Google Trends Turns 15! What Were We Searching Then & Now?

google trends

Google Trends will be a core tool used by any decent SEO for multiple different reasons. The first is general keyword research because Trends allows you to see what is growing, what is declining, and that allows a marketer to make an informed decision on what to focus on. If you’re looking to drive results quickly, choosing keywords on a consistent downward trend isn’t a good idea.

Content is so important in any SEO campaign and Google Trends allows you to see related searches around a particular keyword or subject. Whether those related searches are service keywords, educational searches or a different intent entirely, knowing them means you can tap into the audience at every stage of a conversion journey.

The datasets used by Google Trends also go much further back than most other tools. You can set your specific date ranges, but you can also select from 2004-present. That’s 17 years of data as Google Trends was used internally at Google before being launched to the public in 2006. You can also segment that data even further into web, images, news, shopping, and youtube searches. When segmenting data you can go back as far as to when those specific search features were launched.  You can also set the location from Worldwide to specific cities so you know the data relates to your closest possible audience.

Finally, using all of that historical data allows you to forecast for the future with a certain degree of accuracy. You’ll always have to trust your gut instincts, but if a keyword/topic has been growing at a consistent rate for years, it’s likely to continue. Unless of course, you get an anomaly like COVID which decimated the search demand for some industries.

What Were People Searching For in 2006?

As Google Trends turns 15, Google has released some highlights that compare what we were searching for way back in 2006 compared to now. It can’t be denied that some of the searches have longevity as they make the top 5 in 2006 AND 2021. This is likely going to make you feel a bit old if you’re a 90s kid.

Most Searched Song Lyricsgoogle trends searches 15 year comparison

2006 was truly one of the peaks in pop music with Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Gnarls Barkley and Pussycat Dolls all making the top 5. I won’t lie, I had to Google AFI – Miss Murder, and I still have no idea. But good for them!

2021 look a whole lot different with Olivia Rodrigo cementing her star status by taking three of the top 5 positions. It’s a cracking album but is everyone ok because Traitor being at number two suggests that a whole lot of people are feeling the feels.

Most Search Actors

Wildy different between 2006 and 2021 for the most searched actors.

Paris Hilton at number 3 in 2006 was unexpected. Perhaps her role in House of Wax (2005) was more impactful than we anticipated. Lindsay Lohan was riding the success of Freaky Friday (2003). Zac Efron hit the big time with his role in High School Musical (2006). Channing Tatum was throwing moves in the iconic Step Up (2006). Oprah was riding the wave of success from well, everything really, because everything Oprah touches turns to Gold.

In 2021, Olivia Rodrigo leads the list with her role in the Disney+ TV Series High School Musical (2019-present). Although this is likely massively inflated because of the success of her debut album. Scarlett Johanson & Florence Pugh come in second and third after the release of Black Widow (2021). Tom Holland is riding the success of the Marvel Universe and the underrated Cherry (2021). We won’t talk about the disastrous Chaos Walking. Round up the top five is Millie Bobbie Brown as the world waits for the highly anticipated fourth season of Stranger Things (2016-present).

Most Searched TV Shows

In 2006, reality TV reigned supreme with three spots on the top 5. Top of the list is Project Runway, with Big Brother coming in second. Lost takes the third spot with season 3 releasing that year (you know before it all went a bit weird and lost some of the audience?). Miami Vice is at number four, and reality TV show American Idol rounds off the top 5.

In 2021, Big Brother takes the number one spot! Not for us Brits though I would imagine as we haven’t had it for a few years. It peaked with Kim Woodburn on CBB and I won’t hear anything else about it. The 2021 reboot of Gossip Girl comes in second place which will have pleased HBO and hopefully means we’ll get another season at least. In third place is Grey’s Anatomy which this year embarks on its 18th season! I’m still working to get over Christina leaving (the only plus side is we got the incredible Killing Eve). The iCarly reboot is at number four (we’re all asking the same question. Why?). Rounding off the top five most-searched TV show is Criminal Minds.

Most Searched Games

Wooo games! My personal favourite form of escapism, even more so during the recent lockdowns. A challenging game can keep the mind alert as well as transport you to somewhere different to reality.

In 2006, Tetris reigned supreme at number one and Sonic came in second. Simpler games for sure compared to what we see nowadays. But then, gaming was much simpler then. Halo 3 came in third (which is a MUST play if you haven’t. It’s on XBOX Game Pass if you fancy it). Bejeweled is number four, and it’s important to note here that 2006 was before the era of smartphone games. Nowadays with mobile included, it’s reportedly been played by over half a billion people with a combined time of 10 billion hours. Rounding off the top 5 in 2006 is Battlefield 2.

Looking at 2021, we’ve got four new entries. The number spot has been taken by Sonic! Again here, we’re likely seeing data merged with the success of the movie which was actually fairly good. In second place is Genshin Impact which is a free to play open world JRPG available on mobile, console, and pc with cross-platform support for progression. In third place is Minesweeper which is a surprise. Sometimes it’s nice to play a simpler game that doesn’t require the level of concentration that the AAAs do. Obviously, there’s still a market for the games of the past. In fourth place, we have GTA6 which at the current rate of development probably won’t be released until 2075. We’re getting GTAV on next-gen though this year! The final spot in the top 5 goes to Battlefield 2042, which is shaping up to the biggest game launch of the year. 128 players in a match of pure carnage? P.S. I’m doing a technical test for EA this weekend so I’ll likely be bleating on about this game for the considerable future. Plus, NO SBMM! (Call of Duty, take note).

Search Is Ever-Changing

Google Trends allows us invaluable insights into how people are searching and in almost real-time, which allows us as marketers to respond quickly and capture audiences. We can see trends growing and declining over time which allows us to pinpoint where we put our focus and ultimately drive the best results for clients.