Google has been doing some interesting things with its analyses of what people are while they are on the web. Google Trends, which was rolled out in 2006, lets you see how frequently words or phrases were search for in Google, over time. You can even compare the relative frequency of two different words or phrases. I was curious about how people referred to the H1N1 flu, and when the shift occurred from calling it “swine flu”. I typed in the two phrases, swine flu and H1N1, separated by a comma. [“swine flu”, h1n1] According to the search results, it wasn’t until October that most people shifted over to referring to the flu strain as H1N1. I can also see search trends in specific countries and in specific cities and states or provinces.
The next stop is Google Insights for Search, which gives you all the functionality of Google Trends, along with some interesting features. Running the same search, I can see a map of the world, with highlighted cities where the most queries are coming from. I can also see the most common searches with either swine flu or H1N1, as well as a list of which search queries have recently spiked in frequency. As I write this, the “breakout” search queries include the Chinese characters for H1N1 (a good reminder that, according to comScore, China has more Internet users than any other country) and H1N1 symptoms (“I’ve been hearing about it – now what do I have to do to avoid catching it?”)
Google Domestic Trends, although limited right now to the US, has some interesting features. In essence, it compares specific types of queries to the US stock market and other economic indicators. Want to see whether there is a correlation between an interest in durable goods and the share price of some of the major manufacturers over the last few years? I selected the Durable Goods category, the Standard & Poor’s 500, and the stock symbols for General Electric and Whirlpool. I can see from the results that, whereas interest in durable goods has remained fairly steady, both GE and Whirlpool have done worse than the S&P 500, and GE is still struggling.
Google’s latest analysis tool is Google Trends for Websites. You provide one or more URLs; for each web site, Google displays the number of daily unique visitors, the countries or states/provinces they came from, other web sites that they have also visited, and terms they have also searched for. Just as Google Domestic Trends went beyond search queries to compare financial trends to its information, Google Trends for Websites extends its reach and analyzes information on web traffic from a number of outside sources.
According to the web site, Google “combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, aggregated opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in consumer panel data, and other third-party market research” -- I'd feel happier if I had a better view of what data Google is relying on.
Google Trends for Websites only works for fairly high-traffic sites, but can be a useful tool for seeing the relative popularity of web sites, and for getting ideas on alternative search queries on a topic. Companies can use this as a quick way to see how their web traffic compares to those of its competitors, as well as to see what search words were being used to find them. See, for example, the difference in traffic by geographic region and over time for McKinsey & Co., Deloitte and Accenture, and what other sites people visited. I have also used this as a rough way to gauge the relative influence of organizations. When looking for information on autism, I found a number of autism-related associations. By putting the web site URLs into Google Trends for Websites, I could see which sites had the most traffic -- a possible indicator of which association had the most impact in the consumer space.
While they are not traditional research tools, all these Google Trend tools can be useful for analyzing how web searchers think and behave – in the aggregate, of course.
Google Trends and More Trends
by Mary Ellen Bates Bates Information Services
[Make this Web 2.0]
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