To Really Understand The (Google) Zeitgeist, You Need To Dive Into The Details

Google released its 2008 Zeitgeist list of the most popular search terms for the year. Unlike Yahoo’s 2008 list of top search terms, Google looks at the fastest-rising searches of the year. That makes for a slightly more interesting list. (Yahoo’s list was basically a repeat of its 2007 list). Below are the two lists, and you can compare to Google’s list for 2007, which was dominated by technology searches (“iphone,” “facebook,” “youtube”).

Google’s Fastest Rising Search Terms for 2008 (Global)

1. sarah palin
2. beijing 2008
3. facebook login
4. tuenti
5. heath ledger
6. obama
7. nasza klasa
8. wer kennt wen
9. euro 2008
10. jonas brothers

Yahoo’s Top Search Terms For 2008

  • 1. Britney Spears
    2. WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)
    3. Barack Obama
    4. Miley Cyrus
    5. RuneScape
    6. Jessica Alba
    7. Naruto
    8. Lindsay Lohan
    9. Angelina Jolie
    10. American Idol
  • Here is the U.S. list for Google, which does have more overlap with last year’s. – Fastest Rising (U.S.)

    1. obama
    2. facebook
    3. att
    4. iphone
    5. youtube
    6. fox news
    7. palin
    8. beijing 2008
    9. david cook
    10. surf the channel

    The top-level Zeitgeist lists are not too surprising (they never are). The most interesting trends reveal themselves only when you dive deeper. For instance, in terms of search popularity, we find that “facebook” beat out “myspace,” the “martini” beat out the “mojito,” and “ice cream” beat out “chili.”

    Certain terms peak and then drop off, but they can tell us more about the national mindset than terms that remain consistently strong. For instance, searches for “hybrid car” and “solar panel” skyrocketed during the summer when gas prices reached bank account-draining levels, but dropped just as quickly as gas prices came down.

    Similarly, the term “layaway” found a resurgence in popularity that coincided with the economic crisis.