Google Correlate: What Search Terms Does Your Time Series Data Correlate With?

Just a few days over three years ago, I blogged about a site I’d put together to try to crowdsource observations about correlated searchtrends: TrendSpotting.

One thing that particularly interested me then, as it still does now, was the way that certain search trends they reveal rhythmic behaviour over the course of weeks, months or years.

At the start of this year, I revisited the topic with a post on Identifying Periodic Google Trends, Part 1: Autocorrelation (followd by Improving Autocorrelation Calculations on Google Trends Data).

Anyway today it seems that Google has cracked the scaling issues with discovering correlations between search trends (using North American search trend data), as well as opening up a service that will identify what search trends correlate most closely with your own uploaded time series data: Correlate (announcement: Mining patterns in search data with Google Correlate)

For the quick overview, check out the Google Correlate Comic.

So what’s on offer? First, enter a search term and see what it’s correlated with:

As well as the line chart, correlations can also be plotted as a scatterplot:

You can also run “spatial correlations”, though at the moment this appears to be limited to US states. (I *think* this works by looking for search terms that are popular in the requested areas and not popular in the other listed areas. To generalise this, I guess you need three things: the total list of areas that work for the spatial correlation query; the areas you want the search volume for the “to be discovered correlated phrase” to be high; the areas you want to the search volume for the “to be discovered correlated phrase” to be low?)

At this point it’s maybe worth remembering that correlation does not imply causation…

A couple of other interesting things to note: firstly, you can offset the data (so shift it a few weeks forwards or backwards in time, as you might do if you were looking for lead/lag behaviour); secondly, you can export/download the data.

You can also upload your own data to see what terms correlate with it:

(I wonder if they’ll start offering time series analysis features on uploaded, as well as other trend data, too? For example, frequency analysis or trend analysis? This is presumably going on in the background (though I haven’t read the white paper [PDF] yet…)

As if that’s not enough, you can also draw a curve/trendline and then see what correlates with it (so this a weak alternative to uploading your own data, right? Just draw something that looks like it… (h/t to Mike Ellis for first point this out to me).

I’m not convinced that search trends map literally onto the well known “hype cycle” curve, but I thought I’d try out a hype cycle reminiscent curve where the hype was a couple of years ago, and we’re now maybe seeing start to reach mainstream maturity, with maybe the first inklings of a plateau…

Hmmm… the pr0n industry is often identified as a predictor of certain sorts of technology adoption… maybe the 5ex searchers are too?! (Note that correlated hand-drawn charts are linkable).

So – that’s Google Correlate; nifty, eh?

PS Here’s another reason why I blog… my blog history helps me work out how far i the future I live;-) So currently between about three years in the future.. how about you?!;-)

PPS I can imagine Google’s ThinkInsights (insight marketing) loving the thought that folk are going to check out their time series data against Google Trends so the Goog can weave that into it’s offerings… A few additional thoughts leading on from that: 1) when will correlations start to appear in Google AdWords support tools to help you pick adwords based on your typical web traffic patterns or even sales patterns? 2) how far are we off seeing a Google Insights box to complement the Google Search Appliances, that will let you run correlations – as well as Google Prediction type services – onsite without feeling as if you have to upload your data to Google’s servers, and instead, becoming part of Google’s out-kit-in-your-racks offering; 3) when is Google going to start buying up companies like Prism and will it then maybe go after the likes of Experian and Dunnhumby to become a company that organises information about the world of people, as well as just the world’s information…?!)

PPPS Seems like as well as “traditional” link sharing offerings, you can share the link via your Google Reader account…