We’re huge fans of Google Trends. It’s just a wonderful tool to see if something is “big.” If it’s got momentum. If it’s growing or if it’s in decline. Consider the following:
This very accurately shows the history of Windows operating systems. Windows XP (red) was a huge success and stayed the dominant operating system until Windows 7 launched (green). Windows Vista (gold) briefly peaked above XP when it was launched and heavily marketed, then fell below XP and never recovered. Windows 8 launched with great fanfare, but based on interest as reflected in Google trends, it will not eclipse Windows 7.
This is outstanding information, at your fingertips, but it only goes back to 2004. For some trends, you need more history than that. Take, for example, the following graph:
This shows the terms “business strategy” and “market research” all in heavy decline since 2004 – possibly just now reaching a point of stability. “Competitive intelligence” and “market intelligence” barely matter. What’s going on here? We obviously need history prior to 2004 to know. Enter the Google NGram Viewer:
The Google NGram Viewer will let you find how frequently a phrase was used in books going back 200 years. This shows that “business strategy,” “competitive intelligence,” and “market intelligence” took off as terms around 1980 (with market research taking off much sooner). And these terms peaked in interest between 2000 and 2005. You can see how marrying Google NGram Viewer, which has data up to 2008, with Google Trends, with data going back to 2004, can give you a very good picture of long-term trends.