Do online trends = offline trends

. Tuesday, January 6, 2009
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I got this question a couple of days ago from one of our clients. The answer is, in regards to online search trends, a big YES.

Google recently made public that they were tracking certain keywords in order to predict flu outbreaks in the United States. The Google team has been able to create a batch of keywords such as "flu remedies" and "flu symptoms" in order to visualize where a flu outbreak is occurring.

Google is able to cross reference their predictions to a national database that uses flu test results recorded by doctors. The Google chart is incredibly accurate. So accurate that the national database uses it to see results two weeks ahead of their own.

Visit the official Google Flu Trends site to see the results for yourself.
To back it up even further, Hitwise has been able to predict the winner of numerous TV show competitions using seach data.

So, how can you use this in order to gain a competitive advantage?
Using Google Insights we were able to spot a trend that made one of our clients a lot of money.

When we searched "Hair Straighteners" in Vancouver we noticed a significant spike in search volume just before Christmas in 2007.

We immediately optimized the client's website to reflect this trend in search volume, and made sure that when potential customers searched "hair straighteners" our client's company was the top hit.

As you can see from the chart above we were able to correctly predict the trend for 2008, and our client was able to stock up on hair straighteners. More importantly our client's hair straightener sales surged in the run up to Christmas.