Now that 2022 has firmly arrived, we can start to think about the last year, how it changed us, and what we did. While I’m sure that all of us have different answers to those questions, one thing we are sure of is that you made at least a few (and likely many more) online searches. Chances are you came to this page by a search, or the website, and then the page by one. You can search the internet on practically any connected device, and the Internet is effectively a search engine for us.
Whenever you have a question, you search. If you’re looking for services, either online or in the real world, you make a search query. Want a bit of distraction? You can most certainly search for that, too. A search engine is our main research tool, the main purpose for many devices, and the object of much attention, from researchers to companies.
There are 40,000 Google searches every second, which translates to 1.2 trillion per year. That’s a nearly unfathomable number, and it is rising steadily year after year, with no signs of stopping. That’s not counting other search engines, which while not nearly as popular do contribute to a greater total.
And these searches are a big industry as well. Billions are spent each year optimizing for web traffic, and SEO (search engine optimization) is an industry unto itself. Every single question and search you make online has been made before by bots and professionals, all to check what comes up and how that can be changed.
Yet the above, while interesting, doesn’t necessarily pertain to you. You can’t control search traffic single-handedly and without expertise, and for the most part, you just want your query answered accurately. And while there are tools to do so (some of the specific search commands are incredibly handy once you learn them), you trust that the engine will serve you well.
Yet what has been searched for most often? You can review a year from that information. On top of this, you can get a regular list of people’s curiosities and concerns from looking at the topics that people look up regularly. And you can often predict what is to come in the future from the trends or get a better idea of human nature.
On Our Methods
Note that while we want to be as accurate as possible, we aren’t going to simply list the top search terms of last year. It would turn out to be incredibly boring and not indicative of much. You would just get a list of heavily related terms, popular website names, and the occasional interesting topic. Instead, we curated the list somewhat, combined related terms and topics, and tried to give you a more holistic view of the search topics instead of just the raw data (which you should absolutely still look at if you’re interested, by the way).
We could talk in-depth about the Google algorithm, but that would take several books, and they would not only not be accurate but would quickly become outdated. Sometimes it appears as though it has a mind of its own, and that means things could change mid-year. How they look at trends and search results could change over time. Still, they are a generally reliable source, and in most cases the only one. While it can change over time, the importance of these topics in terms of public discussion does not fade.
Also, keep in mind that the most searched topics aren’t necessarily the most important ones or the ones people talk about the most in their personal lives. There is a difference between the real world and the internet, after all.
The Most Searched Topics of 2022
Yet moving on from the philosophy of it all, let’s talk about some of the most searched topics of 2021, and what we can learn from them. Remember that this is only a sampling and that there were more events and heavily searched topics than any article could discuss:
Kyle Rittenhouse: The last few years have seen no shortage of controversial people and court cases, and last year perhaps no one was bigger than Kyle Rittenhouse in this respect. People were searching for details of the incident, everything about the court case they could, and opinions on both.
NBA: There is usually always something going on with the NBA, but this year it was an especially popular topic overall. There were plenty of questions on how the season would progress, how players would react to ongoing crises related to COVID, and potential conflicts related to lockdowns. There was a lot to follow, and people wanted to know as much about how the NBA itself was handling things.
Alec Baldwin: Last year, the famous actor was involved in a tragedy on the set of “Rust”, a film he was starring in and producing. In it, there was a fatal accidental shooting that dominated the news cycle for a while. And while there were some other terms related to the accident that made the top topics, people gravitated towards the name they already knew. On top of this, Alec Baldwin himself is a famous figure that occasionally generates controversy, only adding to his search volume.
Mega Millions: The lottery can be a big hit when the prize gets large, and last year the Mega Millions jackpot hit it big. Lotteries are commonly searched topics, up there with the weather and general questions, but this time the Mega Millions took up the interest of the people. People search for the story of the lottery itself to some degree, but many more people wanted to look up the winning numbers each night.
AMC/GME Stocks: One of the more amusing and interesting stories to break out during the first half of the year and beyond were the “meme stocks” of GME and AMC, spurred on by a Reddit trend and picking up on the news cycle later. As a result, many people were checking the stock prices several times a day, hoping to time the market just right or just follow the story. There were further search topics and controversies created from the story, but overall searches for the price dominated charts.
DMX: There were several high-profile deaths last year, but one of the biggest was DMX, which came somewhat unexpected and drew out many fans. People wanted to learn more about him, his music, and the circumstances of his death.
