Measuring the Power of Words

SAN FRANCISCO — Number-crunchers can rejoice. Google is offering deeper access to the underlying figures for users’ Web searches, giving some insight into trends based on the relative popularity of various words.

The Internet search leader is expanding its existing Google Trends service to allow users to see underlying numerical data on the popularity of any particular search in Google’s vast database of search terms, relative to others.

Google Trends was begun two years ago as an entertaining but limited way to indicate what the world is thinking about over time, at least in terms of Web searches.

Now Google is giving users the ability to search across terms in its database, instantly chart how they compare to other search terms, then export the underlying numerical data into a common spreadsheet format to compare with other data.

Google Trends ( lets users compare demand for various search terms and see how popularity differs across geographic regions, cities or languages.

A year ago, the company introduced Hot Trends, which gave users insight into fast-rising Web search trends with data refreshed several times daily. The tool’s power only grows as people conduct more and more of their everyday activities online, with Web search often their primary starting point.

The data in Google Trends stretches back to 2004. While the service is based on the many billions of individual searches performed each year, Google Trends only reveals data on the aggregate numbers of searches, not the searches themselves.

National differences in the endless human search for sex or love can vary widely, according to a Google Trends chart.

Google Trends users can also chart the explosion of interest in the term “backdating” since 2006, reflecting the scandal over how hundreds of companies backdated options for executives.

Searches for the word “Microsoft” had a more than two-to-one-lead in searches over “Apple” three years ago, but Apple had virtually closed the gap by the end of 2007.

Then news reports of its takeover bid for Yahoo appears to have stoked a recovery in Microsoft this year. Searches for Microsoft have outnumbered those for Apple by about 7 to 5 in recent weeks, according to Google Trends data.

Users must be registered and signed into a Google account to use the service. One can then see the evolution of new terms or concepts through Google searches, including the rise of “Google Trends” itself.

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