As soon as my book on Google Semantic Search was on sale I did something I hadn’t done for any other of my books before: I started to map sales globally using a Google map.
For a writer, to be able to see where his books do well is invaluable information. It begins to fill in the blanks in the demographics of the audience, readers begin to acquire a nationality and even be identified within specific regions and cities in a country. Useful as that may be my intent was somewhat different.
What I really wanted to see was whether I could correlate interest in the subject (evidenced by books sales) and performance indicators such as national and local economic growth, number of unemployed and innovation indicators. The underlying suggestion is that given a wide enough dataset then the areas which exhibit the highest density interest in semantic search will also be the ones whose economies benefit the most.
There are a couple of weaknesses to this, of course. First Google Semantic Search is in English (at the moment there are no other editions though the Chinese Language Rights have been sold and my publisher is actively working on others). Although English is a fairly universal language it is still a barrier for some. Second my methodology for acquiring data was fairly low-key. I simply logged the names and places of all those I came across in Google+ who publicly stated they had bought my book or who publicly (again) gave me feedback on it.
I chose to focus only on Google+ as a data acquisition channel because it is the only social media network I use consistently and could therefore monitor and respond. I chose to use only public posts on the understanding that they are public. This meant that the many hundreds who emailed me privately had to be excluded along with anyone who might have shared the fact that they bought my book publicly, elsewhere. Also I could not include anyone who shared their feedback privately with me on Google+ or anyone who might have shared it publicly but did not tag me and therefore I did not see it.
That’s a fairly big data set that must be left out then. Still, the one that we do have is sufficiently dense to allow us to infer some very specific things. So let’s look at it first:
Google Semantic Search Map
Once you look at the map it seems obvious that English-speaking countries are heavy buyers of Google Semantic Search, globally. Semantic search, of course, was rolled out from the US first, in 2012 and we started to see its impact in the UK and Australia, next and it now has began to affect the Google search results of a great many other countries.
So the argument could be made that from an end-user point of view the uptake of the book, shown by the map, reflects just that. But that is not the whole picture. Thriving offline economies tend to have thriving online businesses. Thriving online businesses are aware of the impact their visibility in search can have on their bottom line. Semantic search now requires a lot more than the traditional SEO-centric activity in order to work in the favour of a business. Granted, not everyone is capable or willing, just yet, to think like that if they do not have to, but in a world where we are all connected and can share our experience, knowledge and expertise, the excuse of “I did not know” wears a little thin and the excuse of “it doesn’t apply to me yet” sounds less than clever and not entirely honest.
With that we can see that the countries that bought the book, predominantly are the US and the UK with, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Germany coming in next. This is how it looks in a table against their unemployment rate in percentage points:
|Countries where “Google Semantic Search” did well||Unemployment Rates in Percentage Points|
|Developed Economies and the European Union average: 8.4|
|Sources: http://goo.gl/nJKbVV and http://www.tradingeconomics.com/|
With the exception of Italy it would appear that a book on how to make the most of Google’s semantic search to help your business, did well in those countries whose unemployment trends for 2015 are already below the Developed Economies and the European Union average of 8.4 percentage points.
What About GDP?
The numbers of those out of a job are only half the story of course. I next looked at the GDP trends of the same countries:
|Countries where “Google Semantic Search” did well||GDP Growth % 2015|
|Developed Economies and the European Union average: 2.4|
|Sources: http://goo.gl/vhWNAT and http://www.tradingeconomics.com/|
Again, countries with a high percentage growth, showing robust economies that are busy growing, did well. Again, there were exceptions here with The Netherlands showing the slowest projected GDP growth for 2015 in the group.
Semantic Search and Economic Development
Semantic search is not limited to online signals. A robust online presence for a business, in the semantic web, now requires a sustained, sustainable plan of action that takes into account everything a business does, both online and offline and ties it into a seamless whole.
I am always suspicious of correlation studies, particularly when the methodology in data acquisition is as informal as mine was (when it came to finding readers of Google Semantic Search) and where the data sets involved are relatively small (though this one does make up for its lack in depth with breadth). To normalize it a little more I looked at the breakdown within two countries where the book was most popular: The USA and the UK and matched the cities/areas where it had clocked the most sales with their economic status.
For the UK the sales of my book mirrored the traditional North/South divide with the prosperous South buying most of the copies and with affluent areas like London and Bournemouth also showing the most sales within the South of the UK.
In the US the areas where Google Semantic Search surfaced most at were California on the west Coast with LA showing the most concentration of sales and NY in the East Coast. Again both of these are areas with large, dynamic economies and their respective cities are powerhouses in those areas.
What Does All This Show?
It’s hard to resist the temptation to draw inferences from all this. Semantic search is a really big deal. Bigger and more different than anything we have had since 1995 when the web started to become mainstream. Tied to its success are such basics as the identity of a business (and how it develops it), customer service (and how it is handled), its voice and character (and how it is projected) and its personality (and how it is perceived).
Individually none of this is easy. Collectively it becomes a mountain of work that can only be scaled incrementally. Awareness of all this is high, as the map suggests, in countries, areas and cities where competition is tough, the need for innovative thinking is high (because it confers a competitive advantage) and social media is sophisticated.
Economies outside those zones that could benefit hugely from the implementation of semantic search principles are still working along traditional lines.
The world is clearly changing. We feel it in the way we work and we see it in the data we get from that work. It is changing first for those who first work to embrace change. It’ll be interesting to see what the map (and global economies) will look like three years from now, or five. That would put us towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century and by then a great many things will be truly different.
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