The answer is not on Google

Mark Smith, Senior Strategist, talks about what you will and won't find using Google Search.

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to a small presentation hosted by Google. Over the space of an hour they amazed their agency-based audience with a back-stage tour of their latest and greatest technology. Inspiring us. Making us think about how the brand we manage might use their product.

We got whirled through the world of search in all its forms. Maps, news, photos, reviews, from mobile to laptop to wearable…but where it really got interesting is the part where they told us about the data created from people searching. Not the actual search results, but those innocuous little search terms we type into that box that tells us everything. Want to know who the next President will be? Who will win X-Factor? Where flu is spreading? Well, Google knows. Kinda.

People type in ‘runny nose, tickly throat’, Google knows when and where they did. And they can track everyone who types in the same symptoms – tracing the path of flu across the land as it spreads from one search box to the next. It’s so good the NHS could use the information to ensure vaccinations are in the right place at the right time, just by looking at the data generated by search terms. In fact, they probably do.

They even productised it – Google Trends. Type in a search term and it will tell you how popular that search term is over time. Type in ‘Loom bands’ and you can chart their meteoric rise from August 2013 to the heady heights of July 2014, followed by their inevitable downfall.

Google Trends 1

It has become a tool I play with right at the start of a project to get a feel for market trends. Usually projects oriented around helping an organisation find its purpose. Here's one you can try. Type in ‘Financial profit’ and you’ll see a slow decline in popularity over the last ten years. Next type in ‘Business Purpose’ and watch as the graph rises. From a low point of in 2007, we can see an almost 100% increase in people searching for ‘Business purpose’ by 2015.

Google Trends 2

People are no longer looking for profit, they are searching for purpose Tweet this. I find that fascinating. They still want your products, services or job (hey, it's not just your customers, but investors, employees and potential employees). But, they want something deeper to gain their loyalty. They want to know what you believe, how you contribute to their community, what drives you - and the answer should probably not be profit.

Here’s the kicker though, you’re not going to find your purpose on Google. The only way to do that is to search your own soul. Starting inside your organisation, and expanding from the leaders outwards.

Get it right, and you won't be searching for financial profit, it will searching for you.