Predicting for Profit: A Masterclass in Google Trends

How to win the timing lottery.

Predicting for Profit: A Masterclass in Google Trends

I often take the seasonality of life for granted.

Living in Ohio means we get a mix of all four seasons, each bringing its own set of rituals, events, and foods. I've come to expect visits to Cedar Point in summer, corn mazes in autumn, and Severance Hall in winter.

john williams conducting
Here's a throwback to when we saw the composer John Williams live at Severance.

These rhythms can help us order our lives, and in much the same way, listening to the seasonality of our distinct niches can help us order our content strategies.

Not just what, but when

Between 2019 and 2023, I built SEO content strategies for startup and enterprise companies.

During this time, I got a first-hand look at how top companies with substantial budgets allocate their resources. Of all the factors that go into a well-crafted strategy, there was one which remained a consistent priority across the board: timing.

Now, the idea of scheduling your production on a content calendar should be familiar to you already. However, how professional strategists approach the calendar structure fundamentally differs from 99% of independent creators.

Part of why this happens is because we misunderstand trends.

 The dictionary tells us that a trend is:

  • “a general direction in which something is developing or changing.”
  • “a topic that is the subject of many posts on a social media site or application within a short period of time.” 

We get a few things from these sentences.

First, a trend is a change. There is a clear before and after when talking about trends. A noticeable shift occurs, usually in topic or volume, that impacts a collection of other factors.

Second, a trend can be positive or negative. We typically think of trends in the positive sense that a new topic is getting a swell of attention. But the opposite can also be true. A topic, creator, or platform can trend downwards, meaning there is a loss of attention. 

Third, trends are inherently time-sensitive. "Short" is subjective because trends can last anywhere from a few hours to a few years, but the core idea is that they must be seized while they exist – which won't be for long. 

Fourth, trends are unpredictable — or at least most people believe they are because they view them as irregularities instead of recurring opportunities. This is a gap we can leverage.

Thesis: Most trends are predictable. Because of this, the most effective content strategies are those which calendarize trends by scheduling their content around predictable, recurring surges of interest.

Team Richey and the CrossFit phenomenon

We’re going to spend a portion of this report applying the principles of calendarizing trends to several different niches so that you can see how this strategy plays out in real scenarios. 

But before we get there, I want to show you a concrete example of the power of recurring trends and interest surges. 

Craig Richey is a YouTuber based in the UK who makes fitness content, specifically for the CrossFit (CF) niche. He’s been on the platform for approximately 8 years and focused on CF for 7+ years of that journey.

One of his most watched videos was a response to another fitness influencer.

Now, like many sports, the annual CF season culminates in a final competition called the CrossFit Games. Top athletes from around the world travel to an American city to see who will be crowned The Fittest on Earth

As you can imagine, this draws an enormous amount of attention from people both inside and outside the sport. A simple search for the term “crossfit” on Google Trends confirms this fact. Apart from the occasional company drama, the highest searched periods occur during the games.

google trends report for crossfit

Craig realized this early in his YouTube journey and began shaping his content strategy around the games, going so far as flying to the US to cover them live for several years now.

youtube view count for team richey
Craig incorporates the games into his content in a number of ways, including covering qualifying events, rule changes, athlete injuries, and more throughout the year.

As you can see, this bet has paid off handsomely. Coverage of the games boosts his typical view count by 100%. That means even though he makes great CF content consistently, his average view count jumps from 50,000 to 100,000+ for every video about the games.

That’s not counting the subscriber growth, product sales, increased views for older videos, and the general brand awareness this kind of reach generates. 

Every niche has these opportunities once you know what to look for.

A great place to start finding these opportunities is on Google Trends. This free tool will give you access to a mountain of valuable data. The more creative you get, the better data you'll find.

Let’s take a minute to review how to read the results it generates to ensure we’re all on the same page going forward.

Every Google Trends report has 6 sections:

parts of google trends report
  1. An area for the search term or multiple terms if you use the compare function.
  2. A section for criteria or filters for location, time frame, category, and type of search. These apply to ALL of the subsequent sections on this page.
  3. A graph which shows "Interest over time." It's important to remember that the numbers are relative, meaning a 100 on the graph was the most it's ever been searched and is not tied to any actual keyword volume.
  4. A visual showing location data for subregions, states, cities, or other — the options you have access to are determined by the location filter in section 2.
  5. A list of topics related to your primary term. Topics are collections of relevant terms or queries. These can help you connect your content strategy to larger, overarching themes your audience may be interested in.
  6. A list of queries related to your primary term. Queries are what people actually type into the search bar. These tend to be smaller in scope than your main keyword or search term, but again, they can offer critical insights into what your audience is expecting from the topic.
additional parts of google trends report

In the screenshots above, I used “mac and cheese” as our primary search term. For filters, I kept the location in the United States and set the time frame for “Past 5 years.” I left the default “All categories” and “Web Search” since I wanted broad results and wasn’t looking for particular opportunities in images, shopping products, or YouTube video ideas.

