walkthrough for Google Trends’ category filters:
Google Trends pro tip #7: Crosscheck with your keyword research
Finally, you should always crosscheck your Google Trends research with your keyword research.
You want to verify that any trend you find in Google Trends has enough search volume to make it worthwhile, and you also want to use Google Trends to verify that there will be sustained volume via search for the keyword you want to pursue. The Google Trends “related queries” report can help you find similar terms and keywords that may be easier to rank for!
Here’s a quick example of how to use Google Trends along with SEMrush:
Using Google Trends alongside your keyword research adds a real power punch to your content creation strategy, making sure you’re getting the whole picture surrounding a trend — not just part of it — and gaining valuable insights for smarter content promotion!
Now that you have these best practices for using Google Trends to research and create content that resonates, make sure you’re earning top dollar with ads on that content! We’d love to chat about how AdThrive can grow your ad revenue.