Why Google (Search) Trends Is Important

 

Google just released Google Trends, a new public search-term query trending tool. The release of this will draw increasing notice of the value of search as a source of consumer insights and trends. While Google Trends is very, very, very far from being a serious market research tool, it is free and accessible and will give many people a better idea why search data are so important to mine. A few months ago, I wrote in MediaPost:

One significant area where search has tremendous potential involves the long trail of search-query data that consumers leave behind when seeking, comparing and analyzing information. Similar to consumer-generated media (CGM) – which marketers are increasingly paying attention to amidst the rise of blogs and other social media – consumer search queries represent one of the largest pools of unprompted consumer intelligence. Setting aside keyword buys, consider the wealth of real-time insight into consumer intentions, behaviors, attitudes and drivers.

Searchers are, by definition, highly engaged with the task at hand, so the data they produce in this psychological state are especially valuable and otherwise difficult to collect. And with "engagement" the new buzzword in marketing and advertising circles, it almost seems a crime for any marketer to omit search behavioral analysis–both quantitative and qualitative–as a key input into overall marketing strategy.

Borrowing lessons from CGM measurement and analysis, I argued that there are several strategic applications where businesses should leverage consumer search behavioral data. Four of them are:

  1. Identifying The Right Marketing Questions
  2. Divulging Consumer Insights
  3. Identifying Issues and Trends Early On
  4. Measuring Brand Equity and Marketing Effectiveness

And you can read the full column here.

I’m also fascinated by the relationship between search and consumer-generated media. Searches, which arguably are CGM,  are not intended for direct viewing by other consumers (though increasingly in social search). However, they are indirectly in that they heavily influence what CGM people see via search engines, by weighting CGM to top shelf results. Additionally, searches are reflective of engagement and often are leading indicators of social trends, and I’ve seen cases where search terms lead frequency of CGM terms, and vice versa.

It’s important to note that Hitwise has been offering a very similar type of search-query trending to clients for nearly two years, except it reports on searches across all major search engines. Morever, search-trend charts link directly into search rankings, Web site market share, clickstream data and visitor demographic and lifestage segmentations. (Free only gets you so much!) Google covers only Google searches, and it properly notes a big caveat on all its trends charts:

Google Trends aims to provide insights into broad search patterns. It is based upon just a portion of our searches, and several approximations are used when computing your results. Please keep this in mind when using it.

Still, Google’s share of searches is huge, so its trending proxies are interesting and revealing nonetheless. It will facilitate greater demand and savvy around search-based market intelligence. Finally, here’s a Google Trends chart showing searches for “mothers day” (in blue) and “flowers” (in red).

(click for larger image)

 

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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5 Comments

  1. Max, I’m going to call you on this one: please explain why search is CGM? I’m not in love with the CGM term per se, but I feel defensive for it in this case!

  2. Max, I’m going to call you on this one: please explain why search is CGM? I’m not in love with the CGM term per se, but I feel defensive for it in this case!

  3. Reply to Matt Hurst:
    Search is consumer-generated media not in a blatant sense, but in a very indirect yet still powerful sense. When searching, consumers type content, they create words and express ideas. They do in fact create media, even though it is not intended for other humans. But the media they create in this case, of course, are for the machines, the search engines. Furthermore, the content they create to be interpretted and processed by engines does in fact influence the ranking and discoverability of other content and media that consumers do see, including consumer-generated media, which are proliferating in top-shelf results and throughout the long tail. The mere act of creating content for search engines, entering the query and clicking contributes to the next effect of many popular search engines and keyword/results rankings. Of course, ranking is based on on several criteria depending on the type of engine and individual algorithms and methods, but partly on the aggregate behaviors of the community that uses the engine. I’m not a technical expert in search, but that’s my rationale for why search is indirectly CGM. Perhaps I’m not articulating this point as clearly as I should, but hopefully you get the general idea. And if anything, as I alluded to in the post, there often is a very tight correlation (pre- and post) between search term creation/queries and CGM keyword frequency.

  4. Reply to Matt Hurst:
    Search is consumer-generated media not in a blatant sense, but in a very indirect yet still powerful sense. When searching, consumers type content, they create words and express ideas. They do in fact create media, even though it is not intended for other humans. But the media they create in this case, of course, are for the machines, the search engines. Furthermore, the content they create to be interpretted and processed by engines does in fact influence the ranking and discoverability of other content and media that consumers do see, including consumer-generated media, which are proliferating in top-shelf results and throughout the long tail. The mere act of creating content for search engines, entering the query and clicking contributes to the next effect of many popular search engines and keyword/results rankings. Of course, ranking is based on on several criteria depending on the type of engine and individual algorithms and methods, but partly on the aggregate behaviors of the community that uses the engine. I’m not a technical expert in search, but that’s my rationale for why search is indirectly CGM. Perhaps I’m not articulating this point as clearly as I should, but hopefully you get the general idea. And if anything, as I alluded to in the post, there often is a very tight correlation (pre- and post) between search term creation/queries and CGM keyword frequency.

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