My friend James is probably the smartest person I know. Whether he is teaching himself music in order to do the soundtrack to an amazing documentary of his, building innovative mammal free zones in New Zealand, riding a motorbike or in Madagascar fighting the Asian toad.
The what? When a modern human comes across something unknown, we Google it. Just like that. Which means that billions (3.2 billion) of searches a day globally can tell us a lot. People in the UK search for “toad” more than other countries, but of course there are toad in books, children’s series, music band and all sorts of other things. Maybe there are opportunities in those for some sort of co-promotion. The English are followed by Ausies, Americans, Canadians, NZ and …Nigeria? Following Google searches is a bit like the dictionary game. I just spent five minutes learning about “The Grasshopper and the Toad”, a short story by a Nigerian, as well as the use of the word “toad” in Nigerian politics. Which is exactly the sort of peripheral knowledge you need as a business when researching your topic.
For example searches for “toad” have seasonality. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be because of some amphibian habit. For example in the UK, October seems to be the main month for “toad in the hole”, a popular local dish, comfort food for many. By contrast in the America, searches for “toad” peak every year at May and Arkansas is the state leading in interest. If you are planning a campaign for the Asian toad, maybe do it in the winter when people so you don’t compete with all the people asking “what is the difference between a toad and a frog?” In Australia searches for toads are in the Northern territory, don’t waste any ad money elsewhere.
Of course Google “normalises” the data. Which means they try and mess it up enough so you can’t reverse engineer it, or use it to compete. Still, with time, even without numbers, you can see that there are more searches for a “horned frog” than an “asian toad”. You can follow that path too and look for promotional opportunities if you want to.
I picked the example of the Asian Toad on purpose. If you are using a business problem you are often too close to the topic to explore. For example searches for “toad” correlate in seasonality in the U.S. with searches for “vinyl siding”, “house paints”, “insects” and “utility trailer”. Each of these terms merits some online detective work. Working around the limitations of data provided by Google is actually inspiring. Searches for “frog” correlate mostly with “garden clogs” in America but while checking this out I discovered “save the frogs”, a poetry competition in Australia which made quite a digital dent in terms of stats.
Searches for “toad” in Australia correlate with the term “religious”. The search to figure out why this occurs won’t fit in a blog post. But you see the point: playing around with Google search data brings new ideas to your project. It changes priorities by giving new angles. Something you consider secondary might be a huge business opportunity in a specific segment. New ideas are born, old ones improved. We are all essentially trying to build a model of how things work. Use Google’s model to tweak yours.
It is a big and complex world. Don’t let your assumptions narrow things down too quickly. Oh, and check out http://jamesreardon.org/ – tell people about the Asian toad and let’s all do something about it.