Yahoo! tracks the percentage of users searching for a particular subject on a specific weekday. Buzz Movers are search topics whose score posts the greatest percentage gain over the previous day. Leaders have the greatest buzz for a given weekday.
But more importantly from a revenue standpoint, Yahoo! will sell in-depth information from the Buzz Index to marketers under its Fusion Marketing program. Yahoo! would not disclose how much the program cost or how much it expects to bring in in revenue.
Pepsi-Cola Co., which launched a Pepsi Stuff under-the-bottle-cap promotion this summer on Yahoo!, has tested the system.
"People searching on things on Yahoo! is really a form of engagement," said Stanley Wong, Yahoo! sales program manager.
REAL-TIME TREND TRACKING
Yahoo! executives hope marketers will use the system to track trends in real time and to project their market share against competitors.
For instance, Mr. Wong said a recent Yahoo! index ranking sneakers showed Nike in the lead, followed closely by Adidas and then Reebok, Puma and New Balance brands coming up from behind, mirroring actual market share.
He said Yahoo! also has been experimenting with consumption models, believing there is a link, for example, between search queries for a movie and box office sales.
"We thought we can do this a lot more effectively, just because of our natural asset: our huge amount of traffic."
Yahoo! had 52.7 million unique users in the U.S. in September, according to Media Metrix, a division of Jupiter Media Metrix. For instance, Mr. Wong said, "We want to show there's a correlation with users buzzing about Britney Spears" and her being a top-selling artist.
He said the index could be applied to track even more mundane subjects such as office supplies.
One inherent drawback is Yahoo!'s inability to distinguish negative from positive buzz. Mr. Wong said it will be able to drill into search queries, but trying to read the value judgment behind a query is difficult.
Yahoo! has company in analyzing search queries for market research.
Lycos has a similar index, the Lycos 50 (50.lycos.com), that ranks the top 50 search queries. The Lycos service, a consumer feature, doesn't break subjects into categories.
Another company doing this for market research is Word of Net (wordofnet.com). The research company recently launched the Visibility Index (AA, Sept. 18), which provides a snapshot of a site's points of presence on the Web.
Word of Net tracks factors such as how often a site pops up with keyword queries on search engines, but it also tracks how often a brand name appears in Web ads, online directories, news releases and online news reports.