2012 Yahoo! Year In Review: Over 500 Top Searches In 50+ Categories

Last year, Yahoo! celebrated ten years of sharing its annual Year In Review feature, marking the occasion by releasing 30 categories of the most popular searches on Yahoo! in 2011, one of the biggest lists up to that point in time. For 2012, Yahoo! one-upped themselves by providing us with the top 10 most popular searches […]

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Last year, Yahoo! celebrated ten years of sharing its annual Year In Review feature, marking the occasion by releasing 30 categories of the most popular searches on Yahoo! in 2011, one of the biggest lists up to that point in time.

For 2012, Yahoo! one-upped themselves by providing us with the top 10 most popular searches in over 50 categories, giving us a mega list of the most common queries and questions asked by Yahoo! searchers over the last year.


Vera Chan,Yahoo!  senior editor and Web trend analyst, has possibly the 2nd best job at Yahoo! next to Marissa Mayer, as she has been involved with putting this annual feature together since 2005; she clearly enjoys looking for the “why” behind some of these popular search trends.

Every year, Ms. Chan hosts a press conference call to share insights and give some context around these searcher behaviors, as she explains that we now live in a “Freakonomics” world — and people like Nate Silver are bringing new meaning to number crunching — she’s clearly one of the people making sense of ‘big data’ at Yahoo!.

As explained in the methodology below, she says that Yahoo! measures not just overall volume, but notes the changes since the previous year, rolling averages across the year; so, even though new items might spike, it may not not be enough to crack the top 10 in any category over the course of the year.

For example, the “iPhone5” didn’t exist last year, but the spike in volume of searches was significant enough to propel it to the top in several categories. And, the recent “megamillions” jackpot wasn’t just a trend from last week’s massive prize money; it appears for the year because of many lottery law changes and several states joined the program in 2012; so, searches were up significantly since last year.

How Far Has Yahoo! Come Since 2001?

One trend has seemingly stayed the same since 2001 when Yahoo! first began these lists: searchers are most intrigued with gadgets, entertainment and celebrities. Chan reminded us that the #1 search in 2001 was for “PS2” and #2 was “Britney Spears,” while sports and breaking news stories continue to capture the attention of Web searchers in the US.

My Search Engine Land colleague, Chris Sherman, first covered the top searches at Yahoo! in 2001 in an article at SEW where he included the top 10 for that year:

  • PlayStation 2
  • Britney Spears
  • WWF
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Napster
  • World Trade Center
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Dale Earnhardt
  • Internal Revenue Service

In that same article, he also referenced Google Zeitgeist and the Lycos Top 50, which placed the 9/11 attacks and searches for “World Trade Center” at #3 and #8, respectively.

As these lists get more in-depth every year, Chan never fails to point out topics that almost made the cut from newly emerging trends in pop culture.

For example, she noted that “archery” nearly made the list, with archery’s growing popularity being spurred on by Katniss, the main Hunger Games character, the 2012 Olympic games, the Avengers’ Hawkeye, and Disney’s animated archer in Brave.

It’s also not always the latest shiny new gadget or pop princess drawing attention. Chan noted that history does interest the Yahoo! audience and special events, such as the 100th anniversary of the tragic Titanic voyage (and subsequent movie re-release) as well as the historical TV mini-series, the Hatfields & McCoys, which drew significant attention.

Top Memes & Popular Searches For Tech Geeks

Chan pointed out some of the most popular memes are a phenomena unique to the Internet; such as topics like #Kony2012 first started on the Web, and then spread to the general offline world. Meanwhile, the now infamous “Invisible Obama” and “Eastwooding” became popular via Twitter, as chronicled by Know Your Meme.

She noted that the Kony meme was interesting on two levels: first, because of the initial documentary story, but then the meme was given fresh legs when the filmmaker’s breakdown made news everywhere.

Below are some of the most interesting categories overall, and I’ve highlighted items in Yahoo! purple that may be of particular interest to tech / Internet geeks and have also linked to relevant stories on Search Engine Land /Marketing Land about some personalities mentioned below, and for topics such as SOPA and Facebook’s IPO.

