May 21, 2009

The truth is in the details

Yesterday I blogged about how Google search data indicated that Adam Lambert would be the runaway favorite to win American Idol. After all, he had an almost 4:1 margin over Kris Allen in search activity. So you can guess my stunned amazement when I learned Allen had pulled the upset.

So where did the numbers go wrong. I still believe that search data can be used to predict outcomes like this, but the analysis has to go a little deeper than simply looking at whose name is getting search fore most often. The truth was in the details.

I went back and looked at the data last night to figure out how this played out. I began by looking at both "Kris Allen" and "Adam Lambert" related search terms from the past 30 days, and discovered that "Kris Allen" related terms outpaced "Adam Lambert" related terms by almost a 2:1 ratio. A further indication of the momentum Allen had established in the closing days of the competition, breakout terms, or terms rising faster than Google can calculate the rate of increase, showed Kris had an almost 3:1 edge.

Google Insights Top 10 Rising Searches - Past 30 days

Analyzing the data from a number of different angles showed the same story. Over the final week of the competition, Allen's lead of the top rising searches grew to nearly 3 to 1, and search terms rising at a rate greater than 250% showed Allen with a slightly better than 2:1 lead.

Google Insights Top 10 Rising Searches - Past 7 days

A further indication of Allen's gaining momentum and Lambert's popularity erosion is seen when looking at the data on a per name basis. Looking at just "Kris Allen" related terms over both the past 30 and past 7 days, only searches related to his name and American Idol are found among the Top 10 Rising Searches.

Search terms related to "Kris Allen" - Past 30 days

Search terms related to "Kris Allen" - Past 7 days
When looking at Lambert's rising searches, it become evident that Kris Allen was invading those searches and instead showing Allen as the true dominant force.

Search terms related to "Adam Lambert" - Past 30 days

Search terms related to "Adam Lambert" - Past 7 days

The lesson from this? You must take a deeper look to attempt to discern or characterize the nature of the interest rather than looking at the sheer volume alone.