After discussing the merits of web2.0 tools such as RSS feeds and Google Reader in competitive intelligence yesterday, it seemed a neat idea to look at what else is useful for finding and parsing information. One of the coolest tools I use on a daily basis on the internet is Google Insights.
It's great for getting general trends and an indication of what is current in an area that you might be interested in. Clients often call while travelling, for example, and want a general idea about a particular cancer topic. Using Google Insights or Trends can be a boon in these cases.
Supposing someone calls and is interested in top line information on breast vs. lung cancer? Now, while many of us might have a huge database in an aggregator such as Google Reader, it's a database and not so easy to use pictures to paint the picture to the question framed.
Using Google Insights, we can get a snapshot like this:
We can see immediately that breast cancer has a greater volume of interest on the internet than lung cancer, even though more people die per year from lung cancer.
We can also see what topics influence the upward trends and what topics have very little impact and see those trends over time. A picture tells a thousand words.
On the simple one page report there is other useful information, such as which subjects are most newsworthy by tumour type based on the search volume:
And what ones are rising at the moment:
What's fascinating about the above table is inflammatory breast cancer is quite rare and yet there is a lot of interest in the topic at the moment. Clicking on the topic tells us more detail about what women are specifically searching for there:
Few appear to be searching for treatments, but early signs and symptoms such as rash and itching are prominent. Now, if you were a drug company developing a new therapy in this area and wanted to reach out to those patients, that could be useful information both for helping provide education on diagnosis, signs and symptoms etc and also for how the drug being developed might be positioned on their website should they be trying to attract patients into clinical trials, for example.
The lung cancer statistics tell us they people are searching for more general symptoms, the impact of smoking on the disease and treatments:
In contrast, the Insights information on rising topics in lung cancer tells a very different story. The most searched term here is 'stage 4 cancer', which would sadly fit in with the typical diagnosis for the disease, as are the related organs, suggesting that these patients are already experiencing common metastases (spread of the disease to other areas of the body):
Overall, this is just one example of how powerful online tools such as Google Insights can be used to drill down for relevant and timely information on current trends and influencers. Even in this simple exanple, you can see the differences between the two biggest tumour types and of course, other cancers may also show subtle, but different trends on analysis. Thus, not all cancers are the same – they have different patient groups, influencers etc and should be treated as different diseases rather than just as 'cancer'. Knowing that when researching the topic is important in itself as an analyst. The information gleaned could also be useful for competitive intelligence when looking at tumour types or comparing different cancer drug trends.