Article

Predicting the Present

the rundown

Google's Chief Economist, Hal Varian, explains how search queries can provide insights into people's interests, intentions, and future actions. Needless to say, such insights can be very useful to businesses. Free tools like Google Correlate and Google Insights for Search enable you to use that database of intentions to 'predict the present' and better understand your customers' behavior in real time.

I recently asked a group of Googlers which day of the week had the most Google searches for the word ‘hangover.’ Most of them chose Sunday or Monday, although one party animal opted for Tuesday.

We can find the definitive answer – Sunday – by using a nifty tool called Google Insights for Search. This tool can be used to examine individual queries, but it can also compare search volumes for different queries. For example, searches for ‘vodka’ peak every Saturday, one day before the ‘hangover’ peak. The exception to this regular weekly pattern occurs once a year, on New Year’s Eve.

Searchblog’s John Battelle has called Google ‘the database of intentions,’ because search queries provide insights into people’s interests, intentions, and future actions. Needless to say, such insights can be very useful to businesses. Free tools like Google Correlate and Google Insights for Search enable you to use that database of intentions to ‘predict the present’ and better understand your customers’ behavior in real time.

[[quote]]

For example, if you type ‘weight loss’ into Google Correlate you find ‘healthy smoothie’ and ‘meal replacement.’ Not too surprising. But you also see terms like ‘vacation destination,’ ‘cruises to,’ and ‘wedding checklist.’ And if you look at the searches that occur three weeks after the ‘weight loss’ query, you see ‘weight loss plateau’ and ‘not losing weight’ at the top of the list.

Using the publicly available tools mentioned above, we’ve uncovered a number of interesting relationships. Here are some examples.

RETAIL

When do ads take effect? By comparing Google AdWords data and MasterCard SpendingPulse data, we can see that people click on ads the most on Mondays. Online spending follows quickly – but not immediately – with online commerce peaking a day or two later. Offline spending patterns have a greater lag, trailing by one week.

REAL ESTATE

Reading the real estate market with Google Trends: As foreclosures started to rise and median house prices dropped, search queries in the real estate category were correlated to the number of new homes sold in the US.

"Free tools like Google Correlate and Google Insights for Search enable you to better understand your customers’ behavior in real time."

Think NewsLetter

Put insights in your inbox.

    • Written by
    • Hal Varian
  • Published September 2011
  • Topics