I love Google Trends. It’s a nifty little tool that (within the world of search) can help you compare yourself to the competition, understand what keywords are being used and help you define content.

For those that don’t currently use it, Google Trends is a free tool based on searches made on Google’s search engine (plus YouTube etc.) and shows the relative search volumes over time, either compared to itself or other search terms. Also, for those that don’t use it, you should use it.

But as with everything data related, it’s important to ask why and bring together other information to build your insights.

For example, let’s say we are comparing two organisations. When Google Trends spits out its pretty little line graph, an amateur might see ‘Organisation A’ has nice tall peaks over time and assume that it’s therefore better than ‘Organisation B’. But because you’re a professional, you’d say to that amatuer, “hold your horses” (or words to that effect).

Let’s take an easy example: pharmaceuticals. Comparing GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and AstraZeneca we get this:


If you worked for a pharmaceutical, you could take this to your boss and tell him that GlaxoSmithKleine must have done something pretty cool to get those giant peaks in 2012…

…But looking at news articles from that time, the first peak was likely due to when they were looking to buy out a biotech company, and then the second was due to bribery. Wait… bribery! So on first glance that second peak might look good, but really it’s not good at all.

AstraZeneca has a nice peak in 2013, due to Pfizer bidding to take them over.

Novartis seems to keep itself pretty steady.

Also, did you notice that all three have regular annual dips in search volumes? It seems that no one cares about pharmaceuticals over the week of Christmas. Who’d have thought?

Enough about pharmaceutical giants; my point is to always interrogate the data. And this doesn’t only apply to your Google Trends analysis, being sceptical about everything makes for a good analyst. But I’m sure you already knew that.