What are Canadians really keen on? Ask Google

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

What Canadian city is the most iPhone crazy? Which video game console has really captured interest across the country? These are questions we think about here. And while the Google Trends Labs tool doesn't provide the definitive answers to these questions, it does provide some interesting metrics that hint at where Canadians' interests lie.

Lost in the volume of the internet search giant's seemingly never-ending beta tests, Google Trend Labs slipped under our radar when it was released in May.

Basically, it tracks all of the search terms entered into Google and spits out trend information on what, exactly, we are spending our time searching. It gives information on which search terms are "hot" in the here and now, and interestingly breaks down searches by region and city, giving a snapshot of who in which city is searching what... and when are they searching it.

There are a number of caveats to the usefulness of these numbers, however. First, Google finds out what city a searcher is from by looking at server logs and looking at IP address information to "make a best guess about where queries originated." Second, the city rankings are based on intensity, not volume, comparing the number of searches of a particular term with the total number of searches originating from that city. Thirdly, and most disappointingly, the cities and regions are ranked graphically, but we never see the numbers behind the results.

Having said all of that, it seems to work: the most searches with the word "Blackberry" came from Waterloo, home of Research in Motion, while searching for video-game maker "Bioware" turned up Edmonton as the top city. It's also a great deal of fun to use.

So which Canadian city is abuzz over the iPhone? Overall, it's Etobicoke, Ontario, says Google Trends Labs, followed by other Toronto-area burgs Markham, Mississauga and Scarborough.

How about those other tech toys, the consoles? According to the Google Trend Labs numbers, search terms including "Wii" or "PS3" were seen more often in searches conducted from Langley, BC than any other city in Canada, while the most intense interest in the XBox 360 comes from Barrie, Ont.

And which console is driving the most interest? Check out this comparison: the Wii has been tops in 2007, except for a burp in September (the launch of Halo 3,) when the XBox 360 took the top spot.

An accurate representation of our interests? Hard to say without seeing the numbers behind them. But certainly interesting enough that we'll be spending more time seeing what makes Canadians tick.

Here's the link to the main Trends page, and one that looks at Canadian numbers.