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There may be an interesting takeaway here about using Google Trends data to make important decisions. I'd never do it - that data is only a guide and a support for brainstorming. Solid research needs to follow.
Google.org has a program to track search terms that might indicate flu activity....
Explore flu trends around the world
We've found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity up to two weeks faster than traditional systems.
Some discussion of Flu Trends on this thread here...
Sick? Having surgery? Have a booboo? Tell Google!
With regard to Flu Trends, I'd noted...
There was a May 12 interview re the swine flu on NPR's Talk of the Nation with an acting director of the CDC, and a fascinating point was made... that the google search data becomes clouded and the system breaks down as outbreaks are publicized and more people search for background information out of general concern rather than in response to symptoms.
Clearly economic searches are going to be similarly skewed.
That trend by no means that we are out of an economic slump, it just means people are not searching that term.
The global economic crisis is not an image issue or a reputation management problem, though I'm not surprised that Summers is trying to sing a lullaby to the US population. Then consider the news media. If they are no longer using the vocabulary word (and they're not) then searches will fall. It's called "managing the news cycle" - or even "Orewellian newspeak."
Google Trends could be a misleading guide for researching anything for any number of reasons. I've been thinking more about researching the potential market for a new business idea. Here are some concerns I'd have about leaning too heavily on the "free" data from Google Trends:
1. The potential market may have a need without knowing how to express it (at least not en masse)
2. The potential market may have no sense that what I hope to develop and market is even possible
3. The best keywords may not even be invented at this point
4. Google has been known to have buggy data from time to time ;)
6. Intent of searches is subject to various interpretation
Any value in comparing the "economic depression" trend to the one for "economic recession" or "economic crisis"?
With regard to #6, and also to ken_b's question, it's perhaps helpful to "triangulate" searches... ie, try to get different angles on the same subject. Compare, eg, the following terms, including the originally suggested "economic depression", to each other or in various groupings, or individually, and consider what the trends might mean....
Here are some sample comparisons....
unemployment,economic depression [google.com]
If you compare "unemployment" with "economic depression", you'll see that "economic depression" practically flatlines, whereas "unemployment" searches are clearly much more frequent and are on the rise.
unemployment,employment,economic depression [google.com]
If you add "employment" to these two, you'll see that search volume for "employment" was initially higher than for either of the above, but is trending down... whereas "unemployment" searches appear to be trending up. It's likely that volume on "employment" and "unemployment" searches will eventually cross.
economic depression [google.com]
economic depression,recession [google.com]
economic depression,economic recession [google.com]
economic depression,recession,unemployment,employment [google.com]
Comparing "economic depression" with "recession"... both have roughly the same pattern, but with "recession" peaks preceding "economic depression" peaks. Both peaked several times in late 2008 and early 2009, and then both trended down. As would be expected, the single word "recession" is much more frequently searched than the two-word "economic depression"... so direct comparisons on the chart are hard to make. Note that "economic recession" and "economic depression" match each other fairly closely. "Recession" is still much less frequently searched than "employment" and "unemployment".
Throwing in a four-letter word, "jobs"...
If you compare "employment", "unemployment", and "jobs", you'll see that the search volume for "jobs" is much higher than for either of the employment terms, and is trending up. As noted above, the searches for "unemployment" appear to be overtaking those for "employment".
unemployment,employment,jobs,economic depression [google.com]
If you add "economic depression" to this 3-way comparison, its relative volume is so low it doesn't even appear on the chart. Changing "economic depression" to just plain "recession" (just plain "depression" would be ambiguous without "economic") also has "recession" way under "jobs" and noticeably under "employment".