Every January of each year, the top Google searches are revealed through the company’s Zeitgeist tool. As well as showing the most popular search terms, it displays where in the world people were searching for them and the times of the year which saw the heaviest interest.
Zeitgeist also shows the fastest rising searches, both in a general terms and in specific categories such as news, health and humanitarian aid.
In 2010, the most commonly searched for terms were split between sport and disasters. Top of the pile was the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, followed by the Vancouver Winter Olympics. In more serious topics were the Haiti earthquake, the BP oil spill and the ash cloud covering Europe after the volcanic eruption in Iceland.
The top three rising searches were for Chatroulette, iPad and Justin Bieber. Chatroulette’s success came early in the year when the web-based chat program came to the attention of the media. Although often criticised for the highly adult content displayed by some users, the website got a lot of help when a video of singer Ben Folds using it at a concert went viral. In the opening months of 2011, this trend has stayed high and constant, with updates and common knowledge of the service keeping people searching for it.
The iPad’s major peak was in January 2010 as the news of its arrival was announced and potential customers went looking for information. Searches peaked again in April and May as it went on sale in the States and internationally, before rising again towards the end of the year. The popularity stayed high in early 2011 with the release of the iPad 2 and comparisons of the products eagerly sought after.
The popularity of searches for Justin Bieber shows just how much time the youth of today spends online. From April 2010, the Canadian pop singer has been top of many searches and has proved to be the most popular person in the world. Popular moments in Bieber’s year include the announcement that he was to write his memoirs, 4chan’s attempts to send the singer on tour to North Korea and the recent failure to win any of his Grammy nominations.
Other top rising searches including social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, singers Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry (although Zeitgeist doesn’t state whether these are web or images searches), ringtone site Myxer and two sites for games, Friv and Gamezer.
While Zeitgeist gives a good overview of what’s happening in a year, as well as who’s popular and what events have taken hold of the world, it doesn’t give much help to bloggers or webmasters looking to take advantage of what’s happening online. Instead, Google Trends and Hot Trends can show topics that are popular this week or during this day (with regular updates), while Google Insights can show the change in popularity of a term over several years as well as mapping its popularity during certain months.
As well as finding out about the top Google searches, other search engines reveal the anonymously collected data about what people have been searching for. Yahoo’s searches are similar, with the BP oil spill coming first, followed by the FIFA World Cup. However, on Yahoo, the iPhone was more searched for than the iPad and Justin Bieber was only the fifth most popular celebrity, behind Megan Fox, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and winner Miley Cyrus. Again, no comment on whether users were looking for images or not. Barack Obama made an appearance on Bing’s top searches list, coming in fifth just above ‘hairstyles’. Sandra Bullock, Tiger Woods and Kate Gosselin all made featured highly in Bing searches, which were topped by Kim Kardashian.