PopCat: You might not have heard of it much if you live in the United States, but PopCat was the most-searched-for game of 2022. It is a simple clicker game-based online in which users just click on the image of a cat. There is a tally of how many times you click. There isn’t much more to it. There are national leaderboards instead of personal ones, perhaps making high scores in the game a point of national pride. Regardless, the game is extremely popular on multiple platforms and remains so.
Tiger Woods: Tiger Woods is always a popular subject, being the most famous and recognizable person in the world of golf. Naturally, he gets a lot of search traffic any year. However, after an accident last year, there was much concern about when he would return to his sport and in what condition he would be in. While there were plenty of other athlete searches last year, none matched the volume Tiger produced.
Simone Biles: A subject of a different kind of controversy and someone standing against a lot of heat, Simone Biles was another trending topic of last year. The gymnastics star became the center of attention when she withdrew from some of the events at the Tokyo Olympics. Whether people were complimenting or criticizing her, people were certainly talking about her during and after the event.
Stimulus Checks: While stimulus checks dominated the search results in 2020, in 2021 there were more questions on whether one was qualified for a check and what benefits were remaining. People were searching for more information on their potential benefits, when those benefits ended, and what was coming up next.
Squid Game: While there were many hit shows last year, none dominated the cultural consciousness like Squid Game, a show streaming on Netflix from Korea that was about a participant in a dangerous game show to get out of debt. With societal commentary, an easy-to-follow structure, and plot, and lots of critical acclaim, the show had every ingredient necessary to become extremely popular. It ranks high among Google searches as a result.
Georgia Senate Race: While it was an off-year in terms of national elections in the United States, there was an exception in Georgia where there were two Senate seats up for grabs, with the balance of the Senate on the line. Naturally, people from all over the country (and to a limited extent the world) had a vested interest in the results, and it became the most important special election in some time. People searched for information on the results, the process, and the candidates.
COVID Vaccines/COVID Testing: Much like last year, the pandemic dominated a lot of the news cycle and discourse around the world. Though this year people were more interested in where they could find a vaccine or find a test in their area. There were still plenty of queries for more information, of course. You might find that there are changes this year to the exact terms, but the pandemic will still be on everyone’s mind for some time to come.
What Can We Expect from 2022
While we went over what happened last year, what can we look forward to (or dread) next year? While we cannot guarantee anything, here are some of the likely trends:
- As you can tell, the top news stories will certainly dictate a lot of search traffic on a local and national level. It’s what everyone is talking about and what everyone (usually) wants to know more about. And the way news stories are often presented, people need to keep coming back to get more details.
- We will certainly get more searches on the pandemic and its related topics. Whether it is restrictions in one’s area, how to stay healthy and safe from the illness, or general statistics and spreading, people will want to get their eyes on whatever bits of information they can. The specific terms will vary as the days go by and the details differ, but overall people will be wanting to know more about COVID-19 and its variants.
- As often, 2022 is an election year (if a mid-term election) and there will be plenty of politically-based searches. Whether it is related to platforms, issues, or individual candidates, there will be plenty of searches on the whole for the topic. Many others will be more interested in the larger picture, figuring out the greater impact on the country and which party will win on the whole.
- As the Earth turns and as the sky will remain blue, some celebrity is going to cause a scandal or less than reputable news outlets are going to create a scandal to keep the cycle of content flowing. And then people will search for those topics until new ones come along. Even if it's out of a single curiosity, the searches still count towards the algorithm.
- Much like the Olympics last year generated a lot of traffic, so will the Winter Olympics held in 2022, currently ongoing as of this writing. The terms might vary depending on what happens, but something will give the potential triumphs and controversies.
Evergreen Search Topics
There are some things that people are always searching for. There might be variations wherein, but they are so similar that they are worth talking about as a group. We can’t go over every single one, but here are some of the most popular and notable:
Popular Websites/Social Media Sites: We aren’t talking about searches for which ones are the most popular, though those inquiries get a respectable amount of traffic. Instead, we are talking more about people searching for a specific site to get a link to it. Someone might type in “Facebook” into the search bar instead of going to Facebook.com, for example.
New sites might get a bit more traffic. The rise of TikTok last year on top of previously strong years made more people wonder what it was and how to get it. Anything new and growing rapidly will generate interest, and then either maintain the momentum due to continued popularity or simply plateau and tail off in search volume as people lose interest. Repeat users for services and products drive a lot of search traffic.
