The relationship between share prices and search engine popularity has been the subject of academic studies, business publication articles and – thanks to the opaque nature of some of the data involved – speculation.
Companies’ share prices and their rankings on search engines like Google often correlate, as we will show below. But the reasons can vary.
A couple are obvious; if a company is in crisis or embroiled in scandal, Google searches for its name are likely to soar while its stock price plummets. Conversely, a company that unexpectedly shoots up in value (like Gamestop did in early 2021) may attract a flood of search engine attention.
Often, the correlation is about a longer game plan. Businesses that invest in effective marketing and branding, and build up their website search engine optimisation, will see their digital presence grow. They may gain more media publicity that leads to a rise in Google searches, or see their content begin to appear on the first pages of searches more frequently.
This growth in reputation is likely to lead to increased sales and also a rise in share price value. In turn, a rise in share price value may alert more people to the company and lead more people to search for information about it.
What about in the world of technology companies? Beyond the ‘Big 5’ – Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft – there are many publicly-traded tech companies spanning fields such as big data, artificial intelligence, fintech and biotech.
Using publicly-available data from Google, we can see how their search engine popularity related to their share price through the turbulent year of 2020. Let’s take a look at four different companies.
Salesforce is a cloud-based software company specialising in customer relationship management. It helps large and small businesses connect with customers and obtain more information about them.
It performed strongly during the pandemic, particularly in August following excellent second-quarter results, and its share price rocketed by 39.9%. We can see how Google searches similarly peaked around this time, likely coinciding with publicity around the results followed by interest in the share price rise.
Software firm Alteryx offers analytics services to businesses, providing user-friendly platforms to help them read data, assess their performance and make decisions; something it calls this the ‘democratisation of data’. Alteryx was founded in California in 1997 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017.
It had the opposite experience to Salesforce in August 2020: after a disappointing earnings report, its share price plunged by nearly a third. Yet what they had in common was that their search engine popularly shot up as a result.
US-based Nvidia designs and produces high-end graphic processing units, and has been publicly traded since 1999. As well as professional and gaming devices, these go on to power groundbreaking areas of AI such as self-driving vehicles, and are set to be used to power Leonardo, the world’s fastest AI supercomputer.
In the case of Nvidia, we can see how the generation of media attention affects Google search data. The company purchased UK-based chip designer Arm in September 2020, and announced plans to build an AI lab in Cambridge with its own supercomputer. Google interest spiked at this point, and the company’s share price also took a boost.
Square is a financial services, merchant services aggregator and mobile payment company based in California. It offers both software and hardware targeted at businesses, for example mobile payment readers. It went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2015.
Despite an initial dip in late February, the company did well to tap into the boost to digital payment technologies during the pandemic, and its CashApp tool did particularly well. Google search data clearly shows how the company boosted its marketing strategies and generated online attention through the year, especially over the summer, and the company saw its share price steadily increase from March.
Notes on data
Share price data was collected from Yahoo. Figures represent the closing share price on one day each week from January 1st 2020 to January 1st 2021.
Google search data was collected from Google Trends. Figures represent the popularity of searches for the company name worldwide each week of 2020, with 100 representing peak popularity for that term. Read more about Google Trends figures.
Searches for Square Inc were narrowed to the company to exclude searches for other things.