Last Friday I met Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, on a flight to San Francisco. We talked about a wide range of subjects and, of course, compared the apps we had on our iPads. I didn’t have Picasa, which is great for displaying photos on the iPad, or Dropbox, a very useful tool for storing files. Hal also has an app that shows step by step how to tie knots.
He told me of his extensive teaching experience in Europe and the United States (MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley). Of course, I asked him the obvious question: “Why does Google have an economist?” He gave me his standard answer that was almost word for word the same as in this interview he gave in Brussels after delivering a keynote.
Hal wrote an interesting book, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy (Harvard Business Press, 1998), a great guide to the information economy. The examples in the book are a bit dated; however, the basic concepts are profound and timeless.
But what was most interesting to me was how Hal uses Google Insights to get a read on trends that are vital to business.
Google offers a little-known tool you can use to identify what’s hot in your business world. You can go to http://www.google.com/insights/search/# and do a quick search on companies, executives, business issues, job titles, etc., to get an idea of what people want to know most about. I’ve spent some time using this fascinating tool, and here is what I found:
What is searched more – sales management or marketing management?
Here is a quick example of how you can determine the vitality of a particular subject over a period of time. You can search by country, region, time span, and category.
In the case below, we see that more people in the US searched for marketing management subjects in the last 12 months than for sales management.
What company is hotter, Oracle, SAP, or salesforce.com?
This example shows that more people in business search for SAP and Oracle than for salesforce.com. This is a great tool to compare your company, by state, against your competition.
What do businesspeople want to know about Twitter?
This example shows how you can track the most important search terms, which will allow you to make better business decisions.
This chart reveals that the state of New York has the highest interest in Twitter. The search terms “how to twitter” are hot. What does that tell the savvy marketer? If you offer a white paper called, “How to Twitter,” if you promote a Webinar on that topic, or if you’re selling a book with that title, you’re likely to get a great response.
What’s the trend in automotive sales, financing or leasing?
During the past few months there has been a rising interest in leasing. Chances are this trend will drive up lease rates.
What currency is on people’s minds today?
The example below shows a worldwide search comparing the euro, the dollar, and the yen over the past 12 months. The search shows that Poland and Romania have little interest in the dollar but show a strong interest in the euro.
Learn how Google Insights works; it’s easy, but stay focused.
Here is a two-minute video that explains how Google Insights works.
The short video below shows how marketers can use Google Insights to develop effective ad messages, depending on what subjects people are more interested in. It's easy to compare two different sales messages and determine their popularity.
The big idea:
The visible flow of information precedes the flow of commerce. The closer you follow the search trends on the Internet, the easier it will be to predict the direction of commerce.
What I found most difficult with Google Insights was deciding when to stop.
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