Automatic Data-Save: the power of Google Trends

Last week, Google released maps and lists charting everything from online users’ most frequent questions on a national scale to specifically New York City’s search penchant. The rest of the story is pretty boring and doesn’t reveal much in the way of novelty (national users searched “American Idol”-related phrases while NYC-ers searched obscure architects and physicists), though, and the idea that Google is tracking our searches on a mass basis is pretty much old news at this point.

What I find infinitely more amusing and interesting is the fact that Google tracks trends, beyond the flu trends , to the personal web history – on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. If you’re signed into Gmail, Google tracks and displays this information via lists and bar charts. Your most frequent search terms, your frequency of activity this past year, how many searches you conduct per week on average, what day of the week you search most frequently, and what time of day you use Google search most often. You can view the results overall, over the past 7 days, the last 30 days and the last year.

Overall, my search activity spikes on Wednesdays with a pretty symmetrical upside-down bell curve over the course of the week. My search times peak between noon and 5 p.m.. My search traffic was practically non-existent from January through April when I was working full-time… but then steadily rose through late Spring and Summer months before skyrocketing in October (probably from the Jewish holidays and boredom/procrastination).

Over the last 7 days, my search activity spiked on Sundays and I averaged a high of around 14 searches between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The #1 phrase entered through Google was the Interactive Fundamentals blog. The top 5 all had to do with word game and free book searches. Although this week, “women’s health mag” and “non-FDA approved drugs” squeezed in at #4 and #5, respectively.

The ready availability of all this information can be a boon and a bane. Fascinating statistical log or Big Brother watching over you? The way I see it, it’s not really watching over me since the info is just one of millions of data sets like it in existence and for the most part, is used only to fill in data sets for the national search rankings. To the part of me that is still skeptical and ever-weary, though, it is somewhat unsettling, seeing all that information collected there and knowing it’s stored somewhere else, either a few miles away or much further.

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