May 8, 2015

What does this search say about Vancouver?

Google provides an interesting function when you’re doing open-ended searches.  You can use * when you don’t want to be specific – or when you want to find out what are other people are commonly searching for.

Like this:  What does * cost?  And as you type it, Google indicates what it thinks you might be seaching for.

So, what are Vancouverites curious about?



Revealing, no?

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  1. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about what costs Vancouverites care about. The more revealing part might be the use of question format to do the search; and the choice to use the prefix “how much does.” If you try the technique without the prefix (ie “* cost Vancouver”) you get a very different picture. Just * Vancouver would obviously tap into many more queries that would also answer the cost question.

    It’s possible that those particular services are most frequently sought out by people who tend to do their searches that way, or that people who do their searches that way are very cost sensitive. Or that they are services whose clientele is more cost-sensitive than the clientele of other services. Or something like that.

    Though I have done thousands of searches about a plethora of goods and services in Vancouver, I can safely say that I have never used that search format. So your study does not begin to capture what costs I, or other people who use different search formats, actually care about.

  2. There is an implied presumption here that Google’s suggestions are based on search data and without influence from other factors – such as Google’s core business of web advertising. The less context provided, the more the blank to be filled in will be subject to any bias in the system.

  3. I tried the same search with other cities, with the following results…


    -the Max
    -a tummy tuck
    -it cost to live in
    -it cost to build a house in

    New York:

    -a pint
    -the bus
    -a pint of Guinness

  4. If you replace “How much ” with “cheapest”, it’s quite a different outcome …

    cheapest * in vancouver

    gas in Vancouver wa

  5. I don’t think this says much. Try the same search, but replace Vancouver with Calgary or Kelowna. Almost same results.

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