Exploring World Cup Geography with Google Insights


June2010_soccerfans.jpgCheck out this World Cup data from Google Insights for Search:

We’ve done a bit with Google Insights in the past. For those who aren’t familiar or need a refresher, Google Insights–a more sophisticated version of Google Trends–enables comparisons of search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames. Here’s a quick two minute video overview of the tool.

Most Popular World Cup Countries
According to Google, these countries have logged the most* searches for the term “World Cup” in the past 30 days (*as a percentage of total Google searches from that country):

1. Botswana
2. Bangladesh
3. Nepal
4. Zimbabwe
5. Uganda
6. South Africa
7. Kenya
8. Ghana
9. Trinidad & Tobago
10. Tanzania

It’s pretty amazing to me that fully 7 of the top 10 countries are in Africa. Talk about continental football fever! Note that the United States is not on the list. Nor is the United Kingdom, or any other European nation. I guess people with internet access from those countries are searching for a lot of terms other than the World Cup.


When looking at the data over time (click the link at the bottom of the map to view “change over time), more nuanced trends emerge. As recently as early May, South Africa, Australasia, India and the U.K. were tracking the highest percentage of search results. By June 5, North America and the Pacific Islands had started to catch up, but then a slew of African countries stormed onto the scene just last weekend (June 10).

What do you think explains the shift? An influx of tourists with internet connectivity into Africa? A rapid expansion of internet use by Africans, either through temporary service extensions, or large numbers of folks heading to internet cafes?

Most Popular World Cup Cities
When analyzed at a finer geographic scale, the following cities have logged the most “World Cup” searches in the past month (again, as a percentage of total Google searches from those cities. Click on the link that says “City” on the right of the “Regional Interest” bar to see the information organized by city, instead of region (country)).

1. Johannesburg, South Africa
2. Manchester, U.K.
3. Brentford, U.K.
4. Poplar, U.K.
5. Singapore, Singapore
6. Toronto, Canada
7. London, U.K.
8. Sydney, Australia
9. New York, U.S.
10. Delhi, India

Again, Africa tops the list. But note that along this measure, only ONE of the top listings is in Africa. Four–nearly half–are in the United Kingdom, which is widely recognized as a global football hotspot.

What do you think explains the difference between the “country” and “city” lists? Is football/soccer more of a rural phenomenon in Africa, and more of an urban phenomenon elsewhere? Is Google’s urban data fuzzy? Is something else going on?

Check out the maps and graphs and tell us your thoughts on all of the above!


Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World


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