What We Like: Internet search trends

“Mt. St. Helens fin collapse,” “limonene legal define,” and “rescue me.”

These are some of the terms I entered in my Google search toolbar (toolbar.google.com) yesterday. It’s fun to see what other people search for, and many search engines share that information with us as a way to see patterns and trends.

Want to be the coolest person at your water cooler? Bypass watching television news shows and go straight to The Lycos 50 at http://50.lycos.com . Lycos, Inc. operates sites like http://www.Lycos.com (a search engine), http://www.Hotbot.com , http://www.Wired.com , http://www.Tripod.com , and http://www.Angelfire.com .

Every Tuesday morning, Lycos publishes the 50 most popular Internet search results. For the week ending May 20, the top five are:

1. Paris Hilton

2. Poker

3. RuneScape

4. MySpace

5. Pamela Anderson

There are all kinds of ways to parse out what’s on America’s mind. For instance, the biggest movers and shakers over that same time period are:

1. CD Labels 224%

2. Spyware 210%

3. Diamond Bracelets 191%

4. LCD TV 189%

5. Red Hat Linux 187%

That week saw the finales of the season’s television shows. ABC’s hot TV show, Grey’s Anatomy (#30), made its first-ever appearance on this week’s Lycos 50. Interestingly, while search activity indicates Web users are crazy about the show, they don’t know how to spell it, as search queries for the incorrectly spelled “Gray’s Anatomy” outnumber searches for “Grey’s Anatomy” nearly two to one.

Like high school, it’s not just important to be the cool kid of the week; holding onto that crown counts for something. Following are some of popular kids in the longevity category. According to Lycos (and this, no doubt, is reflected in Google and other search engines), they’ve been on the list every week since Lycos began keeping score in August 1999 (excerpt from Lycos):

Pamela Anderson (High: #4, Low: #28, Now at #5 and has been on for 348 weeks) — We call Pamela Anderson “the patron saint” of the Lycos 50. She’s stayed in the top 20 nearly every week despite the fact that she’s stopped making movies and TV shows and she doesn’t really appear in Playboy anymore. Still, there’s no doubt Lycos users still love to look at this prized pinup, not to mention read about her wacky love life.

Dragonball (High: #1 for 25 weeks, Now #17 and has been on for 348 weeks) — We’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain Dragonball, which may be the most popular item in the history of the Lycos 50. The show is the story of intergalactic warriors who fight to gather seven “dragonballs” which, if collected together, spawn a dragon that grants your wish. It has spawned videotapes, games, comic books, toys, and a ton of other paraphernalia. It also hasn’t been out of the Top 10 since the first week of the Lycos 50.

Britney Spears (High: #1 for 4 weeks, Low: #17, Now #8 and has been on for 348 weeks) — Britney is super-popular online because she combines two trends, each of them driving search traffic. On one hand, she’s a teen pop star. On the other hand, she’s a beautiful woman whose image gets more scandalous each year. Put those two together, you have a lot of searches.

It’s also fun to look back at search data last year and see what was on the minds of searching Internet. According to the Lycos 50, we obsessed about Star Wars, Paris Hilton (still), Poker, and Lindsay Lohan. One notable who has dropped off the list since then is female auto racer, Danica Patrick. She raced the Indy 500 for the first time during Memorial Day weekend last year. She finished fourth last year, and eighth this year.

For a complete list of The Lycos 50 and for in-depth text of The Lycos 50 Daily Report, go to http://50.lycos.com .

Taking popular trends on the minds of the Internet users a step further, Google released a new product this week called Google Trends at google.com/trends. It’s a good analysis tool to helps you see how often specific search terms are being entered into the Google search engine. Google also puts markers next to major news events that are about that search query, helping to explain surges. I now have this fascinating trend tool bookmarked.