How to Use Google Trends to Identify Local Interests

Google Trends, a Google tool utilized to aggregate search engine and news trend data, recently got an upgrade that allows data to boil down to a regional level per state. This is great news for Extension Рit allows us to take a look at timely topics that matter most to people on a semi-local level. Here is are a couple examples of how we can use Google Trends in Extension programming:

I searched for three terms in Google Trends: 1) Food Safety, 2) Listeria, 3)Botulism. I was interested to see how many people used which term around the time of the listeria and botulism scares in Ohio. I limited the term search to just Ohio.

As you can see from the graph, the term “Food Safety” was searched for far less over the past 12 months than the terms “Listeria” and “Botulism”, even during the height of the news cycles for these topics. By including the terms that are most often searched for when blogging or posting on social media about timely information, we can make sure that Extension produced content is found by the people who need it.

Another example of how to use Google Trends to track a topic that has a growing interest: Kids and Screen Time. After plugging in “Screen Time” as a search topic over the past few years, here were the results:


According to the graph, this topic has increased in popularity since 2009. The dotted lines at the end of the graph represent Google’s “forecast” of how often Screen Time will be searched for in the near future. The letters on this graph represent when top news stories on Screen Time were posted. If you hover over each letter, information about who posted the story and the title will appear.

Here’s a look at how the topic of Screen Time compares between Ohioans and people who live in Michigan:

Ohioans search for "Screen Time" more often than people living in Michigan.

Ohioans search for “Screen Time” more often than people living in Michigan.

When “Screen Time” is broken down by region:

After plugging in search terms, locations, or simply exploring what topics people are most interested in, you can generate a shareable link to share the information or you can download as an Excel file. You can also embed individual charts and graphs into a blog post or website, like this graph showing all searches related to “Crops & Seed” in Ohio (hover over the line on the graph to see information):


Other Google Trend applications for Extension:

  • Put together an interactive informal “needs assessment” on specific topics to share with your County Commissioners.
  • Compare different topics in your region of the state to find topics of interest.
  • Share local interests on social media and ask for feedback from residents.

What are your ideas? How would you utilize Google Trends?