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Web Development Articles
(September 2001)

Osama bin Laden Outranks Britney Spears in Web Searches

First, I'll state emphatically, I join those mourning lost loved ones in the terrorist attack on the US last Tuesday. Nothing could have been more shocking than seeing the news footage we've all endured this week and I'm still struggling to make sense of it all. In taking the oft repeated advice that we seek a return to business as usual I've found no escape from terrorism in returning to my work. I do Search Engine Optimization for small business web sites. Terrorism ranks at position #48 on the most frequently searched list.

As a search engine optimization and marketing specialist, I monitor and measure the most frequently searched terms at all the top search engines across the web. It is clear, to those of us who make a living tweaking and maximizing search terms on our clients' web sites, which interests on the web dominate based on what people are searching for. We attempt to find terms relevant to our clients to maximize their web traffic.

'Osama bin Laden' now ranks as the most searched term on the search engines and displaces Britney Spears and Pamela Anderson as the most sought after name on the web. Nostradamus is running a close second after rumors circulated that he predicted the attack on America as the beginning of the end of the world.

I couldn't resist visiting the number one search result at Google for Osama bin Laden from results returned by Google for a category at the Open Directory Project where Bin Laden has his own section labled:

Society > Issues > Terrorism > International Terrorists > USA Designees > Al-Qaida > Usama Bin-Laden

The top link in that category leads to the following page:


This link is a "University of Texas Middle East Information Center" page from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. It provides a 1993 interview with Bin Laden by Robert Fisk of the "Independent". With Bin Laden being the most searched person on and off the web, this page must be experiencing heavy traffic as the number one search result this week. I'll wager that list of links grows larger.

It is not always so obvious why top terms are being searched as it is this week. This demonstrates strongly that the web is a valuable tool for research and reference when important and dramatic issues arise in our society.

Next come searches for "American flag" and the words, "World Trade Center", displacing "jokes" and "MP3" from their usual high ranking in number of searches. Jokes only dropped from a steady place in top 10 searches to position 41 on the list. People clearly still need something to smile about.

New York City and Afghanistan now rank as the top searched locations pushing "Toronto" and "Canada" off the list of the top 500 search terms. Folks are still interested in "Maps" but now it is "World Map" and "Afghanistan Map" that have replaced "Weather" and "Driving Directions" as top 50 search terms.

"American Red Cross" has displaced "dictionary" as a top 20 search term and dictionary has dropped to 40th position. I'm sure lots of folks are looking up "Afghansitan" and of course "Nostradamus" so "dictionary" still ranks as a top search term. Misspellings of words are very often found highly ranked in the most frequently searched terms and this week that is still apparent as the list contains 18 spelling variations on the name of Nostradamus.

News sites are very frequently sought by searchers but are usually found near the bottom of the 500 most frequently searched terms. This week all major US television networks jumped into the top 250 where only CNN manages to be found routinely that high on the list. This week CNN jumped to the top 10 with three positions. Position number 7 with "CNN news", position 8 with "CNN" and position 10 with "CNN.com".

The BBC made it to the top 500 the first time this week. Maybe we need to hear what Britain thinks after a steady diet of US Networks? I must admit that I spent more of my time in front of television than I did in front of my computer this week and tuned in to PBS to see a BBC report myself after two days of non-stop commercial network news.

Speaking of commercial, did you notice there weren't any?

While the commercial phrase "airline tickets" maintains a position around the 50th most frequently searched terms in a normal week, it is nowhere to be found on the list this week above position 500. Neither are there many searches for products as there have been in recent weeks.

We often seek comfort and enjoyment from animals and the terms "dogs", "cats" and "horses" usually find their way onto the most frequently searched terms list. Only "dogs" remain this week. Does that suggest they remain our best friend in difficult times too?

Our society can be viewed through this odd lens on a regular basis every week and you can see a side-by-side list of the top 300 search terms for the week of 9/15/01 and 9/8/01 here:


I hope to see the term "World Peace" in that most frequently searched phrases, if not some day soon, at least some day.

-------------------------------------------------------- Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small Business http://website101.com/Search_Engine_Positioning WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet Weekly Ezine emphasizing small business on the Internet http://website101.com/arch/


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