The traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season, Black Friday, has arrived. If you're anything like us, you'll be seeking out the newest, coolest products and best deals today as you make those special holiday purchases.

Using Insights for Search, we took a look at some of the holiday gifts that were most searched for this year: Zhu Zhu Pets, Nerf N Strike, Mindflex and the "Twilight" soundtrack were at the top of kids' wishlists, while netbooks, mini notebook computers and mp3 players will (hopefully) fill our "bigger" stockings.

But it's not just about keeping up with the latest and greatest this holiday. The Internet can be a great holiday shopping resource, making it easy not only to find information on the hottest items for this year's holiday shopping season, but also to track down the best prices for those items. You can see this as holiday shoppers are searching more than ever for deals online. Search terms like coupons, promo codes, free shipping and black friday sales have all increased recently. And, as more people turn to their mobile devices to search for deals, coupons are now also available on the go.

In recent years, we've also seen the proliferation of websites dedicated to Black Friday deals — these sites saw a 21% increase in visits during the week of Thanksgiving last year. You can find these sites easily with a search on Google for [black friday sites].

Retailers are increasingly responding to these deal-seeking shoppers. In fact, 60% of retailers report that they are increasing their promotional efforts during this holiday shopping season.* JCPenney, for example, is already promoting their 4 a.m. doorbuster sales and even offering wake-up calls from Cindy Crawford, Rascal Flatts and Kimora Lee Simmons to ensure we don't sleep through the savings. We also love their YouTube homepage ad today, and hope that it encourages some happy holiday purchases (and keeps some significant others out of the proverbial doghouse).

And in-store sales are not the only places to save this year. Many of us will opt out of crowded malls in favor of cuddling up to our laptops, and retailers are taking their sales to the web during this traditionally in-store focused weekend. In fact, 40% of retailers are increasing free shipping offers during this holiday shopping season* — so watch for those deals both in-store and online!

If you're interested in reading more about the holiday shopping season, including what shrewd retailers are doing and how you can take advantage of the same, check out the Google Retail Blog for insights from the Retail industry team.

Now after all this talk of shopping, it's time to get started!

* OTX/Google 2009 Holiday Retailer Survey, May 2009. (Q20) Which of the following advertising tactics has your company used or does your company plan to use in 2009? n=600