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100 Million Theoretical Dollars

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On April 2, the "South Park" gods decided to poke fun at the writer's strike and, in context, making money on the Internet. The "Canada On Strike" episode reminded viewers that the Internet is still "not there yet," but in doing so, illustrated yet another way to make money on the Web.

The "South Park" kids found themselves forced to make money on the Internet to pay off striking Canadians. Naturally, Cartman and company made a video for YouTube to make their millions. Much to their chagrin, they had to wait in line behind other Internet sensations.

Mainstream moneymaking might not be ready for primetime, but as with the popularity of searching, following viewership behavior has become a time-honored means of capturing and directing an audience. In other words, you too can optimize for Eric Cartman.

What, What in the...

But before you pass judgment on the lack of moneymaking opportunities, consider the Internet rock stars featured in "Canada on Strike." As the kids waited for their check for theoretical money made on the Internet, they were introduced to top Internet superstars.

"Chocolate Rain," "Sneezing Panda," "Numa Numa," and "Laughing Baby" were (and perhaps are) some of the more popular viral videos on the Internet.

The point of "South Park" episode 1204 is that mainstream entertainment on the Web has yet to reach critical mass, but take a look at search activity around the April 2 launch and subsequent airtimes:

Hitwise traffic data

Small Numbers, Big Pull

While viral superstars score appearances on talk shows and sitcoms, some actually take the time to build a business. Arguably, Tay Zonday's "Chocolate Rain" started with the most revenue potential and has stayed in the public eye, so the search data would be a bit skewed. "Chocolate Rain" won a 2007 YouTube award on March 15.

"Numa, Numa" on the other hand, pretty much fell off the face of the earth since its popularity slowed down. Search activity (though relatively small when compared to overall searches) shows a significant increase right around the time "South Park" aired.

Interesting? Maybe. Exciting? Not especially. All things considered, this data shows how understanding search behavior's connection to popular thought is mission-critical for any brand, product, or service marketer today.

Simple illustrations of how users search and the connection with mainstream mentions and appearances can lead to big (real) money...if you're there to greet them.

Push, Pull...Sneeze

Tracking mentions isn't only possible – it's profitable. You have to be ready for them when they come. It's not unusual or ill advised to prep word groups in search advertising in anticipation.

Proving once again that social media concerns and search go hand-in-hand, the ups and downs of each video's popularity coincide with press mentions, broadcast viewings, and blog buzz.

In the end, while you're waiting for 100 million real dollars, capitalizing on the connection between traditional placement and search can be as easy as lip-syncing Romanian dance music.


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