Mavragani A, Ochoa G & Tsagarakis KP (2018) Assessing the Methods, Tools, and Statistical Approaches in Google Trends Research: Systematic Review. JMIR, 20 (11), Art. No.: e270. https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.9366
Background: In the era of information overload, are big data analytics the answer to access and better manage available knowledge? Over the last decade, the use of Web-based data in public health issues, that is, infodemiology, has been proven useful in assessing various aspects of human behavior. Google Trends is the most popular tool to gather such information, and it has been used in several topics up to this point, with health and medicine being the most focused subject. Web-based behavior is monitored and analyzed in order to examine actual human behavior so as to predict, better assess, and even prevent health-related issues that constantly arise in everyday life.
Objective: This systematic review aimed at reporting and further presenting and analyzing the methods, tools, and statistical approaches for Google Trends (infodemiology) studies in health-related topics from 2006 to 2016 to provide an overview of the usefulness of said tool and be a point of reference for future research on the subject.
Methods: Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines for selecting studies, we searched for the term “Google Trends” in the Scopus and PubMed databases from 2006 to 2016, applying specific criteria for types of publications and topics. A total of 109 published papers were extracted, excluding duplicates and those that did not fall inside the topics of health and medicine or the selected article types. We then further categorized the published papers according to their methodological approach, namely, visualization, seasonality, correlations, forecasting, and modeling.
Results: All the examined papers comprised, by definition, time series analysis, and all but two included data visualization. A total of 23.1% (24/104) studies used Google Trends data for examining seasonality, while 39.4% (41/104) and 32.7% (34/104) of the studies used correlations and modeling, respectively. Only 8.7% (9/104) of the studies used Google Trends data for predictions and forecasting in health-related topics; therefore, it is evident that a gap exists in forecasting using Google Trends data.
Conclusions: The monitoring of online queries can provide insight into human behavior, as this field is significantly and continuously growing and will be proven more than valuable in the future for assessing behavioral changes and providing ground for research using data that could not have been accessed otherwise.
big data; health assessment; infodemiology; Google Trends; medicine; review; statistical analysis;
JMIR: Volume 20, Issue 11