Search term comparison allows you to focus on keywords with the most traffic potential and highest relevance to your target audience.
And Google Trends (a free tool) offers uniquely powerful insights into the ever-shifting world of search. Because it uses a sample of Google searches to reveal the popularity of search topics relative to timeframe and location.
For example, the graph below shows the search interest in the U.S. for soccer superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from August 2022 to August 2023. Interest for both athletes spiked toward the end of 2022, during the World Cup.
Google Trends can offer valuable insights for SEO and content marketing teams, supplement broader market research projects, and inform high-level business decisions.
This guide will walk you through the process of comparing search terms in Google Trends so you can better understand what resonates with your target audience and create content that will appeal to them.
Why Compare Search Terms Using Google Trends?
Here are some key advantages to using Google Trends to compare search terms.
Discover New Content Ideas
Because Google Trends shows you the changing popularity of different topics, it can help you pick content ideas that satisfy search demand.
Suppose you have two topics in mind: Topic A and Topic B. If Google Trends shows demand for Topic A has increased while demand for Topic B has been declining for some time, it’s safe to assume that creating content for Topic A would offer you the most search traffic potential.
Understanding search demand can also help you validate ideas for evergreen content. If a topic shows steady interest over time, you’re probably on to a winner.
What’s more, Google Trends lets you discover new content ideas you may not have considered. Whenever you enter a term, you’ll also get a list of related trending queries you can use as inspiration for your content strategy.
For example, here are some related queries that trended for the term “hairstyles” in the U.S. between May and August 2023.
Discover New Video Content Ideas
Google Trends also lets you explore search patterns within YouTube, helping you discover and validate new video ideas.
For example, if you wanted to make a video about productivity, you could check what related searches saw the greatest rise in popularity over a 90-day period.
We see that YouTube searches for “best productivity books” significantly increased during this time frame. So you could use this topic to create a series of videos reviewing your favorite productivity books.
Align Campaigns with Seasonal Trends
Google Trends shows seasonal shifts in search demand, allowing you to plan promotional campaigns, content schedules, and product launches when demand for your offer is at its highest.
For example, if your business sells hats, you could check the seasonal interest for “winter hats” and “sun hats” and time your promotions for when demand for each term starts to increase.
This graph shows that, over a five-year period, demand for winter hats increased during the fall, while demand for sun hats increased during the spring.
Align Campaigns with Geographical Trends
Google Trends also shows how interest in topics varies from one region to the next, helping you target audiences in different locations more effectively.
Suppose you wanted to promote an ebook on planning a successful garage sale. Given that the terms “garage sale” and “yard sale” refer to the same thing in different parts of the U.S., you could adjust the copy in your ads based on the location of your audience.
Analyze Competitor Activity
Google Trends also lets you check how the popularity of your brand compares with that of your competitors.
If you notice that interest in the competition is growing faster than interest in your brand, or if interest in their brand is exceeding yours in particular regions, you can analyze their marketing activities to create a strategy to catch up. Or surpass them.
Make Better-Informed Business Decisions
By comparing Google search trends, you can better understand changes in consumer preferences. This can help you make wiser strategic judgments and investment decisions.
For example, you could compare the interest in the products you sell and then decide to increase promotional activities for those with the greatest search demand.
Likewise, if you’re thinking about branching out into new product categories, you could use Google Trends to gauge demand for different offerings and start selling the product type with the greatest search interest.
Suppose you owned a T-shirt business in the spring of 2020 and wanted to decide whether to sell a new line of slim-fit or oversized T-shirts. Google Trends would have revealed that oversized T-shirts were experiencing a surge in demand at the time.
Navigating Google Trends for Search Term Comparison
Now that we’re clear on the benefits of comparing two keywords with Google Trends, let’s look at how it’s done. Starting with the basics.
1. Head to Google Trends
First, go to the Google Trends homepage, and click “Explore” in the top navigation bar.
This takes you to the Trends Explore tool, where you’ll see the option to add search terms, as well as four drop-down menus for filtering your results.
2. Add a Search Term
Now add your first search term or keyword.