Song Lyrics: While no one particular song becomes popular in search terms (with rare exceptions for extreme hits for a short while), overall searches for song lyrics or more info about a song are extremely common. The searches might be in the form of a snippet of lyrics someone remembers, or someone might know the name of the song. In either case, search engines usually know what people are looking for and often supply lyrics right in the search results.
How to Pronounce X: Whether it is a name, a word someone hasn’t run into before, or something else, people want pronunciation help, and Google can provide the answer. They have a pronunciation guide, results leading to more detailed posts, and often a voice recording of the word.
Conversions: Whether you need to know how many centimeters are in an inch or how many ounces are in 3.5 cups, a search engine has you covered. And many people realize this, many searches for a conversion calculator or ask the search bar the appropriate question. The exact numbers will vary, but the need is widespread. And given that just about every type of conversion available is covered, people don’t find the need to use anything else.
Translations: While there are apps dedicated to translation, the Google search bar is the go-to option for smaller words and phrases. Whatever the language, people will often make a quick search for a translation, and trust either the site that first pops up or what the search engine tells them by default.
When is “X”: Some holidays are on seemingly random days each year, leaving us wondering when they are. Google can tell us. Also, some holidays are the same day every year or fit a regular formula, but we don’t remember that anyway. Fortunately, we have search engines to give us the answer and basically put a calendar in our pockets. These are common inquiries, with an obvious reason.
What Time is It?: Given the number of devices that can tell the time by default, and the fact that you can nearly always see the time on your screen, one would think this query wouldn’t be popular. Yet it is. People use their search engine as a clock and an exact one at that.
What makes more sense are searches for time zone conversions, allowing people to set up meetings across the world if need be. This might be less common in 2022 as more apps have such features integrated in one way or another, but we think that it is not so universally known and integrated yet. Therefore, people will search for this for years to come.
How to Be More Attractive: Perhaps being inside all the time got people being a little laxer on their physical appearance, but “how to be more attractive” was one of the most searched questions of last year. The reasons can vary and it is a very subjective question, but people were obviously looking to find more success with themselves and in their romantic lives. There’s usually some variation of this each year, however, so it can also be chalked up to human nature.
Memes: The idea of a meme is something so broad that we considered not even including it here, but memes are effectively their own category of searches, getting one in the Google trends page for 2021. Individual memes often get forgotten quickly over time, with people moving to new styles and formats, but in general, memes are extremely popular, used widely, and searched for widely as well.
What Is My IP Address: An IP address is, as you might surmise, effectively your address on the internet. And it can be surprisingly hard to look up on your own if you aren’t well-acquainted with technology. Fortunately, unless you are using a VPN or something else to mask it (in which case you would know all about IP addresses), it is easy to look up. This means that people will often just use a search engine and either take the results or go to the first page they see.
Some Final Notes
If you still have questions or are wondering about additional notes we have on our process and searching in general, please read the following:
- While we would love to talk more about search traffic around the world, the data simply isn’t there for some countries. China in particular uses its own search engine called Baidu which has more than three-fourths of the market share. Information on Baidu’s trends and search metrics is relatively hard to come by. Therefore, as you could probably tell most of the above was English-centric.
- Search popularity is not necessarily easy to define the term on a practical level. First, there is the matter of properly grouping keywords and phrases. Outside of exact terms, it is as much feeling and intuition as science, though a data-driven process is needed to get the best results for clients, companies, and even your own small blog.
- You can certainly learn more about search engines and trending topics (both the topics themselves and how they became trending in the first place) by looking at Google itself. Google Trends is free to use and amazing if you want to learn how effectively the internet works. Simply go to the site and experiment, no harm can befall you from doing so.
- It is hard to tell how long a trend will last. Yet look into the data for any of the above. Even with more evergreen topics, the traffic has ebbs and flows. Part of this is a natural consequence of people not searching as often at times (they’re sleeping). However, sometimes interest can wane. There are cycles to news stories. We can expect this going into the rest of 2022.
- Sometimes trending topics cross over with each other. A person of interest in a major court case might trend alongside the name of the case itself. A political issue and a political figure trending often go hand in hand.
Search topics are interesting but potentially complicated. There’s a lot of consideration that goes into picking out the top trends, and there might have been one or two we missed. Nonetheless, we hope that you have a much better idea of what was popular and in the global consciousness. There will always be more terms to come in the future, as there are always more events and trends to come. See the patterns as well as you can, and you’ll be much better off for it. We wish you the best with your searches and hope you have a lot more fun with further research.