A few weeks ago I got a heads-up from Google's PR about their new search tool. Dubbed Google Insights for Search, it allows you to apply parameters to search for what other people are searching.
Sounds a little strange and it did take a while for my post-hangover'd head to wrap itself around it, but it's slowly starting to make sense. A potentially valuable tool in researching, it allows you to "compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames."
By using the different categories, ranging from arts and literature to travel and telecommunications, different timeframes ranging back from January 2004, and geographic distribution, you can see the most popular search results. Whilst some may not benefit from this at all, young entrepreneurs and website optimisers, researchers and academics could find this immensely useful.
Say you're working on a project determining where MP3 players are most popular across different regions (why, I don't know, but this hypothetical student is struggling to find the research), you can plug in your parameters, which certainly isn't half as scary as it sounds, and gets your results within the space of seconds.
From here it's clear that certain sub-geographic areas of different countries have more interest for specific topics. Who knows, there might be a particular demographic more interested in cheese and wine than France, and happy-slapping and minority shootings than the UK.
It does have alternative uses such as discovering a regional customer base of a certain product and examining which things are important at certain times of the year, but they're a bit boring. There is a full guide as to what you can do and how to do it on the Help Center pages.