As we leave the year behind, we're taking a look at the biggest events, news, and people who shaped the year. We analyzed the billions of queries that were typed into Google over the year to give you a glimpse of 2011 as seen through the lenses of Google searches.
To compile the 2011 Year-End Zeitgeist, we studied the aggregation of billions of queries people typed into Google search this year. We use data from multiple sources, including Insights for Search and internal data tools. We also filter out spam and repeat queries to build out lists that best reflect the spirit of the times. All of the search queries we studied are anonymous—no personal information was used.
A word about how we describe the lists: except where noted, all of these search terms are most popular for 2011—ranked in order of the queries with the largest volume of searches this year. In some cases, we list the "fastest rising" queries, which means we found the most popular searches conducted in 2011 and then ranked them based on how much their popularity increased compared to 2010. Conversely, "fastest falling" queries were very popular in 2010 but flattened in popularity in 2011.
About these Visualizations
The normalized search numbers reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don't represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100. Each query is divided by the highest point that query reached, or 100. When we don't have enough data, 0 is shown. Read more about how we scale and normalize search data.
About the "Home" visualizationsClicking "See more details" for one of the homepage search images reveals a narrative summary with information graphics for the selected "fastest rising search" of 2011. These graphics reflect rise in search volume, volume over the course of the year, volume compared to a related event, and volume by country.
Note: as these are the 10 global fastest rising queries, a term can appear high on the fastest rising list and still have lower search volume than the other queries.
About the "Top 10 Lists" visualizationsThe visualization matrix shows normalized, weekly volume for search terms over the course of 2011. Select a query from the left-hand side of the screen to view the terms' search volume over the course of the year. Compare search terms by selecting additional lists. Hover over the matrix to view associated news articles, and adjust the time slider to isolate a specific time period.
Note: lists specified as "fastest rising" measure how much growth each term had compared to 2010, so a term can appear high on the fastest rising list and still have lower search volume than the other queries.
We hope you enjoy our look back at the happenings of 2011. But the story doesn't have to end there—if you're interested in further exploring search trends around the world, there are a variety of ways to do so.
Translate itYou can use a wide range of Google Translate tools to translate any of our international year-end Zeitgeist pages into up to 64 languages. If, for example, you speak Spanish but want to read what was top-of-mind in Japan this year, just enter the text or the webpage URL of the Japan Zeitgeist page into Google Translate and read it in your own language. Or you can use Google Toolbar on Internet Explorer or Firefox, with advanced translation that will translate the page for you automatically. You can also translate any page automatically with Google Chrome.
Dig deeperOur Year-End Zeitgeist is just a small sampling of the queries and search trends that we found interesting this year. If you want to go beyond what we've shared here, try using these tools to discover more about global and regional search terms over time (in some cases, as far back as 2004).
- Google Trends - For a broad look at search query data, enter up to five search terms to see relative popularity over time. You can use Trends to compare terms in any language from any country—the interface is currently available in U.S. English, Chinese and Japanese.
- Trends for Websites - Google Trends for website traffic data. Type in a website address to see visitors by region and related sites visited. Currently available in U.S. English only.
- Insights for Search - A closer look at search query data for power users. Create your own lists of "most popular" and "fastest rising" queries for different geographic regions over time and by topic. Insights for Search is available in 40 languages.
- Hot Trends (India, Japan, Singapore and U.S. only) - The top 40 fastest-rising search queries right now, updated continuously throughout the day.
Personalize itPerhaps you just want to take a closer look at your own web behavior over the past year. While the data we used for our Zeitgeist is anonymous and in aggregate, there are a few places you can look to examine your own personal search trends if you have a Google account.
- Web History - If you've chosen to enable Web History in your Google Account, you can get an interesting glimpse at your own web activity, such as top queries and peak activity over time. To try it out, log into Web History with your Google Account and click on the "Trends" tab. This might not account for all of your web activity, but it can be a fun look back at your query and browsing history over time.
- Google Reader - If you use Google Reader to read blogs and other RSS feeds, you can view your reading trends by going to the "Trends" tab under "Your stuff" in the lefthand menu.
Let it live onStay up to speed on hot topics from this year and catch the latest new ones as they crop up in 2012. We offer a variety of ways for you to keep up to date on your favorite topics and get more information about them.
- Google Alerts - Keep track of the topics that matter to you most by signing up for Google Alerts and receive email updates about the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) for that query.