Google Trends vs Apple App Store Trending

March 17th, 2015

Google Trends vs Apple App Store Trending
David Quinn

by David Quinn

VP of Strategy & Partnerships at Gummicube, Inc.

Since the release of iOS8, Apple has displayed Trending Searches in their app store. We have been tracking Apple App Store and Google Play data since 2011, and have seen just how different web search is from app store search. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at how what Google reports as trending search data via web search in “Google Trends” differed from Apple’s App Store “Trending Searches” data. Going into this data collection and comparison project, I was predicting a few things:

  • user intent was going to help explain the majority of any differences between the search engines reported trends
  • the zeitgeist, the breaking news items, the big events would drive a lot of the similarities…

Google Trends = Google search across their web search engine (could include Images, Videos and News - but does not appear to include Google Play search) Apple App Store Trending Searches = Trending keyword and phrases in the App Store (not all of iTunes - so no movies, books, music etc..)

Let’s jump in!

We started this experiment Sunday, Feb 22nd - which just happened to be Oscar night. This gave us a lot of trending searches for both Google Web Search and Apple App Store Search to compare. My iTunes account is US based, so to compare apples to apples as much as possible - I look at Google Trends in the US only. Both search engines update their trends often, it seems hourly in our samples - but both with some delays. Google Trends on Tuesday AM (eastern) showed top trends for Monday, with 1 or 2 trends shown for Tuesday. Presumably, during the day the “Tuesday trends” materialize and the list grows and then can be seen in its entirety Wednesday. Apple does not time stamp their trending searches, implying that these terms are trending “right now”. Based on our small sample - there seems to be evidence of a similar lag in Apple Trending searches - which we will show in moment. Since Google shows updates hourly, and Apple appears to have some small changes at least hourly - I started looking at each engines trending data hourly.


There just wasn't that much changing hourly - so I started grabbing screenshots 2-3 times daily from each search engine (Google web search and Apple App Store Search).

Some findings and insights

Google Trends looks much more like Twitter Trends than anything in the Apple Trending Search data

Tons of trending searches for Oscar Winners, breaking news subjects, etc… This is one example of the trending data taken the same time (and day) - 11:30 pm eastern Sunday, Feb 22nd: Sun Night - Google Google Trends is starting to show trends based on the beginning of the Oscars and events from the Red Carpet (about a 3 hour delay from “real time” events occurring) Apple - during the oscars on Sunday night….. Apple Trending Search - Sunday ummmm…..what’s the Oscars?

Apple’s Trending Searches are both delayed and can be heavily influenced by non-app store campaigns

So is there some delay or will Apple Trending never show anything related to the Oscars? Are the app stores operating in their own universe, immune to the effects of the non-mobile app store zeitgeist? On Monday the 23rd, at 11 am eastern - Google only showed trends from Sunday night (no Monday results), and almost all are Oscar related... Monday Google Trends Monday Google Trends 2 And Apple showed: IMG_1093 The “Watch ABC” app was being heavily promoted during and before the Oscars as a way to see backstage clips, etc.. Essentially vying for the second screen space during the show. But by the time this registered as trending in Apple’s App Store - the Oscars were over (hey - you can still watch "Dancing with the Stars").

What about "aa"?

Maybe “aa” is a search for the Academy Awards, but based on the results of that search, more likely it is for the game “aa” that was the #1 strategy game and 21st overall app in the app store on the 22nd. Even so - the search engines (web and app store) are being searched by users in the same universe, responding to external events - but not in the same way, or same events. What surprised me here was both the delay in what Apple reported as trending, and how little impact a huge event like the Academy Awards/Oscars had on mobile app store search. I would have at least expected a trending search related to IMDB, some celebrity games or something related to this event… Maybe later in the week? Are the results delayed even more than 12-24 hours?

Let’s take a look later in the week

Tuesday PM - Google: Tues Night - Google Same time and day - Apple: IMG_1098 There is almost zero overlap in search terms and trending search terms or topics. Even accounting for a delay - where what is trending on Twitter “now” is trending on Google in 3 hours is trending in the Apple App Store tomorrow - still no overlap.

Wednesday AM showing trends from Tuesday:

Wed AM - Google Wed AM 2 - Google And here is Apple Wednesday: IMG_1101 Even accounting for delays - there is zero overlap for Tuesday on Google Trends and Wednesday on Apple Trending.

Of all the screenshots of Google Trends and Apple Trending over 5 days, 3 times daily - there were only a few matches of any kind.

One was comparing Google Trends on Thursday (showing Wednesday’s results), and Apple Trending Thursday AM.

Thursday AM on Google trends, showing Wednesday’s trending searches:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.12.36 AM And here is Apple on Thursday afternoon: IMG_1113 The 5th trending search on the web is referencing the same topic as the 2nd highest trending search on Apple. Even though the subject of the searches have some overlap - where Google Trends show Oscar related searches, and Apple shows an Oscar related search with the “Watch ABC” app, the way users search - the words and phrases they are using to search, are not the same. Apple trends is still a fairly new addition to the app store experience, and could likely go the way of “apps near me” and other attempts to show Apple users interesting or relevant apps. For now - the main takeaway seems to be web search is very different from app store search regardless of external events, in no small part because user intent is so different.

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