Social Media Web Culture

5 Things I’ve Learned About Internet Behavior Through My SEO Work

Ryan Dube 06-04-2012

most popular web searchesThere are a lot of tools that modern SEO experts use to gauge what people are searching for on the Internet. There is also a wide range of criteria that different sites use to target phrases that you type into Google.


Some site owners want to focus on phrases that offer the highest payout in terms of ad revenue or product sales. Other site owners just want those phrases that the largest majority of people search for. In my own SEO career spanning nearly a decade, I’ve used over a dozen different tools that offer a unique glimpse at the specific keywords typed into the search engines by the majority of Internet users.

Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean SEO folks can see what you, specifically, are searching for. These tools simply offer a tally of all searches that match. When you search for “how to build a deck“, there might be thousands of other people searching for that exact phrase on the same day.

I have a criteria of about 8 to 10 items that I personally look for when I do my own SEO analysis, but of course one of the most important is search volume. Having monitored the search volume for thousands of different phrases over the course of time, I have come to recognize a few very large, not insignificant patterns in how humanity around the world tends to use the Internet – or at least how they use the search engines.

Interesting Trends in Search Behavior

I’ve been thinking for quite a few years now what a unique perspective this is on the Internet. Most people just search for what they’re looking for, and then browse through the results and go on their merry way. Here we are, the SEO folks, watching around the back side of the search form, tallying common search terms, and doing our back room analysis.

But that “back side” view into common search trends can have a dark side. I sometimes come across highly popular terms that literally make me sick. There are things that people are searching for that make me think twice about the mental health of our global society in general. Then, there are other search terms that just make you have to laugh. In this article, I’m going to share five of the biggest trends that I’ve discovered over the course of my SEO career.


Kids Are Turning To The Internet For Questions They Can’t Ask Their Parents

If you have kids, then you really should understand that the Internet filters and the firewalls are not working. Your kids are turning to the Internet for information on how to get boys to love them, how to perform specific acts of sex, and other things that the Internet wasn’t there to answer back when most of us older folks were kids.

most popular web searches

The reason I assume these come from kids (meaning all range of teenagers) is because the questions and queries are just so naive. The top most shocking search phrases that I have consistently seen coming from teens are questions about how to best perform specific acts of sex far too graphic to list here – but they are usually not related to full intercourse (thankfully). However these queries indicate that teens are interested in “messing around” and they want to know how to do it well. Scary to read as a parent, but then again if your eyes aren’t open to this, then you aren’t really living in reality, right?

People Are Turning To The Internet To Explore Things Far Beyond Risque

Another thing I’ve noticed that goes to such an extreme that it sometimes makes me question the mental health of humanity as a whole, are the extremely hard-core, disgusting things that some people are searching for. Most of you are probably aware that there is an entire S&M community out there with people getting pleasure from a wide assortment of activities, but I don’t think you might have any idea of just how wacky some of the acts get.


web searches

Sure, hot wax or getting tied up and using handcuffs are probably becoming part of mainstream knowledge thanks to Hollywood, but there are people out there searching for things like how to perform certain acts on animals, groin kick galleries (women kicking men in the groin), castration,  rape scenes, pictures of men being forced to dress up in women’s clothing, how to make chloroform and chloroform kidnap videos and many other interests that you would have thought would have left the human gene pool by now. What my SEO research has taught me is that the “animal” part of the human race is very much alive and well. It’s scary.

Women Do Want Men, But Aren’t Sure How To Pursue

Another thing that really opened my eyes, especially about the interactions between men and women, is that women are not as disinterested in men or in intimacy as many guys might think.  The Internet is a place women go to find out things like how to get a guy to like you, signs that a man likes you, or how to get the attention of a man.

web searches


But, before all of you guys out there get too excited, men are hardly the thing that women are most interested in. From what I’ve seen, the top search trends that appear to be from women include things like how to lose weight, searching for hair styles, or searching for fashion and accessories.

