Google Now Predicting the Future

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Crystal Ball

Although most people wouldn’t put it past to Google and all of their extremely intelligent employees to come up with a technology that could predict the future, that isn’t something that they have actually done (yet). However, as three Google employees discussed in a blog post on August 17th, they have been looking at how predictable search trends can be.

As you know, Google has Google Trends and Google Insights for Search. With these tools, it easy to see long-term trends and predict them in the future for terms that are seasonal, such as ski. However, what this team of Googlers is interested in is having predictable search trends for queries that don’t necessarily have a seasonal pattern. As they talk about in the post, “Having predictable trends for a search query or for a group of queries could have interesting ramifications. One could forecast the trends into the future, and use it as a “best guess” for various business decisions such as budget planning, marketing campaigns and resource allocations.”

After a lot of work, the team published a paper called On the Predictability of Search Trends. Some of the most interesting points from this paper are:

-Over half of the most popular Google search queries are predictable in a 12 month ahead forecast, with a mean absolute prediction error of about 12%.

-Nearly half of the most popular queries are not predictable (with respect to the model we have used).

-Some categories have particularly low fraction of predictable queries; for instance, Entertainment (35%) and Social Networks & Online Communities (27%).

Fortunately for you, you can begin harnessing some of this information by using the forecasting feature in Insights for Search. This feature is applied to queries which are identified as predictable and then shown as an extrapolation of the historical trends and search patterns. You can see an example of this feature for the term basketball. As mentioned in the original post, although this information isn’t perfect, it can be a great way to have more information at your fingertips when you are making certain decisions.

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