Search Terms

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In 2006 there was an unfortunate incident in AOL when they spilled the results of 20m search queries on to the Net – by mistake naturally. Its showed the search queries of AOL clients during March 2006. The searches are an insight into the minds, individually and collectively, of searchers.

The data is still available online and you can query the 20m terms at Key in a search term and you will be given the id numbers of the people who broad searched that term. Click on their ID and you will be given his/her full search history that included that term. It is a fantastic tool if you are into search as it traces the search pattern of individuals as they go through the search process. It shows that a search may begin on a very broad basis, looking for a product category, as the searcher becomes au fait with the broader product features, they begin to introduce brands and then specific brand products into the search queries.

They would go from “mobile phone” to (after several searches and possibly days) to “Nokia N51 wireless features”. The exercise has developed from a search process to a search and educational process. If you are in a product based business make sure that your site takes into account this search process – going from the brand to the product specific search terms. The other ‘big news’ form the data was the the click through rate for each position in a search result i.e. if you are number one, how much more do you get than number two or three:Search Ranking Position To explain the above: The site ranked first (#1) in a search result grabs 42% of all the click-through/traffic for the keyword(s) searched. The site in position two gets 12% of the traffic. Therefore, site #1 gets 3.5 times the traffic as #2.

Looking further; the site in position one, on page two, (#11) gets a paltry 0.66% of all the search traffic. Another fascinating point is that we would like to believe that if an individual sits down and begins a search of a particular item – that they will stick to that task in hand. No, very untrue – its seems that its very easy to distract searchers! One I came across recently that made me smile was a girl whose searches included ‘Irish Weddings’, ‘red headed men’ and “how to boil an egg” amongst many disjointed and fragmented searches. To give you an idea of the ‘process’, here is the search of a family member starting off his search with “Condos in Dublin Ireland”.

Now that in itself is a fascinating search term taking most in the Irish tourist business by surprise – take a look at the expression “condos” in Then as he learns more he begins to explore more, then he jumps to the UK, and in the process has learnt to define the search term as ‘apartment’!  Then back to Ireland and then to more specific Irish ‘car rental’ search terms. It looks like the destination is becoming more focussed and an schedule is formulating somewhere else off screen. All this, by the way, takes place over a month and a half (for illustration I took out the non travel searches).

Query timeClick URLRank
condos in dublin ireland04/03/2006 08:30http://www.10k .. ionrentals.com1
condos in dublin ireland04/03/2006 08:30http://www.innlog.com7
cyberrentals04/03/2006 08:36http://www.cyberrentals.com1
condo vacation rentals in dublin. ireland04/03/2006 08:39http://www.vacationrentals.com4
condo vacation rentals in dublin. ireland04/03/2006 08:39http://www.greatrentals.com1
orbitz04/03/2006 10:16http://www.orbitz.com1
dublin hotels04/03/2006 10:22http://www.hotelclub.net9
london hotels09/03/2006 17:15http://www.londonnights.com1
vrbo09/03/2006 17:35http://www.vrbo.com1
cyberrentals09/03/2006 17:43http://www.cyberrentals.com1
cyberrentals11/03/2006 09:04http://www.cyberrentals.com1
country inn london england24/03/2006 23:05http://www.hotelclub.net2
hotels in ireland24/03/2006 23:19http://www.irelandhotels.com2
british airway25/03/2006 11:17http://www.britishairways.com1
british airway25/03/2006 11:17http://www.britishairways.com1
riverbank plaza hotel. london25/03/2006 12:04http://www.parkplaza.com1
riverbank plaza hotel. london25/03/2006 12:04http://www.lon .. ount-hotel.com6
jurys inn in galway25/03/2006 15:35http://www.jurysdoyle.com1
vacation rentals in london25/03/2006 15:38
apartment hotels in london25/03/2006 19:51http://www.cen .. apartments.com5
apartment hotels in london25/03/2006 19:51http://www.dis ..
apartment hotels in london25/03/2006 19:51http://www.apa .. ent-hotels.com10
apartment hotels in london25/03/2006 20:17
apartment hotels in london25/03/2006 20:17http://www.hotelclub.net19
apartment hotels in london25/03/2006 20:17http://www.the-ascott.com21
regency apartments london26/03/2006 10:35http://www.regencyvillas.com2
regency apartments london26/03/2006 10:35http://www.servicedlets.com5
regency apartments london26/03/2006 10:35http://www.dee .. apartments.com8
london suites or condo hotels26/03/2006 11:09http://new-lon ..
london suites or condo hotels26/03/2006 11:09
ireland’s airlines28/03/2006 06:38http://www.niceone.com3
ryan air28/03/2006 06:40http://www.ryanair.com1
rental cars in ireland30/03/2006 20:27http://www.carhire.ie1
rental cars in ireland30/03/2006 20:27http://www.budget.ie2
rental cars in ireland30/03/2006 20:27http://www.carhire.ie1
rental cars in ireland30/03/2006 20:27http://www.enterprise.com5
rental cars in ireland30/03/2006 20:27http://www.alamo.com6
rental cars in ireland30/03/2006 20:27http://www.irishabroad.com9
dublin ireland airport hotels31/03/2006 06:34http://www.hol .. cityeurope.com1
car rental in ireland01/04/2006 08:42http://www.carhire.ie5
rental cars in ireland01/04/2006 10:50http://www.carhire.ie1
rental cars in ireland01/04/2006 10:50http://www.budget.ie2
rental cars in ireland01/04/2006 10:50http://www.alamo.com5
rental cars in ireland02/04/2006 10:24http://www.enterprise.com4
rental cars in ireland02/04/2006 10:32http://www.dollar.com12
rental cars in ireland02/04/2006 10:32http://www.autoeurope.com14
dan dooley car rental in ireland02/04/2006 19:15http://www.dan-dooley.ie1
dan dooley car rental in ireland02/04/2006 19:15http://www.dandooley.com2
alamo car rental in ireland08/04/2006 08:36http://www.alamo.com1
alamo car rental in ireland08/04/2006 08:36http://www.alamo.com1
hilton garden hotel in ithaca17/04/2006 17:02http://hiltong .. inn.hilton.com1
hilton garden inn in ithaca new york17/04/2006 17:05http://hotel-rates.com3
hilton garden inn in ithaca new york17/04/2006 17:05http://hiltong .. inn.hilton.com1
hilton garden inn in ithaca new york17/04/2006 17:05http://hiltong .. inn.hilton.com2
hampton inn in ithaca new york17/04/2006 17:07http://hamptoninn.hilton.com1
alamo car rental in ireland17/04/2006 17:11http://www.alamo.com1
alamo car rental in ireland17/04/2006 17:11http://www.bnm.com8

Check our the site its fascinating but two words of warning for the faint hearted – some of the searches become either morose and sometimes a little depressing showing the state of mind of the searcher perhaps, secondly its full, I mean full, of stuff for ‘over 18’s’ – so be warned.