It should come as no surprise that the defining moment of (real-time in particular) search in 2009, came on June 25, the day on which Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, died. Overwhelmingly, the number of searches for information about MJ and the circumstances surrounding his death, both on the day of and in the weeks following, drove the masses online in 2009 – surely leading Michael Jackson to be the most searched (overall) topic in 2009, as users sought out mountains of Michael Jackson information, images and music by the legendary entertainer.
For Yahoo!, it marks the first time since 2005 that Britney Spears has been dethroned as the most popular search. The important thing to note as we look at this year’s search trends – and as Vera Chan, Web Trends Analyst for Yahoo!, reminds us – not only are we reviewing the year in search behavior, it is the end of a decade, one which saw online usage grow tremendously. Add to that the evolution of real-time search, it just may be that 2009 signals a legitimate intersection with traditional media, and users are turning to the Web more frequently to find immediate answers. More than ever, (US) consumers are not only turning to the Web for their favorite celebrity rumors, but also for the discovery of meaningful and actionable information, as is evident with several recurring themes related to current events and significant news stories.
Certainly, 2009 is no exception to the rule that popular celebrity searches reign supreme, but even the search rumor mills are working overtime as the year, as there are seemingly more pseudo-celebrity news makers, reality TV stars and 15 minute flame-outs making the grade than ever before – so much so that in some cases, they stand alone in some categories, such as in Yahoo’s “Sudden Fame.”
2009: Economy of search
One of 2008′s most notable search trends surrounded the US election of President Obama, and this year, President Obama and First Lady Michelle have essentially created their own ‘industry in search’ so to speak, practically owning their own category of popular searches both in the political and pop culture realm.
Undeniably, one of the most relevant topics in US searches revolved around the economic crisis. Across the board, consumer searches were financially fueled, ranging from credit score and coupon searches to foreclosure information, unemployment benefits to “Cash for Clunkers” and stock-market related queries.
More importantly, consumers continued to look for ways to stay positive, relieve stress and anxiety, as well as maintain physical and mental health amid the barrage of bad news. The long term trending of Swine Flu / H1N1 searches and healthcare bills kept that issue top of mind.
The tech crowd will be pleased to know that the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) and even new search engines (Bing, Hulu) made quite an impact overall, with searchers wondering what all the fuss was about when they heard of these new properties offline, they went to the Web to learn more. In addition to the potential job prospects and positive impact these technology platforms could have on the economy, it could also be that users were simply looking to make the Web a more ‘personal’ experience - even when it related to business, as is evident in searches surrounding Steve Job’s liver transplant by caring Apple fans.
Most popular searches in 2009 by search engine:
- AOL’s List of Lists – Top Searches 2009
- Ask: The Most Burning Questions of 2009
- Bing’s 1st List of Most Popular Searches
- Yahoo’s Year in Review: 2009
- Google Zeitgeist (our review of it will be along shortly)
Also see related coverage on Techmeme.