As 2011 ground to its close, the media loved to publish lists of what was good, bad, traumatic, disastrous, best-selling, popular, embarrassing, comical, stupid about the previous twelve months. It’s a mainstay of media and journalism in late December, every year.
Not to be outdone, every end of year, Google publishes its own run-down of the most searched and trending words, sites, names on its search engine. Zeitgeist is a German word, originating in the 1880s and meaning ‘the spirit of the age’. It’s apt, as the snapshot of Google questions is a very revealing insight into contemporary society.
Their Press Center say: ‘Google reveals this spirit through the aggregation of millions of search queries we receive every day. We have several tools that give insight into global, regional, past and present search trends. These tools are available for you to play with, explore, and learn from. Use them for everything from business research to trivia answers’.
They also have Google Trends, Trends for Websites, Insights for Search and in the USA, Hot Trends. In another example of a medium feeding on itself much like advertising and television do, it nonetheless has a serious social comment value to web-watchers, and certainly to SEOs, search engine optimisers.
In 2011, the Royal Wedding did well as a fast riser, but in the end, failed to make the most popular top 10. That list was dominated by words like Facebook, eBay, YouTube, Hotmail, Las Vegas, Asda and even Google itself.
Groupon, Fifa 12, iPad 2 and iPad 5 featured highly, while fastest rising people included Adele, Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs, Kate Middleton and Adele. It is often the case that when a celebrity dies, not only do their merchandise sales shoot up, so do their search rankings. This was most evidently the case for Michael Jackson in the past five years.
Perennial favourites include Victoria Beckham and Emma Watson. Fastest fallers from the buzz of current popularity during 2011 were former X Factor winners Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry, actor Robert Pattinson, singers Shakira and Alicia Keys, footballer Maradona and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
What is ….?
Other periodic evergreen questions include lottery winners, unclaimed money and prices. Cheap is a much-used word, linked to air fares and train travel. The X Factor does well in the autumn, and ‘AV’ scored highly during the referendum campaign. Google counts ‘What is…’ at the start of any question cumulatively making high numbers, naturally.
Inevitably, most of the searches and names are US-based, of people often not much known about in the UK. Yet many things cross boundaries and are universal. How to revise?’ and ‘how to snog?’ were both asked a lot. Weirdly, in the why sections, why does it snow? why does my eye itch? why does salt melt ice? and why does my mom turn me on? all featured!
Looking ahead, it’s safe to predict in 2012 that austerity/cheap/value/jobs will score highly, while Olympic Games and other sporting events will pull in the searchers.
A Mockery Site
Google Statistics, very much at pains to point out that they are IN NO WAY connected to Google itself, is ‘a user-generated entertainment site, where anyone can submit their own screen capture of anything that fits the content of this site. Basically, anything funny, weird, surprising, or WTF?! worthy that users discover across the web about Google is appreciated’.
They concede that most of their content isn’t necessarily about Google, it’s more of the content that naturally occurs as a direct result of the entire world’s population using Google, such as weird trend correlations and hapless, random people caught doing strange things on Street View.
They also recognise that many viewers may find some of the material offensive, but they defend publishing it on the grounds that the snippets and images are real data captured by real web users world wide.
So that’s alright, then?
Happy New Year from all at MBF.
Photo: Garry Knight