Yahoo Clues Shows Demographics Behind Searches

In a move that makes Google Trends look like a sick chicken, Yahoo has announced Yahoo Clues, a tool that allows you to see the demographics behind Yahoo Searches, from gender to age group to location to income. (Yahoo explicity states the income information is used by matching zip code data to information from the Census Bureau; I suppose the age and gender information is gathered from logged-in users. You can try Clues at http://clues.yahoo.com/.

This is not a Web search tool per se, it’s more a tool to see how other people do Web searching. Looking at how other people phrase queries and develop searches will help you increase the flexibility of your brain and your search queries, so this is a good thing. (Though on the other hand not entirely comfortable sometimes, as you’ll see shortly.)

Start with the query box in the upper left corner; you can enter one search term or two search terms to do a comparison. I chose World of Warcraft.

Yahoo Clues defaults to a 30-day view for query information, but you can also look at a 7-day or 1-day view. The popularity of the query is presented on a 1 to 100 point scale; no absolute numbers are given.

The information screen starts with a query popularity graph, then moves to information about the age and gender breakdown for the query. If you click on a group, you can also find out what other related queries are interesting to that group. (The fact that world of warcraft cakes was a populary query for several groups is interesting, but I really did not need to know about the popularity of sexy world of warcraft art.) Toggle links let you show just the gender and age breakdown for a query.

Beneath these stats you’ll also get information on the income of people making the queries (gained from the Census Bureau as described above) and the popularity of the query across various US states (Yahoo makes sure the state populations are weighed so that the most populous states do not constantly show up in the list of states with the most queries.)

Yahoo notes that “Currently, only Yahoo! Search information originating from the United States is available,” which sounds to me like there are plans for more locations over time.

Finally underneath all that are a list of related searches and a “search flow,” showing the evolution of a query (users searched for this which led to this which lead to this query….) The search flow is great for you as a searcher; it helps you get an insight to how people think when searching. (The more ways you can think, the more ways you can search, and the better you’ll be at finding stuff.) At the very bottom are links for you to share your search via Facebook or Twitter.

The thing that occurred to me immediately upon using this was: where’s the state or metro area restriction? Say I’m a used car dealership in Ohio. I want to be able to get the demographic information for my state (or better yet, metro area.) If I know that the demographic breakdown for people searching on “used cars” is heavily slanted toward one gender and one age group, maybe I can take that information and use it when deciding my target demographic when creating, say, a Facebook campaign to promote my dealership. However since the initial search covers all the US, I can’t get demographic information for an area important to my state (though maybe I’ll play with that discovered demographic anyway when developing my FB ads.)

I encourage you to play with Yahoo Clues. Think about how you would approach a search problem, plug in your query, and see how other demographic groups are handling it. Warning: this can turn into a real timesink!

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