I’ve been playing a bit with Google Trends to put some terms to test and see what are the trends happening now around coworking and why so many business centers are now trying to appropriate the term coworking although they just offer desks for rent. This was often mentioned in the last coworking conference in Austin and we are also experiencing it in our Brussels’ coworking space.
My hypothesis was that  because of the strength of the movement, it had become a huge positioning/SEO threat to them with coworking taking the lead in searches. So I headed to Google Trends and looked into the data for the last year only (I’m not a historian, but I did check and the use of coworking is nowhere to be seen in the charts until the last quarter of 2009.)
So here it is, the great keyword showdown!

Coworking vs business center vs shared office trends

To my surprise it was not (click on the image to go straight to the Google Trends search and play with them yourself):

The upper part of the graphic is related to searches in Google, while the bottom half is related to references in news articles.

The term business center is searched a lot more than coworking or shared office, really a lot! In terms of searches the difference is colossal. But why shouldn’t it be? The term has been used for ages and it represents a strong business that has been spending top marketing and advertising dollar to brand themselves and attract clients (both to their shared and private offerings.)
In news however, we can see an interesting peak for coworking and how it is much more relevant than shared office. The media are talking about us!
These results do change a lot however depending on the country, city, and language. There’s where we can see bigger threats for the incumbent business centers. It is quite evident when we look at the results ranking them each time with a different keyword (click on the images to enlarge):
Ranked by business center:
Ranked by Business Center
Ranked by shared office:

Ranked by coworking:

Coworking and business center are more or less used across languages, but shared office is probably translated (oficina compartida in Spanish, bureau partagé in French…) You can see it in the country distribution of the screenshots above: shared office is topped by English speaking countries, business center is more mixed, and there’s not a single English speaking nation in the top of the coworking classification (although the city of Austin ranks high probably due to the coworking conference.) In countries like Spain, coworking beats business center.
The term coworking does indeed beat shared office globally in the last year and it is gaining momentum in the last months :

With the momentum that the term and the movement are gaining and the great effort we are all doing to educate about the advantages of coworking, it poses a threat that the business centers are trying to neutralize and take advantage off.
Other terms I used where hot desk and flexi desk: they are nowhere to be found. What other words would you test?

What should we do?

First of all, play with http://www.google.com/trends/ and Google Insights for Search to find out more about the situation in your country, city and languages (in Brussels, for example, we should ideally target at least three languages: French, English, and Dutch.) That will help you understand the situation better.
I think that globally we should start using the words business center creatively in our positioning, both in SEO and online advertisement. It is time to pay them back in the same coin 😉
Some ideas of how to do it (please add yours in your comments and I will update this list):

  • better than a business center
  • business center with a soul
  • business center plus community
  • business center for people
  • business center improved
  • not a business center
  • [Add yours here]…

Extra: coworking or co-working?

By the way, here are my two Google Trends cents for the debate between coworking and co-working:

Death to the hyphen! Coworking FTW!