First, a quick recap of the Top 10 queries in 2006 across each of the Big 3 engines.
1. Britney Spears
4. Jessica Simpson
5. Paris Hilton
6. American Idol
7. Beyonce Knowles
8. Chris Brown
9. Pamela Anderson
10. Lindsay Lohan
3. Paris Hilton
4. Britney Spears
5. Harry Potter
7. Pamela Anderson
8. Hilary Duff
10. Angelina Jolie
3. World Cup
(Note: Google's list does not reflect absolute query volume, rather lift in total searches on each keyword relative to 2005.)
So what can we take away from this smorgasbord?
1. Naughty or nice? The Frienemy keeps us guessing. While knowing what queries increased in volume over last year is interesting, wouldn't it be nice if Google played along for once and gave us hard data by which apples-to-apples comparisons could be made? At any rate, assuming that the searches that topped Yahoo and MSN were also tops on Google (if not steady risers year over year), it's worth noting that...
2. Search engines are not yellow pages. Notice that the top searches (again, in terms of absolute queries) are not destination Web sites, they are people or topics. And they're not transactional, they're informational. It appears the long tail of the Web is attached to a very good-looking celebrity head. So, I think it follows that...
3. One of the major search engines should go on an acquisition spree of TMZ.com,, TheSmokingGun.com, DrudgeReport.com, etc. I mean, seriously, if this is all people are looking for, why not just own the gossip content and keep consumers within your domain? Oh, yeah, it's not that easy because ... 4. We need to find a way to monetize these queries. And I'm not just talking about marketers selling movies, CDs, T-shirts, etc. For many marketers, there is value in having your brand associated with these queries--just as there is value in having your product associated with a celebrity. The key to unlocking and measuring that value lies in continued research around search impressions and engagement metrics. And, traditionally, where have marketers been able to generate the deepest levels of engagement?
5. Video. The seventh biggest gainer on Google's list (with video site Metacafe clocking in at No. 3). And, no doubt, one of the main forms of content consumers were looking for when searching celebs and athletes. Mark my words, 2007 will be a watershed year for video search. From deeper integration of YouTube into the Google machine to continued innovation by specialty players like Blinkx, to heavy pushes from AOL and others, video search will continue to get smarter and more popular. And, while it may not happen in '07, it won't be long before we are searching video content on our TVs the same way we do on our computers. Which reminds me...
6. Search advertising must remain relevant and non-interruptive. With the plethora of Hollywood content available on TV and in print , why are so many people turning to search engines to get their fix? Because it's easy to find what you want without being bombarded by ads. We must maintain the sanctity of search real estate, especially as we expand into other channels. And, even though consumer intolerance of irrelevant push advertising is universal...
7. We must understand, respect, and leverage International nuances. Bebo, Rebelde, etc. There's a lot of innovation happening outside the U.S. For marketers with global footprints, it's crucial to customize search programs to match the mindset of consumers in foreign countries. And this means more than just translating copy into different languages. It means truly immersing your brand into the local culture.
8. Welcome to the social. More than just a witty tagline for the Microsoft Zune, this invitation sums up the state of the Web as we head into 2007. Just about every query on Google's list relates to some sort of Web 2.0 application. With new content being published every second by anyone with Internet access, search takes on a heightened role of connecting consumers with the content they desire, as well as that which they did not know existed. And that's not search's only role...
9. Search can be a great PR tool. With Web entries often mentioning negative news, from drug use to divorces, 2006's most searched individuals certainly could benefit from some positive spin. How better to get your side of the story in front of inquiring minds than by intercepting them at the point-of-query, before they have a chance to find those racy photos or read that police report? After all, at the end of the day...
10. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even though the Internet has enabled us to easily create our own content and meet people all over the world who share our unique tastes and preferences, we're still obsessed with the same old, er, young, celebrities. Applying this adage to our world, the more things change with algorithms, distribution, quality scores, inventory, and specs, the more the basic best practices of search marketing will remain the same. So, as we look ahead to 2007, let us resolve to stay the course and continue spreading the gospel. It won't be long before all content is searchable and all advertising is query-centric. With the insight gleamed from why people are searching, not just what they're searching, we'll be properly equipped to guide the penetration and convergence of search into all forms of media.
Best wishes for the coming year. May your search for health, happiness, peace, and prosperity yield strong (and relevant!) results.