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Our Take on Google’s Year in Search 2021

By Kirsten Stavasius 14 December, 2021

It’s every SEO‘s favourite time a year: that perfect spot after the Black Friday madness and just before the long-awaited Christmas season. You guessed it! It’s time to reflect on Google’s summary of searches in their annual Year in Search. 

So, in 2021, what did the nation really think? What spiked their interest? What tickled their brains? And what were they just a little too afraid to ask another human being?

Here’s our roundup of the 2021 Year in Search

Doomscrolling

Doomscrolling definition.

Did you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media, almost searching for bad news stories?

If so, you’re not alone. “Doomscrolling“, a term coined around 2018, refers to the tendency to scroll through bad news, even if that news is saddening or depressing, and was searched more times in January 2021 than ever before.

And did 2021’s vibe feel… a little off? That also makes sense. This year, the world searched “what is retrograde?” more than ever before.

Body image

Okay, enough doom and gloom.

In more positive news, affirmations reached an all-time worldwide high this year, as people grew to be more aware of their mental wellbeing.

Overall, self-image and body positivity followed significant growth in 2021, with “how to maintain mental health” being amongst the top searches this year.

While we looked to self-care, we also looked to self-development. From learning new languages to Morse code and sign language, the world searched “how long does it take to learn…” more than ever before – truly utilising the downtime. 

We also became more accepting. Across the globe, as people looked for ways to celebrate the LGTBQ+ community, “pride events near me” increased +5,000% worldwide. In Switzerland, after voting to legalise same-sex marriage, the phrase had the most interest in the search topic across the globe.

Politics and sell-outs

Politics was also a strong driver for 2021.

From leadership controversy, searching for the meaning of impeachment and the searches for “United States Capitol” overtaking global COVID-19 searches in January, we saw it bleed into everything we do – and everything that sells.

Following her performance at the presidential inauguration, Amanda Gorman became the top searched poet. And thanks to Bernie Sanders’ iconic look, mittens came back into fashion, with searches for the knitwear reaching an all-time high globally.

Their return to the limelight was soon peaked by the Suez Canal and Ever Given drama though, with worldwide search overtaking the search queries in March.

From brightly-coloured computer monitors to low-rise jeans, the late 90s to mid-2000s trends also made a comeback this year, causing the world to search Y2K more in 2021 than ever before.

Sea shanties and blackouts

Culturally, we’ve been through somewhat of a year. From sea-shanties — 

There once was a ship that put to sea
The name of the ship was the Billy of Tea
The winds blew up, her bow dipped down
Oh blow, my bully boys, blow (huh)

— being more searched than ever before to time-traveling back to the 1800s with Bridgeton, which was Netflix’s most-watched series until the Japanese hit series Squid Game came along.

In the UK, we had three main priorities: 

  • When will lockdown end?
  • When will I get the vaccine? 
  • When does Love Island start?

All very important in their own way, I suppose!

And it’s no surprise that when blackouts happened, “power outage” saw a +5,000% search surge in February 2021 as people needed to be in the know. Similar to “down today” seeing all-time highs following the social media blackouts in October – you weren’t the only one unable to refresh your feed.

How to move a plant & travel

To really highlight a change in priorities for the millennial generation, plant parents deciding to uproot saw “how to move with plants” searched more than “how to move with kids” and “how to move with pets” worldwide (I may be guilty of that one myself).

Following this trend in co-consumption and, with staycations skyrocketing all-round in April, the question “where did all the rental cars go?” was searched for the first time.

The world was ready to get out and explore (even if just vicariously). Global search interest for “where can I travel” was 3x higher in 2021 vs. pre-pandemic numbers. Following the lifting of national travel restrictions in April, we saw a +438% increase across luxury travel in Scotland alone. 

Earth-friendly practices are becoming the new standard. Worldwide, searches for sustainability reached record highs this year as we dropped carbon admissions and CO2 levels.

It’s been a strange old year, and that clearly shows in 2021’s top searches. What will 2022 have in store? As an avid SEO, I can’t wait to find out!

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