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Google Zeitgeist 2011 – What’s on the List?

Published on December 23, 2011
Tags: SEO

If you are looking for a little bit of end-of-year entertainment search trends analysis, it is definitely worth paying a visit to Google Zeitgeist. This is Google’s website that lets you take a look at the fastest rising and fastest falling trends of 2011 (among other things).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Zeitgeist, it is a tool that allows you to see the ‘top 10’ of a range of categories. You can choose to search on a global basis or according to a specific country, which gives an interesting insight into what has gripped our collective imaginations over the past 12 months. Google calculates the lists by examining billions of search queries, determining the most popular trends of the year and then ranking them according to how well they increased (or fell) in popularity in comparison to the previous year. So, who or what exactly have we been spending our time searching this year?

Interestingly (or worryingly, depending on your point of view), the fastest rising search term on a global basis was ‘Rebecca Black’. You may remember Ms Black as the US teenager who released a song called ‘Friday’, became a YouTube sensation and generally took a bit of stick in the media on the grounds that the song wasn’t the best composition ever created. In the UK, she entered the fastest rising search trends list at number 9. She was, however, number 3 on the fastest rising people list.

As you might expect, the Royal Wedding also played a major role in worldwide search trends over the course of this year. On a global basis, Pippa Middleton was number 3 on the fastest rising people list, while Kate Middleton was number 10. If we confine the search to the UK, Kate Middleton was number 8 on the list, while Pippa wasn’t on the fastest rising people list at all (Ryan Dunn was number 1; he was the star of Jackass who was killed in a car crash).

One of the most interesting global Google Zeitgeist lists is the fastest rising news search trends. Top of the list is Fukushima, which was the site of Japan’s nuclear disaster a few months ago. The iPhone 4s was the second fastest rising news item, which perhaps offers an intriguing view into the things that grab our attention and the things that don’t (the iPhone 5 was the 8th item on this list, ahead of Gaddafi at 9 and Libya at 10). At the time of writing, it wasn’t possible to view just the UK list for fastest rising news trends, so we can’t compare or analyse specific local events.

However, one UK list that does provide some interest is the ‘what is’ trend list. ‘What is AV’ came out on top of the list. It seems like a long time ago now, but you probably remember the AV referendum that took place at the start of May 2011, hence the otherwise slightly odd search question. Our favourite entry on this particular list has got to be the runner up. In at number 2 is that all important question ‘what is scampi’. 

But what is the point of all of this? Surely one of the main uses of Google Zeitgeist is to offer a retrospective view of what the year was all about. It feels as though 2011 has been fairly news-heavy, often with a lot of pretty hefty, sometimes quite bleak news stories. What Zeitgeist suggests is that, despite all that, we’re still very interested in the world of celebrities and gossip – but that search also has a serious, useful side, providing us with information on electoral systems and important news events that resonate around the world.

Of course, next year’s search trends are likely to be different to this year’s, and so from a web design point of view, they are useful from a review and interest point of view rather than a practical one. However, it’s always interesting to get an insight into how people use the web, whether that involves the demographics of people who go online or the type of things they search for on Google.

If you want to know more about Zeitgeist or to view the other lists that are available, you can do so here.

By Chelsey Evans

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