Laborem Edge: Digital Marketing Agency © 2020

Ok Google, look up the Super Bowl

“Showing results for Superb Owl”

A Trend has come to fruition over the past few years, one might say an interest in great owls, especially in February. It’s become so popular that Google released a specialized page when you search Superb Owl. But where does this love for owls come from? A lot of people were quick to chop this up to fat thumbs and bad spelling, but I wasn’t ready to accept that right away.

Why does this matter?

I know what you’re thinking, “Is this really the best way to spend your time? Analyzing mis-spellings.” And my answer to you would be yes, because that is what Laborem Edge does best and it’s what we love, interpreting data and using it to tell a story. The story here is one of modern technology clashing with traditional accents.

It all begins in 2007, when Google unveiled GOOG-411 a phone service where the user is able to basically call Google, a late entry from any tech giant. This service would bring up search results and would connect them to businesses like pizza places. It wasn’t intended for long term use, it was intended to build a database to help them create better text-to-speech software. With the release of the iPhone in 2007, Google worked to build a new voice search platform on the new device, using their data collected from GOOG-411. In late 2008 Google unveiled their voice search app for iPhones, but it wasn’t until 2011 that voice search started to become popular. The debut of Siri for iPhones in the same year led to the rapid growth of voice technology, it wasn’t just a search tool anymore, it was a personal assistant. I know I spent way too much time asking Siri dumb questions. My personal favorite was when you asked Siri where to hide a body, she used to answer; dumps, swamps, reservoirs, and mines. This answer was later removed when an actual murder suspect asked Siri where to hide his roommate. Now she just responds with “I used to know the answer to this…” Google didn’t enter the virtual personal assistant till 2016 with the release of Google Assistant and Google Home.

The Voice Search Takeover

What felt like a novelty has now become a part of most of our live’s everyday, with programs like Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Home becoming immensely popular. Now 20% of Google’s searches are done by voice, a big step from what originated as a program that struggle to decipher what we were saying.

Diggy, Diggy, Data

After putting on our detective hats and diving into the trends of the searches we realized something, the rise in Google searches for Superb Owl began slowly began in 2011, the same time voice search started gaining popularity. And exploded in 2014, matching the dramatic rise in popularity of voice search. The main 3 peaks in interest for the Superb Owl were in 2016, 2018 and 2019. 2016, the same year that google assistant and google home were released. I tried to check the data on Bing and Safari as well, but Bing just wouldn’t show me the correct data (not surprised) and we all know Apple likes to keep to themselves. We see a similar spike in general super bowl interest during those times as well and almost matched the trends for superb owl. Therefore, it’s directly correlated with the popularity of the Super Bowl and the popularity of

Coincidence? I don’t think so….

Ok so maybe it just happened to gain popularity at the same time right? Possibly, but it goes deeper. When you examine the areas that look up really great owls the most you’ll notice another pattern, the top 5 states are touching the northern border with Canada except Oregon. So the main states are all very northern and share a similar dialect, characterized by less movement of the jaw. Go ahead try it, Super Bowl, Superb Owl.

The Aftermath

Well, Leave it to America to turn anything into a meme or joke, a simple Google search error has spread like wildfire. Jeopardy made a whole category out of it, Stephen Colbert made a joke out of it, and Reddit created a whole page dedicated to Superb Owls. So here’s to you America.

In 2018 Google unveiled a project they were working on called Duplex, a software that uses Google Assistant to call companies. It went on to actually schedule an appointment with the company for the user. Fully equipt to sound genuinely like a human, adding uhhhs and mhms. Imagine the opportunities that could arise from this, any conversation you don’t wanna have like canceling subscriptions is all done for you.

The Hypothesis

At the end of the day Google doesn’t differentiate between typed and voice search, they only give you ‘mobile searches’ and ‘total searches’. Therefore, we have no certain way of proving this so we’ll leave it as a hypothesis, Google if you’re reading this help us out here. How would you go about proving that Superb Owl was caused by dialects and voice searches?

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