The Obama Effect: Google Says President Changed Search Activity

The first five minutes of my local TV newscast last night was spent showing how much local interest there was in President Barack Obama’s inauguration. People watched on TV in schools, sports bars, department stores, dentists’ offices, nursing homes, and just about anywhere else a TV could be turned on.

Google says that interest was also reflected online. In a late-night blog post, Google shares some interesting facts and figures about inauguration-related search activity:

  • popular queries during the inauguration ceremony included “live inauguration coverage,” “inauguration day 2009 streaming,” and “listen to inauguration live”
  • search activity spiked as people looked for information on other participants, such as Dr. Rick Warren, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, and performers Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, and others
  • 12% of inauguration-related queries came from outside the US

To me, the most interesting sign of online interest in the inauguration is a chart Google provided that shows a dramatic drop in search activity while the President was giving his speech:


As I sat in front of the TV with my laptop, I noticed something similar: While I usually get a never-ending stream of incoming email, I only received two during Obama’s 20-minute speech. I don’t recall him promising to help reduce Inbox Clutter, but that might be a platform to think about in 2012.

Update from Yahoo: In two separate blog posts (Inaugural spikes and New President, New Search Patterns), Yahoo shares how the inauguration led to new search queries like “inauguration luncheon recipes,” “inauguration how many times was god mentioned,” and “Obama’s limo,” among others.

Postscript from Greg: As the search queries partly indicate there was a parallel surge in online video streams at various news and video sites around the Internet during the Inauguration. Facebook saw huge volumes of activity as well. According to stats, provided yesterday by Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt, relatively early in the day (10:15 PST):

  • 600,000 status updates have been posted so far through the Live Facebook feed
  • There were an average of 4,000 status updates every minute during the broadcast
  • There were 8,500 status updates the minute Obama began his speech
  • Obama’s page on Facebook has more than 4 million fans and more than 500,000 wall posts
  • Millions of people logged into Facebook during the broadcast

In addition, was relaunched (and remade) yesterday in a fairly profound way — including the addition of a new blog. It’s a metaphor for how the internet and internet advocacy will figure in the Obama administration and how the internet has arrived at the center of politics and public life.

Given Obama’s highly effective use of new media during the election cycle and anticipated use of it in office we can call the new Obama administration the first “internet presidency.”

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Google: Web Search | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • davidbekingcom

    that’s amazing.

    he truly utilized the power of the internet in his marketing campaigns!

    thanks for the post!


  • Cohn

    I think they are calling it “Open Sourced Democracy”…

  • chiropractic

    Events like this give us a better picture of patterns taking place during major televised events. Those that follow hot trends have seen increases in search traffic for terms mentioned during broadcasts. Like surfing waves, when you can learn to anticipate what the terms will be (the wave) and provide a solid resource (your board), you can ride a nice traffic wave. A lot of work but like surfing can be lots of fun.

  • Mel66

    Fascinating article. I was following the inauguration on Facebook, although I had to abandon the live streaming video – it froze on me and I had to (gasp) turn on the TV. I didn’t get a single email from 11:30 to 12:30 on Tuesday (usually I get one every couple of minutes). It reminded me of 9/11 when all email activity stopped for a while – although this was under much happier circumstances.

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