Google’s Zeitgeist | 2016 Year in Search

Google’s Zeitgeist Year in Search has been released!

Our search history from this year has once more been summed up in a truly awe-inspiring video.

It’s incredible to watch and if you haven’t already checked it out, I would strongly recommend.

These two emotive minutes remind us not only of the incredible (and some horrific) events that took place in 2016, but also what our searches show us about who we are, what we’ve achieved and what we have yet to accomplish.

From Brexit to the US Election, more shootings in America, relentless ISIS bombings, the horror of Syria, the refugee crisis, the Olympics, the super moon, technology, LGBT success, timeless TV moments, more viral fads, and loss after loss after loss of celebrity treasures juxtaposed with heartfelt or hilarious moments.

It’s a lot to take in.

And that’s just what they managed to show. For each of us 2016 has brought its own rollercoaster, but certainly, our world has gone through one of its own this year.

I know the majority of people find themselves becoming very affected by the events that occur across our globe, and especially after the year we’ve had of uncertainty and tragedy and death it’s hard to see the meaning behind it all. However I’ve always been a strong believer that it’s our actions that define who we are, and in the face of such turmoil we have the opportunity to be the best people we can be.

I’ve heard that often as an argument for God, when people ask,
‘How could an all-knowing, all-loving God allow such pain and suffering to exist?’

So that we develop compassion, empathy, generosity – forgiveness – and become better people as a whole.

Whilst I’m not sure I agree with the argument as evidence for a higher being, but I certainly find value in the sentiment. We’ve certainly seen some beautiful kindness and humility emerge from the tragedies and the chaos.

People all over the world combining efforts to help the Syrian refugees, rallies for rights, petitions for peace, hopeful individuals all over trying to make a difference in their own way – and search shows how. Google has tapped into the hearts of the population and shown us a little glimpse of the many amazing good things that have come from such a heartbreaking year, and that there’s good still to come.

But along with reminding us of some of the major events from this year, there were some surprising highlights the search trends managed to throw up. So I’d like to move with this message of hope and take you through some of the interesting, funny and down-right bonkers things we’ve been searching this year – and what that says about us!

TV and Technology

Globally we’ve been super interested in technology and sci-fi fiction when it comes to what we watch on the telly.

Westworld and Black Mirror are both set in times with advanced technology and explore how that plays out, but with very different tones. Our curiosity about technology and how we will be affected by it in the future seems to be continually shadowed with doubt and a concern for the consequences – which I think is pretty fair.

If ‘selfies’ has now already been added to the official Oxford Dictionary, then who knows where we’re heading…

selfie word added to dictionaries

But we’ve also had an explosion of superheroes and weird and wonderful stuff. Luke Cage is up there in 3rd for TV, and Stranger Things featuring some telekinesis hit top for search all around the world.

Plus, we had some pretty freaky stuff unfolding in Game of Thrones this year (I won’t spoil if you’ve not seen it yet). But seriously. Winter is coming.

And for movies the only global top 5 search that wasn’t superhero-related was The Revenant – and given DiCaprio finally won his (well-deserved) Oscar – we’ll let that one slide.

Following on from this sci-fi burst, the rocket you see in Google’s video showed the amazingly innovative reusable rockets which could set to be the start of a new era in space travel (and save us a bit of money not having to keep rebuilding more, no doubt).

One pretty creepy technology advancement though that Google didn’t get chance to include was the project that is now getting robots to teach one another to advance technology faster.

This is definitely where all these terrifying TV programs start.

Hopefully, this artificial intelligence doesn’t develop too much and the robots don’t end up taking over the world… but really they’re only teaching each other Pacman, so I don’t really see where that can go end-of-mankind wrong.

Would be interesting to see what the Google’s Zeitgiest looked like in an all-robot world though…

But let’s move on to some funnier search highlights:

The weird and wonderful

We’ll start with food and drink. Two of my favourite things in the world. Well, they’re up there anyway.

Of the top food and drink the UK and US have been searching for, there have been some bizarre top searches which you’re definitely gonna love. If you were one of the odd sods searching these things you’ve got to let us know.