As you type, you’ll see a drop-down menu displaying your exact search term and, depending on your query, several other options known as “topics.”
According to Google, topics provide more reliable data than exact search terms because they also account for acronyms, misspellings, and linguistic variations. So select them wherever possible.
Suppose you run an ecommerce business that sells outdoor gear. In that case, you might type “hiking backpack” and select the topic option in the drop-down menu.
Next, you’ll see a graph showing the interest over time for hiking backpacks. Search interest is represented on a scale of 1 to 100, with a score of 100 representing the highest point of popularity for the term.
At the bottom of the page, you’ll see two sections labeled “Related topics” and “Related queries.” People who searched for hiking backpacks also searched for these topics and terms.
Google Trends displays “rising” searches for related topics and queries by default. Rising searches are those that have experienced the greatest rise in popularity within the selected time frame.
You can change this to “top” searches, which will show you the terms most often searched for in the same session as the term you entered.
3. Add a Comparison Term
Once you’ve added your first term, you’ll see the option to add another. You can compare up to five terms at once.
Assume you want to compare the popularity of hiking backpacks and camping tents. In that case, you’ll add “camping tent” as your second term.
Now you’ll see the search interest of both topics plotted in the same graph.
Note: For consistent data, make sure you compare queries like for like. In other words, avoid comparing topics with exact search terms and vice versa.
As you can see, there was more interest in camping tents than hiking backpacks. However, both topics saw similar seasonal fluctuations of interest.
Choosing the Right Metrics for Comparison
Now that you’ve entered your search terms, you can tailor your comparison results based on location, date range, category, and search type.
Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Filter by Location
The location parameter lets you explore search interest within a given country. You can also choose “Worldwide” to view all data for your selected terms.
Here’s the comparison data for “hiking backpack” and “camping tents” in the U.S. within a 12-month period.
When you scroll down, you’ll see a map and a list showing the popularity of both topics in different areas of the U.S.
Darker-shaded areas indicate regions where one term is significantly more popular than the other. You can view search interest by subregion, metro area, or city.
The results here show that in dark blue states, people are more likely to search for hiking backpacks than camping tents.
2. Filter by Date Range
Google Trends lets you view search trend data as far back as 2004.
The drop-down menu provides several pre-set date ranges, but you can also enter a custom range. This is particularly useful if you want to view data for a particular calendar year.
For example, here’s the U.S. trend comparison data for “outdoor games” and “indoor games” in 2022. As you can see, interest in outdoor games peaked during summer, while interest in indoor games peaked during winter.
3. Filter by Category
You can also explore trends within a particular search category. Since some terms are relevant to multiple contexts, this parameter lets you focus exclusively on those contexts that matter to you.
For example, “diversity” and “inclusion” apply across several contexts. But if you’re only interested in researching interest for these terms within the world of business, you could select the “Business & Industrial” category from the drop-down menu to get the most relevant data.
Notice how interest for both terms hit their lowest points during December when businesses break for December holidays.
4. Filter by Search Type
The final filter option is search type. You can view interest in your terms within web, image, news, and YouTube search, as well as Google Shopping.
Segmenting by search type is particularly helpful if you want to narrow down the type of keyword data Google Trends provides.
For example, suppose you want to explore interest in woodshed tutorials. Filtering data by web search yields many results relating to woodshed kits.
However, filtering by YouTube data brings up more how-to and ideas-based results.
Interpreting Google Trends Data
Now that you know how to compare search terms with Google Trends, let’s explore some examples of how you might extract meaningful insights from your results.
Short-Lived vs. Long-Term Trends
You can often capitalize on surges in search demand by creating content that caters to the latest craze or trending issue. But it’s generally better to focus on more evergreen topics if your goal is to generate sustainable traffic over extended periods.
A simple trick for assessing whether a given topic is experiencing a temporary surge in popularity or a more stable continuation in demand is to expand your date range to several years.
For example, the graph below shows the popularity of “zoom party” and “garden party” over a five-year period. While Zoom parties saw a temporary surge in interest between 2020 and 2021 (during the COVID-19 lockdowns), interest in garden parties remained consistent year after year.