Yahoo LogoDue to the massive size of the list Yahoo! provided this year, we’ve created separate pages for these categories of lists:

Top Searches Overall on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. election
  2. iphone 5
  3. kim kardashian
  4. kate upton
  5. kate middleton
  6. whitney houston
  7. olympics
  8. political polls
  9. lindsay lohan
  10. jennifer lopez

The presidental election really did keep Americans busy searching, but who searched more during the campaign season, Democrats or Republicans?

Top Searches On Yahoo! Mobile In 2012

  1. iphone 5
  2. scrabble word finder
  3. fantasy football
  4. olympics
  5. hurricane sandy
  6. american idol
  7. kim kardashian
  8. nfl scores
  9. sf giants
  10. mega millions

Top Searched For Gadgets On Yahoo!

  1. iphone 5
  2. 2 ipad 3
  3. ipad mini
  4. samsung galaxy s3
  5. kindle fire
  6. iphone 4
  7. nook
  8. ipod touch
  9. samsung galaxy tab
  10. samsung galaxy note

Top‐Searched About News Topics on Yahoo!

  1. election 2012
  2. death of whitney houston
  3. hurricane sandy
  4. gas prices
  5. trayvon martin case
  6. colorado shooting
  7. jerry sandusky trial
  8.  joran van der sloot
  9. miami cannibal attack
  10. facebook IPO

Top ‘What Is’ Searches On Yahoo! In 2012:

  1. what is SOPA
  2. what is love
  3. what is the hunger games about
  4. what is KONY
  5. what is a zip line
  6. what is obama care
  7. what is scientology
  8. what is a blue moon
  9. what is tapenade
  10. what is the electoral college

Top ‘How To’ Searches On Yahoo! In 2012

  1. how to make a diaper cake
  2. how to buy facebook stock
  3. how to build a deck
  4. how to boil an egg
  5. how to cook corn on the cob
  6. how to cook swiss chard
  7. how to make salsa
  8. how to get rid of bags under the eyes
  9.  how to make cake pops
  10. how to cook pumpkin seeds

Top Searched International Affairs On Yahoo! In 2012

  1. kony 2012
  2. pussy riot punk band
  3. costa concordia
  4.  innocence of muslims
  5. north korea
  6. libya
  7. malala yousafzai
  8. julian assange
  9. syria
  10. bo xilai

Top Obsessions On Yahoo! 2012 (Top Searched + Top Gainers)

  1. iphone 5
  2. political polls
  3. mega millions
  4. the hunger games
  5. honey boo boo
  6. fifty shades of grey
  7. one direction
  8. call me maybe
  9. gangnam style
  10. titanic

Top Searched Financial Terms On Yahoo! in 2012

  1. facebook ipo
  2. coupons
  3. jobs
  4. gas prices
  5. fafsa
  6. resumes and cover letters
  7. gold prices
  8. mortgage rates
  9. student loans
  10. oil prices

Top Searches About Females/Women Related Issues on Yahoo!

  1. sandra fluke
  2. elizabeth warren
  3. planned parenthood
  4. abortion
  5. air force sex scandal
  6. susan g. komen
  7. darla moore
  8. sheryl sandberg
  9.  todd akin
  10. time breastfeeding cover

Top Searched Politicians on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. barack obama
  2. mitt romney
  3. sarah palin
  4. ron paul
  5. hillary clinton
  6. rick santorum
  7. john edwards
  8. paul ryan
  9. elizabeth warren
  10. arnold schwarzenegger

Top Searched Memes On Yahoo! In 2012

  1. kony 2012
  2. binders full of women
  3. hurricane sandy fake storm photos
  4. ridiculously photogenic guy
  5. big bird
  6. dogshaming
  7. stingray photobomb
  8. eastwooding
  9. etch‐a‐sketch
  10. makayla maroney is not impressed

Top Travel Cities On Yahoo! in 2012

  1. las vegas
  2. chicago
  3. london
  4. new york
  5. washington d.c.
  6. san francisco
  7. san diego
  8. dubai
  9. new orleans
  10. hong kong