As we move to the graph, you should notice a pattern right away.

Every November, specifically during the week of Thanksgiving, searches for "mac and cheese" spike by 400-500% when compared to the rest of the year. 

The regional data is interesting but not terribly useful for our specific example. However, if I was in a travel niche, planning a conference, or aiming to work with local micro-influencers — this would become essential. 

Finally, the topic and query sections are my favorite because they make it extremely simple to connect the dots and discover trends I haven’t thought of before. For our results, you can see that the top breakout topic is “homemade," and the top breakout query is “tiktok mac and cheese." 

If you change the filters in both sections from Rising to Top, you get "Macaroni and cheese" and "mac and cheese recipe." Most often, the top trend results for a search term will be painfully obvious — usually just a version of the term itself, which is why I tend to focus on the Rising results.

Let's quickly reiterate the power of our filters before moving on.

If we adjust the time frame from 5 years to 90 days, our breakout query become “oxtail mac and cheese beef patty.” Changing it to 30 days gives us “Oppenheimer mac and cheese.” At the time of writing this, changing it to the past day delivers “mac and cheese festival Louisville KY" as the fastest-growing mac and cheese query. 

All three results are wildly different from one another: a product, a movie-related search, and an event. We’ll dive into this concept later on in this report.

For now, let’s answer a few key questions related to trend searches.

What kinds of terms should I use?

Further down in this report, I'll explain how to find "niche terms" to fuel your search.

Start with broad, short-tail (2-3 words in length) terms and work your way into more narrow results as you find useful information. 

For example, our "mac and cheese" term search technically includes results for "vegan mac and cheese," "mac and cheese recipes," "spicy mac and cheese," and more, plus variations of our words.

The more data you access, the more useful sections 3-6 will be on your trends results page, so keep it big picture.

What if I don’t see a pattern?

First, not all terms will have a seasonality to them, and that's okay. As we continue down this report, I'll show you how to predict patterns, even if the data shows they don't exist yet.

Second, this is where creativity comes into play. If your broad searches are not returning actionable results, then it’s time to add a layer of specificity. The term “milk” doesn’t return a reliable pattern on Google Trends, but “chocolate milk” shows a significant bump in December and February — but that could be because “chocolate” is so popular during those times.

Another search for "'chocolate milk’” (with quotations this time) changes our results again. Now, it looks like January is the best time for this term.

Knowing the language of your niche is vital when constructing an effective content strategy.

What filters should I use? 

  • Location: Start with the country you live in. This will return the most relevant data for the audience you are most likely to reach. I would only narrow down further if localized content (restaurants, events, personalities, etc.) is a major part of your brand. 
  • Time Frame: Always begin with “Past 5 years.” Search is in constant, dramatic flux, so pulling data since 2004 will likely give you a lot of irrelevant information. Plus, 5 years is plenty of time to establish any existing patterns.
Even though Google Trends is a search tool, I would use the smaller increments (90, 30, 7-day options) to plan social content. These can also help you spot micro-trends. Case in point, the mac and cheese festival in Kentucky may not register on a national scale on a multi-year chart, but you can see it drives a significant amount of attention to the term "mac and cheese" during the summer, so it could be a perfect addition to your strategy.
  • Categories: As the most powerful filter available, you'll need to use it mindfully. Choosing the wrong category can eliminate entire batches of results, leading to false interpretations.
    • The way I use categories is by using even broader terms, letting the category work its filtering magic, and then reading the rising topics and queries for signals on how to continue my searches.
    • If I were to search for "how to make money online" and filter by "Business & Industrial," I get a few good ideas. But, by shortening my term to just “make money” and keeping all other factors the same, I get a much more varied list of query results with much higher overall demand.
  • Type of Search: 99% of the time, you will use Web Search. The other two I recommend experimenting with are Image and YouTube, but only in specific cases.
    • For Image Search, you need to be in a niche where images drive traffic (food, reviews, travel, etc.), and you need to understand the mechanics of image search (which is fundamentally different than web search and much too long for me to cover here!).
    • For YouTube, you need to be creating native content for the platform (i.e., how to structure a video vs. how to structure a blog post and convert that into a video); otherwise, your attempts to ride a trend will fall flat.