We’ve already seen how the popularity of some search terms fluctuates depending on the time of year.
Understanding when seasonal spikes occur lets you time your campaigns during the best promotional window.
But how can you tell whether a given popularity spike is a short-term trend or a more sustained seasonal pattern?
Once again, you should analyze demand patterns across several years. If the same pattern repeats at the same times each year, you’re dealing with seasonal interest. But if interest peaks sporadically (or only once), you’re probably looking at a short-term trend.
As we mentioned earlier, understanding regional variations in search interest helps you tailor your content and promotions to audiences in different locations.
Suppose you run a clothing company that sells high-quality sweaters to customers around the world. You want to understand which terminology will likely resonate most with customers in different countries. In that case, you might compare which of the two terms are searched more often in specific regions.
Google Trends reveals that “jumper” could be a better phrase to use when promoting your brand to customers in the U.K., parts of Europe and South America, Pakistan, and Australia.
Additional Keyword Research Can Help
There’s no doubt Google Trends is an invaluable resource for exploring search trend data.
But it has its limitations.
Google Trends doesn’t provide search volume figures or keyword difficulty estimates. These are essential for estimating how much traffic a keyword could drive to your website.
Also, it only provides a limited number of related keyword suggestions for each term and doesn’t give any indication of search intent. Without access to a comprehensive list of keyword variations, it’s easy to miss high-value content opportunities.
So, it’s best to supplement your Google Trends research with a more powerful keyword research solution—like Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool.
Let’s look at an example of how to use Semrush keyword research alongside Google Trends.
How Semrush Complements Google Trends
Google Trends shows how the popularity of a topic changes over time. But it doesn’t show how that demand changes in absolute terms.
For that, you need a keyword research tool like Semrush.
Take the term “ice bath.” It refers to the practice of sitting in cold water for a few minutes for therapeutic purposes. Google Trends shows that the topic saw a sharp (and sustained) increase in popularity in late 2022.
When we look up “ice bath” in Keyword Overview, we find that monthly searches for “ice bath” more than doubled within a 12-month period.
In July 2022, there were 14,800 searches for the term.
By July 2023, this number had risen to 33,100.
Notice that the estimated difficulty for ranking for “ice bath” also increased during this time frame—likely reflecting the growth of websites publishing content about the topic.
Now, suppose you own an ice bath equipment business and want to create a piece of content to help attract prospects through Google Search. However, your site is fairly new and hasn’t yet built much authority in your niche.
As a result, you’re looking for a topic with reasonable search demand but relatively low ranking difficulty.
You start evaluating keywords by checking Google Trends for related queries for “ice bath.” Some of the most popular searches seek information about a) how to take an ice bath and b) how long to take them.
While this is informative, you’re still not sure which keyword to target in your content.
So you turn to Keyword Overview to help reach a decision.
When you compare the terms “how to ice bath” and “ice bath how long” you find that they have similar search volumes.
And while you’re pleased with the search traffic potential of both terms, you doubt your ability to rank for them. Sure, a keyword difficulty of 63% and 59% may not pose much of a problem to a well-established industry website, but you’re looking for an easier target.
So you scroll through the suggested keyword variations for both terms. Soon enough, you find a keyword that fits all your criteria: “How long to wait to shower after ice bath.”
Not only does this keyword have a similar search volume to your original two terms, but it’s also far less competitive!
Power Your Keyword Strategy & Monitor Your Results
Google Trends is a simple but powerful tool that you may have overlooked.
It’s hard to think of many other free resources that allow you to extract such deep and actionable insights about your customers' preferences.
However, comparing trends with Google won’t give you all the data you need to make well-informed decisions for your keyword strategy. For that, you should also make use of advanced research tools like those in the Semrush suite.
And remember, once you’ve decided which keywords you want to target through your content, you’ll need to track your ranking performance against those keywords to determine the effectiveness of your strategy. Our Position Tracking tool makes it easy to monitor your site’s rankings and those of your competitors.