Perception of Risk

Google Trends and Google Insights for Search gives us the opportunity to gain information on a subject’s popularity. A paper by Google Inc. and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) have shown how search queries can be used to estimate the current level of influenza activity in the United States. (Ginsberg, Mohebbi, Patel, Brammer, Smolinski, & Brilliant, 2009)

It is tempting to use these Google tools to see how searches for terms connected to risk and strategy has developed over the last years. Using Google Trends searching for the terms; economic risk and financial strategy we find the relative and normalized search frequencies as shown in the graphs below:


The weekly observations starts in January 2004, but we have due to missing data (?) started the economic risk search series in September 2004. As is evident from the time series, the search terms are highly correlated (appr. 0.80) and there is a consistent seasonal variation – with heightened activity in spring and fall. The average value for the normalized search volume index (index) is 1.0 for the term economic risk and 1.58 for financial strategy. The term financial strategy has then on average been used 0.58 times more than economic risk.

The numbers …. on the y-axis of the Search Volume Index aren’t absolute search traffic numbers. Instead, Trends scales the first term you’ve entered so that its average search traffic in the chosen time period is 1.0; subsequent terms are then scaled relative to the first term. Note that all numbers are relative to total traffic. (About Google Trends, 2009)

Both series shows a falling trend from early 2004 to mid 2006, indicating the terms lower relative shares of all Google searches. However from that on the relative shares have been maintained, indicating increased interest in the terms against increased Internet search activity.

It is also possible to rank the different regions interest in the subject (the table can be sorted by pressing the column label):

Region Ranking

South Africa0.861.43
Hong Kong0.740.83
South Korea0.440.46
New Zealand0.260.38

Singapore is the region with the highest shares of searches including  the term ‘risk’ and South African the region with the highest shares of searches including ‘strategy’ In India the term ‘financial strategy’ is important but ‘risk’ is less important.`

The most striking feature of the table however is the lack of American and European regions. Is there less interest in these subjects in the Vest than in the East ?


Ginsberg, J, Mohebbi, M, Patel, R, Brammer, L, Smolinski, M., & Brilliant, L., (2009). Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data. Nature, 457, 1012-1014.

(n.d.). About Google trends. Retrieved from

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About the Author

S@R develops models for support of decision making under uncertainty. Taking advantage of recognized financial and economic theory, we customize simulation models to fit specific industries, situations and needs.

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