Let’s ask Google Trends
If you haven’t heard of Google Trends, it’s time you did. Google Trends is an incredible free tool available to everyone. It documents the relatively frequency of specific search terms used on Google, over time – basically, what people are searching for on Google. Since Google has around 65% of the search traffic in the world, this is a pretty good indicator of what’s popular (and it’s a huge volume of data, too!).
So where does Kim Kardashian come into this? Well, a comparison of “Kim Kardashian” vs “Education” shows a worrying trend…..
Kim Kardashian vs Education (Australia, 2004-Present)
Education, in blue, has been in steady decline since Google started tracking trends right back in 2004. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian has been growing – slowly but surely with some peaks of popularity. Hold on one moment – right there, on the right side of the graph! Earlier this year, for the first time ever, Miss Kardashian was searched for more times than Education in Australia.
That might explain a few things… but is the continual decline of Education shown on the graph above really the fault of Kim?
Well correlation does not equal causation.
Correlation: “The simultaneous change in value of two numerically valued random variables.”
Causation: “The act or fact of causing; the production of an effect by a cause.”
That means that while there might be a negative correlation between Kim and Education (Kim is being searched more often as the number of searches for education drops off Education) she isn’t necessarily the cause. A quick look at the graph shows that searches for Education were already on the decline when Miss Kardashian first became a household name and started building her cult of personality back in 2007, all thanks to a certain video…
So what other factors can we look at? Maybe it’s TV’s fault?
TV vs Education (Australia, 2004-Present)
Again we can see a negative correlation between searches for Education and TV, with TV enjoying a much higher search volume than Education. We can even drill down into the data to work out the relative popularity of the terms in each state:
Relative searches for TV vs Education, by State & Territory
And since I’m from the Northern Territory, let’s have a closer look at that region:
Origin of searches for TV vs Education in the NT
In reality, it can be quite challenging to work out the exact root cause(s) of trends such as these. Long term social changes might be the underlying factor in our decision to search for TV more than Education. Trends will also be affected by current events (new technologies, changes to laws, political issues), and by changes in the way people seek information:
Education vs TV vs Wiki & Wikipedia (Australia, 2004-Present)
Searches for Wikipedia have tapered off in recent years but they were beating out TV for a while there! There is probably a practical reason – these days Google generally ranks Wikipedia articles in the top 10 results for just about anything you search for, so people si
mply don’t need to add Wiki or Wikipedia into their searches. I’m still hopeful people want to learn and be informed, even if they’re not searching specifically for “education” anymore!
Hopefully this article also gave you a little taste of the kind of data and detail Google Trends can generate quickly and easily, for free. Look out for the follow up where we demonstrate some of the ways you can use Google Trends as a tool for teaching or training in the classroom and to further your career!
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