Using Google to Track the Spread of Flu

Posted by & filed under online marketing, Social Media, Web Analytics.

A while back we published a post on using Google to predict elections. A similar post has recently been submitted by Jeremiah Owyang on the use of social networking stats for similar analysis. Obviously, in both cases, one cannot heavily rely on these numbers to predict elections, as they’re a reflection of interest and one cannot guarantee that interest turns into votes. But in both cases, there’s a great deal of entertainment value associated with the data.

However, a recent article in New York Times reveals a much more powerful side of Google Trends. In this case, Google is using its search data ot track the spread of flu within the United States. More specifically, deta from last year revealed that Google saw a spike in number of searches for terms such as “flu symptoms” about two weeks before the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reported regional outbreaks. The graph below shows the comparison between the two data sources.

Using Google to track flu outbreak

I must admit this is one of the most clever uses of Google Trends as it captures real data in a manner that can be used to actually predict trends. Congratulations to the folks at Google.

About Ali Behnam

Ali is the Co-Founder and President of Tealium. Prior to co-founding the company in 2008, he held several senior-level positions at WebSideStory (now Adobe Systems), Visual Sciences, and Omniture. He joined WebSideStory in a product management role where he managed the company’s enterprise level products, and later joined the company’s professional services team managing strategic clients. Ali holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.

by Ali Behnam
Co-Founder, President
1 comment