“If you want to see how a society thinks, look at what it searches for.”
Allow me to slightly rewrite Shaw’s wise counsel: “If you want to know what a society is interested in reading about, look at what it searches for.”
As writers (and publishers) of nonfiction books, magazine articles—even novels—it behooves us to be on top of whatever is about to break into the collective consciousness.
In other words, to be able to predict what a majority—or at least a large segment—of us are going to be interested in next week, next month, or next year.
Easier said than done
I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems to me that, by the time I notice a trend exists, it’s already fading.
So how do you figure out what next will be hot?
Check out the “Top Searches” lists supplied for free by many Internet search engines. Most of them keep the lists updated and archives of past lists are even available.
The searched-for items that appear on each list are undoubtedly what people are interested in at the moment.
However, these subjects may be old news by the time you do your research and write about them, so look for subjects that are just beginning to show up here and there on these lists. Also check the archived lists to see what subjects have exhibited staying power.
Here are some places to start:
On Google Trends, you can get a list of the 20 current hot searches or reset the date to see what was hot on any specific day going back to May 15, 2007.
You can also do a keyword search that returns a graph that shows search volume and news reference volume.
When I searched on “Kindle,” the graph went back to 2004, which I assume was the first mention of Kindle by Amazon.com. It then flat-lined through 2005, 2006, and most of 2007, spiking when the first Kindles became available late in 2007.
After a lackluster 2008, search volume steadily climbed in 2009 to the present with a huge spike coinciding with the recent release of the Kindle Fire.
Yahoo Buzz lists its search engine’s current top 20 searches as well as the current top 20 “Movers.” Movers are terms that are currently spiking.
As I write this—on Sunday, October 16, 2011—Movers include “401k Plans,” “9 9 9 Tax Plan,” and “Bankruptcy Protection.” Hmmm. Wonder why.
Menu choices across the top of Yahoo Buzz’s home screen deliver the current top 20 searches under the categories actors, movies, music, sports, TV, and video games.
Want to know what’s fading? Click on “Decliners” for a current list of the 20 terms that are most rapidly declining in popularity.
Go to Bing Images to see the latest trends in what images people are searching for.
Technorati doesn’t have a great deal to do with Internet searches, but nothing much is more current than the blogosphere. Spend some time on Technorati to keep up on what is popular in the world of bloggers.
By the way, George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both the Noble Prize for Literature and an Oscar. We should be so talented.
Just a write thought.