Keeping on top of the 'new' has never been as important as it is now. Thankfully, there are tools out there to help you to identify key trends and here are 20 of the best of them.
1. Google Trends
So, you have a website selling footwear and you need to discover the best time to market boots. So, you'll need to know when in the year the demand for boots starts to go up. Here’s what Google Trends says:
As you could probably have guessed there are great peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer for boot sales, but what it does indicate is that people start their searches earlier than you would think: July and August. So that’s when your marketing efforts should start as well.
You can also see that June is a rubbish time to be selling either boots or shoes, so perhaps you should focus your efforts on selling sandals.
A more interesting trend in the graph below indicates that demand for dvds is sadly in decline, no doubt caused by increasing availability of tv and film from digital providers and streaming services. You’ll see that that's reflected in the demand for online tv is most definitely on the up and Google's forecast tells us that these trends will probably continue.
Google Trends also suggests related terms (Wordtracker’s Keywords tool also does this, of course).
And you can search by image, product, mentions on the web. Or you can choose to narrow it down by country, restrict it to a specific time period or search by category.
You can, for example, find out how popular searches for dvds are in the category 'Technology' rather than in 'Arts & Entertainment' if you're interested more in recordable DVDs than movie DVDs.
(Google chooses these categories based on broad search patterns they’ve seen searchers make).
2. Yahoo Search Clues
Next let’s look at how useful Yahoo Search Clues is at trend comparison:
We can see from this graph that Coolpix (the compact digital) is overall very slightly more popular than the Digital SLR D300 but their graphs over a year are largely similar. The split between male and female searching for the terms is broadly similar with a slight preference by male searchers. The smaller camera appeals to an older demographic than the more complicated DSLR. And the biggest market for these cameras is the United States.
From this information it’s possible to decide which groups to target in advertising or marketing campaigns - with Coolpix we would have to decide between specifically targeting a new, younger demographic to bring in a new type of customer, or concentrating our marketing efforts on older customers to whom the product already appeals.
Alltop is a fantastic news aggregator that gathers together news only from quality websites - they’re an “information filter” (their phrase). They even have a ‘Trends’ filter (just type trends into their search bar. Or any other keyword you're interested in.
You can create your own page by clicking on the + icons beside the individual topics:
If you've ever spent hours trawling through Google you'll definitely see the value in this website.
4. YouTube Trends Dashboard
The YouTube Trends Dashboard is a great tool for tracking the popularity of, unsurprisingly, video content:
If you wanted to narrow down the search results to those most popular with or most shared by 13-17 year olds in the UK, this is where you would do it.
And if you wanted to compare what the young 'uns are viewing with those videos popular with the more mature, perhaps even in a different country, you can do that, too.
BuzzFeed organizes the most shared pieces of content on social media. Sign up for their main daily RSS feed or select a section you want to subscribe to, for example Viral, Sports or Movies.
Getting a handle on the type of content being shared will help give you some ideas as to the kind of content you should have on your own site.
Mashable is another great resource for discovering the type of content that's getting shared on social media. Their Watercooler section is a great source for finding out what's current. The day I wrote this, Mashable told me that Twinkies were being mourned on Twitter:
If you're a rival calorific confectioner you may want to be taking advantage of this. And if you're a video-maker, like ...
Check out the predictions for your industry, especially at the beginning of the year. Here are the results for “travel predictions 2012.”
USA Today in January 2012 predicted a great year for doom and gloom tourism. The Titanic anniversary. And increased interest and tourism marketing in Central America with the 2012 Mayan prophesy about to come true …
Both of these predictions have come true. Belfast has done fantastically well from the Titanic this year, and according to this article in October, Maya Mundo bookings have risen by 8% That’s despite the terrible image that Mexico has with a massive increase in drugs-connected deaths since 2006.
Back in June 2012 Hamley’s predicted this year’s favorite toys and their conclusion was that retro toys would do very well. That's certainly something to bear in mind if you're a retail site or someone who blogs about toys or gifts.
9. Springwise and Entrepeneur.com
This article about an enterprising lady with a fantastic business idea selling secondhand wedding dresses with a guarantee to buy them back after the wedding, is a great new idea with a realistic business model:
10. Topsy analytics
The social search engine Topsy features a Twitter analytics tool which you can to use to compare up to three subjects where you can look at up to a month's worth of trending links. Topsy only includes 'significant' tweet mentions, ie mentions that have been retweeted or include a link.
The data comes from Twitter, and Topsy only includes 'significant' tweet mentions, ie mentions that have been retweeted or include a link. Spammy tweets have apparently been excluded from the results. Here's one that compares mentions of the Furby, Nintendo 3DS XL and LeapPad 2:
It's obvious which is getting talked about the most.
11. Twitter Trends
Twitter Trends is the list of often hashtagged (#) terms you'll see on the lefthand side of your Twitter account. You can track trends by location (there's a choice of 150+ locations) or there's an option to have 'tailored trends' - these are trends that are focused on your location and who you're following. My tailored trends today are telling me that Nokia's HERE maps have been launched on iTunes:
Now, there's an idea for an article for a travel, telecommunications or tech website.
