Search Trends in the Recession: Porn Wins Big!

Wow. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. Times are tough. We are in the midst of a recession. And it looks like when times are tough, people get lazier and hornier. The Google Trends graph above is filtered for search volume in the United States from 2004-2009, so don’t tell me that some other countries are skewing the data. Again, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, but seriously? Really? Are humans that predictable?

'porn' wins as Americans get lazy and horny during the recession
'porn' wins as Americans get lazy and horny during the recession

Wow. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. Times are tough. We are in the midst of a recession. And it looks like when times are tough, people get lazier and hornier. The Google Trends graph above is filtered for search volume in the United States from 2004-2009, so don’t tell me that some other countries are skewing the data. Again, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, but seriously? Really? I know, I know. Unemployment is way up, so a lot more people are sitting at home being lazy and bored. Hence, the porn searches. Gosh. Are humans that predictable?

I was also surprised to see a decreasing trend in ‘sports’ searches. I find myself watching more sporting events than ever this year. I guess I’m unique. Yeah right. ‘God’ searches are nice and steady. I’m glad to see people are still into God. ‘Politics’ is also kind of static.  I guess that’s no shocker. Finally, it should be no surprise that ‘coupons’ searches are way up (beginning in late-2008). I like coupons. You should like coupons, too.

Oh well, that is all. This filler post has been brought to you by the hectic holiday season.

5 Common SEO Questions Answered by Google’s Matt Cutts

In my experience as an SEO, there are several questions that pop up quite often. Matt Cutts has answered these questions, so I thought I would post his answers on this awesome SEO blog of mine.

  1. Should I use pipes or dashes in my title tags?
    “I think they’re both viewed as separators, so I think either one should be fine. Dashes are a lot more common…We definitely handle dashes well. I would expect that we handle pipes well as well.” – Matt Cutts
  2. Should I use underscores or hyphens in URLs?
    “It does make a difference. I would go with dashes or hyphens if you can. If you have underscores and things are working fine for you, I wouldn’t worry about changing your architecture.” – Matt Cutts
  3. Can the geographic location of a web server affect SEO?
    “Yes it does because we look at the IP address of your web server. So if your web server is based in Germany, we’re more likely to think that it’s useful for German users…We also look at TLD…If you want to experiment, you can certainly try switching the geographic location of your web server [in Google Webmaster Central], which is essentially changing your IP address…” – Matt Cutts
  4. Is excessive whitespace in the HTML source bad?
    “Um. We really don’t care that much…Any time we see white space, we’ll separate stuff. And we can ignore white space, so it doesn’t really cause us a lot of harm either way…As long as you’re doing normal, reasonable stuff, I wouldn’t worry about it that much.” – Matt Cutts
  5. Does the position of keywords in the URL affect ranking?
    “It does help a little bit to have keywords in the URL. It doesn’t help so much that you should go stuffing a ton of keywords into your URL.” – Matt Cutts

There. I hope you enjoyed that. Thanks to Matt Cutts for answering these questions for us all. I’m just going to send any and all clients to this blog post from now on.

Netbook vs. Notebook: Is There a New Sheriff in Keywordville?

We all know that a laptop is a laptop. However, in the wide world of search, you can’t just focus on ranking for laptop. Why? For one, good luck ranking for laptop. The competition is superduper competitive for that term. Next, you’ll probably want to rank for laptops. Again, good luck. Don’t get me wrong. You should definitely optimize your site for those terms. I just don’t want you getting your hopes up. Even in a time of hope and change, I wouldn’t get caught up in hoping that your rankings change so much that you’ll be swimming in $100 bills. It’s just not likely you’ll be able to rank in the top 10 for laptop. But imagine if you could. There are a lot of searches for that term.