Trends have types or categories they fall into, which make it easier for us to not only identify them but also to predict them.

From our mac and cheese example above, “mac and cheese festival Louisville KY" appeared as one of the fastest-growing searches in a recent period. This event is one of the trend types we'll explain below. Furthermore, because it's an annual event, we can leverage the surge of attention it generates on a regular basis — just like Craig Richey does with the CrossFit Games.

I believe there are 6 types of trends:

  1. Events
  2. Seasons
  3. Cycles
  4. Product launches
  5. Themes
  6. Habits

Let’s clarify what these look like, and then we'll apply them to specific niches.

When people think about trends or use the term “seasonal marketing,” events are most often what come to mind. 

Event trends are surges of interest-based around a defined date (or small series of dates) and activity. Some examples include:

  • Conferences
  • Life transitions (wedding, birth, death)
  • Holidays
  • Festivals and Concerts
  • Milestones (anniversaries, celebrating goals)
  • Parties or galas

Events usually entail some sort of gathering, whether in-person or virtually. This is partly why they can be so effective to harness as trends: big things get attention, which fuels content, which draws in more attention — a self-fulfilling cycle of growth.

Every major niche has notable events that can be leveraged for your content strategy. And if you're in a smaller niche, you can use what I call the crosstrend approach.

Crosstrending is when you borrow from an established trend and adapt it to your content. For example, when a movie releases you will often see fashion blogs analyze the costumes or food blogs make the recipes showcased in the film. In both cases, they adapted a movie release to their specific content types. You can think of crosstrends as the second-order effects of major trend types.

Seasons are the bigger cousin to events. Whereas an event centers around a defined date, a season is a defined period of time

The most obvious examples are weather seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) and the changes in activity/interest they bring with them. But individual niches often have their own seasons as well.

  • Sports has preseason, regular season, postseason, and off-season.
  • Travel has terms like wave season (for cruise travel) and shoulder season (for off-peak travel).

Seasonal planning can help you plot entire months of content ahead of time by matching what you want to make with periods of high demand. 

Another helpful way to think about events versus seasons is event = piece of content and season = series of content. An event piece of content might be recreating a scene from a new movie in your art style. A series would be doing the same, but for every summer blockbuster film of 2024. The former grabs attention, and the latter gives your audience a reason to keep coming back.

Cycles are one more step above events and seasons. Most events and seasons occur annually, but when we only think within this timeframe, we miss items with a longer period of time between them.

The Olympics and presidential election cycles are two examples of massive events that occur on a multi-year timeframe and have enormous impacts on a range of niches. During the Olympics, travel searches become dominated by the hosting country. During election years, ad rates on social networks tend to skyrocket, and the top policy issues drive swells of attention toward relevant content.

How can you think beyond the annual regularities present within your industry? How can you leverage macro-cycles to gain new attention for your products and services?

We need to think of “product” in the broadest terms possible. For our purposes, a product will be anything a person can buy, use, or consume.

A few examples include:

  • Books
  • Movies
  • Music albums
  • Video games
  • Cars
  • Shoes
  • Makeup
  • Technology

We take it for granted that review channels will get their hands on the latest iPhone or sneaker drop asap. But most large product releases are announced well in advance. People know it’s coming; the expectation is there — meaning the demand for content is there too.

You want to prioritize products native to your niche. Then, you can use the crosstrend strategy we mentioned above to fill in any gaps in your schedule or to leverage opportunities you think may have outsized payoffs.

Themes are evergreen, idea-based trends.

A good place to start listing out themes relevant to your niche is to search for ‘themes in [niche] books.' You should see words like:

  • Love
  • Courage
  • Survival
  • Perseverance
  • Innovation

These are BIG ideas that can be molded to fit the audience you’re reaching.

You can also use prompts like monthly observances to help you understand when certain themes will likely be top of mind. Black History Month is a theme that happens to be tied to the timeframe of February and brings with it increased attention to the ideas of freedom, equality, justice, and more.

Most themes do not have defined timeframes, which is what makes them different than seasons.

One of my favorite terms is the Diderot effect, which says that "obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption. 

Buying a house drives people to buy new furniture, dishware, bedding, etc. Buying a piece of clothing leads us to buy more items to complete the outfit. These are examples of habit trends in action. 

