Top Ranked Search Terms – Death and Taxes Still Certain

With the massive amount of search activity taking place across the web, the highest traffic search terms can provide a glimpse into the issues currently important to internet users, and consumers as a whole. With our online search tools, you can start to get at this data on a site level, but what we find even more interesting is how this plays out for the web as a whole, and how these terms change over time.

Taking a look at the most popular search terms from December 2007 through the better half of February 2008, some interesting trends develop. For this analysis we stripped out all branded, navigational and adult terms, to get at the meaty center of search behavior. The chart below shows the most popular search terms for January 2008, ranked by search referrals. The spark charts to the right of each term represent how referral volume has changed over time. We used referrals (as opposed to queries) in order to strip out terms that don’t result in fulfilled searches.

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  • Pop culture related spikes: Heath Ledger’s tragic death caused an explosion in searches on his name in January, resulting in nearly 2 million referrals from this term. Because of the timing of his untimely passing, some of this traffic spilled over into February. Search referrals from "Britney Spears" show a similar story.
  • Seasonal trends: With tax season upon us, and students renewing their financial aid, search referrals from government terms "IRS" and "FAFSA" grew dramatically in January and then stabilize in February.
  • Political Momentum: Just as Barack Obama’s campaign has gained increasing momentum, more online consumers are searching on his name. There was a dramatic increase from December to January (last month searches for his name drove over 500,000 referrals), and it appears that this term will nearly double again in February. Search volume for "Hillary Clinton" and "John McCain" grew substantially in the same time period, but with considerably less traffic.
  • Technically branded, but too cool to leave out: Trailers and advertising for Cloverfield avoided showing the movie’s underlying monster. This ambiguity encouraged over 900,000 referrals for the term "Cloverfield." The term "cloverfield monster" just barely missed making the top twenty-five list as well.

All terms listed above are exact match terms. For instance, for the term “dictionary” searches for a term like “online dictionary” would not be counted.