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Sex Is Still A Top Search Term

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I had someone email me recently asking whether the "urban legend" of sex and porn being top search terms was still true. Hmm. Is it? I thought it would be fun to check back on the situation.

Search engines release lists of "popular" search queries such as we show here. However, these lists aren't -- pardon the pun -- unadulterated. They've been cleaned up, with misspellings removed and other types of queries, such as sexual terms, often removed.

Here's an example of the cleaning that happens. Check out the Lycos 50 Raw from 2003 and 2004, and you'll see how sex is still plenty popular before the list gets sanitized.

I've not seen any of the big major search engines release raw data like in the example above for some time, certainly nothing that tells you how the terms "porn" or "sex" might be doing these days on their sites.

There was a fairly recent story on how sex queries had dropped from being 20 percent of searches in 1997 to apparently 5 percent in 2004. (A release about the findings is here).

However, the data used to create those statistics doesn't appear to come from the same search engines. A presentation (PowerPoint format) from the researchers shows how different datasets from different times are used to make these comparisons, such as AltaVista data from 2002 versus Vivisimo data from 2004.

While I don't doubt that the overall number of sex-related terms may have dropped, it is interesting to see on slide 24 that "sex" remained in the top ten even for what I'd say was the more academically-aimed Vivisimo in 2004.

How about Wordtracker? It gets raw data provided to it through an agreement with Infospace. The filtered top 30 list is here. Those with paid accounts for the keyword research tool can see the unfiltered list. But Wordtracker kindly sent me a top 20 list I've posted below.

Position Term Count
1 sex

302,993

2 porn

234,751

3 paris hilton

213,259

4 pussy

174,106

5 google

155,497

6 milf

142,213

7 yahoo

124,016

8 hentai

121,680

9 ebay

121,086

10 free porn

119,760

11 boobs

103,570

12 eminem

96,264

13 britney spears

96,262

14 mapquest

94,014

15 tsunami

93,708

16 jenna jameson

93,350

17 girls

90,841

18 89.com

90,334

19 green day

89,458

20 lindsay lohan

88,265

So sex seems to still be going strong!

By the way, looking for the original source that fueled the idea that sex and porn were top terms? Way back in 1997, Eyescream got a leaked list of terms from Yahoo that showed this Eyescream no longer operates. It was originally here, and you can still view it via the Internet Archive here.


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