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20 Years of Top Trending Google Searches

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Infographic showing images of search trends on Google over the past 20 years

20 Years of Top Trending Google Searches

For decades, Google search has been a go-to source for many when looking up directions, keeping up with the news, or seeking information on new and unfamiliar topics.

Today, Google processes about 3.5 billion searches per day. Because of its dominant market share, Google holds a vast archive of keyword searches that, when analyzed, provide an interesting glimpse into the key themes that have captured the world’s attention over the years.

This graphic, using data from Google Trends, goes back 20 years and highlights some of the top keyword searches since 2001.

Our editorial team dug through hundreds of top trending search terms from global and U.S. data and hand-selected their top picks, which are featured in the graphic above.

Trending vs. Volume

Before diving in, it’s worth emphasizing how top trending searches differ from popular searches, which are measured by sheer volume.

Trending searches are terms that have recently spiked in popularity. They focus on growth rather than total volume, and in this dataset, trending terms gauge year-over-year growth.

A good example is Donald Trump, who popped up in the news cycle during the 2016 presidential campaign. After the election, interest in Trump remained high. But his name doesn’t pop up on the Google trends list after 2017, since by that point, search volume for Trump had plateaued.

What are the most popular Google search terms, by volume? To be honest, they’re slightly less interesting than the top trending searches — YouTube is number one, followed by Facebook, then WhatsApp web.

The Globalization of Search Trends

The people and topics featured in Google’s top trends lists evolves as time goes on, reflecting broader adoption of the internet (and Google Search) around the world over time. Early themes are tied to mainstream U.S. pop culture and tech trends.

As time goes on, social media and smartphone adoption increase the granularity and volume of searches, resulting in top trends that are more participatory, diverse, and global in nature.

One final variable to keep in mind is that Google itself began to share more detailed search highlights with each passing year.

Two Decades of Google Searches: Macro Insights

Now that we’ve explained what trending searches actually measure, let’s dig into some of the key themes that have emerged over the last two decades of Google searches.

① People Love Sports

Over the last 20 years, sports have remained a continuous trend.

Every four years, the World Cup shows up as a top trending keyword across the globe. The Olympics also makes a regular appearance, along with Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps and McKayla Maroney.

Although the U.S. dominates the list, particularly when it comes to athletes, there’s still a good variety of international sports that go viral, especially as time goes on. In the last two years, cricket, rugby, and soccer have all made the top five trending lists.

② The Emergence of Celebrity 2.0

Over time, you can also see a transition from the conventional celebrity to celebrity 2.0, also known as the social media celebrity. 

In the early 2000s, pop culture icons like Britney Spears, Eminem, and Jennifer Lopez flooded the trending searches, and traditional media forms like TV shows and Movies dominated the mass media categories.  

But by 2011, YouTube stars like Rebecca Black started to make their way on the trending search lists. And in 2014, Meme emerged as a top trending category.

This transition nods to a larger shift in media, as digital has gradually overtaken traditional media as the dominant form of entertainment.

③ Natural Disasters are Top of Mind

Natural Disasters are a key trend throughout this data set as well.

Hurricanes are a particularly trendy word, showing up almost half the time—in eight of the 20 years. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ranked second in the most searched category across the globe.

It continued to gain global attention—by 2006, Hurricane Katrina was still in the top five trending news searches.

Dig Deeper into Trending Google Searches

Our team enjoyed sifting through 20 years of Google data, and we hope you enjoyed this blast from the past too. If you’d like to dive deeper, you can explore Google’s full dataset here.

Happy searching.

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The Highest Earning Athletes in Seven Professional Sports

We illustrate how much the highest earning athletes across seven different sports make, and where they get their money from.

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A cropped chart with the top earning athletes in seven sports, by their off-field and on-field earnings.

The Highest Earning Athletes in Seven Professional Sports

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

How much money do the world’s biggest athletes really make? And how do they compare across different sports?

We visualized the highest earning athletes in various professional sports, according to calculations from Forbes. Earnings reported here cover the period of May 2022 to May 2023. Earnings includes on-field (salary, bonuses, prize money) and off-field (endorsements, licensing, etc).

Forbes’ research included talking to industry insiders, following news reports, and parsing salary databases. Please see their methodology page for further details.

Who is the Highest Paid Athlete in the World?

Cristiano Ronaldo was the highest-paid athlete in the world, making an estimated $136 million between May 2022 and May 2023. His move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr set a record for the biggest contract in the sport at the time.

Here’s how he compared to the top earners in some other sports.

AthleteSportTotal Earnings
(May 2022–23)
Cristiano Ronaldo⚽ Soccer$136M
LeBron James🏀 Basketball$120M
Canelo Alvarez🥊 Boxing$110M
Dustin Johnson⛳ Golf$107M
Roger Federer🎾 Tennis$95M
Russell Wilson🏈 American Football$85M
Lewis Hamilton🏎️ Formula 1$65M

Note: Figures are rounded.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James made the most money in basketball (just under $120 million), which is almost twice as much as Formula 1’s top earner, Lewis Hamilton, who took home about $65 million in 2022–23.

Something else to note is how off-court earnings can contribute significantly to total income for some athletes.

AthleteSportOn-Field EarningsOff-Field Earnings
Cristiano Ronaldo⚽ Soccer$46M$90M
LeBron James🏀 Basketball$45M$75M
Canelo Alvarez🥊 Boxing$100M$10M
Dustin Johnson⛳ Golf$102M$5M
Roger Federer🎾 Tennis$0.1M$95M
Russell Wilson🏈 American Football$72M$13M
Lewis Hamilton🏎️ Formula 1$55M$10M

Note: Figures are rounded.

This is most apparent with Roger Federer, who retired in 2022, after playing his last Laver Cup. However, his massive deals with Uniqlo, Rolex, and Mercedes, as well as his stake in running company On, still keeps him towards the top of the these lists.

Together with Ronaldo and James, these three athletes are widely considered the face of their sport, undoubtedly helping them secure lucrative endorsements and business deals.

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Voronoi, the app by Visual Capitalist. Where data tells the story. Download on App Store or Google Play

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