Search Term Research Articles


This page (formerly called More What People Search For) lists articles from Search Engine Watch and around the web about ways to conduct search term research as part of a search marketing campaign. Also be sure to read see Researching Keywords article, for a guide to major tools to consider when conducting research.

NOTE: Article links often change, especially the older an article is. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline. Also, some very old articles flagged “no longer online” might indeed be online — but the former URL no longer resolves, and it’s not worth the time investment for me to try and personally track down these down versus spending time producing new content.

Jump to articles from:
Sept. 2004 Onward
Jan-Aug. 200420032002
20012000 & Earlier

Articles From Jan-Aug. 2004

Are You Ready to Explode Your Keyword Lists?
Search Engine Watch Forums, Aug. 27, 2004

Over 50 percent of the 200 million searches performed a day have never been searched before. What are you doing to increase your keywords?

Advanced Search Term Research Issues – Live from SES San Jose
SEW Forums, Aug. 5, 2004

Coverage of new search term research tools from comScore, Hitwise and Trellian along with other tips out of the SES San Jose conference.

The Strategy of Search, July 20, 2004

Get out of the trenches of search marketing from time-to-time and make sure that your overall strategies are well-grounded. How to do this? Get to know your customers and understand how they search.

Keywords Revisited, Part 3: Paid Research Tools
ClickZ, March 5, 2004

Recap of commercial tools to help you research what terms people may be using to seeking your web site.

Keywords Revisited, Part 2: Free Research Tools
ClickZ, Feb. 27, 2004

Ways to research what words your target audience may be using to find you — for free!

Keyword Research Revisited, Part 1: Log Files
ClickZ, Feb. 20, 2004

Want to figure out what terms to target? A good first step is to mine your logs.

Alleged affair popular search query Web Search Guide, Feb. 18, 2004

Presidential candidate John Kerry’s alleged affair made for popular searching in February.

Janet Jackson’s flash dance tops Web search, Feb. 4, 2004

Just proving that old adage that if you bear your breast during the most watched television program in the United States, thousands will search for the image the next day.

Study Shows Web Searches Getting More Complex, Feb. 3, 2004

OneStat finds that two and three word queries are increasing, while those with one word are going down.

2003’s Most Wanted Search Terms
SearchDay, Jan. 7, 2004

The most popular search terms of the past year reveal as much about the interests of searchers as they do about the perceived ‘personalities’ of the major search engines.

Articles From 2003

Top Terms What Were We Looking for on the Web in 2003?, Dec. 30, 2003

Recap of top searches done in 2003, according to Lycos.

Keyword Analysis and Ranking: The Value of Brainstorming, Dec. 10, 2003

Stuck assuming that the only way to research terms is using the Overture search term suggestion tool and Put on your thinking cap, because brainstorming shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, it’s the first step to take.

Keyword Research: Optimization for Conversion
ClickZ, Oct. 3, 2003

Think beyond keywords as just a way to attract visitors. Do you know which ones actually produce conversions? And do you know which ones produce quick versus slow conversions?

Tips on Choosing Keywords For Your Website, Aug. 14, 2003

Some brief but useful warnings to keep in mind when using the Overture search term suggestion tool or WordTracker KEI scores.

What is coinmobile.shtml? Web Search Guide, Aug. 2003

Overture and Wordtracker report that coinmobile.shtml is an extremely popular search term — but Jennifer Laycock disbelieves this, and with good reason.

Optimizing Keywords for Search Engines
SearchDay, July 16, 2003

New to search engine optimization? Here’s how to get started with selecting the most search engine friendly keywords and phrases that can help visitors find your site.

A Guide To Keyword Research
Search Engine Watch, June 10, 2003

A guide through the process of learning how people may be searching for your site by using resources at Overture and other major search engines.

Inside the Soul of the Web
Wired, May 2003

Another story you’ve likely seen before, but here it is again — watching live queries happening on Google, as displayed on a wall in its reception area. What’s most interesting is the part at the end of the story, where a Google engineer says that if Google doesn’t provide the right information in response to a query for “what to tell a suicidal friend,” he’ll “find better sites and attach them for future queries.” Google has never suggested it does this type of query-linked hand-manipulation before. Indeed, it has always strongly denied it. Google later told me the engineer meant to find a way for the algorithm to come up with a better answer.

Data Mining the Lycos 50
SearchDay, April 10, 2003

Dig deep within the Lycos 50 list of most popular search terms and you’ll find a wealth of fascinating information that not only reveals trends but serves as a goldmine for search engine optimization efforts. Search Engine Watch members should follow through from the blue box to the members edition of this article.

