Following Your Customers with Google Trends

Businesses from small to large need to satisfy their customers. So how does a business keep up with customer needs and desires? What is in trend or going out of trend? Google provides free access to search term trends at google.com/trends. This can be a useful tool to understand what trends are happening in terms of search terms, a useful tool as part of your research into determining what products or services you should offer.

(I work at Google as part of the Developer Relations team. This post is part of a non-technical series I am writing with the goal of helping small businesses understand services Google offers so they can make the first steps towards getting online.)

VTubers

As a first example, I have been tinkering with anime style animation as a hobby. I have been playing with 2D animation software (there are few packages around), but stumbled across VRoid which is a free tool out of Japan for creating your own 3D anime avatar. I was wondering why they would give such a tool away for free, and in the process stumbled across the term “VTuber”.

YouTubers is name for referring to people who create their own channel on YouTube and share content on a regular basis. My two boys watch multiple channels on their favorite games, teaching them new techniques. Some YouTubers do it as a hobby, but others treat it as a full time job and have achieved celebrity status. For example DanTDM (Dan, The Diamond Minecart) has over 20 million subscribers and makes international appearances. His job? Let other people watch him play games online.

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“VTubers” (short for “Virtual YouTubers”) is the concept of using an animated character instead of the real person’s face on the channel. A.I.Channel hosted by “Kizuna AI” is a famous example, with around 2.2 million subscribers.

So that made me wonder – how big is the term “VTuber”? When did it come about?

If you go to google.com/trends, you can add multiple search terms and compare their popularity. I entered “YouTuber”, “Virtual YouTuber”, and “VTuber”. Just click “+ Add comparison” to add additional terms.

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As expected, “YouTuber” as dominant, but you can see “VTuber” has taken off around the start of this year.

Scrolling down the page further revealed some additional useful information.

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Japan came up as the dominant country adopting the term. Clicking on “Japan” shows a much clearer story.

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Since the start of the year, the term “VTuber” has come out of nowhere to be half as popular as the term “YouTuber”, a clear sign of its importance in Japan.

Selecting “United States” from the drop down near the top of the page shows a very different story. The term has almost zero usage, lower than the worldwide chart.

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That leads to an interesting question – are VTuber’s going to be a global craze, or is it just a Japanese trend due to the local popularity of anime? This is where human judgement comes in. Knowing that VTubers are a recent Japanese craze, how does that translate to your business?

Near Me

As a second e-commerce relevant example, what about local product searches? How often do people ask for products or services “near me”? What has been the trend?

In this case I entered the same term “near me” three times, then used the three dots drop down menu that appears when you hover the mouse over the term to select “Change Filters”. 

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This resulted in the following graph showing the term usage across three geographies.

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Scrolling down the page again shows additional insights data, this time showing a breakout by state for each country. It also shows the rising or top queries showing what people are searching for most. (Donut companies should be happy with ranking #5! Just as long as it does not lead to ranking #4 on the list…)

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Conclusions

Google Trends is by no means a new service, but if you are not using it today to understand market trends then you should consider adding it to your toolbox. It can provide useful insights into trends on different topics people are searching for. This can be an important tool for your business whether you have an existing online presence or not.

If you are or plan to advertise online, Google Trends can also be useful to understand the usage of different terms when writing content for your site. This may be to help understand what terms are in popular usage, but it may also be to find secondary terms that fewer competitors are using to capture a segment of the market that others are currently not capitalizing on.

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