Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

25.12.2020 Wait...Let me Google that! Tech Talk Column 230


Significant dollars are spent on market research and statistical services across this nation. With over 14,000 people employed in the sector it is worth over $3 Billion (US$50 Billion worldwide). While I don’t propose that we should shut down this industry, we can gain a small insight into what is happening in every home and business across the nation by looking at one piece of information. Google search data. With the notable exception of the Census, most market research takes a sample size and extrapolates the data to make educated estimations whereas Google search data gathers information from every single search performed throughout the year.

And what did we learn from looking at that data?

I am disappointed to say that the number one search term in Australia for the year was…”US election.” The election only occurred on 3 November yet it was the most searched term for the year! I am not sure why we are so fascinated with the US but the data doesn’t lie. Number two was no surprise. “Coronavirus.” With most of the terrible bushfires at the beginning of this year extinguished by 10 February, it is somewhat surprising that “Fires near me” was number three on the list. “Coronavirus Victoria” was number four followed by “Toilet paper.” I am not sure if people were searching where to buy it, how to make it or what to do with it, but we seem to have a fascination with the ten-centimetre square of two ply that hangs in every home.

When I look at the most popular sport terms for the year, we again see the fascination with the US. “NBA” was number one showing the attraction that is American basketball. English soccer is still a very big sport with “EPL” number two and “State of Origin 2020” was the first Australian sport at number three. Soccer was featured again at number four with “Champions League” and cricket rounded out the first five with “IPL” fifth.

When I researched searches that included the term “How to…” it was certainly obvious that COVID-19 made a huge impact here. “How to make hand sanitiser” was number one – although I am not sure I would completely trust a home-made hand sanitiser. “How to make a face mask” was number two and number three reinforced a comment I have made several times during the pandemic. We have accelerated our use of technology by about three years in the first three months of the pandemic. “How to use Zoom” was number three on the list. “How to get tested for coronavirus” was next on the list and “How to make bread” rounded out the top five. Sales of flour increased by 160 per cent over 2019 and cookbook sales went up by 15 per cent. People sitting at home suddenly had time to do things they wouldn’t normally do – like bake bread. Except, looking at the Google data, they didn’t actually know how to do it.

Lastly, when I pulled the Google data that included the term “Can I…” I found a list completely driven by the pandemic. “Where can I buy toilet paper” topped the list with buying hand sanitiser a close second. Finding a location to be tested for coronavirus was third and the government should be pleased with itself that the fourth term was “Can I access my super” showing that early access to superannuation was a popular move. We also missed visitors with “How many people can I have in my house” at number five.

Let me know which of these results surprised you the most at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson