in Future, Futurist toolbox, Strategy perspective

Google Trends – to search a search engine

Google have released a new fascinating and probably controversial tool onto the world: Google Trends. By simply letting users search directly in the meta-data some of the higher level patterns of what people search for is out of the box. If you e g search for “united states”, you get a list of regions from where this particular search is being done from. In this case most of the searches for “united states” have by far being done from inside US. Surprise!

It becomes more interesting when you get surprised over the answer. It took me just a couple of minutes to find results which made me wonder what Google Trends really shows. When searching for “sweden”, Nigeria surprisingly comes up first on the list. Why do Nigerians search that much for Sweden? I tried with countries like Norway, Denmark and Finland, and they themselves show up first on the lists of search origins.

Another peculiar thing that came up was when I searched for “system dynamics”, the greatest inquiring region by far was Iran. Why is that? Do Iranians have some special relation to system dynamics or are they just inclined to search the Internet about it?

The discussions about what search engine statistics really can tell you have now started. Especially since a tool like this sounds like it could be extremely valuable for different kinds of business and military intelligence.

To me as a forecaster the value of a tool like this is huge. The development of how people search for certain words can tell a lot, even if you have to be careful on how you interpret the results. Look for instance on the rise for interest in Wikipedia and compare it to the rise of the word blog. It becomes quite obvious that the word “wikipedia” since the middle of 2005 catches on faster than the word “blog”.

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