Google Trends is an interesting online tool. The program tracks the number of searches for any given search term compared to all of the searches on Google over time. The results is a graph showing the trend of the searches. For example, here is a copy of a graph showing the trend for a search on the term "RootsTech:
You can clearly see spikes in searching that occurred just before and during the various conferences. In the case of the 2013 Conference, you can see a residual number of searches following the Conference. Since you can plot any search term, you can also plot the name of a website or a topic. Here is an interesting result from a search on the word "genealogy."
It seems to me that this indicates that there has been a constant increase in the overall number of searches but that the number of specific searches with the term "genealogy" have either declined or remained the same and therefore the percentage of the overall total has declined. If I add search terms to this same graph, I get the following:
I searched for the terms genealogy, family history, ancestors and pedigree. Some of the search trends, such as those for ancestors and pedigree, involve terms that are used in a variety of contexts. But all four terms have merged in the last year into the background of searches. What happens with the large genealogy companies? Here is a search on the terms Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and findmypast.com:
It looks like 2010 was the watershed year for interest in all four companies. The bag graph on the left shows the average searches over the time period with the highest number of any of the four being 100.
Do all searches show the same sort of decline considering the increase in Internet traffic? How about a hot topic right now such as health insurance?
Hard to tell. But how about comparing genealogy to health insurance?
Now you can start to see what is actually happening. Let's add some other popular terms such as football and movies:
My oh my, that certainly puts health care and genealogy in their place as concerns of the online searchers of the world.
How about a comparison between genealogy and other hobby interests in the world? What do you think? Here is a search on genealogy, gardening, reading, sports and vacations:
Not much competition there. You might try playing around with a series of searches and draw your own conclusions, but I see little support in concluding that genealogy is growing rapidly in popularity or even increasing at all. I am very interested in a proposed presentation at RootsTech 2014 from Arnon Hershkovitz on Wednesday at 4:30 with a presentation entitled, "Empirical Evidence of the Popularity of Family History Using Digital Traces." Arnon is a researcher at Tel Aviv University's School of Education and a professional genealogist. He is also a blogger with a blog called Msfhtovlogy. I will be interested to see what his conclusions are.