Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fun with Goggle Trends and Week 13 Carfree Stats

As part of my job at the non profit I work for, I spend a lot of time reading blogs that are all about the effective use of social media. There is plenty of BS to sift through out there, but I have also found some great tools that I never knew existed. One of which is Google Trends. What I'm about to write is mostly for the benefit of other alternative transportation and carfree bloggers.

If you've never heard of Google Trends don't worry, its not all that important. Basically its a tool that measures the search volume of a given word or phrase over time. So you can see when news events affect a phrases search volume as you can see in the following graph - which just for the fun of it and as a good example of news pushing search - shows search volume for Michael Jackson. The recent news of his passing caused Google search volumes to increase by over 40 times the normal search volume average.

Michael Jackson Search

We can then use this tool to analyze trends in search, which is really a measure of how a concept spreads through our society; the more people are thinking about a particular issue, the more Google searches are performed around a given concept. Below you can see the results for "carfree" in Google search and notice that carfree is a concept that for sometime wasn't showing up in Google's radar. One also notices that events such as carfree days and conferences are major drivers of search traffic.

Another useful feature is a display of the regions, cities, and languages that are searching the most for the term. In the case of "carfree" Hungary is the region generating the most searches while Phoenix, AZ (WTF) Portland, OR and Budapest Hungary are the three most prolific searchers.

Carfree Search

Again, we can see that the concept of alternative transportation, while not new, has in the last several years gained social awareness. And after reading through the information about Google Trends I've concluded that the dead space in the graphs for both "carfree" and "alternative transportation" isn't form Google not tracking the terms or people not searching for these concepts. Rather, its the result of such low search volumes to begin with that the current search volumes make the old data from years 04 and 05 not show up on the graph because of the graphs scale, which just goes to illustrating how much these two ideas have seeped into our social consciousness.

Alternative Transportation Search

The next graph for "cycling" was interesting. First, the fact that it is trending down doesn't mean less people are searching for the term, just that the average search volume is slowly increasing, making the peaks less out of range with the average. Secondly, the peaks are associated with the Tour de France.

Cycling Search

Of course using a seemingly related search term such as "bicycle" can change the trend significantly even though it would seem that they are closely related. Gone are the big peaks produced by the Tour de France and instead we see more gentle increases during the summer months as people no doubt search for bike shops, parts, new bikes, and places to ride while the weather is nice.

Bicycle Search

Finally, we can see a true trend with "fixie" the term given to fixed-gear bicycles by urban hipsters. The Europeans have us beat when it comes to Fixies, with Denmark topping the search list for regions while the US is only sixth.

Fixie Search

Week 13 Carfree Stats

Miles Biked: 54.99

Gallons Saved: 3.44

CO2 Not Emitted: 21.58 Ibs


Daniel said...

Cool. This is all new to me.

Christa said...

Very interesting! Love these stats too.

By the way, I've recently gotten a car. It was a gift so I couldn't refuse. I plan to use it only for emergencies. I consider it a lesson in intentionally reducing VMT.

It's an odd feeling to sit in the car after not being in one for so long - headache, dizziness, and loss of energy.

CarFree Stupidity said...

Thats kinda of funny Christa... no one is going to hold it against you. Of course now you get the joy of maintaining a vehicle, which unlike a bike isn't easy. I'm guessing in your long journey of being carfree you learned how to maintain most things on your bike?

Christa said...

I went through a phase of refurbishing vintage bikes. So much fun and rewarding! I'm surprised these bikes are priced so low. You can find them on Craigslist for less than $100, but I imagine they are worth so much more.

My hobby has subsided though. My apartment in San Diego doesn't have official bike parking unlike my former residence in Davis. Davis apartments are mandated by city code to have at least one bike parking spot for each room. Similar code exists for commercial developments. These small policy changes make it easier to cycle for transportation... and to support my bike hobby.

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