Could Google have predicted the recession?

The property sector is arguably one of the more important indicators of the general state of the economy, and economists have for some time used figures surrounding the market to advise government departments on the balance of the market.

Property prices and house values are one such indicator, and when combined with other metrics, such as unemployment – used to make important decisions. However, one of the primary problems, and challenges facing economists, is the speed at which data is received. Often, the data is out of date by the time it gets into the hands of the people that matter.

Web Development in Property

Thankfully, the web’s is advancing at a speed of knots, bring information delivery ever closer to real time, and products such as Twitter and Facebook, whilst used primarily as a social tool now, are undoubtedly laying the ground work for other real time streams of information.  In addition to their technology, Google have also recently changed internal architecture at the Googleplex, with their ‘Caffeine‘ technology enabling a must faster indexing of the web.

One of their more interesting products that we have a lot of fun playing around with internally, is Google Insight’s for search. This tool allows users to see both past trends of searches that happened previously on Google, and it also offers an analysis of future potential trends. Think of it like a stock market for searches. If there is a peak in the results, for example for searches such as the Winter Olympics, you can pretty much pinpoint an event. i.e The Winter Olympics in Canada happened around February.

Applying this logic to the property market provides pretty interesting results, for example – if we want to drill down into specific searches that happened in particularly countries, we may be able to identify if searches within the property sector are on the up, or still on the way down. Take a look at some of these searches and the associated results.

The following is a graph showing the trend for ‘searches in Northern Ireland’, for property, over the past number of years. It pretty much reflects what happened in the property market – with a serious lack of confidence, the second half of 2007, and after September the 11th. It also shows a gradual increase in volume of searches, indicating consumer confidence if nothing else. Granted, it is no-where near what it was, but a positive incline none the less.

Searches for Property in Northern Ireland.

Another tell tale indicator of the market, would be the number of sale searches, verses rentals across Google. The graph shows a gradual increase in rentals, although sales searches are still greater in number. Searches for ‘house prices’ are indicated by the red line on the graph, and follow closely the pattern for sale searches.

The jobs market should also indicate the general state of the economy. Searches for “belfast jobs” – one of the highest searched terms on the web should reflect the current state of unemployment in the city. According to Google, we are pretty much hitting our peak right about now, and there’s still a number of people looking for work.

Searches for “Belfast jobs”

This is obviously not an exact science, and the tool suffers from the same issues mentioned with house prices- the data is still out of data, but as Google continue to develop this tool, improve the predictive algorithm (perhaps even using some of the data from their finance product) – and integrate it further with the real time web, it will most certainly become an important tool for predicting market swings. Combine that with live data from government departments (supplied direct to Google via a feed?) – with data from products such as Google checkout (number of purchases over time with average price of purchase), with existing organic and PPC data– and Google could have a pretty interesting tool for predicting the economy.

About PropertyPal

Today’s guest blog comes from Paul Anthony, who works as Internet Marketing Manager for Northern Ireland’s largest property website, His role within the company includes managing all search engine optimisation, search engine marketing and social media activity. is Northern Ireland’s number 1 property website, displaying details of more homes for sale and rent than any other website. It has around 95% of all properties for sale and rent, and at any time stocks over 40,000 properties to buy or rent. Including at time of writing approximately 5,000 houses for sale in Belfast, and 1,770 houses for rent in Belfast
It is independently owned and has more properties to rent in Belfast than any other Northern Ireland website since January 2010.
What do you think?  Let us know in the comments.