photo Everybody lies except google

Following in the wake of Freakonomics, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are is a gold mine of information for quantitative analysis fans, and particularly if you’re interested in SEO.

everybody lies - seth stephens davidowitz

Drawing on data from numerous sources, including Google, Facebook and even Youporn, Seth demonstrates that social desirability bias has a big impact on our statuses and stated opinions, and makes us lie on social media and in surveys. The truth is out there though…Google has become the friendly ear of the web we share all our secrets with.

As stated in the Guardian : “The trails we leave as we seek knowledge on the internet are tremendously revealing”. And social sciences now finally have an effective measuring tool: Big Data.

Everybody Lies: Google search requests and political stances

In Everybody Lies, p10 reveals an important SEO lesson in relation to Google searches during the US elections:

Our research suggests that a person is significantly more likely to put the candidate they support first in a search that includes both candidates’ names (Page 10)

This trend holds true in France if we look at the search terms typed during the recent presidential elections:

Keyword Searches
debat macron le pen 90500
debat le pen macron 9900
débat hollande sarkozy 210
débat sarkozy hollande 170

Does this mean that brands hoping to target their competitors’ customers should try to be well ranked for searches beginning with their name? An interesting idea that’s definitely worth testing! This could also help determine market share – the following example suggests that Android, Chrome and Sonos are stronger than their competitors in France:

Keyword Searches
android ou ios 590
ios ou android 480
chrome ou firefox 320
firefox ou chrome 260
sonos ou bose 320
bose ou sonos 260

Sexist bias in Google searches relating to gifted and overweight children in the US, France and the UK.

In Everybody Lies, Seth also looks at the sexism demonstrated by internet users. When it comes to subjects like obesity and extreme intelligence, parents in the US ask Google different questions depending on the gender of their children.

Consider questions about a child’s weight. Parents Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?” (pp. 135-136).

Here’s the data from Google Keyword Planner for the US, France and the UK:

United States :

Keyword Monthly Searches
is my child gifted 590
is my child overweight 210
is my son gifted 110
is my daughter gifted 70
is my daughter overweight 50
is my son overweight 30
is my son a genius 10
is my daughter a genius

There is a clear 40-point difference between searches for gifted girls (70) and boys (110); and a 20-point difference for obesity (50/30).


Keyword Searches
enfant surdoué 1600
enfant en surpoids 210
ma fille est en surpoids 30
comment savoir si mon enfant est surdoué 30
comment savoir si mon fils est surdoué 20
mon fils est surdoué 10
mon fils est en surpoids
ma fille est surdouée
comment savoir si ma fille est surdouée
comment savoir si ma fille est en surpoids
comment savoir si mon fils est en surpoids

In France, the question is formulated differently with no searches for “is my daughter overweight” or “how to know if my daughter overweight”. However, the expression “my daughter is overweight” is typed 30 times a month vs. only 0-10 times for boys. Boys feature in 20 monthly searches for “is my son a genius” vs. 0-10 times for girls (representing potential differences of 30/20).

United Kingdom

Keyword Searches
is my child overweight 170
is my child gifted 90
is my son gifted 20
is my daughter overweight 20
is my daughter gifted 10
is my son overweight 10
is my son a genius 10
is my daughter a genius

For the British, obesity seems to be a more popular topic that being gifted. But, for both topics, the difference between girls and boys is only about 10 monthly searches, making the United Kingdom the least biased of the three countries.

Social science is becoming a real science. And this new, real science is poised to improve our lives. (p. 272). 

In conclusion, and as Seth suggests in his book, Big Data has a lot to teach us when applied to social sciences, and SEO consultants could be the ideal partners for researchers.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions, comments or thoughts about this article.

It would be interesting to analyse Google searches for Germany, Spain, Italy and other countries. Any volunteers?

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