Compile Your Own Google Zeitgeist List For 2008

The data compiled in Google's Year End Zeitgeist for 2008 makes great reading; however, it barely touches on what Google can offer in terms of tools for crunching the huge amounts of data that go through the search engine giant's servers.

Google offers four separate tools that allow you to sift through the various types of data compiled by Google and allow you to create your own personal Zeitgeist list all round the year and with much more detail.

The simplest - and most straight forward - is Hot trends which is a list of the top 100 fastest-rising search queries in the United States (which would be appear in other western and English-speaking countries' lists) and is updated every few minutes. The service allows you to search historically and compare several terms.

This experimental feature, called Google Trends, provides you with a comprehensive visual representation of daily unique visitors across a set period of time and across a wide range of regions worldwide. It shows you when a particular term has been searched, what the corresponding articles are, where it was searched the most and what languages were used. Users will notice that the graphs and data provided do not bear any value, they are relative to each other. See for example the Trends page for "Open Handset Alliance".

Google Trends for website is an extension of the above. It is used primarily to compare websites, basically providing insights into broad search patterns and although it is not perfect, it gives you a rough approximation. Check the Trends page for

The last and potentially more detailed tool is "Insights for search" which allows marketers and power users to query data using complex terms. You can search across categories, across time and across regions, from 2004 to today.

A search for the fastest rising search worldwide in the past 12 months shows a rather different pattern compared to Google's official Zeitgeist list, possibly because "Insights for search" offers a more accurate depiction, since Zeitgeist uses only 11 months of the year.

Sarah Palin is oddly not in the list of rising searches. Tuenti scores a 3050 percent increase while Nasza Klasa climbs a whopping 950 percent.

Finally, it is worth noting that you can compare the relative popularity of search terms and can be a real eye opener when used judiciously. See for example our test with five well known global fast food chains.