by David Frank
Online search tools like Google have opened up new avenues of data collection including the ability to follow web query trends that can be applied to models of real-world phenomenon. Google Correlate, an experimental new tool on Google Labs, is essentially a version of Google Trends
in reverse, allowing the user to enter a data series and get back a list of queries whose data sets follow a similar pattern. For example, if you enter the term “HIV”, Google Correlate returns the 10 queries whose search patterns most resemble that of “HIV”. In this case the list
includes “hiv statistics”, “aids prevention”, and “contraception”.
Results include the Pearson Correlation Coefficient (r) between your time series and each returned query and can be presented as a comparison over time (as a line or scatter plot), or geographically by U.S. state. When signed in to Google, users can upload their own data sets to compare with search terms or draw a line to discover terms that follow that trend pattern over time.
Google Correlate includes web search activity data from January 2003 to the present and new data is uploaded weekly. To get a better idea of how Google Correlate might benefit your research, check it out at correlate.googlelabs.com.