A habit trend is a predictable action.

As another example: summer increases travel, which increases bikini sales as a byproduct, which increases searches for "flat stomach" during the summer months. Here, we can see travel habits, purchasing habits, and exercise habits all come into play. 

Habits are often the byproduct of other trend types (events, product launches, etc.) because they focus on the actions that are a consequence of shifting attention, priorities, and resources.

By now, you should have a better idea of how to read Google Trends results and what kind of predictable trends to look for. The last piece we need to clarify is language. 

Because search demand is explained through keywords, the more creative, specific, and intentional the words you choose — the more effective your results and content strategy will be. 

If your target terms are too broad, it will be hard for you to get noticed online; too narrow, and there may not be enough demand to support your business. The solution is to build a library of niche terms and map them across your content creation calendar according to their periods of highest demand.

How to find niche terms

Finding and building a strategy around niche terms is incredibly straightforward.

Here are the 6 searches I use when entering and analyzing a new niche (just replace [niche] with your specific one): 

  • [niche] glossary
  • [niche] jargon
  • [niche] terms
  • [niche] phrases
  • [niche] abbreviations
  • [niche] dictionary

Your results will be articles that look like this.

Next, go word by word and find opportunities you want to leverage. For example, most fitness keywords peak in January as everyone recommits to their health goals. But the outliers can make for interesting wins.

‘Squat’ has noticeable peaks in early March. This could correlate with summer approaching (seasonal trend) and people wanting to get their beach bodies back in time (habit trend).

This technique does require trial and error and a fair bit of experimentation, but the payoff is worth it. Publishing a series of content about squat exercises in March vs. October will likely get you 200% — 300% greater reach. If your content is part of a funnel leading to a digital product, that could mean 2-3x the number of sales.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the report, every professional strategist I know uses timing to their advantage. Your success online is as much about when you post as it is what you post.

Putting it all together

How do all of these pieces fit together?

Let me walk you through how I would plan an initial 12-month content strategy.

This is only the initial version because the final steps would be matching our ideas with actual keyword data pulled from a tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or VidIQ. That way, we can estimate the number of potential views, customers, and conversions.
  • Step 1 — Brain dump all of your niche-related ideas according to the 6 trend types covered above (events, seasons, cycles, products, themes, habits).
  • Step 2 — Search for a niche glossary and pull out terms that did not appear in step 1, along with any you think align with your target audience and message. Don't be stingy here; produce as many as possible.
  • Step 3 — Begin running each term from steps 1 & 2 through Google Trends to find relevant timing patterns. In Notion or on a sheet of paper, write down the timing next to each term (e.g., Squat - March)
  • Step 4 — Group the items with similar time spans: same quarters, months, etc.
  • Step 5 — Edit out any repeats; reduce cluttered time periods so that you’re not trying to fit too many ideas into a short time frame.

That’s how you calendarize trends and preemptively plan your content around proven interest surges. This is the key to reducing burnout, increasing creative longevity, and becoming one of the most influential figures in your niche.

Won’t this lead to repetitive content over the years?

This question assumes repetition is a bad thing. Yes, over time, you will address similar topics in similar ways, but that is actually the key to building trust with an audience.

New is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when building a business for the long term.

What about unplanned trends?

This strategy works hand-in-hand with impromptu trending items.

All you have to do is create general placeholders in your strategy so that when the time comes, you can perform a bit of research to see what's happening at the moment and fold that into your content plan.

How detailed does the plan need to be?

It depends on several factors: your preference for planning, the complexity of your niche, how you monetize, and if there is already embedded seasonality in your business.

Most people will be able to find enough data to plan monthly and then fill in the blanks with more general, relevant keywords — depending on your publishing frequency. However, with enough research, you could likely fill a weekly or even daily schedule with optimized, time-sensitive content.


Before we close this report with a few niche examples, I want to recommend resources outside of Google Trends that can help you find trend information ahead of time. There will likely be niche versions for your specific use case, but here are some general places to start. 

For Events, Seasons, and Cycles

For Product launches

For Themes and Habits

Pro Tip: Study the most influential names in your field and see if you can spot any patterns they follow. When do they release their biggest projects? How often do they shift topics or series? Do their view counts or traffic spike during certain times of the year?

Niche examples of trend planning

Niche #1: Lofi music

Lofi is a genre of music people set in the background while they study and work. I've been listening to it for several years now. Since I'm familiar with the niche, I'll start by brain-dumping every related trend type I can think of: lofi shows, merch, album releases, types of lofi, study habits, biggest artists, etc.

