In 2018, the world searched for “good” more than ever before — according to Google Trends. And in the U.S., some of the search trends (search terms that had the highest spike this year as compared to the previous year) appear to be a natural progression from 2017 (from Unicorn lattes to Unicorn cake), some were normal for the times (voting information), and some were quite entertaining (How to get the old Snapchat back). At least to us digital marketing nerds.
You may think that we’re getting into this just because it’s fun to look at lists. And yes, lists are fun. But paying attention to trends, especially data-backed trends such as these, can be incredibly helpful to digital marketing as well as product development.
Trends are not just about what’s popular, they’re also revealing of how people behave online.
Digital Marketing Lessons from 2018 Search Trends
How and where do you find the Google search trends?
Google has a free tool called Google Trends. Here you can plug in a keyword or keyphrase (pick something related to your service or product) and Google Trends will show you how search volumes rise or fall over time. But it will also show rising searches.
Here is how Keto searches trended in 2018:
And here are the related and breakthrough topics:
Breakthrough topics should help identify what’s rising the most at the time of your report.
Let’s say that your focus for 2019 is video. You can also look at YouTube search trends.
Pinterest 100: Top Trends for 2019
Pinterest makes their 2019 trends projections based on search terms that hold a steady upward trajectory for 6+ months.
From style to food, travel, health, and beauty, Pinterest’s 100 did not have much in common with Google’s top trends, if we don’t consider cakes. Pinterest calls out “number cakes” to Google’s “unicorn cakes.”
This doesn’t mean that one or the other is wrong. It just reminds us, marketers, that people use social networks differently than search. Depending on the nature of the social network, they could be seen as a subset, a highly specialized slice of a Google search category. Pinterest, for example, is very much about practical ideas and inspiration. And that’s what the Pinterest 100 delivers.
Trends that stood out to us are:
- Small-town travel, zero waste travel, and bus travel point to an interest in experiences that get one close to people and the earth.
- Searches for band workouts went up by 1913%!!!
- Searches for 52-week savings plan +295%
- Godparent proposals and moon gatherings are new ways of adding meaning
- Eating pegan (paleo & vegan) is on the rise, as well as chayote recipes
- Lilac hair +1077%
As Pinterest says: take a look at their trends board and let yourself dream.
The 2018 top trending Google searches and what we can learn from them
These search trends are not just about volumes of searches, they are about velocity. Google clarifies that these are “search terms that had the highest spike this year as compared to the previous year.”
If you are in the food space, fitness space, health and wellness, or in the… people space, you may not be surprised to learn that 2018 was the year of Keto.
These trends should help inform your content marketing plans. And while talking about Keto is not going to be a fit for most businesses… do spend some time to think about what it means as a cultural movement. And those movements affect all of us. Also here I am, talking about Keto, although my business has nothing to do with Keto.
Don’t glance over trends just because they don’t seem to be a fit with your products or services. Take the time to think what these trends can teach. Keto in itself is not why Keto is popular. Why is Keto popular? Was it a good marketing push? Was it influencers? Can you make your brand trend like Keto?
1) Unicorn cake
2) Romaine lettuce
3) CBD gummies
4) Keto pancakes
5) Keto cheesecake
6) Necco Wafers
7) Keto cookies
8) Keto chili
9) Keto brownies
1) Keto diet
2) Dubrow diet
3) Noom diet
4) Carnivore diet
5) Mediterranean diet
6) Optavia diet
7) Dr. Gundry diet
8) Fasting diet
9) Fodmap diet
10) The Shepherd’s Diet
What’s Trending in “How To” and What It Means
When we look at the top “How to” searches, one thing stands out to me, in particular: For quite a while now I’ve been advising clients to not assume that people know the where, why, what, how-tos related to their product or service. Also, don’t assume that just because you have a website and FAQs page, your audiences will know or want to go there for answers.
For years now we’ve seen a rise in lazy searches. We all just mostly Google everything. Or we do a voice search; we ask Siri or Alexa. Convenience trumps the depth of information that may be available on your website.
1) How to vote
2) How to register to vote
3) How to play Mega Millions
4) How to buy Ripple
5) How to turn off automatic updates
6) How to get the old Snapchat back
7) How to play Powerball
8) How to buy Bitcoin
9) How to screen record
10) How to get Boogie Down emote
The top “How to” trending search was “How to vote.” If you consider that social networks were flooded with information on how to vote, why was this at the top of the list?
It’s because people take action when they’re ready to or want to take action. And that’s when they want the information. If you give it to them when they’re not looking for it, they’ll ignore it.
So as marketers, the key is to create content in many different formats and distribute it to many different channels and keep repeating the message:
For 2019, this means you need to start creating content that gives people quick and easy answers for what they’re asking (or mean to ask… more on this next). And bring ther answers to them where they are, not where you want them to be.
1) What is Bitcoin
2) What is racketeering
3) What is DACA
4) What is a government shutdown
5) What is Good Friday
6) What is Prince Harry’s last name
7) What is Fortnite
8) What is a duck boat
9) What is a Yanny Laurel
10) What is a nationalist
This is a great example of how it’s not good to assume that people know what something is. I often notice how brands create content that implies knowledge of all terms or concepts that go into that content.
The other day I was looking for a gift with Chicago flavor and was being served ads for Chicago popcorn. I had to Google “What is Chicago popcorn?” I just didn’t know that it was a kind of flavor mix. It’s not like deep dish pizza, which is self-explanatory. I went with the seller that made it easy for me to understand what about the popcorn was… Chicagoan.
1) Where is Villanova University
2) Where is Croatia
3) Where is Parkland Florida
4) Where is Hurricane Florence
5) Where is Hurricane Michael
6) Where is my polling place
7) Where is Pyeongchang
8) Where is Amazon based
9) Where is Paradise California
10) Where is Prince from
On this list, I got a kick out of the search, “Where is my polling place?” Why? Because it shows that people are searching in conversational ways. Google or Alexa can’t possibly answer that question but we still ask it, as a proxy for “How can I find my polling place?”
This also reinforces the need to look for search intent, not just the specific words of a search. Starting years ago, search engines have been making changes to their algorithms to predict intent. Customer service AI bots are also evolving to better predict what we mean to find vs what we appear to be asking for. Understanding this is also very valuable when we create content.
We are pretty much challenged with what seems impossible – guessing our customers’ minds. And while that’s not exactly possible, our audiences give us plenty of clues — if we just listen (in this case, pay attention to search trends).