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Search Sophistication (Or Lack Thereof)

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So I’m an Aristotelian pretentious egghead iconoclast jerk. Sue me. But at the end of every year when various media rehash what was on the collective mind of my compatriots, I tarry near weeping-okay, so that’s dramatic, but have you seen what the kids are searching for on the Internet these days? Don’t say porn.

“Paris Hilton generated more searches than any other search term this year, as she consistently finds ways to stay top of mind with web users,” said Dean Tsouvalas, writer of The Lycos 50, a review of the top search terms for 2005.

Okay, do say porn.

Both Lycos and America Online released their versions of the top search terms of 2005 with different words, but the same message that reinforces what marketers, journalists, and mass media types have known forever-blood, boobs, and bankrolls rule.

Lycos’ Top 10:

1. Paris Hilton
2. Pamela Anderson
3. Britney Spears
4. Poker
5. Dragonball
6. Jennifer Lopez
7. WWE
8. Pokemon
9. Playstation
10. Hurricane Katrina

AOL’s Top 10:

1. Lottery
2. Horoscopes
3. Tattoos
4. Lyrics
5. Ringtones
6. IRS
7. Jokes
8. American Idol
9. Hairstyles
10. NASCAR

Should I wax philosophical about values and youth and greed and pop culture? Nah. I’ll leave that for Aristotle.

“The masses are asses,” he said in a rough and paraphrased translation I once heard. That’ll do, I think.

Between September 2004 and September 2005, searches per searcher spiked from 28.7 to 40.2, according to Nielsen Net/Rating’s Jon Stewart. Up to 40 percent (62 million) of those searchers typed in URLs (www.sitetheywanted.com) into a search box.

“The search box is so prominent, people just feel compelled to type something in there,” said Stewart at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in Chicago. That’s a nicer way of saying many have the Internet skills of a brain-damaged spider monkey.

Nielsen’s metrics fall in line with Pew Internet’s data that suggest search usage increased by 55 percent over a 15-month period.

So more people are searching more often and not only know less about how, but aren’t exactly searching the expanse of knowledge out there. Maybe Google should reevaluate its goal of indexing the world’s information, nobody’s looking for it anyway.

For the first time in three years, searches for information on the War in Iraq didn’t make the number one news event, dropping by 90 percent.

“Searches for President George W. Bush also decreased 82 percent, with the president dropping from number 81 in 2004, to number 359 this year, generating less interest online than Scooby-Doo,” said Tsouvalas.

Well, at least they’re searching for the wrong stuff on the right engine. With 5.1 billion search queries entered in October, over 47 percent were using Google. Yahoo, MSN, and AOL brought in nearly 40 percent together, leaving just around 3 percent for AskJeeves and the rest.

There is a bright spot here. Lycos says searches for The Simpsons dethroned American Idol this year. Mmmmm, Donut.

Search Sophistication (Or Lack Thereof)
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