Saturday, February 27, 2010

Google Insights: the USA, year by year

So it turns out that if you don't put any terms at all in the search box on Google Insights, you can still get insightful info. It can tell you the most searched items under certain circumstances, like at a certain point in time, in a certain area, or of a certain category. I'd love to go year by year and see what the whole world was searching for in 2004, 2005, 2006 and so on, but it won't let me. So I'll choose that entity that often confuses itself with 'the whole world', the USA.

Back in 2004, it turns out that Americans used Google exactly as Google would hope: using keywords to find things that interest them. Thus, #1 on the list is 'lyrics', and cute little generic words like 'music', 'map', 'news' and 'games' pepper the top ten. Only two 'brand names', 'yahoo' and 'ebay' make the list. Rather charmingly, 'love' comes in at #10. Ah, the innocent youth of the internet. (The 'rising searches' section is more interesting, really, as it contains 'janet jackson', 'usher' and 'john kerry' alongside words such as 'blog', 'ipod' and 'athens 2004'.)

By 2005, not much has changed, really. 'Google' joins 'yahoo' and 'ebay' in the corporate-name category, 'love' has sadly been lost, and 'lyrics' still tops the list. (The 'rising searches' have lost a lot of quirkiness. 'Myspace' tops the list, 'cingular' and 'bank of america' are on it, and cutely so is 'failure'.)

Come 2006, 'myspace' has flown all the way to the #2 spot, and oddly 'my' comes in at #4. A tribute to changing technology, 'video' now ties with 'music', though 'lyrics' is still the proud #1. (The 'rising searches' confirms this, with 'youtube' at #1 and 'you tube' at #2, four of the top ten referring to Myspace and two of them referring to Wikipedia.)

Not much has changed by 2007. 'Lyrics' is still #1 and 'myspace' still #2, with 'my' now below 'you', bizarrely. I suppose it has something to do with Youtube, but 'youtube' itself is not on the list. Apart from that, there's still 'games', 'music', 'weather' and 'map'. People still know how to use Google. (By a huse margin, 'webkinz' leads the 'rising searches', which I find terribly cute. For reasons I cannot fathom '300' comes in at #9.)

Things are really settling in by 2008 (making me think this was a rather boring topic to consider): 'lyrics' at #1, 'myspace' at #2 (was it still so popular as late at 2008?) and 'you', 'my', 'yahoo', 'google', 'games', 'weather' and 'news' on the list. The only real thing to note is that 'youtube' is now properly on the list. 'Music' has fallen off, and it makes me wonder about the veracity of this information. After all, shouldn't 'mp3' rank higher than these items? Or, for example, 'sex'? Are these the words a squeaky-clean Google wishes were most-searched-for? ('Obama' tops the rising searches, with 'facebook' and 'craigslist' in evidence, and 'free movies' suggestive of just a tiny little bit of illicit behaviour.)

2009, and a king is dethroned. 'Facebook' was, according to Google Insights, searched for more often than 'lyrics', which for me raises a question: why do so many people Google Facebook? Certainly it's not that taxing to remember that Facebook is '', is it? Do these people Google Facebook every time they log onto it? By 2009, the top ten list includes 'facebook', 'youtube', 'yahoo', 'google', 'myspace' and 'craigslist': six of the top ten, and if these stats are to be believed, people no longer use Google to search for things as to link them to certain sites their too lazy to remember the urls for. Come to think of it, most mystifying of all is why people are Googling 'google'. I mean, you're alread there. What are you looking for? ('Twitter' is the number one rising search, with 'michael jackson' at #2. Four of the remainder reference Facebook, and 'juegos' comes in at #7.)