In the world of the Internet, it’s easy to think you know what’s popular. If you visit one Web site every day, and you always see a load of activity, you may think that site is the hottest thing on the web. However, your perception is skewed because you are only seeing inside your little world of the internet, and not what the entire world is doing. To see outside of your little clique, visit Google Trends where you can “compare the world’s interest in your favorite topics”. For more information about Google Trends, click here. Below are some real world examples of how perception can be very different than reality.
Most Popular Writing Site: I wrote at Epinions.com practically since it started in 1999. Over the years, I was led to believe the Epinions is THE site to write at. There was always constant activity, and loads of active members, so my perception was that the site was at the top of it’s game. Now-a-days, the members who are still at Epinions would want you to believe that Epinions is still THE site to write at, however Google Trends tells a different story. If we compare Epinions.com to AssociatedContent.com, Google Trends will show you that Epinions is in fact in a downward slope when it comes to unique visitors, with AssociatedContent bypassing them around June 2008. If we add Ehow and Viewpoints to the list, we see that Ehow has also long bypassed Epinions, and Viewpoints is in an upward slope with potential to pass Epinions soon. Although many still claim that sites like AssociatedContent are “going under”, Google Trends shows the reality that it is in fact Epinions that should be worried. A similar trend can be seen when comparing MySpace to Facebook. It seems that Facebook is quickly taking over the top spot for social networking sites.
Most Popular Store: With all the news about Circuit City closing stores and filing for bankruptcy, you would think that they haven’t had any costumers in a long time. It was my perception that Best Buy was going up up up, while Circuit City was going straight down. However, Google Trends once again can enlighten us on what is reality. If you compare BestBuy.com to CircuitCity.com, it seems that both stores are following the same pattern. Both stores have definitely been affected by the economy, and even though BestBuy still receives more visitors, we can see Circuit City has been close behind the whole time. There is no dramatic downturns showing yet for Circuit City, but time will tell if this bankruptcy will ultimately cause their hits to go down.
The Presidential Election: Google Trends search comparison really paints a picture of who the world was most interested in learning about during the presidential election. When comparing the search term Obama to McCain, we see that a lot of users were looking into Obama throughout 2007. This could explain that many were unfamiliar with him in the start and wanted more information before making their decision. What’s most interesting is the same comparison for October 2008 which shows a large spike in Obama searches near the end of the month. It seems that many people were still doing their research up until the very last minute. When Palin came into the picture in 2008, many more users were searching for information on her than McCain. Could these search results have predicted the election? It seems like they may have.
Most Popular Topics: Although you can pick any search terms to compare over time, Google Trends takes it one step further by listing the most popular searches on their front page. These Hot Trends can help you by showing you what the world is searching for, and perhaps giving you something to write about! The top searches don’t necessarily tell you what is “hot” since sometimes you’ll see things that people hated. For example, currently Rose Live is taking a big upswing in searches, however her show bombed big time and was canceled due to lack of viewers. Perhaps this example demonstrates the trend that the world has for looking into gossip and not necessarily what people are interested in.
Google Insights – Taking it a step further: Currently Google is offering Google Insights in beta. This new tool is meant to help businesses by following search trends by categories, time spans, and even geographic distribution. Looking at the category of Hotels with the keyword Resorts, a hotel owner could learn which terms the world is using to find this type of thing as well as where people are searching from the most. Perhaps knowing that people in Australia are seeking resorts the most can lend the hotel owner to creating more Australia specific advertising.
In Conclusion: Google Trends is a free tool that can help you in various ways. For one thing, it may point you in the right direction if you are seeking the most popular sites on the net. On the other hand, Google Trends and Insights can help you determine how your business is doing compared to the competition of those questions for you and leave you with a much better perception of what the world is interested in today.