Britney Spears & Jessica Simpson – The Search Is On

At home, my wife has our home page set to Yahoo’s home page, so you can imagine how often I see the changing articles. Among my favorites on the site is the “Features” section, where I am often tantalized by some eye-grabbing image that makes me click through to the story. There’s always some new temptation.

But what never seems to change much on Yahoo! is the “Popular Searches” section. Everyday, it seems like either Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears is the number one result, often accented with a perky picture of the singer next to the box. With so many far more important and interesting things happening in the world and this country, what makes them so (supposedly) popular in search results? Among other things, it really makes me doubt the validity of Yahoo’s rankings. Watching the news, I would suspect many of the hot topics like the Iraq Study Group Report and college bowl games would pop up on the popular search radar. But no, it’s Jessica and Britney.

Upon digging a little deeper, I found Yahoo’s explanation of the search results:

“The data is collected from Yahoo! search log files. The Yahoo! Buzz Index counts the total number of people searching for specific subjects in a Buzz Leader category (overall, movies, television, music, sports). Note that we use the top 50 terms to track longevity, rather than just the top 20 that are displayed on the site. For buzz movers, the number displayed is the percentage increase in the subject’s buzz score from the previous day.”

Now we see the truth — these “Buzz” results only focus on specific categories of entertainment and sports. My sense is that the television producers and tabloids live off the revenue of these celebrities and keep shoving them down our throats in order to make money. Yahoo has found a similar misleading approach by retrofitting the same buzz into its popularity rankings.

I have to say, I was fooled. Seeing a “Popular Searches” section actually made me believe those terms were really relevant to what the public was searching. But it appears it is nothing more than clever marketing used to dress up the home page. At least I will be secure in knowing that every day I visit the Yahoo! home page my reward will be Jessica Simpson smiling up at me. There are worse things, I suppose.