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How to use Google Trends to win any argument

How to use Google Trends to win any argument


It’s a great and terrible power, and I’ll share it with you

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Yesterday morning, Twitter user @Kuwaddo made a cheeky realization: by Google Trends’ count, the search term “memes” is now more popular than “Jesus.” We’ve reached peak internet in the year 2016.

So, are memes bigger than Jesus? Not quite.

Google Trends is a sample of Google search data, not the whole package. It includes both real-time data pulled from random samples over the last seven days, as well as non-real time — data that can stretch between the year 2004 and 36 hours prior to your search. Trends excludes data for unpopular searches: duplicate queries made by the same person in a short amount of time, or searches that generally happen in low volume. Inquiries that contain special characters are also axed. Additionally, data is adjusted to accommodate for the time and location of a search and numbers are applied to a scale of 0 to 100. If it didn’t, the site points out, “places with the most search volume would always be ranked highest.”

In other words, Google Trends is a neat way to compare relative popularity. But we don’t care about that. As with most statistics, Trends is putty in your hands; a tool to help you prove just about anything you want.

If you want to argue that Game of Thrones is more popular than Jesus, for example, you just need to learn how to time your arguments. Over the last five years, the show has spiked in popularity in tandem with its seasonal run.

And speaking of Game of Thrones, I have some hopeful news for how the show might end. Good really does triumph over evil, presumably even when that evil is George R.R. Martin killing off everyone and everything you’ve ever loved.

Some other wacky news that I’m excited to bring up at my next office party: Kim Kardashian is both cooler than Elon Musk and has enjoyed a close run in cultural significance (at one point even winning outright) over the last few years with Star Wars. But why stop there? This morning I convinced a co-worker that he has garbage ideas about coffee and settled a debate that people don’t fully appreciate the best starter Pokémon, Bulbasaur. Honestly, I can’t wait to find out what I’m right about next.