Online tools like the subscription based service from Wordtracker and the free service of Overture's search term suggestion tool have long allowed search engine marketers to research what types of phrases people type into search queries. While these tools can provide well-needed insight into the creation of search engine marketing campaigns, they aren't the only options available for people wanting to observe the search industry.

Sites like the Lycos Top 50 and Google's Zeitgeist were handy for tracking trends in search phrases over time, but they really only cover the most popular, or fastest growing search phrases. Finding real-time insight into what people are searching for takes a different type of tool.

Both Dogpile and MetaCrawler have setup live feeds of the search query strings that are being entered into their respective meta search engines. These feeds are available in filtered or unfiltered formats and produce a scrolling list of search queries that are being typed in as you watch. The feeds can provide some insight into what's heavy on the minds of searches on any given day. For instance, as I've been typing this article Hurricane Ivan and other hurricane related phrases have been appearing on each list every few minutes.

Yahoo! offers up a listing of product purchases made in Yahoo! stores over the past hour. While the listings are not all-inclusive, (the site has a disclaimer that explains they show only a sampling of purchased products) they are interesting. I never knew that Spiderman night lights existed, but while I was watching, someone decided to buy one.

There's even a site dedicated to recording the unusual (and sometimes truly bizarre) search queries that show up only log files. The Disturbing Search Requests blog allows readers to login and submit the strange referrer lines that they find in their own log files. (*Warning: some people may find some of the search queries listed here to be offensive.)

None of these sites make my list of “most useful tools on the Internet,” but they do provide some interesting entertainment value. If I’m sitting at my desk watching the phrases tick by, I can’t help but get excited when I see a query that I recognize. (For instance, when “Honda engine used” scrolled by, I had to wonder if my husband might not be cruising WebCrawler looking for parts.) Other searches tend to spark my own interest and result in my heading off to search for a query on my own. (When “what does d.c. mean in d.c. shoes” scrolled by, I started to wonder… what DOES the d.c. stand for?)
September 14, 2004

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Observing Real Time Search