Is free better than the best?

Posted on 25th September 2017

Google Trends provides data on the search terms used by people searching on Google. Google Trends provides this by time (at various granularities dependent on the total time period requested), and by country (and by finer granularities in some countries).

Looking at the data in the chart below we can see the proportions of people using Google to search for the terms "free" or "cheap" and the terms "best" or "quality" has changed over the last 13 years.

It's interesting to see that the proportion of searches for terms including the word "free" or "cheap" has been steadily decreasing from its high starting point in 2004/05 to its lows in 2017. Over the same time period the proportion of searches that have included the word "best" or "quality" has increased to reach its highest points in 2017. This pattern probably indicates the general shift in people's perceptions of the internet being somewhere you go to get something free or non-mainstream, to it being a ubiquitous research tool and provider of most of our information.