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Rich Skrenta shows an analysis of AOL Search terms broken down by category:

Entertainment 12.60%
Shopping 10.21%
Porn 7.19%
URL 6.78%
Research 6.77%
Misspellings 6.53%
Places 6.13%
Business 6.07%
Health 5.99%
News&Society 5.85%
Computing 5.38%
Orgs&Inst 4.46%
Home&Garden 3.82%
Autos 3.46%
Sports 3.30%
Travel 3.09%
Games 2.38%
Personal Fin 1.63%
Holidays 1.63%
Other 15.69%

Interestingly enough, both Shopping and Entertainment show significantly more search volume than porn. I guess we want our ipods and Britney gossip more often than dirty pictures.

The numbers add up to 118.96%, presumably because some search terms fall into more than one category. Representing each category on a percentile basis out of 118.96%, and organizing them into broader groups, we see that a little over a quarter of searches have some commercial component (in red below), a little under a quarter are entertainment (blue) or information (pink) related, with navigation and other making up the rest.
Searches by type

  • Alex

    Does URL = direct navigation?

    How about Misspellings? Is facebook a misspelling? is Meebo a misspelling? Basically, any word not in the English dictionary???

  • J.T.

    Anecdotally, a 6% share of the overall search mind feels low, but having respect for Abdur and his methods would have to supersede the old manual processes (no pun intended) that we used to employ on the top 25k.

    Also, I wonder how much of this is the work effect, as in, it’s perfectly acceptable to be looking for Brittney gossip at the desk… just not the NSFW material. Leads me to wonder what the above breakdown looks like broken down by demographic and day-parted.

  • http://www.ciceron.com andrew eklund

    Does AOL have porn? (That’s an honest question. I don’t know.) When I get my WordTracker data, it tells a very different story if you don’t filter out adult content. I think this could be skewed to AOL or AOL users which may or may not represent the average internet user.

  • http://www.summize.com Abdur

    Hello Jeremy its Abdur,

    As an author of that paper I think I can fill in some of those details. First, queries can be placed in multiple categories. For example “bmw financing” would be classified into Autos and Personal Finance. As for the comment on porn, porn has been reported as a higher percentage in the past, but this seems to have gone down for the following reason, search has become a larger part of our everyday lives so porn queries while still there just represent a smaller percentage.

    The study used a random sample of 20k queries sampled from a week of queries to get ride of day and hr trends that occur. For you stat geeks, that is a 99% confidence with a +-1% error rate in the trends you find.

    To andrew’s question, AOL Search is a general web search engine, so non-aol content is searchable, so yes people did use it for looking for porn.

    If you are interested in the hourly, daily and monthly trends check out this paper we did.

    http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1190275.1190282&coll=&dl=

    Abdur

    User comments.
    Good luck,

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