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Search Engine Anthropology
What Do Our Keywords Mean?

While doing some keyword research recently, I couldn't help but laugh. Last month there were 10,700 searches for the "meaning of life," which seemed like a lot, until I saw that there were 840,000 searches for "payday loan." It got me to thinking about what the keywords we use to search for things online say about our emerging world culture. Some of what I found follows.

Within the database I checked, (Yahoo's keyword selector tool), there are many men looking for women online. But what kind of women do they want? Last month there were 944,000 searches for a "sexy woman." How many searched for an "intelligent woman?" 158. That's 158, not 158,000. To put that into an easy to understand ratio, for every man searching for an intelligent woman, there are 5,974 who just want a sexy one. To be fair, I have to mention that only 87 searches were done for an "intelligent man."

What do the searches say about our attitude towards money? Among the hundreds of money-related search terms, two caught my eye. Last month there were 10,700 searches for "earn money," but 12,700 for "get money." Hmm... Are we so impatient to have money that we don't care if we earn it? An indication might be the hundreds of thousands of combined searches for terms like "easy money" (9,700), " "make easy money" (4,600), "easy ways to make money" (2,700), "make money fast" (14,700) and my favorite, searched 2,900 times last month, "make money quick and easy."

Ethics in general seem to be suffering, if search engine traffic is any indication. Last month there were 9,700 searches for a "code of ethics." I thought that was impressive until compared to the 269,000 searches for "cheat codes." That's a ratio of 27-to-1, by the way.

It seems we just want to have fun. In fact, there were 194,000 searches for that exact word, as opposed to the minority of 3,450 searchers who wanted "peace of mind." What kind of fun? "Fun sex" was the answer for 9400 people last month. With only 49 searches worldwide for a "meaningful relationship," it seems that those just aren't much fun.

What about our cultural taste for art? That depends on one's definition, I suppose. There were 1,300 people searching for "free art" last month, but then that is only one for every 1,600 people searching for "free porn." Yes, you read that right. There were over 2 million searches for the latter keyword.

These figures are for September of 2006, by the way . I mention this just in case you want to track the changes, to do your own search engine anthropology.

Finally, 23,600 searches last month were for nothing. It wasn't that they didn't search for anything. No. 23,600 times somebody typed the word "nothing" into the search engines and hit enter. I don't have any idea what that means, but it seems it can't be good. At least almost twice as many (46,500) were searching for "something."

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Search Engine Anthropology