How to Predict the Future: Google as the Ultimate Crystal Ball

» Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in Business Strategy, Google, Marketing | 0 comments

How to Predict the Future: Google as the Ultimate Crystal Ball

How would your business thrive if you had the ultimate crystal ball, the ability to see the future and predict trends with stunning accuracy?  Probably you would start using your crystal ball to plan product releases, write scintillating articles for your desired customer base, and invest in the stock market with brilliant success.

Apparently we all have a crystal ball, and it’s as close as your laptop: Google, the ultimate predictor of everything.

Predicting the Future

Just before March Madness hit, we wrote this article about Google’s prediction of the NCAA Basketball Tournament outcome.  We hate to say we told you so, but I wish I’d bet more – it seems that using the collective intelligence of millions of people works.  By identifying which teams were searched most often, Google came up with their winner: no sports knowledge required.

Also mentioned before was the prediction of Obama’s presidential win by the team at 10 Golden Rules – before the democratic primary was over.  This was based on a measurement of social media reach and visibility on the Internet – no analysis of politics, voter survey, or public opinion involved.

It seems that by using simple metrics of a population’s interest in a particular subject, you can predict an outcome. How does it work?  In the case of the NCAA Tournament, Google simply measured the volume of searches on each team name.  The presidential prediction used a grid of measurements that established Internet presence – not only what people looked for, but what was available for them to find – to come up with a winner.

Google Insights

This analysis is easy to do.  Google offers a free tool called “Insights”  that does much of the work for you.  Google Insights for Search allows you to “compare search volume patterns across specific geographic regions, categories, time frames and properties.”  “Regions” are broad geographic areas (like countries) or specific (like states,) so depending upon your business you can decide what is important to you.  “Categories” allows you to narrow search terms by specific category in order to eliminate garbage data with similar wording.  “Time Frames” lets you identify patterns of volume by time, so you could determine the best time of day (or year) to release new product or content; and “Properties” refers to Google’s specific search platforms, for example “Shopping” or “Image.”  Simply typing in a search term brings up a graph of data from 2004 to the present, complete with a dotted line showing the “forecast” into 2012.  Typing in multiple search terms will show a simple graphic comparison between the two.  (I tried Red Sox vs. Yankees.  They are pretty much neck and neck in the forecast but the Yankees are slightly higher.  Sigh.)

Using the Data

This type of data is so useful for business that Google continually refines its data offerings with new products.  The Insights page now sights the experimental “Google Correlate”  which adds a more specific element of time to the search volume, to allow users to identify more intricate patterns of time and geography.

Utilizing the data allows the small business to take advantage of information previously only available to large corporations willing to pay for intricate consumer surveys.  The next time you are faced with a business decision, consider the data on consumer sentiment freely available.  Align your product release timeframe with the cycle of consumer interest.  Write your company’s annual report to emphasize the strategic efforts that align with the topics that show the greatest volume.

Using Google tools to predict the future is like the new age concept of tapping into the “collective consciousness.”  You aren’t really learning anything new, just accessing all of the information that already exists.  However you say it, Google’s accuracy is better than any fortune teller I’ve met; and seeing the future is useful for all of us.

To learn more about Spalding Barker Strategies, visit our homepage or Contact Us to see how we can help your business.

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