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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 World’s Most Popular Religions

The world’s three biggest religions have a combined 5 billion followers. We rank the most popular religions, based on recent estimates.

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The World’s Most Popular Religions

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

Religion has played a pivotal role in shaping the beliefs, values, and cultures of societies around the world.

While estimating the exact number of followers for each faith poses a considerable challenge, figures from reputable sources like Britannica and Pew Research provide valuable insights into the global religious landscape.

The Religions With the Most Followers

Below are the seven most popular religions, based on Britannica’s analysis and estimates:

RankReligionEstimated number of followers
1Christianity2,200,000,000
2Islam1,800,000,000
3Hinduism1,100,000,000
4Buddhism500,000,000
5Shinto104,000,000
6Sikhism25,000,000
7Judaism14,000,000

Note: These estimates provide a broad perspective on the distribution of followers for each religion, recognizing the inherent difficulty in accurately counting global adherents.

There are three major religions with over 1 billion followers: Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.

Buddhism is also a big player, with 500 million followers worldwide. After this, there’s a significant dropoff, with the next three largest religions (Shintō, Sikhism, and Judaism) adding up to fewer than 150 million followers between them.

It’s also worth mentioning that practically speaking, many of these popular religions have various sects, denominations, branches, or interpretations that they can be further grouped into.

For example, Christianity itself can be further categorized into denominations such as Catholic (50.1%), Protestant (36.7%), Eastern Orthodox (9.4%), Oriental Orthodox (2.5%), and other smaller Christian denominations (1.3%).

What Religions Missed the Cut?

Not captured in the above visual are many smaller organized religions, as well as folk and traditional religions, that are distributed all around the world.

Examples of notable religions that did not make the top seven list include: Taoism, Muism, Cao Dai, Baháʼí Faith, Jainism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, and Zoroastrianism.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people also practice African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions, and Australian aboriginal religions.

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