Google Unveils Zeigeist 2012: What Are We Searching For?

by Jordan Richardson on December 13, 2012

As we look back on the year that was, what people searched for online paints a pretty interesting picture of what was “trending” and was, perhaps surprisingly, was not.

Google has released its Zeitgeist 2012 report, detailing the searches and trends the world was into for the year.

“Zeitgeist translates to spirit of the times, so for us it’s a real pulse of the Internet and what people are interested in, whether they are trying to find a context around a particular event, personality or trying to improve their life,” said Google spokesman Daniel Sieberg.

The 2012 search trend was Whitney Houston. The iconic singer passed away suddenly in February of 2012. Second on the list was “Gangnam Style,” the intensely popular craze surrounding South Korean musician PSY and his reckless abandon on the dance floor. And third was Hurricane Sandy, the devastating superstorm that caused billions of dollars in damage on the East Coast.

Google’s report allows for a further breakdown of the statistics. Users can check out what countries were searching for what, for instance, and can pick up on how other trends developed around the world in 2012.

In Canada’s case, the top trending search was for Pinterest. Second was Hurricane Sandy, followed by the Olympics and Diablo 3. PSY’s “Gangnam Style” rounded out the top five for searchers in the Great White North.

Digging even deeper reveals more compelling information. The most frequent “How to…” search for Canadians was “How to rock,” while the most searched for “What is…” subject was “What is love.” This is perhaps an homage to Haddaway’s popular song of the same name in 1993 – at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

“What is…” searches in the United States turned up a different picture. Top searches included “What is SOPA” and “What is Scientology,” with “What is KONY” and “What is Yolo” also turning up big numbers.

But, as many people doubtlessly ask themselves every day, what about Slovakia? I’m glad you asked. The top trending search in Slovakia for 2012 was “Hotel Paradise,” a reference to a reality television show. Whitney Houston was the most searched-for person, although Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner landed in second place.

This reveals the many ways that we are the same and the many ways that we differ. Some stories really do capture the attention of the entire world, like Houston’s passing and “Gangnam Style,” while others seem more regional and specific in nature.

Whether to provide information or entertainment (or both), it’s clear that more people the world over are using the Internet to connect and get in touch with what’s going on around them. How will these trends play out in 2013? And what will we be looking for next year? Stay tuned.

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