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Is this a trend?

July 24, 2009 - Art Smith
We all use search engines, some of us use them more than others. We search for every thing. Volleyball, what to do to get over the flu, getting married, Michael Jackson. They all get search for, sometimes millions of times per day.

Viewed collectively — what people search for can tell us what is important to the online community at any particular time.

The king of search is Google. Google tracks everything people do as they interact with the site.

The result is the ability of users to see how much interest there has been over a period of time for any topic.

The results can be very interesting.

The amount of searching for the name “Michael Jackson” has increased around 4,000 percent since he died with heavy searching coming from Indonesia and Central and South American countries.

People are searching for information on “terrorism” at about half the rate we were five years ago. We may not be any safer; we are just not as concerned about it.

Search for a sport like “volleyball” and you can easily see the peak occurring each fall when the sport is played and every four years when the Olympics are held.

Search for the word “wedding” and you will find a large dip each fall followed by a spike at the end of the year. I presume caused by couples getting engaged at Christmas.

Interesting, but one could argue, not that useful. There are in fact, many useful applications of the information.

Tracking what people are search for can sometime help predict trends before more conventional reporting methods do. The technology for the site is now being used to help predict how the flu in affecting different areas of the country.

Besides letting users track phrases over a period of time, the site will also let you see what is important to the internet community today by showing the top 100 terms that have been searched.


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