Saturday, April 18, 2009

When Google's Search Statistics Masterpiece, Google Trends, Stops Working

Cataclysm. Halo pet food. Danbury mint. All very cool phrases. All meaningless. All prominently appearing on Google Trends' Hot 100 searches list. Since it's launch as a part of Google Labs, Trends has been hailed as one of the best tools for marketers. I've been making a decent effort to use this service but it just doesn't seem to do much other than satisfying my craving for interesting search facts.
Sure, it'll make you go "Hmm. That's interesting," but otherwise, I don't see much of a use. This is mostly because it doesn't really do much in the means of working as a keyword research tool (don't worry if you don't know what that means) with the constant sight of peculiar search terms like, today, "ice hotel", "in plain sight", "rejuventation pills" and "catching grapes with my mouth" (what the hell?).
In my mind, this doesn't exactly help me in finding something to blog about that people will read. Of course, comparing keywords is always cool to see although only occasionally helpful.
This is mainly because all of the numbers that Google Trends provides are in comparison to the average volume for that search term. This means that instead of giving you a straight number like 10,000 searches in the past two days, the service gives you, three times the average at the time or two times below average at this time (all on a fancy line graph, obviously). This means that often perception would be distorted because sure something can be at five times the normal volume or even twenty times for all I care. Then, you might get all excited thinking that this is a truly hot trend in terms of searches. On the other hand, the normal volume could be three searches every day. So sixty searches every day is what you're getting all excited about. In fact, even the hot trends are based on how much a particular search surpasses its average volume. "Catching grapes in my mouth" happens to "not have enough search volume to show graphs."
That means a possible explanation for this could be tampering. For instance, if "catching grapes in my mouth" has five searches every day (I wonder who these five people are), and some mischeivous computer geek decides he wants to screw Google up, he'll just call all his friends and he and all these people might each search a this twenty times. This would lead to quite a bit of corruption to the Trends. And even if Google tracks IP address, if a prankster's smart, then he'll just go behind a proxy, which hides IP address.
So maybe Google Trends will serve its purpose some day in the next few years and somebody at Google will find a sick new algorithm, but for now, Google Trends will never pass through my bookmark filter.

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