The Celebrity Status of Search

By Aaron Goldman, VP, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

Today, Yahoo released its “Year in Review”, using search queries to gauge the top trends of 2008.

To be sure, the findings are not solely the result of items/people of interest that generated the most search volume. Rather, Yahoo editors filtered out navigational queries and also took into account growth over previous periods.

Here were Yahoo's Top 10 Searches for 2008:

1. Britney Spears
2. WWE
3. Barack Obama
4. Miley Cyrus
5. RuneScape
6. Jessica Alba
7. Naruto
8. Lindsay Lohan
9. Angelina Jolie
10. American Idol

Yahoo also breaks out the top 10 searches in specific categories like News, Politicians, Economy, etc.

And it has other top 10 lists like Travel Destinations, Restaurants, Mobile Searches, Movie Trailers, Products, Recipes, and many more.

Now faithful Resolution Finders will know that I'm a firm believer in the power of the query as a window into the sentiment of the public at large -- after all, it helped us predict the election -- so it gives me great pause to see celebs dominating the list of top 10 searches.

Are Americans really that celeb-obsessed? Well, I think we all know the answer to that one. As does John McCain for that matter, who ran negative campaign ads that clearly backfired painting Obama as a celebrity and comparing him to Britney and Paris Hilton (who, shockingly, did not make this year's list but did put out a good response to the McCain ads).

Even though it's a sad commentary on the state of our society, this data provides keen insight that search marketers can act upon. Here are 3 quick examples:

1. If you're looking for volume and/or awareness, fish where the fish are. Leverage non-commercial searches by connecting your brand/product/service to these types of queries (eg, buy celeb keywords or optimize content using celeb names), especially if they appeal to your target audience and/or you're using celeb endorsers offline.

2. People are looking to be entertained so keep user-experience in the highest regard. WWE, RuneScape, Naruto, and American Idol cracking the Top 10 reflects a passion for entertainment and gaming. Research has shown that people spend up to 90 minutes more online during a recession as the Internet provides free entertainment. Accordingly, marketers should consider creating engaging experiences on their sites. And at the very least, they need to be cognizant of what's happening on their domains by mining web analytics data.

3. Not everything can "go viral." Outside of RuneScape and Naruto, which appeal to niche groups of gamers, the rest of the top 10 (which, by the way, haven't changed much in 2 years) are well-established, mainstream "brands." Trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a viral hit is, to use one of our President-Elect's favorite buzzwords, hope and hope is not a strategy.

Speaking of buzzwords, the Search Insider Summit commences tomorrow night in Park City and, once again, I'll be the human Buzz-o-meter so check out the MediaPost Raw blog if you want to keep your fingers on the pulse of the conversation.

Meanwhile, spend some time poking around the Yahoo Top 10 lists -- there are tons of interesting nuggets that can be applied to search marketing initiatives.


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