Yahoo! Launches Market Research Tool

Yahoo Monday rolled out an interactive market research product that it says measures public engagement with brands, products, people and technologies on the Internet.

Based on its search engine, the Yahoo Buzz Index aggregates and ranks the search queries of the site’s 52.5 million monthly visitors, according to Jupiter Media Metrix data.

Yahoo, with the second-highest Internet site traffic behind America Online, is banking that marketers will perceive its Index as a tool to how effective their on- and offline campaigns are in generating awareness or driving Web traffic.

“We … want to provide our clients with tools that will allow them to track these campaigns and evaluate their impact,” said Yahoo chief sales and marketing officer Anil Singh. “We have a loyal audience base that serves as an excellent indicator of trends and preferences.”

The Index is calculated daily and records not only the aggregate “hits” and the term’s position relative to similar searches, but also demographic profiles of a brand or product’s online audience. Individual users and their searches remain personally unidentifiable, the company said.

But the question is to what extent search engine queries actually represent consumer mindshare, especially for offline brands. Also, companies’ registering their products’ names as URLs could serve to diminish the need for consumers to use search engines to find those products.

But Santa Clara, Calif.-based Yahoo has enlisted some high-profile clients with significant online components, such as PepsiCo’s PepsiStuff.com loyalty program site, and BarnesandNoble.com. Both companies are wagering that the Index could serve as an important indicator of brand awareness for their Web marketing strategies.

“When our offline version of Pepsi Stuff was in the marketplace four years ago, we did not have a true handle on its performance until the conclusion of the promotion,” said John Vail, director of digital media and marketing for Purchase, NY-based Pepsi. “With the Yahoo Buzz Index, we can track PepsiStuff.com’s relevance to consumers in hours instead of weeks, therefore we can make adjustments to the program much quicker.”

The Index is part of Yahoo’s Fusion Marketing suite of interactive marketing programs, which the company says is aimed at providing “one-stop shopping” for companies seeking to secure a measurable Internet presence.