Nicholas Wigginton highlighted Google Trends a couple of weeks ago. You put in a search term and get back a graph showing the peaks and troughs in searches for that phrase over a given time period. For very common terms, you also get a chart of news references for the term. Here are a few examples.
1. Richard Dawkins
After a few years evolving in the wilderness, the Great Atheist of Oxford slams back into prominence towards the end of 2006 with the publication of The God Delusion. Google Trends also gives a geographic breakdown (searches for the given term are normalised by dividing by the total of all searches from the region). For some reason, the normalised Irish were twice as likely as Americans to search for Richard Dawkins. Edinburgh was top city.
2. Cancer cure
There’s nothing very informative in the graph, but top region for this search term is the Philippines (any theories why?), followed by Canada and the USA.
Interesting to note the prominence of Asia-Pacific in this line-up. And look at Iran.
4. Stem cells
Here’s a good example of how Google Trends can help identify reasons for peaks in search terms. For stem cells, India was again top dog, followed by Singapore and Australia.
That’s just a few examples. Have a play (it is Friday afternoon) and see if you can come up with anything surprising.