@BrightDesignUK @EmilyFedorowycz

#1 UK Recipe Searches – #BlueberryWine
Who was searching this? Please – do tell me, because this phenomenon was certainly out of my circles. I’d never even heard of blueberry wine before observing Google’s Zeitgeist trends, but I certainly want to try it now.

Most of the tutorials online are American (which makes more sense as I presume you need a pretty hefty amount of blueberries, and the American superstores must cater well to this need). Funnily enough, the US weren’t as interested this year in blueberry wine as us Brits were. Maybe we’re behind the times?

#10 UK Recipe searches – #DogBirthdayCake
I think we might have hit an all time low with this one (or an all-time high, depending on your pet obsession). Growing up with dogs all my life I can see why people might find this rather cute, but really, it’s just hilarious embarrassing. I think we might have a problem.

Health rating: the US beat the UK with a #GreenBeanCasserole
Following the weird wine (and trying to forget the kibble cake), with profiteroles, cheese fondues and sausages encased in gorgeous Yorkshire pudding, the UK have a great top 10 list for what we’ve been cooking and consuming – but not a particularly healthy one.

America showed us up with #GreenBeanCasserole at their number 1 top search this year in recipes, closely followed by brussel sprouts and with guacamole at #4. We’ve definitely got some green eating to live up to this year

#3 What is…? – #WhatIsTheSingleMarket
This is a crazy one. On the 26th of June, three days after the UK referendum, the question “What is the single market?” spiked massively to 100 searches a day. Going from 26 in the lead up to the referendum, this means that this search rose by nearly 4 times post-vote.

Read into that what you will, but I’ll mention the 4th most popular “what is” search in the UK this year was “What is the EU?” – which would be fine, if the spike didn’t come after the vote date. C’mon Brits. Get it together.

I could go on about the insane politics of this year but I must digress or we’ll be here all day.

The next are a few that I’ll just briefly touch on as no doubt you’ll know all about them, but I just thought they deserved a mention.

#6 UK News – #Clowns
That strange fad originating from across the pond in the US, where people thought it would be clever to dress up as clowns and scare preganant women into labour.

#5 UK top searched people – #SimoneBiles
Globally we loved the inspiring story of Simone Biles, the incredibly passionate and modest decorated gold-medalist from Rio this year.

#6 Worldwide News – #PanamaPapers
The massive data leak revealing ways in which the politians and their associates have been using off-shore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share.

#8 UK News – #Toblerone (aka #TobleroneGate)
One of the things that really mattered most to us this year: Toblerone changing the shape of the beloved chocolate bar. I suppose we’re just trying to keep it light? Right?

#4 UK Fashion – #HowToUseANeedleThreader
I’ll save you any more searches. Good on you for the DIY effort though. Sew on.


Famous Celeb Searches were mostly fuelled by TV stars –

Actress in Fringe and Humanitarian
#1 – Megan Markle

I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
#4 – Carol Vorderman
#4 – Wayne Bridge
#6 – Joel Dommett
#8 – Lisa Snowden

Celebrity Big Brother
#6 – Angie Bowie (ex-wife of the legend David)
Ex On the Beach
#7 – Megan McKenna

Blue Peter Presenter
#10 – Helen Skelton

And TV show certainly sparked some interest in our home-bakers thanks to The Great British Bake Off…
#2 How to…? – #HowToMakeYorkshirePuddings
#5 How to…? – #HowToMakeChurros

#3 US Workouts and Exercises – #8MinuteBackWorkout
A very specific length of workout in my opinion, and didn’t realize we were all looking for those sexy backs you see on all the ads… but each to their own. Suppose all our office jobs are probably doing us in, so if that’s what you’re looking to combat I’ve found the most popular 8-min workout everyone’s probably been searching for, here for your convenience. Aren’t we kind.

