Monday, September 5, 2011

Google Correlate: A New Tool to Find Search Trends by Drawing Graphs

Last May, Google launched an experimental new tool on Google Labs which enables you to find queries whose search trend over a period of time is similar to a target data series. The target can either be a real-world trend that you provide (e.g., a data set of event counts over time) or a query that you enter. Recently, Google Correlate was graduated from Labs to become a feature on Google Trends. Additionally, Google Correlate now has its own Labs, and the first Lab tool is a fascinating one called ‘Search by Drawing’.

But first, what is Google Correlate? Google Correlate is like Google Trends in reverse. With Google Trends, you type in a query and get back a data series of activity over time. With Google Correlate, you enter a data series and get back a list of queries whose data series follows a similar pattern. Previously, users uploaded data series in the form of an Excel sheet. If no data series was at hand, the user could enter a query, and Google Correlate would convert it a data series, and then use that data series to find other queries that correlate to the original query.

But with Search by Drawing, user could draw a graph and get queries whose data series follows a pattern similar to the one drawn. Go to Search by Drawing, and draw a free hand graph using your mouse and click on the Correlate button.

freq-distribution

In the example above, I drew a frequency distribution like graph (shown in blue) and Google Correlate came up with the term “myspace pages” whose search trend best matches my drawing. You can see that Myspace popularity reached a peak during 2007-2008 before dropping, rather abruptly, starting mid-2008.

The fun is when you draw popular graphs and get search trends results. Some Reddit users have managed to get interesting, sometimes funny, results, such as the asymptote.

asymptote

Saw tooth curve

saw-tooth

A single clock pulse

pulse

If you are statistics junkie, you will love Google Correlate.

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