Side By Side: A Look At The Top Search Trends From Yahoo, Bing, And Google

The results are in: Bing, Yahoo, and Google have all released their top search trends for 2009. We’ve been following them over the last few days, and decided we’d put them side by side to see if any interesting patterns emerged. Note that Bing’s results are US only (and Yahoo’s exclude other English-speaking properties) so we’re including Google’s US results for the most apples-to-apples comparison.

Before we draw any conclusions, it’s important to note that the methods employed are neither consistent between search engines, nor are they scientific to begin with. Aside from the obvious removal of porn and other NSFW related queries, the search engines generally ignore items that are always popular in favor of more timely keywords. I’ve included the methods used by each company below, but the theme here is “really vague”.

That said, we can still make a few observations. First, the obvious: the late Michael Jackson and Twitter dominate the top two slots (Jackson takes the top spot on Bing and Yahoo, but takes second to Twitter on Google).

It looks like Yahoo appeals to a mainstream, less tech-oriented audience. It may also be skewing younger than the other engines. Pop culture queries like Twilight and Britney Spears are dominant, with only two tech-related queries (RuneScape and Twitter). And Yahoo’s list stays consistent over the years: half of the queries (WWE, Britney Spears, Naruto, American Idol and RuneScape) made Yahoo’s top list last year. And most of those repeats were on 2007’s list.

Bing seemed to shy more towards current events, though these were influenced by celebrities as well. Four out of Bing’s top ten queries were related to celebrities who passed away during 2009. And “Swine Flu”, “Stock Market”, “Cash for Clunkers”, and kidnap victim “Jaycee Dugard” are all related to major news stories over the last year, some of which are still ongoing.

Google’s list has more of a tech slant, which appearances made by Hulu, Facebook, Twitter, and Hi5. Three of its top queries were related to celebrity deaths (Jackson, Natasha Richardson, and Farrah Fawcett). And three of the top trends are related to breakthrough artists and entertainment content: Glee, Lady Gaga, and horror film Paranormal Activity.

You can find more Google trends at its Zeitgeist site. Here’s how it compiled its results:

To compile the 2009 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, Google Trends and internal data tools. We also filter out spam and repeat queries to build out lists that best reflect “the spirit of the times.”

You can find more Yahoo trends here. Here’s how they gathered their data.

To develop the Yahoo! Year in Review, our editors analyze Search queries
based on a number of factors, including absolute volume and growth
versus previous periods, to see which themes and trends bubble to the
surface. Individual users and their Search queries always remain

Bing hasn’t revealed any more trends yet, but it gives this awesomely nebulous description of its methods:

“If you’re curious how we determined the top searches, we analyzed billions of search queries and developed the list based on searches made with Bing.”