What Are We Looking For?
Google's analytics for its own search users reveal some unsurprising results when it comes to what we all have been googling from 2004 until now (November 2011). There is, however, another way to assess these top 10 terms people use in their Google searches, and how those Google searches relate to our deeper motivations and desires.
The number one Google search term was our good friend Facebook. People crave connectedness with others, and the internet has allowed socia media sites like Facebook take over as the online version of the coffee klatch. Relatedness is a primary need for hominoids, including internet users.
Ever get a song in your head, and it drives you nuts, because you only know three words, but you absolutely need to sing it in the shower? Like millions of others, you may google the song title, including the key search term "lyrics" to find out the words to that pesky song. Googling lyrics is poor man's karaoke.
The lyrics search at #2 indicates that we value music, and digital music sales (think digital formats like .mp3s and online music stores like iTunes) has exploded worldwide more than 500% from 2006 to 2011. Remember when you $15 for a new CD that had tracks you didn't even like? At least the CDs had the lyrics printed right in the case insert.
Yes, "you." This reveals how people use query terms when they search for how-to advice to specific problems. For example, "how do you do a good presentation?" is the way modern English users ask for general instructions, instead of the more formal "how does one..."
The internet and social media are informal and personal forums. If you've been in an online chat forum, you'll understand what I mean when I say that formal English is a handicap in the land of lmao, j/k,and ty - imho.
At a deeper level, the use of the informal "you" versus the formal "one" reinforces the idea that we crave relatedness. But is it ironic that we're seeking it from our computers?
#4. yahoo and #6 google
Searching for the search engines. I've done that: I've googled Yahoo! and I've yahooed Google. I must admit I've never msn'd or foxfired anything, though. What a noob.
Actress Jennifer Connelly once said, "You don't want to get rid of your experiences, because they're your experiences - good or bad - and you need them, but it would be great if they weren't on the video shelf!”
In the case of Youtube, the "video shelf" is an online forum of millions of videos of people slipping on ice, making their dogs say funny things, and, of course, rick rolling. Video is the next best thing to being there in person - or even better than being there thanks to editing software.
By the way ("BTW" for you chat pros), as of this post, the number one Youtube video of all time is...
Jusin Bieber's song "Baby." This tells me that there a lot of pre-teen girls using the internet.
Similar to #3 above ("you"), the search term "my" can be part of a query such as "how do I get my cat to stop waking me up" or a disambiguative search such as "my space."
According to Pew Research, 53% of all young adults (18-29) go online simply to kill time. No longer must we resort to furtively playing solitaire at work while there is an internet-ful of online gaming sites that can jazz up the time normally reserved for forwarding spreadsheets and answering customer phone calls.
In fact, 15% of Americans play online games according to Nielsen. This doesn't include the millions of people playing console games, like the PlayStation or the xbox.
Whether it's Call of Duty or Farmville, we use games to replicate the adrenaline rushes that our ancestors faced when they left their caves for the morning commute to the watering hole. Games have built-in rewards systems, power-ups, and status-building ranking systems. This fulfills another of needs to achieve standing within our social groups, even if only virtually.
If we need to leave home, it's nice to know whether to bring an umbrella. This is perhaps the most obviously practical result from the top 10 Google search terms of all time.
Have you ever opened a browser screen with the full intention of checking the weather or finding the lyrics to Justin Bieber's "Baby" song only to find yourself reading the fascinating story of the surfer and the shark?
We are getting more of our news from the internet. For the 79% of Americans who are online, the internet ranks as a top source of information, and nearly half of adults use mobile devices to get local news, according to Pew Research. The number one internet news site is Yahoo! News according to ebiz.
We've always wanted to know what is going on around us; it's a primal need to increase our sense of certainty. News can provide us important information about events to which we may need to react. Or it simply can satisfy our weird fascination with pandas eating cake.