Search Me: Google Updates Trends Tool

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Google Trends analyzes a portion of the search engine giant's Web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms entered relative to the total number done on Google over time. Based on that information, the Search Volume Index graph charts the results. Users can search up to five terms.

There is also a news reference volume graph that details the number of times a topic (or person) has appeared in Google News stories. When Google Trends detects a spike in the volume of news stories for a particular search term, it labels the graph and displays the headline of an automatically selected Google News story written near the time of that spike.

Although only English-language headlines are displayed, Google Trends shows the popularity of search terms based by country, cities and languages. For instance, a search about former New York governor Elliott Spitzer unsurprisingly shows that his name was searched the most in Albany, N.Y. (the state capital). The provided graph also shows a spike in searches for his name in 2008, which was when he resigned his post following a sex scandal.

A subset of the tool is Google Hot Trends, which shows what people are searching for on the day of their search. Instead of showing the most popular searches overall, which would always be generic terms, Hot Trends highlights searches that experience sudden surges in popularity and updates that information hourly. Google's algorithm analyzes millions of Web searches performed on the search engine and displays the results that deviate the most from their historic traffic pattern. The algorithm also filters out spam and removes inappropriate material.

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For each search, Hot Trends shows related searches and a search volume graph. The page also displays news, blog posts and Web results that provide context about why a search appears on the Hot Trends list. Hot Trends only highlights the top 100 such queries. Users can view all 100 searches by clicking More Hot Trends, which is updated throughout the day, and users can also get the list through a feed.

Data is scaled based on the average search traffic of the term entered. There are two modes of scaling--relative and fixed. The only difference between them is the time frame that is used to calculate the average. However, fixed scaling is only available as a .csv export.

Google said the ability to see numbers on the graph and export this data with either mode of scaling is available only after users have signed into their Google Account for Trends. In relative mode, the data is scaled to the average search traffic for a term (represented as 1.0) during the time period selected.

Currently, Google Trends is only available in English and in Chinese. Hot Trends is only available in English. The company said it hopes to roll out Google Trends in other regions and languages in the future.