What America Searched for on Google, Over the Last Decade

Cultural shifts come in many shapes and forms, and some are harder to measure than others.

Thankfully, Google search volume provides an easy avenue for measuring large-scale cultural trends. And because Google makes up more than 90% of all internet searches in the U.S., looking at what’s trending on Google is a great way to understand the shifting questions and interests that are captivating society at any given time.

This animated map by V1 Analytics provides an overview of the top trending Google searches in every state over the last decade. It sheds light on what types of new information, events, and stories received the most attention in the last ten years—and more generally, it shows us what the U.S. population has been thinking about.

Trending Searches versus Top Searches

Before diving into the top trends of the decade, it’s worth taking a moment to distinguish between “trending searches” and “top searches”:

  • Trending Searches: Keywords that had the largest increase in traffic, in a specific period of time
  • Top Searches: The most searched keywords in a given time frame

This video would look a lot different, and a lot less interesting, if it showed Google’s top searches. To give some perspective, here are the Top 10 Searches in the U.S. (as of 2020):

Rank Keyword
#1 facebook
#2 youtube
#3 amazon
#4 gmail
#5 google
#6 weather
#7 ebay
#8 yahoo
#9 walmart
#10 yahoo mail

Understanding the difference between trending searches and top searches is important because it gives us insight into why certain keywords trend in some places, but not others. For instance, in March 2020, the word “coronavirus” was trending throughout a majority of the U.S., with a few exceptions—it wasn’t trending in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Nevada, or Arizona.

It’s easy to make the assumption that people in these states were not concerned about COVID-19—however, that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s important to remember that trending searches are measured by the increase of traffic, not just the overall amount of searches. Therefore, in states where it wasn’t trending, the word “coronavirus” may have already been a popular search term for a while, so the keyword didn’t see a sudden spike in interest like it did in other places.

Undivided Attention

In the last decade, there were moments when the entire country was googling the same thing. Some keyword trends lasted a day, while others lasted over a week.

Here’s a look at keywords that took over the whole U.S, and when they were trending unanimously:

Date Range Category Search Term
Feb 4, 2011 Music Adele
Feb 6 – Feb 23, 2011 Music Born This Way
Feb 28, 2011 Music Born This Way
March 22 – Apr 1, 2011 Pop Culture Rebecca Black
June 12 – June 27, 2011 TV & Film Game of Thrones
Nov 9, 2012 Current Events Abortion
Jan 10 – Jan 27, 2014 TV & Film Frozen
Feb 28 – March 2, 2014 Electronics Samsung Galaxy s5
Jan 11 – Jan 13, 2015 Music Blank Space
Feb 26 – Mar 30, 2015 Music Uptown Funk
June 5, 2015 Pop Culture Caitlyn Jenner
June 16 – June 19, 2015 TV & Film Jurassic World
Feb 26, 2016 Pop Culture Damn Daniel
June 3, 2016 Pop Culture Harambe
June 20, 2016 TV & Film Finding Dory
June 30, 2016 TV & Film Finding Dory
July 6, 2016 TV & Film Finding Dory
Aug 4 – Aug 7, 2016 TV & Film Suicide Squad
Aug 24 – Sept 8, 2016 Pop Culture Harambe
Sept 23 – Sept 26, 2016 Pop Culture Brad Pitt
Oct 21, 2016 Electronics Google Pixel
Nov 24, 2016 Electronics Google Pixel
Dec 14 – Dec 20, 2016 Current Events Aleppo
Jan 7 – Jan 10, 2017 TV & Film This Is Us
Jan 23 – Feb 2, 2017 TV & Film This Is Us
Feb 8 – Feb 12, 2017 Sports Super bowl
Feb 22 – Feb 24, 2017 TV & Film This Is Us
March 7 – March 11, 2017 Electronics Nintendo Switch
March 21 – Apr 1, 2017 TV & Film Beauty and the Beast
May 7 – May 16, 2017 Pop Culture Fidget Spinner
June 17 – July 18, 2017 Music Despacito
Sept 22, 2017 TV & Film It
Oct 13, 2017 Current Events Harvey Weinstein
Nov 3, 2017 Current Events Kevin Spacey
Jan 12 – Jan 23, 2018 Current Events Logan Paul
Feb 6 – Feb 11, 2018 TV & Film Altered Carbon
March 15 – March 29, 2018 Video Games Fortnite
May 4, 2018 Video Games Fortnite
July 21, 2018 Video Games Fortnite
Aug 5 – Aug 22, 2018 Video Games Fortnite
Jan 17 – Feb 3, 2019 Music 7 Rings
Feb 21 – Feb 23, 2019 Current Events Jussie Smollett
March 12 – March 22, 2019 TV & Film Captain Marvel
March 27, 2019 Music Billie Eilish
March 30, 2019 Music Billie Eilish
Aug 24 – Aug 27, 2019 Music Billie Eilish
Oct 9 – Oct 29, 2019 TV & Film Joker
Nov 20 – Nov 24, 2019 TV & Film The Mandalorian
Dec 5 – Dec 14, 2019 Pop Culture Baby Yoda
Jan 15, 2020 Current Events Prince Harry
Jan 20, 2020 Current Events Prince Harry
Feb 13 – Feb 15, 2020 TV & Film Jojo Rabbit
May 5 – May 14, 2020 Current Events Elon Musk
June 24, 2020 Current Events Bubba Wallace

It’s interesting to look at the variety of topics that dominate the population’s collective thoughts. There’s a unique mix of popular culture, entertainment, electronics, prominent figures, and public scandals.

Something else worth noting is how country-wide trends became a lot more common in the latter part of the decade—in 2019 for example, 9 keywords trended unanimously. This was more than in the entire first half of the decade.

While the secret to going viral remains a mystery, one thing remains clear—the public certainly has a broad range of interests. So really, it’s anyone’s game.

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