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Kerri Breen
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Website shows Cougar Helicopters, Swine flu top list of searched phrases

Data from search engine Google reveal what words were on the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in 2009.

Google's Insights for Search allows users to see what terms are most popular by time, geography and the category of the search.

Data from search engine Google reveal what words were on the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in 2009.

Google's Insights for Search allows users to see what terms are most popular by time, geography and the category of the search.

Type in any popular term, say "Danny Williams" and you can view a graph showing how much it was searched relative to all the terms searched on Google versus any time from now back to 2004.

According to Google's insights for search, "swine flu" is the province's third most searched term in Google news for this year.

The term, however, was not searched for steadily throughout.

A graph on the site reveals searches for the term had very significant spikes directly corresponding to the first and second waves of the disease.

The Top 10 overall news searches in the province included three terms related to the Cougar Flight 491 crash in March.

Five search terms related to the crash take up half of the province's Top 5 rising Google news searches .

Searches for the websites of all major news outlets in St. John's - The Telegram, CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, NTV and VOCM peaked very sharply around the time of the crash.

Unsurprisingly, "news" was the No. 1 search in the news filter, and "Newfoundland" was No. 2.

Lyle Wetsch, assistant professor of marketing at Memorial, said this speaks to society's trust in digital media. "If people don't equate what they read through news searches online to be as reliable as traditional media, most of them expect it be as reliable within the next year," he said of recent research he has seen.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians Googled "Facebook," "YouTube and "games" the most in 2009, reflecting the global popularity of the social networking service and video hosting site, respectively.

The province's searches for "Facebook login" had grown by more than 350 per cent over last year as of Dec. 22.

Wetsch said this is likely due to how people are using the search button - something Insights for Research cannot tell its users.

"People are not just using Google to search," he said. People use it as a short cut - typing a few words in order to head to a site more quickly.

"So it's navigational instead of inquiry," he said.

"NL classifieds" was the No. 2 rising search term, with a 150 per cent increase over last year as of Dec. 22.

Certain stats have no immediate explanation - why Newfoundlanders and Labradorians Googled "Danny Williams" twice as much in mid-November as they did in mid-April, for example. (Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones and NDP Leader Lorraine Michael's names did not produce enough searches to show graphs).

Wetsch said this kind of knowledge can be important to businesses because it identifies trends. In conjunction with tools like Google Alerts, which sends users an e-mail every time the terms they are interested in show up online, this information is becoming increasingly useful.

"If you're not being mentioned, if you're not being Googled, then that can sort of tell you that whatever your campaign to try to get things out there is not working," he said.

Other findings have a probable cause, or maybe not: The search term "news" received more than double the number of searches in mid-September, around the time council election campaigning was happening in more than half the municipalities in the province.

Many terms related to this year's major news stories, such as "constituency allowance," and "Lower Churchill," for example, were not searched often enough to produce data.

According to web traffic monitor Alexa, Google.ca is the most visited site in the country.

There are a few differences between what the rest of Canada Googled this year compared to this province.

The most frequently searched terms are "Facebook" and "YouTube," and the third term is "You."

Canada's No. 1 rising search is Twitter, which did not rank on the province's list.

"I wasn't surprised, actually to see ... that Twitter was up there higher in the Canadian stats," Wetsch said.

"I think it's something that particularly businesses in Newfoundland are just starting to realize the value of that."

Deceased pop star Michael Jackson was No. 2.

Out of the news searches, swine flu was the top of the list, followed by Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who was a contestant on "Britain's Got Talent." "H1N1" was No. 3, and "flu" was No. 4.

kbreen@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Google, Cougar Flight 491

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada Britain

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