Next, I’m going to look for resources that can help me fill in my terminology gaps. This overview of Lofi from MasterClass, as well as this Aesthetics Wiki are great places to start. I’m starting to find overlap between Lofi and Jazz, as well as visual elements like vaporware and vintage toys.

As I dive into the Google Trend charts, I notice that upticks in Lofi searches occur around the time school starts in early September and mid-January. This would be a great time to publish “best of” lists so that newcomers to the genre can easily find what’s popular right now and what they like.

These 25-50% bumps in traffic may seem small in scale, but can produce significant results.

Now that I have a fair amount of data to pull from, I’ll start arranging them across my calendar. For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to keep it relatively simple, with only one main idea per month. But each one is intentional with a data-backed reason for sitting where it does on the schedule. 

  • January — Study habits, Best music to study to
  • February — Lofi inspired date ideas
  • March — Top spring Lofi songs
  • April — Lofi + jazz (e.g., April is Jazz Appreciation Month)
  • May — How to make your own Lofi beat
  • June — Lofi from your favorite anime (e.g., anime spikes during summer months)
  • July — Best Lofi for roadtips
  • August — Back to school Lofi aesthetic + product reviews
  • September — Best Lofi songs of 2023
  • October — Spooky Lofi beats and costumes
  • November — Profile on popular Lofi creator
  • December — Gift ideas for Lofi lovers

Lofi is different than most other music genres in that album releases are not major events, nor do artists typically go on tour and host concerts. Instead, we have to find where Lofi intersects with larger cultural, seasonal, and habitual movements.

Thankfully, our research gave us some great ideas about who listens to Lofi, what activities they engage in, and where they spend their money. All of this can be used to influence our content strategy.

Niche #2: BookTok

@arab3l1a 8 books you to need to add to your tbr and read this fall 🍂 #readinglist#bookreviews#booktok#favoritebooks#fallbooks#falltbr#fallreads#bestbooks#reading#booktoker#5starreads#goodreads#bookrecs#bookrecommendations ♬ original sound - arabella📖

Our research for the second niche follows the same process: brain dump, terminology research, Google Trends investigating, and planning. 

A few items we’ll want to prioritize are book-related holidays, author events (which tend to peak in April and May), PW’s on-sale calendar, and getting on as many ARC (advanced reader copy) lists as possible.

Planning to travel to various author events during the April-May season could be a powerful way to leverage this surge in interest.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of what our content template could look like.

  • Quarterly — Cover or attend 1 author event; Recap your favorite books of the season
  • Monthly — Integrate a book holiday; book haul; author profile
  • Weekly — New book release review; leave open space for current, unplanned trend
Example planning calendar.

This minimalist outline gets you around 2-3 social posts per week and even allows room for current trends without making it feel like you always need to be chasing them to come up with content ideas.

You are more likely to win online by posting 2x a week for a year than you are 1x a day for 3 months. Both require approximately 100 pieces of content, but longevity exponentially increases your odds of success.

Niche #3: Columbus, Ohio

One of the megatrends I believe will slowly reshape the creator economy is a greater number of localized creations. What we think of local or micro creators is the early version of what this could look like. With all that said, you can do a significant amount of research for just one city or geographic subregion. 

We'll begin with the typical steps of brain dumping and searching for relevant terminology. It's helpful to think about what types of things disproportionately influence the local people, such as companies headquartered there, local sports teams, regional foods, events & festivals, tourist destinations, and more.

Next, we'll change our first Google Trends filter to US -> Ohio -> Columbus, so that we can pull particular types of data.

Localized data will contain far less search volume than national searches, making the graphs more likely to have dramatic peaks and valleys.

To organize our ideas, we could aim to find 1 weekly event, product launch, or habit trend to leverage and stretch out into multiple days of content — such as the Ohio State Fair the first week of August, where we could highlight a local personality, taste the fair food, and showcase new fair activities.

During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the fair was canceled due to the pandemic, which caused interest to plummet.

Granted, we likely won't come up with 52 perfectly timed local items to plan around, and that's okay. The gaps in your content strategy will fill themselves over time as you find what works, discover themes, and get to know the rhythm of your audience's attention.

The goal isn't to have a perfectly planned schedule but to optimize most of what we post in line with when that content will be in highest demand. 

From algorithms to the economy, so much of the creator journey can feel like it's out of our control. We steal back a bit of that control by building plans that marry what we want to make with when our audience wants to consume it.