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Reminiscing on the past decade with Google Search Trends

Caitlin Hall


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Working in marketing, I’m always aware of current events and new trends. I have to be up on the latest social media crazes in my job, but my habit of keeping up to date with all things popular extends into my time outside of work. Even my subconscious gets FOMO. 

Google Search Trends allow you to see what people are searching for right now, from the latest football scores to the celebrity scandal of the moment. It’s a great tool for marketers to see what people are currently into – and what the zeitgeist of the moment is. 

The platform provides some interesting social analytics, especially in its end of year wrap-up. You can search the results of individual countries as well as learn what the people of the UK are Googling. You can also look back on previous years’ results and see what had us in a collective chokehold more than a decade ago. 

2010 seems like it was a much simpler time. Justin Bieber was among the fastest-rising search queries and people were amazed when the iPad was unveiled. Susan Boyle is rarely heard of nowadays, but she topped the search results in this year. The swine flu panic at the start of the decade was just a drop in the ocean to what we experienced ten years later, though we weren’t to know that at the time. 

2011 brought a Royal Wedding. Our attitude towards the royals appears to have changed significantly in the last ten years—as has the royals’ attitude towards each other. Technology was a booming industry, with thousands heading to Google to see what the new iPhone 5 looked like. Adele became a household name, and Groupon grew in popularity, signalling the start of online deals and vouchers. 

2012 was a huge year for the UK with the London Summer Olympics. Up and down the country we Googled when the Olympic torch would be run past us, and athletes such as Jessica Ennis topped search results in this year. Hurricane Sandy caused deadly flooding in October, and pop icon Whitney Houston died in February, with thousands flocking to Google to glean more information. 

By 2013, the internet was fully ingrained in our lifestyle. Questions like ‘what is twerking?’ and ‘what is the illuminati?’ dominated searches, as people spent more time online, swept up by current trends. Fast and Furious star Paul Walker died in 2013, as did former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Twitter was awash with thoughts and opinions on every major event. 

2014 had us all dumping buckets of cold water over our heads in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Proving that social media can raise awareness, many people headed to Google to find out more about this neurological disease. Questions about Ebola were thrown around, but they didn’t have much impact on public health in the UK. The beloved Robin Williams passed away in this year, and every corner of the internet was filled with sorrow. 

2015 had people questioning ‘how to register to vote’, as well as the Googling of names like Caitlyn Jenner and Cilla Black. The new Jurassic World movie was a hit at cinemas across the UK, and we were glued to our screens watching Broadchurch at home. 

Donald Trump

Looking back, perhaps 2016 was the strangest year of them all. Two incredibly controversial political votes occurred this year: Brexit in the summer and the US election in winter. Donald Trump was declared the President of the United States, and the UK prepared for what would eventually prove to be a very bumpy road, i.e. leaving the European Union. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go swept the nation and it was the year of numerous celebrity deaths. We said goodbye to the likes of Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, and Alan Rickman. 

2017 saw the Grenfell Tower disaster unfold, which had people Googling for months afterwards, as they looked for answers relating to this tragedy. Questions such as ‘what is an exit poll?’ and ‘what is Bitcoin?’ trended, as people looked to educate themselves. Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You was released, though it’s hard to imagine a time when this song wasn’t played on every radio station. It was also the year that saw Meghan Markle become a household name. 

GDPR changes led to plenty of Google searches in 2018, as did the notorious World Cup, when Gareth Southgate gave the country hope that football would finally ‘come home’. People searched ‘how to floss’, they Googled another Royal Wedding, and they watched Marvel’s Black Panther at the cinema. 

In 2019, our eyes were glued to some screen or other, our attention caught between the Rugby World Cup, the Game of Thrones finale, and Avengers: Endgame. The Notre-Dame in Paris caught fire and travel agency Thomas Cook crashed and burned. 

2020 was a year we’ll never forget. We had more time than ever to trawl the internet and search for answers to our burning questions. Before the pandemic, the name on everyone’s lips (and computer keyboard) was Caroline Flack. Coronavirus and Eat Out to Help Out topped Google search results in the UK later, along with questions like ‘how to make a face mask’, ‘how to make hand sanitiser’, and ‘how to make bread’. We were kept entertained by Joe Wicks’ workouts and Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic’s big cat drama. 

Covid 19

2021 had millions of people wondering ‘when will lockdown end?’ The nation was captivated by the Euros, and people had a lot to say about the death of Prince Phillip. There were countless questions about the Covid vaccine. The COP26 Conference also stimulated collective conversation about climate change and global leadership. 

In 2022, Wordle provided a much-needed daily workout for our brains, and the important question, ‘are there more doors or wheels in the world?’, left us perplexed. Searches around the death of Queen Elizabeth II dominated, along with year-long updates about the war in Ukraine. The World Cup hosted by Qatar caused a global stir, and many of us consulted Google with questions about Monkeypox. 

Back in 2012, we were anxious that, if the Ancient Mayan calendar was to be believed, the world was going to end. Of course, just like the Y2K bug, nothing actually happened, and we simply went back to watching Gangnam Style on YouTube. By the end of the 2010s, however, we didn’t need an apocalyptic conspiracy threatening to end us all, we had enough to contend with. From global pandemics to political elections, climate change, and war in Europe, Google was always there to provide answers during very volatile times.

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