Yearly search popularity: “Surfing”

Not everyone has a spare $5000 to fork out for a professional report on the surf industry as a whole.

Surfstraat certainly doesn’t.

The internet is full of free (and reliable) tools to better understand all kinds of behaviours and trends. Our mission here is to enable the small players; the backyard shapers, the local surf shops and surfers themselves to better understand how to gain insights that can help grow their businesses and brands.

One such tool (totally free) is Google Trends. Here’s a way to put it to use.

Understanding the search trends over extended periods enable us to visualise patterns in the interest surrounding surfing as a topic, and can even be further broken down by keywords themselves for analysis across countries, regions or cities.

Let’s take a look at 3 large english speaking surf regions:
Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Consider also the rough overall percentage of these 3 populations, and the amount per country/continent who are themselves surfers.

Approximately, UK surfers make up 0.83% of their total population, Australians 10.4%, and surfers in the USA make up 0.8% of their 328 million total population.

First up – Australia’s search popularity for surfing for the past 4 years:

Something that is common among all three of the countries is the uptick of search interest over the summer months. It’s also fair to assume from this that beginning surfers are responsible for this pattern, with the summer months being generally high season for surf camps or lessons, with smaller waves, warmer water etc.

Regular surfers would be less likely to fire up a google search for “surfing” as a broad keyword, instead seeking out the specific phrases for informational queries i.e surf cams for local areas, or transactionally charged phrases like “surfboard wax/ surf wax“.

The United States shows a similar trend pattern:

Similar to Australia, search trends during the summer months – regardless of hemisphere – outweigh winter trends. Attributing the severity of the ‘spikes’ in traffic become more complicated with a larger population, but can perhaps be due to the larger pool of those interested in giving surfing a go.

Below, we see the United Kingdom showing a similar story, again:

The United Kingdom is the largest market in Europe for surf tourism, followed by France in terms of it’s surfing population.

How can we estimate what is causing the spikes in popularity?

First, we have to understand what the spikes mean when they peak at 100. Spikes are a a result of rapid growth in interest for a topic as compared with normal overall search volume, and the value of 100 indicates the highest level of popularity per region and timeframe.

Next, looking at the ‘related searches’ surrounding growth events where patterns deviate from regular peaks and troughs.

Let’s take a look at the noteable peaks per region, and the related searches which saw a surge in internet traffic through Google:

Australia – 19 Feb – 05 Mar 2017 – related searches (surfing):

USA – 24 Jul – 14 Aug 2016 – related searches (surfing):

UK – 31 Jul – 14 Aug 2016 – related searches (surfing):

Sure enough, we saw that on August 3rd 2016, the International Olympic Committee voted in favor of including surfing in the Tokyo Games, contributing to the huge spikes in the US and UK.

Seemingly, Australia missed the memo at the time – or knew already that knee-high Japanese shorebreak wasn’t noteworthy enough in comparison to the Noosa festival of Surfing.

These same tactics can be applied to surf products, brands, surfers themselves and so on. By adapting the search term or topic, and viewing the data over a suitable timeframe, we can identify the trends themselves, what causes the spikes in searches, and adjust our marketing & content strategy to best target those patterns.

In later articles, we’ll examine other methods that surfers can use – for free/ very cheaply – to better understand the market, industry and overall surfing world.