The Anti-Zen Of Keyword Analysis

    March 13, 2009
    WebProNews Staff

I suppose the best way to look at a list of popular search queries is from a kind of Taoist it-is-what-it-is perspective. Trying to find meaning in the collective conscience could drive one batty, especially if you’re the judge and despair type.

But in communication scholarship, we like textual analysis and pulling out overarching lessons from what’s on people’s minds and what motivates them. Often in the process we are disappointed in just how simple and predictable humans really are though. Then we’re just in it for the surprises or learning something new.

For example, “nahá” is apparently a Slavic (Czech?) word for naked. In this instance, according Search Engine Guide’s top 300 surging keyword report, which lists the top keywords across search engines in the past 48 hours, people in that part of the world have been pairing nahá with “frosslova,” which is not a word, you may have already guessed, but a name. Likely, they mean an actress named Marketa Frosslova.

They’re searching for a naked actress. How novel.

The businessperson trying to leverage a web presence and take advantage of search traffic to build business looks at a keyword list in a much more pragmatic way. A popular keyword list is not much different from an inventory list. The current volume of a widget is usually an indicator of that widget’s volume of sales. People like it. No need to get all philosophical about it. It just means you need more of that one.

Communication/marketing/creative guys like me tend to look at keyword lists to extract what those words—what people are searching for—can tell us about humans as a collective. This is often as disappointing as it is enlightening. But it is also useful when directing a brainstorming session about the next big thing. Whatever that next big thing is, it will fill very basic (and very old) human needs in a neat new way.

To make it easier, I just looked at the top 30, not the top 300:

1 5048 google
2 3714 yahoo
3 3278 myspace
4 3266 youtube
5 3034 movie trailers
6 2976 craigslist
7 2902 ebay
8 2454 frosslova nahá
9 2260 red tube
10 2208
11 1938 tube8
12 1821 hotmail
13 1668 mapquest
14 1572 you tube
15 1433 gmail
16 1430 yahoo mail
17 1421
18 1372
19 1357
20 1354 cancer
21 1332 scorpio
22 1322
23 1304 virgo
24 1285 taurus
25 1259 msn
26 1241 craigs list
27 1239 leo
28 1233 aquarius
29 1211 aries
30 1197 pisces

The four-digit number is the number of times that query was entered in the past 48 hours. In other words, they searched for Google over 5000 times, 72 percent of them probably with Google. In fairness, they may have been looking for information about Google, not to find the search engine itself. Then again, people are 98 percent chimp. But there’s any number of reasons to search for Google, one supposes.

The abundance of .com searches also suggests people either still aren’t as technically savvy as we might expect them to be or, and I think this is closer to it, people would rather enter a URL into the search bar knowing the search engine will correct them if they mistype, rather than risk the frustration of a 404 or the wrong website.

What does that tell you about the average user? It says the browser navigation bar isn’t really serving the purpose of the end user. It says Google has it right in Chrome by making the navigation bar double as a search bar.

The list also shows there’s not a lot of variance in desire among the masses. They generally seem to want and need the same things, which is how something that fulfills an important need reaches critical mass. It’s not so much about radical creativity and variety—when it comes to creating the next Google or Facebook or YouTube—it’s about fulfilling an important need exceedingly well. As for taste, we already know there’s no accounting for it.

I did a quick (human) textual analysis of the top 30 times using a simple synonym/word association substitution method. This method isn’t rigorously scientific, just a quick and dirty way to get the bottom of what people may want. I started by changing the layout of the keywords:

Google yahoo myspace youtube movie trailers craigslist ebay forsslova naha red tube tube8 hotmail mapquest you tube gmail yahoo mail cancer scorpio virgo Taurus msn craigs list leo aquarius aries pisces

Then I substituted general words describing what those things are:

Search engine search engine social network video movies classifieds auctions naked Czech girl celebrity porn site search engine porn site email map service video email search engine porn site social network porn site zodiac zodiac email zodiac zodiac search engine classifeds zodiac zodiac zodiac zodiac

After that, I made them more general by reducing them down to basics:

Hunting gathering socializing watching buying selling sex hunting sex coveting communication hunting watching hunting buying selling superstition superstition superstition

And finally, I reduced those to needs:

Physical need, information need, socialization need, entertainment need, economic need, sex need, communication need, spiritual need

Like I said, this is just a rough sketch, but if you’re busy brainstorming about what the next type of web presence is to capture the collective imagination, it can’t hurt to consider the idea that whatever you come up with, it should fill some burning need.