We google what we think.

Examining your Google search history  — what you’ve typed into the Google search box whenever you go looking for something on the web — can be, well, eye-opening. Your Google search history does a pretty good job of documenting what what’s been on your mind. In answering our every question, Google has become an online catalog of our thoughts.

When you view someone’s Google search history, it is as if you are peering inside that person’s mind. Consequently, when you examine search-string usage of all searchers over time, you are now peering into the minds of everyone who has ever Googled since Google began.  You tap into the Google Zeitgeist,  the collective consciousness that defines who we are.

I google, therefore I am. 

Google Trends is a rabbit hole I highly recommend exploring.  It provides mesmerizing documentation of the rise and fall in popularity of anything that can be “googled”. Of course, “rise and fall” is just the flip-side of “supply and demand”.  So it is not surprising that Google Trends is being used for stock market investment. And it has other interesting applications. Spikes in flu symptom keywords usage have help public health professionals tract the flu and predict its spread.

While brings me to the topic of this particular post. Google has captured an intriguing trend that should raise questions, if not serious concern, in the world of executive recruiting. I honestly don’t know what to make of it.  So I offer the trendline comparison up to you, the reader, for your analysis and commentary.

With that background, what do you make of the comparison of Google search trends in news headlines for “Search Firm” and “LinkedIn”:

Search Firm


“Search firm” goes from a high of 100 in 2004 to 16 today. (Google explains that the number represents search interest relative to the term’s highest position on the chart. So, if at best 10 percent of searches for the given region and time frame were for “pizza,” the word pizza would be rated a 100. It doesn’t indicate raw volume.)  Still, it forecasts a drop to 12 on the interest Richter scale by January 2016. Interesting. Let’s check people’s interest in using Google to search for LinkedIn, shall we?


The trend line goes from 1 in January of 2005 to 86 today. Interest level is expected to reach 112 by January of 2016.

Now let’s compare the drop in interest to things that have gone the way of the dodo.

“Compact Disc” is, unsurprisingly, not as popular as it once was. In January 2004 its interest number was 100. Now? Fifteen.

Compact Disc


“Blockbuster Video” is in the same boat. In January 2004, it was 100. Now it’s a sad little two.

Blockbuster Video

On the flip side, if you check the trendline on MP3s or Netflix, you get practically the opposite result.

So what does this mean? Does it always mean that interest in one thing drives down interest in another? Is there always a causal relationship? No way. In the case of “search firm,” it might be that people don’t use the term as much as they used to — but they’re still looking for the service. They might use “headhunter” or “recruiter” instead, both of which fare better in Google Trends.


It’s a topic worth exploring more, I think.  I’ll return to it in another post.  But in the meantime, give Google Trends a try. Let me know what you think about the Search Firm and LinkedIn trends.  What does the rise and fall of use of those terms in Google search tell us about the respective rise and fall of executive recruiting and LinkedIn?

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