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I am using Google Trends to compare the search popularity of the programming languages Python and R. The issue I have is that the drop-down menu for selecting the type of search only appears once you type in two letters. Since R is a single-letter name, I can't get the dropdown to prompt. Empty spaces don't help. Here is what the dropdown looks like for Python: A screenshot showing the dropdown options for searching in Google Trends

Because I can't select the topic for R, it compares Python as a topic "programming language" to the general search term "R", which can of course be anything not related to the programming language.

I am looking for a way to specify the topic. I tried entering "R", topic:R, R.topic, and similar variants, and nothing works. The Google Help only cover basic usage. Is this functionality even there?

My current workaround is: make both R and Python just a search term, and then select the category "Computers and Electronics".

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  • Have you read Refine Trends results by category? (the dropdown is category selector). Stack Overflow has a Collective for R. On Collectives there is being run an experiment about "Discussions". Take a look to this collective check out how the R community hang around and in order that you ask them what term they use when they search about R on Google. Oct 3, 2023 at 20:23
  • @Rubén this is my current workaround: make both R and Python just a search term, and then select the category "Computers and Electronics"
    – LonLon
    Oct 4, 2023 at 10:54
  • @FLonLon Good info 👍 Please edit the question to include relevant details rather than putting them in comments. Comments are temporary whereas the question should contain everything needed to answer.
    – Blindspots
    Oct 4, 2023 at 18:08

2 Answers 2

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What worked for me was trying variations on "R programming language" until I saw a substring ("R progra" [sic]) that let me select that option:

Alternatively, I searched for "R" as a regular search term and could "Explore" it after sorting the "Related topics" by "Top":

This gave me this URL (which unfortunately seems to use an ID instead of a query and thus can't be manually constructed):

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=%2Fm%2F0212jm&date=now%201-d&geo=US&hl=en

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    @Rubén It's mobile web. I type in trends.google.com in the browser to get there.
    – Laurel
    Oct 4, 2023 at 1:19
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    @Rubén If yours is in Spanish, you may be getting Spanish options instead. The general idea (typing in something like "R programming language"—"R lenguaje de programación"?) will hopefully work for more than just me.
    – Laurel
    Oct 4, 2023 at 1:25
  • It's something worth trying. The options might vary not only based on the language but also on the dialect (Spanish - Mexico), the Location, etc. By the way, on the Web app I use English - US. Oct 4, 2023 at 1:27
  • I can't reproduce this. I tried many times, and ironically, I got only topic-suggested "C Programming language"
    – LonLon
    Oct 4, 2023 at 8:45
  • @FLonLon Did you type in only "R progra" (works for me) or the entire search string (brings up C)? Either way, I shared the URL, which has to work.
    – Laurel
    Oct 4, 2023 at 9:54
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Google Trends doesn't have operators or particular keywords; it has categories. The categories come from the Google's knowledge graph.

The categories are suggested automatically. Google has not disclosed exactly how the category suggestion works. Still, it's fair to assume, based on what has been disclosed about Google search personalization, that category suggestions are based on the domain (trends.google.com, trends.google.es, etc.), the user interface, language, location, and it is possible on the popular and user browsing search and browsing history.

So your experience might vary if you signed in using your browser private mode, a shared device, your home Internet connection, or if you are at school, work, or a public place like a library, cyber cafe, airport, etc.

About the categories

The more you know about the term, the more you can play with different ways to write the term to search in Google Trends.

In the case of R, you might look at specialized communities and general knowledge places like Google and Wikipedia to get inspiration.

What to do

As you have learned, the category suggestions appear after typing several characters, so typing just a letter like R, is not enough. Add related keywords like programmer, computer, etc.

Pay attention to the user interface. Depending on the size of your screen and window, the dropdown list might have a scroll bar and some options might be hidden, you will have to scroll to be able to see them.

If there isn't any useful category, look around the Google Trends screen. There might be selectors for Language and country, among others. Change one of them, then, start typing again. The suggested categories might be different.

References

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