I suppose that one could say many of these things indirectly come from a core interest in attracting men, but ultimately women are not outright searching specifically for that. Female online interests are complex, multi-faceted and at times very surprising.

The Internet Is Where People Turn To Learn How To Do Just About Anything

Do you want to know why websites like eHow became so popular so quickly? It’s because people are turning to the Internet in droves to learn how to do just about anything. While home improvement or repair tasks are by far at the very top of the list, a lot of people are searching how to do some of the most obscure tasks that you could ever imagine.

web searches


Yes, people are searching on how to repair a dripping faucet or how to build a deck, but nearly as many people are also searching for things like how to make explosives at home, how to make chicken feeders, how to make smoke bombs, or how to make a circus tent.  Aren’t these things so wonderfully obscure? I love it.

Whenever I see a big volume of particularly odd searches, it always makes me reflect on just how wide-ranging and varied human interests across the world really are.

People Turn To The Internet Long Before They Turn To Their Doctor

The last general topic that I often see turn up are health related queries. By far the most popular medical topic that people search for in droves are symptoms. I’ve seen massive searches for things like allergy symptoms, flu symptoms, diabetes symptoms or vitamin deficiency symptoms.

It appears that the Internet has become the place where people look when they have health concerns that aren’t so serious that they are ready to consult a doctor, but serious enough that they are starting to look for help.

most popular web searches

Some of the most popular health-related searches that I’ve seen a lot of people looking for include symptoms related to lyme disease, fibromyalgia, heart issues, signs of cancer and symptoms related to diabetes.

I think that, other than the sex-related searches that easily make the very top of the list when it comes to the most high-volume searches on the web, health-related concerns are an easy second. It seems that people across the world are constantly concerned that something might be wrong with their health. It appears that along with strong animal desires, humanity also has an avid fear of death.

So, I have to say I’m glad I got this out of my system. I’ve been wanting to share these things after the first three years of doing SEO, but unfortunately SEO is a very isolating field. You don’t share secrets. However, these are trends that I think everyone should know, because these searches reveal the true desires, interests and fears of all of humanity. At the very least, it can help you better understand other people, and if you share these same interests, it can also help you to feel that you aren’t really all that different from everyone else after all.

Do you study search trends? What patterns would you say you’ve noticed as extremely popular online? Share your own observations and thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Business Man via Shutterstock, Lady Abdominal Pain via Shutterstock, Young Plumber via Shutterstock, Couple in Restaurant via Shutterstock, Dominatrix via Shutterstock, Girl with Boyfriend via Shutterstock

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  1. Chuck
    April 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Great article, especially in the writer's ability to simultaneously address and sidestep certain issues (like the depravity of humans in a free range search environment) gracefully. I understand your motivations for writing this Ryan, while not eye-opening, it is definitely a bit more off color than the majority of articles presented here. What I'd like to see is more articles like this in the future here that take a more unabashed view of the 'net culture we all subscribe to.

    • Ryan Dube
      April 8, 2012 at 12:51 am

      Thanks Chuck - yes, I tried to keep things under an R-rating...not always easy with some of the searches that take place. Glad you like it and would like to see more articles like this. We'll do our best!

  2. create website the woodlands tx
    April 7, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was once a entertainment account it. Glance complex to far brought agreeable from you! By the way, how can we keep in touch?

  3. Chris Hoffman
    April 7, 2012 at 6:23 am

    As someone who spent a lot of time working in the trenches of eHow for Demand Media (profitably), I definitely have some perspective on this. (I might even write a tell-all post on the subject one day, which has the potential to be very interesting.)

    A big part of eHow's success itself was Demand Media's SEO, which is why it's fallen so far after Google's Panda.

    But Demand Media's SEO success was only possible because people were actually searching for the stuff. That hilarious "How to Pour a Glass of Water" article that was going around? Well, someone was searching for how to pour a glass of water. The ridiculously specific "How to Defragment My 1999 Compaq E23534 When I Am In Texas"-style articles? Someone was apparently searching for those, too.

    It's all about the long tail.