Of course, there's a lot of nonsense in Twitter trends - #WhenIWasACarrot was a big one on the day I wrote this ...
12. WeFollow and FollowerWonk
Find out what the influencers in your particular industry are talking about by finding out who those influencers are. In WeFollow add a tag and it will suggest who are the top influencers in that niche. Mind, it's user-generated. They gather their statistics from people who have submitted their Twitter name to them.
FollowerWonk also makes it easy to find influencers:
Click the 'Search Twitter bios' tab, and 'more options' then complete the details that you'd like to include in your search. You can sort by influence rating and number of followers among other options.
Have a look around Pinterest to see which infographics and images are being shared (cupcakes, pastel colors and young children are big on this site) and discover which are the most popular shares (repins) on Repinly. Would you have known, for instance, that the most popular animal board on Pinterest isn't one featuring dogs or cats: it's pigs?
To search for pins in your subject area, click on the magnifying glass icon at the top:
Beware that as of August 2012 79% of Pinterest users were female so if you're hoping to find out what images males are sharing this might not be the ideal social media environment to look in.
14. Huffington Post
Opening up the Huffington Post home page first thing in the morning will give you a very a good idea as to what's going on on the web.
There are now editions available in Canada, US, UK, Spain, France and Italy and it's easy to switch between locations by clicking on 'Edition' in the top lefthand corner of the home page. The trends tag is of particular interest for those wanting to sniff out the most talked about subjects of the moment.
Reddit is a huge social media news aggregator. It's 'Funny' section (or 'subReddit' - just click on the relevant tab on their home page) gets around 6,500,000 page visits per day so it's enormously influential, and many internet memes (concepts that spread like wildfire through the web) and viral content starts there. So it's worth keeping an eye on what's being voted up the Reddit charts as it might just keep you ahead of the curve.
The replies to this post in the 'New' subReddit ...
... asks a questions that will surely provide some interesting answers, some of which may be worthy of an article or even serve as inspiration for a budding inventor or designer. And popular posts on Reddit get lots of comments.
16. Don't forget your offline resources
Read magazines, books and newspapers.
At a recent Guardian Masterclass (a course run by one of the biggest UK newspapers), journalist Jay Rayner told a story of how he used to buy piles of specialist magazines for article idea inspiration. One item he spotted in the 1980s appeared in a greyhound racing magazine where a stadium had had its betting license withdrawn, yet it was still holding greyhound race meets.
He wondered why they would still be racing the dogs when no bets could be placed and phoned to find out. They were doing it to give the men who raced the dogs something to do. Unemployment was so high in the town that the stadium was providing a necessary service to people without much going for them. He turned this into an article about how unemployment was affecting 80's Britain.
17. Think with Google
A very useful newsletter to sign up for is Think with Google
Since Google are the ones with all the data, the marketing insights they pass on are surely worth a look. A current example on the site is a report on how and where users interact with their smartphones:
Subscriptions to eMarketer cost a small fortune.
According to the blurb a third of Fortune 500 companies subscribe to receive their reports, but for a small business the cost just isn't feasible. However, they do post free articles: here's a useful one with lots of juicy statistics: Online Travel Sales Explode in Latin America.
So, sign up for their daily newsletter and follow them on Slideshare to take advantage of some of their insights.
Another way of investigating the zeitgeist is to have a look at the home page of TopTenz. This list of articles will tell you what people are writing about at the moment, and it will give you tons of ideas on subject matter you can write about yourself.
Here's an example that will keep you tweeting through the year and perhaps provide ideas for content:
20. Google Instant
Last but not least is yet another Google tool, Google Instant: ie, the dropdown menu that you see when you carry out a search on Google
Typing in "travel 2013", for example, throws up some very interesting ideas on how you could be marketing your hotels, what to write about on your blog or which holidays to feature on your travel site. And it may even suggest terms that you hadn't thought of before (for more long tail suggestions, try Wordtracker
21. Most shared
Get in the way of looking at the ‘Most shared’ or ‘Most popular’ links on sites as you surf the web. This will give you a great insight into the mindset of the general public. Or on more niche sites, into the mindset of that particular audience.
Wordtracker produce long-term and short-term lists of the most popular keywords, gleaned from their keyword database:
We'd love to know what methods you use to track trends on the net. Just mention your favorites below!
Get more content ideas
The 'new' is a great concept to keep in mind for finding content for your website. If you'd like some more ideas for content read Nick Usborne's "101 Web Content Ideas, Tips and Resources." Use it to start generating useful and effective content that everyone wants to read right now. Find out more about "101 Web Content Ideas, Tips and Resources"
About Julie McNamee
Julie McNamee was part of the marketing team at Wordtracker where she worked for over eight years. She's now a freelance writer, blogger and editor with her own travel blog Quirky Travel. Amongst other clients, she authors local search articles for TargetLocal Get in touch for a quote at Web 'n' Words She's on Google+ Or contact her on Twitter