This is a guest blog post from David Spriggs, CEO of Infoxchange. Infoxchange is a not-for-profit social enterprise that has been delivering technology for social justice for over 30 years. They tackle the biggest social challenges through the smart and creative use of technology.
At Infoxchange, we’re constantly using data throughout our organisation to help tell our stories, inform our decision-making, and support our pitches for funding. One tool that’s been helpful for us is Google Trends.
With over 3.5 billion searches on Google globally each day, if there’s a particular issue or topic on people's minds, it’s going to show up in Google Trends and oftentimes, can be used as a barometer for what Australians are thinking and feeling. That’s some pretty powerful information for a not-for-profit organisation to have! By knowing more about the issues and needs people in the community have, we can better tailor our support, tweak our messaging for the greatest impact, and make strong cases for funding and grant applications.
Here are some examples of how we’ve used Google Trends at Infoxchange to help us continue to make an impact.
Designing Ask Izzy to connect with the public
Ask Izzy is a website that connects people with over 370,000 support services. When we were designing Ask Izzy, which was developed in partnership with Google, we looked at Google Trends data to help us understand the terms and phrases people used most around the issue of homelessness.
Ask Izzy is a website that connects people in need with support services nearby including food, financial help and housing.
Although we’d conducted extensive face-to-face co-design with people with lived experience of homelessness and who worked in the sector, we used Google Trends to match the wording we used on our site with what people across Australia were searching, to make our site resonate with the largest number of people possible.
Demonstrating the needs of the community to potential funders
More recently, we used Google Trends data on family and domestic violence support to show potential funders the increased need for the work we do. Sadly but somewhat unsurprisingly, data from Google told us that there had been a spike in searches for “domestic violence help” around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We used this information to help show potential funders that more people than ever would be needing to find help through Ask Izzy over the coming months (perhaps even years), as the social and economic fallout of the crisis was clearly already revealed through people’s Google searches.
Chart showing a peak in searches for “domestic violence help” around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia
Matching our own data with public trends to help tell our story
As the COVID-19 crisis began, we began to see huge increases in certain types of searches on Ask Izzy, as restrictions were introduced and businesses were forced to close. For example, during March the number of people using Ask Izzy’s Centrelink category to find locations near them nearly quadrupled in one week after the Australian Government announced its JobSeeker package.
It was helpful then for us to see that Google Trends also reflected what our own Ask Izzy data was telling us; namely that there were many people across Australia who were seeking support when it came to welfare payments.
For example, we can see below that there was a similar spike of people searching the term “Centrelink” on Google at the same time that we saw spikes in Ask Izzy. This helped us give context to our own data, and helped us understand why we’d seen such huge increases in the usage of our product. As a result, we were able to better plan for the months ahead and make sure that we continued to meet our users’ needs.
Chart showing large increase in searches for “Centrelink” around the time that JobSeeker payments were introduced.
There are of course many, many other applications for using Google Trends data, but these examples show how Infoxchange has used the tool to help us respond to the needs of the community as best we can.