Platforms & Apps

The PEC Review: Yahoo! Clues, for Trend Tracking

Yahoo! has released a new trend-tracking tool that identifies what users looked for before and after a particular search term and estimates those users’ annual incomes, potentially providing online retailers with good customer intelligence.

Search marketing, whether via pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or optimizing your site for search engines, is still an important part of promoting an ecommerce business. The move toward instant search and personalized search preferences has, in my opinion, made some forms of search-engine optimization (SEO) less important, but this in no way diminishes the need for good information about how customers find your business or search for terms related to your business.

Yahoo! Clues is a free beta service that provides useful trend data about searches conducted on Yahoo!. The data provided could help a savvy ecommerce marketers aim PPC, social marketing, and even ad campaigns at those topics that potential customers currently find interesting. For providing good basic consumer intelligence, I am awarding Yahoo! Clues four out of a possible five stars in this “The PEC Review.”

“The PEC Review” is my weekly column and video aimed at introducing you to the products or services that I believe may help you improve your ecommerce business. This week, let me point out my favorite Yahoo! Clues features.

How Yahoo! Clues Works

Before I can dive directly into the aforementioned features, I need to explain a little about how Yahoo! Clues works.

To access the service, go to You may enter one search term to learn how it is trending or two terms to compare them relative to each other.

Yahoo! Clues provides information about a single term or compares two terms.

Yahoo! Clues provides information about a single term or compares two terms.

Entering a search term and clicking “Discover” will return a short set of results based on a relative scale wherein the day with the most searches for a given term is awarded a 100 and all other dates are awarded relative numbers based on their traffic compared to the busiest day.

Yahoo! Clues also provides a short list of popular search terms. As I was preparing this review “printable coupon” was one of the top five searches on Yahoo!, which could be of interest to some retailers.

Search Flow

Of Yahoo! Clues’ various sections, I liked Search Flow best. The tool provides a list of the probable search terms that a user entered before and after the target term. This tool recognizes a search behavior that I believe is very common. Basically, a user enters a search term, glances at the results provided, and refines or changes the search term to get a better set of results.

For example, I used Yahoo! Clues to discover some trends associated with the term “Black Friday.” The Search Flow tool, showed me that searchers might have looked first for “walmart black friday ad” or “black friday deals” before moving to the more general term, “black Friday.” At first glance the idea of moving from the relatively more specific to the more general seemed wrong, but a quick survey of the results displayed for the terms showed me that the former terms returned several sites that were tracking Black Friday data not offering actual deals, which may explain the behavior. In this case, Yahoo! Clues exposed a search trend that I would not have guessed on my own.

Yahoo! Clues offers data about user search and re-search behavior.

Yahoo! Clues offers data about user search and re-search behavior.

Estimated Income

Yahoo! Clues combines location data gleaned from its searches with government statistics about income to provide an estimated income profile for each target search term. I found this data particularly interesting, since it may demonstrate differences in search behavior based on level of income.

Again an example might help explain why I liked this feature or section.

According to Yahoo! Clues, something like 97 percent of the users who searched for the term “Black Friday” had household incomes of $50,000 or less. A full 51 percent of searchers had annual incomes under $25,000. If your business sells very high end products, spending money promoting Black Friday sales might not be the best idea, if the Yahoo! Clues data holds true.

Yahoo! Clues offers insight into searcher's annual income.

Yahoo! Clues offers insight into searcher’s annual income.

Search Activity

Although, I have listed it third, the first section one sees at the top of a Yahoo! Clues results page is an indication of search volume or activity. I say an “indication” because as mentioned above this data is plotted on a relative scale wherein 100 is that day with the most traffic for the given time period (more on time periods below).

This section provides a visual indication of search trending.

Yahoo! Clues shows relative search activity for a given search term.

Yahoo! Clues shows relative search activity for a given search term.

Men, Women, Young and Old

The service also includes data about users’ sex and age. This section seems like it would be the most helpful for aiming PPC or other advertising and marketing at men or women, or the young or old, based on their historical search behavior.

30 Days Is Not Enough

Yahoo! Clues allows you to look at the trends associated with a term for “Today,” the past week, or the past month. While this data is great, I would personally like to see much longer trends. For example, I was looking at data for Black Friday searches, but I was not able to compare that data with data from 2009.

four stars

If I were a retail marketer looking, in October of next year, at how to promote Black Friday sales online, Yahoo! Clues would not be any help since I would not be able to look far enough back in time to see a useful trend.

Summing Up

Yahoo! Clues is not the first search trend-tracking tool out there. It is also not the most comprehensive, nor does it look at enough time, in my opinion.

But Yahoo! Clues is a beta product and still full of rich and useful information that ecommerce marketers can use as they plan for their business, which is why I have awarded Yahoo! Clues four out of a possible five stars in this, “The PEC Review.”

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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