Google Keyword Data: Laptop, Notebook, Netbook
Google Keyword Data: Laptop, Notebook, Netbook

Where does that leave us? We must focus on some other generic keywords that also drive a lot of laptop-related traffic. Let’s check out synonyms for laptop. Notebook! Many people refer to their laptop as a notebook, so we definitely need to target the term notebook. Up until a few years ago, that was the main choice as an alternative to laptop. Well guess what. There’s a new keyword on the move: netbook. Just take a look at these historical trends, courtesy of Google Trends:

Google Trends Stats (US) for laptop, notebook, netbook
Google Trends Stats (US) for laptop, notebook, netbook

While the United States search volume has seen a tremendous increase for the term netbook, the News reference volume has been even more dramatic. In the news realm, the term netbook has already passed the volume for notebook, and it looks like netbook and laptop are currently in a dead heat. Where did all of this come from? In Q4 2007 the term netbook appears out of nowhere, and then a year later it’s off to the races. Perhaps a look into the history of netbooks is needed. Or perhaps not. Or perhaps we can borrow a summary from our friends at Wikipedia:

A netbook (a portmanteau of Internet and notebook) is a class of laptop computer designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet.

Primarily designed for web browsing and e-mailing, netbooks rely heavily on the Internet for remote access to web-based applications and are targeted increasingly at cloud computing users who require a less powerful client computer. Netbooks typically run either Linux or Windows XP operating systems rather than more resource-intensive operating systems like Windows Vista or Mac OS X. The devices range in size from below 5 inches to over 13, typically weigh 2 to 3 pounds (~1 kg) and are often significantly cheaper than general purpose laptops.

Netbooks represent a greener alternative to larger laptops due to lower power demands, fewer toxic components, and a resource-efficient approach to computing and some models have achieved EPEAT gold and silver ratings.

The Wikipedia entry goes on about the history of the netbook, from Psion’s line of Netbooks to the One Laptop Per Child project to the Palm Foleo. But the real change in netbook-related search volume came in 2007 when Asus released the ASUS Eee PC. And it wasn’t only ASUS. Everybody had to play catch up and copycat. Following the ASUS EeePC, Everex came out with the CloudBook, MSI developed the Wind, Dell released the Inspiron Mini, HP put out the HP Mini, and many other similar models were on the assembly line for production.

In early 2008, Intel announced that it would be quitting the One Laptop Per Child program, but that didn’t impact search. In fact, in early 2008 the search volume trend for netbook really started to rise. Why might this be? There’s probably many more verifiable and accurate reasons than this one I’m about to throw out there, but I’m going to start with the US economy in 2008. Netbooks are inexpensive, small, underpowered laptops. The key word (no pun intended) in that list is inexpensive. Netbooks average about $350. And just in case you think this post is too long and off base, just check out this link. Today on Amazon, the top 3 bestsellers in Computers & PC Hardware are netbook computers. And there are all under $375. Don’t believe me? Here’s the screenshot:

Amazon Bestsellers: Computers & PC Hardware
Amazon Bestsellers: Computers & PC Hardware

There you have it. Netbooks are cheap. They are lightweight. They don’t have a lot of the unnecessary bells and whistles that 99% of people will never use. Netbooks are perfect for people who just want to surf the web and check email. In the next few years, netbooks will make it easier for more and more people to get online, and it’s only natural that many of the major companies get involved in the netbook market. Already there are several models from brands such as Acer, Lenovo, Samsung, MSI, Sylvania, Toshiba, ASUS, HP and Dell.

Google Trends: netbook and netbooks
Google Trends: netbook and netbooks

Lastly, here is a look at the terms netbook and notebook vs. the plurals. For those of you wondering, the term netbook has already passed notebooks in terms of search volume. This is another sign that netbook term is only going to become increasingly competitive. If you are running an SEO campaign for a company selling laptops, notebooks and netbooks, I hope you consider placing a lot of focus on netbook-related terms. You are not on the ground floor of ranking for netbooks, but the good news is that you still have a good shot at setting up your site for great netbook-related rankings in the future.