And finally, to finish, (although I’ve really not scraped the tip of the iceberg of interesting search trends in this article, so definitely have a look for yourself!), here are the UK’s top How To searches, which I’ve found one of the most telling categories…

#1 – #HowToPlayPokemonGo
Maybe less telling, but still quite a nice fad, allowing kids to get outdoors and see the real world beyond their phones (albeit blindly walking around with their heads buried in them) and adults to reminisce about childhood games. We clearly want to catch them all!

#2 – #HowToLoseWeightWell
How to lose weight = expected. How to lose weight well? I’m curious. Tell me more. Lose weight the correct way? Lose weight in a good way? How are so many people so ambiguous on this topic?

#3 – #HowToStayYoung
Ah youth. The timeless, not-so-timeless desire. Definitely says something about our desire to stay beautiful or healthy, depending on how cynical you want to be.

#4 – #HowToGoLiveOnFacebook
Engaging with technology, good work everyone. There has been an incredible increase in video content available online, and we should expect this to continue in the coming year given Google’s (and the user’s) want for rich content. Has already been proven to be useful for SEO, so expect the digital video marketing boom to come.

#5 – #HowToVoteForEUReferendum
Voting effort. Again, good job team. This brings to head nicely the political mahem we’ve had this year, Brexit being one, and Trump winning the US elections and causing the Canadian immigration website to crash with the influx of Americans trying to get out while they can. Meanwhile, Putin is continuing to put a political spanner in the works and the Syrian tragedy is still ongoing.

#6 – #HowToGetAnIrishPassport
Brexit strikes once again. Everyone made a mad bid trying to get in with Ireland post-Brexit vote to retain some of their EU rights, and to be honest, I don’t blame ‘em.

#7 – #HowToMakeSlime
Maybe one of my favourites. Tells us diddly squat. But this search was also a top contender in the US. Everyone wants to make slime! Why is this? Am I missing out on something here? Do tell.

#8 – #HowToAppearFunny
A bit like number 2, the wording baffles me a bit. Why are people not trying to be funny, they’re just trying to appear it? The US are doing the same. Why does everyone want to just seem funny? Embrace your hilarious selves.

#9 – #HowToApplyForBritishCitizenship
This has Brexit written all over it. The controversial referendum that split the country in half hit again as our residents fear being kicked out of the country and are forced to look for legal ways to stay. Sad truth.

#10 – #HowToAcceptMyselfForWhoIAm
Quite like ending on this one. It’s a bit of a gushy message I know, but I think it fits in nicely with Google’s compilation and the message of hope, acceptance and love.

Also I’d like to note that this is one of the top searches in Google this year.

That in itself breaks my heart a little: that so many need this help and this reassurance. I think that says a lot about our culture and the individual, that we feel unaccepted by others and society’s norms so much so that so many can’t even accept themselves.

The need for acceptance is a huge thing, and I’m glad we’re moving towards it, slowly yes, but surely. LGBT+ success in the past few years shows this, along with a continual outward show of love and acceptance towards others online, but this needs to continue.

But the fact people are turning to Google search to find this reassurance is also a sad fact, and that’s something we should note. Whilst technology can teach us a lot, show us incredible things, and ultimately help us become better people, that will only ever take us so far. Life finds value in people, and it is with others that we find the best things, make the best memories, and discover meaning.

Technology should not be a substitute for the support we can get from a real personal connection, from friends and family, and we need to make sure that technology brings us together rather than isolates, as it can easily do.

So we need to be there for one another, in a real one-to-one way, find those genuine moments, those intimate meaningful connections that make life worthwhile.

Below is an amazing video by Prince Ea on which I’d like to leave this article.

Love, hope and compassion are the things that make the world go round. Technology is amazing, and can help us in so many different way, but it must never control us. Search on. But live more.

Please let me know if you enjoyed this article and definitely visit Google Trends to see the search trends in your country, which I would highly encourage as it is really fascinating! Let me know on social media if you found anything curious for your country – what’s the most unexpected search trend?

Tweet myself @EmilyFedorowycz or Bright Design @BrightDesignUK if you were surprised by anything in the Zeitgeist, or if you enjoyed the Google’s Year In Search video just as much as we did! #Zeitgeist #love #compassion #hope #searchon