Top Spiking Financial Terms on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. stamp prices
  2. stocks to buy
  3. mortgage deal
  4. 30 year mortgage rate
  5. 1040 instructions
  6. stimulus payment schedule
  7. 10 best mutual funds
  8. new home sales
  9. top 10 stocks
  10. free tax filing

Top Job Searches on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. work from home jobs
  2. kaiser permanente jobs
  3. government/federal jobs
  4. part time jobs
  5. wal‐mart jobs
  6. truck driving jobs
  7. target jobs
  8. fedex jobs
  9. costco jobs
  10. home depot jobs

Top ‘Who Is’ Searches On Yahoo! In 2012

  1. who is the girl with the dragon tattoo
  2. who is elizabeth smart
  3. who is joseph kony
  4. who is aviva drescher
  5. who is leaving grey’s anatomy
  6. who is uncle drew
  7. who is james holmes
  8. who is paul ryan
  9. who is honey boo boo
  10. who is ann coulter

Top Searched Scandals on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. kate middleton photo scandal
  2. jackson family fight
  3. lance armstrong doping
  4. general david petraeus affair
  5. new orleans saints’ bountygate
  6. bobby petrino affair
  7. secret service scandal
  8. savile sex scandal
  9. air force sex scandal
  10. j.p. morgan/london whale loss

Top Weather Related Searches on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. hurricane sandy
  2. colorado wildfires
  3. texas tornadoes
  4. hurricane isaac
  5. FEMA
  6. texas hail
  7. blizzard
  8. hurricane leslie
  9. drought
  10. heatwave

Top‐Searches For Jean Brands on Yahoo! In 2012

  1. levi’s
  2. true religion
  3. miss me
  4. wrangler
  5. lucky brand
  6. lee jeans
  7. ymi
  8. not your daughter’s jeans
  9. silver jeans
  10. apple bottom

Top Searches For Coupons/Deals On Yahoo! in 2012

  1. dick’s sporting goods coupons
  2. kohl’s coupons
  3. grocery coupons
  4.  jcpenney coupons
  5. hobby lobby coupons
  6. lowe’s coupons
  7. michael’s coupons
  8. pizza hut coupons
  9. zappos coupons
  10. chuck e. cheese coupons

Top Searches Astronomical Wonders on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. mars rover
  2. nasa
  3. solar eclipse
  4. meteor showers
  5. space jump
  6. space shuttles
  7. neil armstrong
  8. spacex
  9. transit of venus
  10. blue moon

Top Questions Asked On Yahoo! In 2012

  1. how to cook pumpkin seeds
  2. where do i vote
  3. what is the electoral college
  4. who is winning the presidential race
  5. what is a blue moon
  6. when is father’s day
  7. how to boil eggs
  8. when is sweetest day
  9. what time is it in london
  10. how to cook pork tenderloin

Top ‘Where Is’ Searches on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. where is the super bowl 2012
  2. where is monica lewinsky
  3. where is bora bora
  4. where is ecuador
  5. where is amy robach going
  6. where is chuck norris
  7. where is croatia
  8. where is tunisia
  9. where is annie dookhan from
  10. where is notre dame

Top “definition of” Searches on Yahoo! in 2012

  1. define reductive
  2. define secede
  3. define truancy
  4. define optimal
  5. define vetted
  6. define bioviate
  7. define austerity
  8. define concede
  9. define narcissism
  10. define renege

Yahoo! Year In Review Global Coverage Sites

Note that the lists above are purely US based lists; the following links are to unique coverage on Yahoo!by country:

About the Yahoo! Year in Review Methodology

From Yahoo: To develop the Yahoo! Year in Review, Yahoo’s  editors analyze Yahoo! Search queries based on a number of factors, including absolute volume and the growth from previous periods, to see which themes and
trends bubble to the surface. Individuals and their Search queries always remain anonymous. Top
searched refers to searches with the highest volume. Spiking refers to searches with the greatest change
from one year to the next.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Elisabeth Osmeloski
Elisabeth Osmeloski was Director of Audience Development for Search Engine Land and MarTech. She was responsible for increasing readership through owned, earned and paid media channels. In addition, she assists in programming sessions at Third Door Media's Search Marketing Expo conference series and manages speaking engagements for editorial staff. Follow her on Twitter @elisabethos.

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