Articles From 2002

The Top Searches of 2002
SearchDay, Dec. 30, 2002

Google, Lycos and other major search engines have posted details of the most popular search queries for 2002.

Contemporary Culture, Revealed
ClickZ, Dec. 20. 2002

Reviews and comments on terms making the top search lists for 2002.

UK’s most popular searches
The Guardian, Dec. 17, 2002,7496,861210,00.html

Top searches by UK users of Google.

Postcards From Planet Google
New York Times, Nov. 28, 2002

Any major search engine has a pretty unique view of what’s of interest to the world, given that they see all the queries flowing through their service. This article takes a long and colorful look at queries that flow through Google. Personally, I’ve always wanted to see the “GeoDisplay” reworked so that instead of dots flashing on a geographically correct map, regions of the world would be mapped in proportion to the search volume they generate. My favorite story of the “Live Query” display in Google’s lobby remains the one where some Japanese visitors started laughing and pointing for reasons no one could understand, initially. Turns out some pornographic terms in Japanese were being streamed. A better multilingual porn filter is supposed to prevent that, now.

Optimizing Keywords for Search Engines
SearchDay, June 11, 2002

Effective optimization for search engines requires more than just fiddling with web pages — you need to carefully select and focus your efforts on specific keywords for maximum success.

Search Engines, Keywords and Dictionaries
SearchDay, May 20, 2002

Using the right keywords is crucial, for searchers and webmasters alike. Here are two sites with definitions and translations of hundreds of thousands of words, in a wide variety of languages.

You Can Observe a Lot by Watching the Lycos 50
SearchDay, May 8, 2002

“Sultan of Search” Aaron Schatz says you can virtually predict future trends and fads months in advance by watching what people search for on Lycos.

Search Engine Intelligence from the Lycos 50
SearchDay, May 7, 2002

Search Engine Strategies keynote speaker Aaron Schatz entertained and enlightened attendees with the “trends of American culture” he observes as keeper of the Lycos 50 most popular search terms.

2001’s Most Wanted Search Terms
SearchDay, Jan. 2, 2002

What were the most popular search terms of the past year? It depends on which search engine you ask.

Articles From 2001

The Keys to a Good Search Engine Positioning Strategy
ClickZ, April 4, 2001

Tips on performing search term research.

Top Search Terms Of 2000
The Search Engine Report, March 5, 2001

A roundup of articles about the top search requests in 2000.

Teacup Rescue Dogs Vancouver
Village Voice, March 5, 2001

Review of the Disturbing Search Requests site, which logs the strange ways people reach web sites via search engines.

Search Engines, Browsers Still Confusing Many Web Users
CyberAtlas, Feb. 14, 2001,,5931_588851,00.html

Alexa researchers analyzed 42 million search pages retrieved over the past two years to come up with their own top terms list. As with most of these lists, when unfiltered, they are dominated by navigational requests. These are people who try to reach a web site by typing the web address into the search box of a search engine, rather than a browser.

The Search Engine as Crystal Ball
New York Times, Feb. 5, 2001

Lycos has been a real leader in turning its search queries into content worth reading about. A close-up look at the process, with a focus on Lycos 50 editor Aaron Schatz. Discover a search archeologist at work.

Articles From 2000 & Earlier

Making a Game of Web Searches
Wired, Sept. 4, 2000,1284,38496,00.html

A new game show may be coming, and you have to drive a search engine to win.

The Quality of Researchers Searches of the ERIC Database
Education Policy Analysis Archives, Aug. 25, 1999

Typical users of an in-house database were found rarely go beyond the first page of hits and to examine only about 3 to 4 matches, in contrast to advanced searchers who would look longer and harder.

Searching heterogeneous collections on the Web: Behaviour of Excite users
Information Research, Oct. 1998˜is/publications/infres/paper53.html

A look at how people were searching at Excite in late 1997, drawn from an interactive survey that was run on the service.

Analysis of a Very Large AltaVista Query Log
Digital Systems Research Center, October 26, 1998

An analysis of over 1/2 billion queries done at AltaVista. The report is only available in Acrobat/PDF and PostScript formats. It’s no longer at the original Digital address, but the URL above from CiteSeer provides links to alternative copies.

The XXX-Files
Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1997
–no longer online to the public, but can be purchased from the Post’s archives

Think spelling doesn’t matter? One search engine reports that bestiality appears twice in its top 15 search words, spelled correctly and also misspelled. An interesting article that sheds a little more light on how search terms people use.

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