I hope this is a question appropriate for SO.

The article in question: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/opinion/sunday/seth-stephens-davidowitz-searching-for-sex.html

As far as I can tell, the only publicly available data from Google Search is through their Trends API. The help page states that

The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don't represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100.

However in the article, the author reports (absolute) "average monthly searches". The source is stated as:

All monthly search numbers are approximate and derived from anonymous and aggregate web activity.

Source: analysis of Google data by (author)

So, how did he get this "anonymous and aggregate web activity"?

  • $\begingroup$ If you feel like you have an answer (as in your EDIT), consider posting it as an actual answer. It's OK to answer your own questions on Stack Exchange, and it makes things clearer. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


Google AdWords. That has absolute search volumes.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you explain more? Showing the way to find "average monthly search" for a given term is also appreciated. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Amir, see my update about Google Keyword Planner. $\endgroup$
    – alexw
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 18:24

Good to hear from the author. As he said, it appears to be possible through the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Specifically, the "Search for new keyword and ad group ideas" option.

I am unable to get Google to actually generate his list, but I imagine it is just a matter of picking the correct seed words and settings. I get the same order-of-magnitude results when I directly search his terms ("sexless marriage", "unhappy marriage", etc).

Another option for generating his list would be to search against a dictionary of negative terms (" marriage") and then do some sorting and filtering. You could probably automate this through Google's API.


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