By: Lindsey Clinkingbeard
Cronkite’s Professor of Practice Jessica Pucci explores the world of Google trends in this 90-minute mastery session.
Pucci speaks with a sense of humor while dismantling the vast, overwhelming age of technology; she breaks down exactly how Google Trends works and what happens behind the scenes.
“We have a very trusting relationship with our search engines,” Pucci said.
Google Trends allows us to utilize search query data. Basically, every Google search is documented. But how does Google obtain more data?
Pucci describes how electronic “spiders” – aka Google Bots – actively crawl through every piece of information on the internet. They read the individual characters and learn about the content on each website page. Pucci says the bots come back to their mothership and “index” the information.
This is the first step in page ranking. When updating a website or blog more frequently, you will get higher ratings from Google because the bots are finding the new information.
“It’s important to create timely content … because it is a factor in how high your page will rank,” Pucci said.
The bots can also detect other website links on your site. So when linking to your sources, it shows a sense of transparency – not only to your audience, but to Google Bots as well. When sourcing to other legit sites, Google gives you points for that and again your ranking will be increased.
However, it is important to note that the reverse works as well. If your website links to a fake news website, Google will “ding” your website for doing so.
“How we use data in a perfect world is to connect with our audiences,” Pucci said.
It is important for websites to be user-friendly. The Google Bots care about the organization of the content on a webpage. Headers and tags are important; they help the spiders understand the story while computing information.
According to Pucci, the two most important factors in how your website will rank are:
- The URL
- The website page’s title tag
These two need to coordinate in order to show the Google bots that the story and the title’s tag go together. This is so the user won’t be redirected to a story about “kittens and rainbows” when, for example, they thought the story was about Trump.
Google Trends (trends.google.com) began indexing search information in 2004. In order to protect privacy, Google Trends will not show specific data, but they will display the data by volume of interest, interest by region, and trends in timing.
This “acts like a cultural marker in a way,” Pucci said.
It is important to keep current trends in mind when working with the search engine. For example, since the invention of the smart phone, no one spells out full words anymore. “Arizona” becomes “az.”
The final point that Pucci showed the class is that “sometimes the news itself is the trend,” she said. Google Trends allows you to compare spikes in trends or see a spike in the timing of the trend. For example, there was a big spike in the search for “Kylie Kardashian” in December 2017, which was right around the time she announced her pregnancy.
Pucci created a lecture that provided valuable information for journalists, bloggers, and strategic communication/PR specialists through her extensive knowledge of online media tools and current media culture.
“Understanding your audience is the first step to connecting with them,” Pucci said.