MAY 23, 2024 /

Google’s year in search says a lot about our 2020 priorities

While it has a lot of products in the tech space, for many people Google is synonymous with the product that made its fortune in the first place. Indeed, for a lot of folks, the words “search” and “Google” are freely interchangeable when they’re talking about looking up online content, no matter what that content is.

Google makes the vast bulk of its money off advertising that works contextually around those searches, which is why when you go researching garden rakes, you then get weeks of endless garden rake ads in your search results afterwards. Collecting and sorting all that data for the billions of searches worldwide each year is a mammoth task, but it also enables Google to announce yearly search trends by location, including Australia. The results aren’t always what you might think, either.

The list of the top overall searches makes for a rather grim picture, although there is some variance in there, with everything from the US Elections to the NBA, at-home-videoconferencing software Zoom, Fires Near Me and of course the coronavirus all appearing in the top 10.

You might think that the coronavirus would utterly dominate the news related searches as well.

You’d be wrong; Coronavirus managed three spots in the top ten news searches for 2020, but it was beaten to the top spot by the US Election, coming in at 2nd for the broad search term, and then 4th and 10th for Coronavirus Victoria and Coronavirus NSW respectively. Other newsworthy searches covered fires near me – no doubt most prevalent earlier in the year when the nation was beset by terrible bushfires — Qantas share prices and toilet paper. No, really.

Mind you, 2020’s other search results definitely had more than a taste of the pandemic about them. In recipe searches classics like Spaghetti Bolognese, Crumpets and Anzac biscuits made it into the top 10, but the most searched-for recipe across the nation was instead for homemade hand sanitiser. That was also the most popular search for the term “How to…?”, anything with “DIY” in it and 2nd in the “Can I” section for where it could be purchased.

Otherwise, there’s a strong streak of Australian can-do attitude in the searches, with Australians searching for how to use Zoom, make self-raising flour, buy shares or make whipped coffee amongst the top searches for how to make different things.

Google’s search results also track our sporting obsessions, and while 2020 was obviously also a difficult year for sports fans, international codes dominated our search obsessions. The NBA’s experiment with its Disney “Bubble” was the most commonly searched sports term, followed by the English Premier League and then State of Origin 2020. The NBA also rather sadly got the top spot for celebrities passing away with the untimely death of Kobe Bryant being the most searched for celebrity loss in 2020, joined by Chadwick Boseman, Kenny Rogers and Sean Connery amongst others.

You can check out all of Google’s top 2020 search trends at its Google Australia blog here.

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Alex Kidman
A multi-award winning journalist, Alex has written about consumer technology for over 20 years. He has written and edited for virtually every Australian tech publication including Gizmodo, CNET, PC Magazine, Kotaku and more.