Steve Jobs Searches Spiked At Google

Danny Sullivan on
  • Categories: Apple, Channel: Mobile, Features: General, Google: Trends, Stats: General
  • It’s as you would have expected — searches for Steve Jobs skyrocketed at Google, after news of his death spread. Oddly, Google Trends — which shows spiking search queries — failed to show this activity until hours later.

    Google, Yahoo Didn’t Show Spike

    Yesterday, I had some people ask me why Steve Jobs wasn’t showing on Google Trends. This is how things looked at 7:15pm PT yesterday, about 2 1/2 hours after the news that Steve Jobs had died broke:

    As you can see, “steve jobs” wasn’t in the top trending searches. There was nothing related at all. Going to the full list:

    You can see that some terms related to his death were trending, such as “pancreatic cancer” and “steve wozniak.”

    The oddity of Steve Jobs not showing in trending terms was also the case at Yahoo. You can see the Yahoo home page below, as of around 8pm PT last night. None of the top ten “Trending Now” terms shown in the top right corner were about Jobs:

    Delay To Fight Spam?

    What was going on? With Yahoo, I think the trending terms are editorially picked. I’m checking on this. My guess was that Yahoo’s editors probably decided it would be in bad taste to put Jobs name in that list, even if actual search activity was reflecting that.

    As I write this, Steve Jobs is sometimes on the list, sometimes not. It changes each time you reload the page, I’ve just noticed. Perhaps that was the case last night, that it was there but not when I loaded.

    With Google, I’m still waiting for an answer. If I do get one, I’ll update. My own guess was that Google may have perhaps manually kept Steve Jobs out of the trending topics for perhaps a very good reason — to fend off spam about this name.

    Any term that hits Google Trends can attract a ton of people tossing up garbage or even malware in hopes of ranking well for a word, especially in Google Blog Search. My thought was that Google perhaps was expressly sensitive to this issue, and how disturbing it might be to searchers, who sought information about Jobs.

    Search Activity Since The News

    Whatever the reason, it was odd. Consider this chart of search activity that Google did send me about an hour ago, in response to the question I asked about Google Trends last night:

    You can see the huge spike that happened in the wake of the news. That’s precisely the type of activity you’d expect Google Trends to have reflected, but that wasn’t the case.

    Today, this type of activity is reflected. The current top ten:

    Steve Jobs leads the list, and there are many terms related to his death, as is also the case for the full list:

    You can also see the volume of searches over time for searches in the close-up Google Trends page for his name, along with some of the related searches that are happening:

    Again, I’ll update more about why Google Trends wasn’t showing this yesterday. Google said they’d check further on it for me.

    Google Tributes To Jobs

    Somewhat related, both Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page made nice statements about Jobs.

    Page posted:

    I am very, very sad to hear the news about Steve. He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it. His focus on the user experience above all else has always been an inspiration to me. He was very kind to reach out to me as I became CEO of Google and spend time offering his advice and knowledge even though he was not at all well. My thoughts and Google’s are with his family and the whole Apple family.

    Brin posted:

    From the earliest days of Google, whenever Larry and I sought inspiration for vision and leadership, we needed to look no farther than Cupertino. Steve, your passion for excellence is felt by anyone who has ever touched an Apple product (including the macbook I am writing this on right now). And I have witnessed it in person the few times we have met.On behalf of all of us at Google and more broadly in technology, you will be missed very much. My condolences to family, friends, and colleagues at Apple.

    Google also ran a nice, tasteful tribute to Jobs on the bottom of its home page yesterday. This morning, it was gone for me. However, I’ve noticed now that it appears to be back for me. I’m not sure if it was just some caching issue on my part, or if it really did go away and come back. Regardless, it’s nice to see:

    Postscript: Hitwise, which tracks search term popularity through a variety of sources, has tweeted that searches for “steve jobs” made it the ninth most popular search in the US, yesterday. Previously, searches for his name ranked 47,974th, on Oct 4.

    Also, see our related post, Tweets About Steve Jobs Spike But Don’t Break Twitter Record.


    About The Author

    Danny Sullivan
    Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.