What Google knows about your eating habitsAugust 26, 2011: 11:06 AM ET
Google says companies are increasingly using local search data to extract more bang for their online marketing buck.
By Beth Kowitt and Sheryl Sulistiawan
FORTUNE -- The most searches for whole-wheat pizza on Google come out of Colorado. No. 1 for gluten-free and vegan pizza? Oregon. If you're searching for a pizza slice you're probably in New York, and if it's a pizza pie you're looking for, you're most likely in Idaho.
While this might seem like useless pizza trivia, Google (GOOG) says companies are increasingly using these kinds of data points to extract more bang for their online marketing as they target their ads to popular search terms regionally. "We're seeing more sophisticated advertisers," says Jim Lecinski, Google's managing director of U.S. sales.
Behind these more sophisticated advertisers are savvier searchers. Consumers have become smarter and more specific about their online queries, resulting in a growing regional divergence of search terms. (Google says that 15% of the searches it sees every day it has never seen before.)
Google first noticed a change in consumer search behavior in 2008 as incomes deteriorated along with the macro economic environment. "People started to look for strategies to cope for managing their households," Lecinski says.
Shoppers began applying the searching techniques they had previously only used for big-ticket items -- i.e. best-value flatscreen TV -- to everyday purchases. Queries for ratings and reviews have grown 100%, while coupon-related searches have jumped 280% between 2009 and 2011. To return to our pizza example, searches for Pizza Hut coupon, Pizza Hut deals and Pizza Hut specials are all up at least 50% over the last year.
GrubHub, a website and mobile app that allows diners to find and order from nearby restaurants offering delivery and pickup, has taken its own data and blended it with Google's to not only predict demand but also get the greatest return on its marketing spend.
Take San Francisco, which GrubHub says is its top market for Indian food by orders -- five of the 10 most frequently reordered items are five different versions of chicken tikka masala from five different restaurants. "We can tailor our search spend in that market specifically," says Matt Maloney, GrubHub CEO and co-founder.
The same goes for other cities like New York (the most orders for breakfast delivery on GrubHub), Philadelphia (the most dessert orders), and Los Angeles (the most vegan and organic searches on GrubHub).