Last week Google quietly added an interesting new feature to its Insights for Search tool, predictions of future search trends. If you don’t already use Insights, you should, it’s a useful tool for monitoring search trends in order to get a good picture of how consumer interest in specific brands and topics rises and falls over time.

Google’s latest improvement to the service, based on some very clever science which I won’t try to bluff my way through, enables you to see what the future consumer interest in brands and topics could be.

There are a couple of points to make about this. Firstly, for a lot of searches you don’t need a sophisticated algorithm to predict future trends, because the annual pattern is so consistent that it’s easy to make an educated guess about how the chart will look for the next twelve months. For example, the trend for the search term “cheese” is highly predictable, so most people could figure out the pattern for themselves.

 

Secondly, there’s no way the prediction algorithm can account for unexpected events, since it relies purely on past data to extrapolate future trends, so like all predictions it’s only of limited value. However, it may well prove to be helpful for planning, once we’ve ascertained how accurate its predictions are for the less obvious trends.  For example, the search trend for the keyword “ninjas” is much less obvious than that of “cheese” and this is where the tool could be really useful, in spotting more complex trends and patterns that a human observer would not be able to identify.

 

This is obviously going to take a little time – we need to record Google’s predictions for search trends now, and revisit them in future to see how accurate they were. If they stand the test of time, then we’ve got a powerful new tool at our disposal.

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