2003’s Most Wanted Search Terms

The most popular search terms of the past year reveal as much about the interests of searchers as they do about the perceived “personalities” of the major search engines.

The results are relatively similar at Google, Lycos and Yahoo, with pop tart Britney Spears featured prominently on all three top ten lists. Stars, movies, and sports dominate the top ten.

Interestingly, over at Ask Jeeves, the top ten searches are strikingly different. Topping the list: song lyrics, followed by dictionary definitions and ringtones for cell phones. Apparently people really do perceive Ask Jeeves as a different type of search engine.

Each of these services publish regularly updated lists of popular search terms throughout the year, and if you’re not familiar with them, they offer a trove of useful information. They provide an online barometer of what’s on the world’s mind, revealing new trends and crazes. But they can also serve as useful resources for search term research, and can help focus your own search engine marketing campaigns.

The four services are Ask Jeeves weekly SearchIQ, Google’s weekly Zeitgeist, Lycos’ daily Lycos 50, and Yahoo’s daily Buzz Index.

For more information on using these search stats as data mining tools for search term research, check out this profile of Aaron Schatz, compiler of the Lycos 50.

Here’s a quick look at the top ten results for the four major search engines that reported their stats:

Ask Jeeves

1. Song lyrics
2. Dictionary
3. Free Ringtones
4. Games
5. Maps
6. Jokes
7. Driving Directions
8. Horoscopes
9. Baby Names
10. Prom Dresses

Ask Jeeves plans to publish their full list of top searches, including break outs for news, health, product and other categories later today or tomorrow. I’ll publish the link in the online version of this issue when it’s available.

Google’s 2003 Year-End Zeitgeist

1. britney spears
2. harry potter
3. matrix
4. shakira
5. david beckham
6. 50 cent
7. iraq
8. lord of the rings
9. kobe bryant
10. tour de france

Google offers extensive information about a variety of search categories, including popular news, products, images and country specific categories. You can also compare this year’s popular terms with the 2002 Year-End Zeitgeist and the 2001 Year-End Zeitgeist.

Lycos Web’s Most Wanted 2003

The Top 100 items of the year 2003 at Lycos, with last year’s rank in parentheses.

1. KaZaA (2)
2. Britney Spears (4)
3. Dragonball (1)
4. Paris Hilton (-)
5. IRS (7)
6. Kobe Bryant (-)
7. Christmas (9)
8. NFL (6)
9. Pamela Anderson (10)
10. Brooke Burke (34)

Lycos also makes the Top 100 of 2002 and the Top 100 of 2001 available online.

Yahoo’s Top Search Terms of 2003

1. KaZaA
2. Harry Potter
3. American Idol
4. Britney Spears
5. 50 Cent
6. Eminem
7. WWE
8. Paris Hilton
10. Christina Aguilera

Top queries at Yahoo from previous years are no longer available.

A couple of other interesting year-end lists:

E-cyclopedia’s Glossary of 2003

Many of the defining moments of 2003 spawned their own words and phrases. The BBC has a list of the new “words behind the headlines” that were either introduced, popularized, or changed in meaning over the past year.

2003 Year In Review

A metalist of lists: Links to more than 150 end of year lists, organized into categories such as tech, books, music, film, people and so on.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Online portals news
Portal to Information About Military Conflicts…
Research Buzz Jan 7 2004 2:38PM GMT
Online access news
Will’s Web Watch: ‘Charity’ sites raise user concerns…
Silicon.com Jan 7 2004 1:58PM GMT
Online search engines news
Overture Breaks Up Contextual, Search Listings…
Internet News Jan 7 2004 1:38PM GMT
Online legal issues news
Consumer Watch | With anti-spam law, it’s time to adjust email habits…
Philadelphia Inquirer Jan 7 2004 8:18AM GMT
Online marketing news
Why Spammers Laugh at CAN-SPAM…
Business Week Jan 7 2004 7:27AM GMT
Online search engines news
Search Engine Year in Review – 2003…
CPU Review Jan 7 2004 4:08AM GMT
Search Sands Shift as Yahoo Prepares to Drop Google…
Internet.com Jan 7 2004 1:40AM GMT
Ask Jeeves shares jump on expected gain in leverage over Google…
SiliconValley.com Jan 7 2004 0:52AM GMT
Top internet stories
Start-up reprises MP3.com music licensing…
CNET Jan 6 2004 8:16PM GMT
Online legal issues news
Court ponders Web site-blocking law…
CNET Jan 6 2004 5:25PM GMT
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