If you care at all about having your content ranked well on search engines, then you’re probably familiar with the concept of keyword research.  At least, I hope you are.  No matter what our egos tell us, it’s nearly impossible to accurately optimize a webpage or a video using only our gut instinct.  Search users are a strange and unpredictable lot, and don’t often pair words together the ways we think they will.  

That’s why a host of great keyword research tools has emerged over the last several years to help content creators to better understand their audience.  Google Trends is a personal favorite, and I almost always find a nice surprise or bit of insight there that I would have missed otherwise.

Yahoo Clues – Keyword Research & Comparison

And now Yahoo has their own version of Trends, called Clues.  Clues is a lot like Trends, with a little extra.

Where Trends is mostly focused on keyword comparison, Clues will let you research either a single phrase, or a comparison between two phrases–one major advantage with Trends is the ability to compare more than two phrases.  When you first arrive, you’ll be greeted with a screen that looks something like this:

In the top left corner, you can type your own keyword or phrase and click discover, and your data will display to the right.  You have three choices for date-range:  Today, Past 7 Days, and Past 30 Days.  The yellow graph is search volume–the numbers on the right don’t represent actual searches, but instead represent volume.  The 100 represents the highest concentration of searches, with the 0 representing the lowest. With the sample they’ve already placed in there, “yahoo fantasy football,” you can clearly see spikes of search traffic that just so happen to line up perfectly with the weekend and the NFL games on Sunday.

Below the graph you’ll see where things start to get into that “a little extra” territory, with demographic information.  You can sort by Age, Gender, or Both.  Surprise, surprise, more men search for fantasy football terms than women.  You might wonder how they know if you’re a male or female when you search.  An easy answer would be to tell you that your searches say more about you than you think they do. But the real answer probably has more to do with their millions and millions of users, many of whom have gender and age information in their profile.

Scroll down a little further and you’ll see some income-related data:

Yahoo says that Clues “calculates this category using anonymous aggregated zip code information from Yahoo! Search matched against per capita income data from the US Census Bureau.”  There’s also a map of the US, with some state breakdowns on the right.

One of the coolest features of Clues is the “Search Flow” data, which shows you what queries were run just before and just after the term you’re currently researching, and you can simply click on one of the previous or next queries to see its Clues page.  That’s some seriously cool data that I could play around with for hours.

When you compare two phrases, the data stream simply splits into two for easy side-by-side viewing, like this:

What’s Good

  • The demographic data is awesome.  Trends has nothing like it, and it’s almost like combining your website analytics with your standard keyword research tool.
  • I also think the presentation of the data is great.  It’s clean and easy to navigate, but still more visually pleasing than the simple colored line graphs at Trends.
  • The Search Flow is outstanding, and I will probably be using it regularly.

What’s Bad

  • I’m disappointed at the date range options for the data.  If I really want to get a handle on the ebb and flow of the search behaviors related to my topic, I’m going to need to go back further than 30 days.
  • I also wish it was possible to compare more than just two phrases, however, I think that is more due to the layout and presentation they’ve committed to than anything else (there’s not much more room for extra columns of data beyond just the two).
  • Most of us have moved beyond targeting only the US with our efforts, and it would be nice to see data from around the world like I can with Trends.

Overall Impressions

I’ll be using this for sure, at least for the next several weeks.  I’ve seen enough promise in my one day of testing to know that it’s a useful tool for me.  It’s not going to change your life or anything of the sort, but it’s a nice new perspective on the search landscape, and one that I think will make a nice addition to your list of regular keyword research sources.