What Video Marketers Can Learn From Annual Lists of Top-Searched Keyword Terms

What Video Marketers Can Learn From Annual Lists of Top-Searched Keyword Terms

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For many years in a row, the top search query was Britney Spears.  When sharing this fact with clients and during seminars, I often joke that one would think we’ve learned everything there is to know about Miss Spears by now.  And it seems as though that might finally be the case.  Yahoo has released their annual Year In Review data, compiling the most frequently searched words and phrases by a variety of categories, and in the Overall list… Britney has fallen to 10th place.

Which isn’t to say that we aren’t still obsessed with pop stars, because we are.  But Spears has been pushed aside in favor of newer singing sensations like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus.  And for the first time since Yahoo started charting these things, a news story became the top search topic of the year:  the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s not like there weren’t huge news stories each of the last several years, so it says something about the oil spill and its global impact that it’s the first news event to earn top honors.

The Top Yahoo Search Terms for 2010

Here’s the entire top ten most search terms for 2010:

  1. BP Oil Spill
  2. World Cup
  3. Miley Cyrus
  4. Kim Kardashian
  5. Lady Gaga
  6. iPhone
  7. Megan Fox
  8. Justin Bieber
  9. American Idol
  10. Britney Spears

It’s interesting to note how much this list has evolved over time.  Take a look at the top searches from Yahoo just two short years ago:

  1. Britney Spears
  2. WWE
  3. Barack Obama
  4. Miley Cyrus
  5. Runescape
  6. Jessica Alba
  7. Naruto
  8. Lindsay Lohan
  9. Angelina Jolie
  10. American Idol

Only three phrases on both lists:  American Idol, Miley Cyrus, & Britney.  Of course, in 2008, most of us had never heard of Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.  It’s interesting to note that the level in search traffic for wrestling has dropped considerably in two years, and I can’t help but wonder if their ratings and revenue over at the WWE show similar declines.

The Top Bing Searched Keywords for 2010

Yahoo’s not the only engine that has released a year-end list.  Bing and AOL have both gotten in on the act.

  1. Kim Kardashian
  2. Sandra Bullock
  3. Tiger Woods
  4. Lady Gaga
  5. Barack Obama
  6. Hairstyles
  7. Kate Gosselin
  8. Walmart
  9. Justin Bieber
  10. Free

The 2010Top Keyword Searches At AOL

AOL doesn’t give an overall list of top searches, but instead breaks them down topically such as “Top Movie Search” and “Top Health Search.”  But you can view their lists here.  Yahoo also offers various sub-lists that are broken down by themes like “Good Sports,” “Inspiring Acts,” and “Natural Disasters.”  You can view all of them here.

So what are the takeaways from all this amusing data?  I’m glad you asked:

1. Search Habits Are Unique

Some people use Bing as their primary engine.  Most use Google.  Somehow… there are still others who are using AOL.  But these lists always vary from engine to engine.  Tiger Woods, for instance, is a highly searched phrase on Bing’s list–which makes sense given how much he was in the news this year–but isn’t anywhere on Yahoo’s list.  Even though all search engine customers have the same goals, their specific search needs are unique, and each engine’s core users are slightly different.  I might go so far as to suggest that Bing fanatics search differently–and for different things–than Yahoo addicts.

2. Many Grains Of Salt

Please keep in mind that we simply have to trust these companies are being honest about searches.  And it’s quite likely that there’s some human moderation of the most-searched-phrases lists.  For instance, do you see anything related to pornography on any of those lists?  I don’t.  But I’m not willing to believe that pornography has suddenly become less popular with online audiences.  Instead, it’s easier to assume the engines are trying to sanitize the lists and not promote the fact that they are often used to find illicit material.  None of the engines give out raw data with these lists either, so the gap between number 1 and number 10 could be small… or it could be huge.  There’s no way to know.

3. Music Videos Are Huge

If you’ve spent any time looking at the most-viewed YouTube clips (either by day, week, month, or year), then you know that nothing draws views like a new music video from a popular musical act.  Lady Gaga’s video for Bad Romance, for example, has 313,209,233 views in just one year of going online.  “The Evolution Of Dance” video–considered one of the most successful viral clips of all time–by comparison, has only 157,754,231 views in nearly four years of being online.  And you can’t tell me that a huge portion of the searches for Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, & Justin Bieber on that Yahoo list aren’t from people looking for video.

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell what percentage of searches for those phrases on the list are from people specifically seeking video.  It would be nice to have a list from Yahoo or Google that actually broke down the top searches for each vertical–News, Books, Shopping, Video, etc.  Until then, we can only speculate.  But certainly any of the phrases on Yahoo’s list could pertain to video content, and many surely do.

4. Universal Search Still Matters

Please note that there isn’t one mention of the word “video” in any of those lists.  Very few people search for the word “video.”  And while Google’s video search is pretty popular, it pales in comparison to Google proper.  If you want your videos found, you still need to be concerned about universal search results–where video results are rolled in with the main results (along with news results, twitter messages, etc.).  Which means you still need to be concerned about video SEO–sitemaps, annotations, keywords, quality titles, captions, etc.

Wrap Up

These lists are always more for fun than for real education–at least, that’s what everyone always says.  I think there’s still something to learn from them, even if they are more of a “30,000 foot view” thing.  In fact, one of my most common pieces of video-creation advice to clients is this:  make video content that pertains to or makes reference to current events, hot topics, and online trends.  If you’re VH1, for example, would you be more inclined to make a Behind The Music special about Lionel Richie or Lady Gaga?  The latter, obviously, because there’s a much larger demand online for content related to Lady Gaga.  If you’re a company releasing a new mobile OS, it might behoove you to create content that mentions your rivals like iOS or Android–since those are phrases likely to already be drawing search interest.

You want people to find your content?  Then put it in the places where they are looking.  And a fantastic way to do that is to follow the search trends and video view trends and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s hot right now… then build content around that.

It’s only a matter of time before Google releases their own year-end list.  And since they’re the clear market leader in search, it’s usually worth an in-depth look.  So I’ll be back with another notice when they’ve announced their own most-searched phrases of 2010.  In the meantime, have a little fun pouring over the various lists from Yahoo, Bing, and AOL, and see if you can’t gain a better understanding of the average search user… it just might come in handy for your next video campaign.


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