Monday, August 28, 2006

AOL Search Data Insights for Local Search

Ken Mccarthy brought up an interesting point about the AOL data that was mistakenly published a few weeks ago. In his blog, attributing this point to Lee Gomes from the Wall Street Journal (published free here), these are the top 10 most searched words in the list:

1. free
2. new
3. lyrics
4. county
5. school
6. city
7. home
8. state
9. pictures
10. music

The fact that county, city and state are some of the top 10 most popular phrases seem to point to an increased number of local searches. This is huge to local search advertisers. Seems like my prediction of the death of the yellow pages (a fairly obvious prediction to me) is coming true (of course).

Another interesting point was the fact that so many searches start with the 5 W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why. It seems that searchers still like to put searches in the form of questions. You would think that AskJeeves would have done better than it did then, but there is still an opportunity here.

Perhaps we should be using more questions on our site linking to answers. FAQ's are an obvious place to do this. Also, working up personas and the questions each would have, and then posting the questions and answers on the appropriate pages would help bring search traffic.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Long Neck vs. The Long Tail

Sounds kind of like a research paper on evolution of a certain kind of pre-historic mammal, but it's not. It's a discussion on targeting web sites to a specific audience.

We've heard so much lately about the "long tail" - the long list of occasionally searched unique keyword phrases for every topic that follows a short list of frequently typed phrases.

Search engine optimizers and Pay Per Click marketing specialists like myself are quite interested in the long tail because there is so much value to be had there. For PPC the long tail is important because bidding on a huge list of less frequently searched phrases brings lower costs and better value for advertising dollars. For SEO the long tail is important because optimizing for these phrases is easier and more likely to succeed than optimizing for the most competitive phrases.

Well, Gerry McGovern, in his infinite wisdom, just coined a new one (as far as I know) with the "long neck"- and it is equally if not more important for the Internet marketer.

Check it out here:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Search Engine Spammers Say Big Thank You to AOL

AOL, in an apparently innocent release of search history information to the 'research community' has released 2GB of searches over a recent 3 month period.

They thought they didn't release personally identifiable information because they didn't include user information, however in reality it is possible to identify many AOL users simply by their search history. The files released link each search together by a randomly assigned user ID number.

Since many people do 'ego searches', that is, searching for their own name, address, etc., this alone can identify users. Linked with location searches, hobby searches, etc., many users can be identified by those looking with almost guaranteed accuracy.

What about those searching for pornography, new jobs, dating sites, illegal drugs, and on and on? Over 650,000 users have had their online privacy violated.

Of course AOL apologized, and removed the link to the data quickly, but the damage has been done.

Search Engine spammers will use this information to build massive automated sites on the 'long tail' of searches; optimizing pages for thousands of rarely searched terms that are easily targeted and will each bring a trickle of affiliate sales or adsense revenue.

Others will use the information for honest keyword research. This Internet marketer was lucky enough to grab a copy from a mirror site last night.