What do billions of search queries reveal about 2021?
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What do billions of search queries reveal about 2021?December 2021
Google Search in 2021 showed people seeking a return to normalcy. The biggest trends included a redefinition of home, the evolution of entertainment, and a rise in human connection. Join four data analysts as they explore these trends and discuss the most relevant takeaways for today’s marketer.
Ashley Wells: How did life in 2021 redefine our idea of home? How did we find human connection? And how did we get innovative with entertainment while staying safe?
At the end of every year, Google reports on the top trends in Search. Stick around for our discussion of the biggest themes from 2021.
Ashley: Once a month, a group of data analysts and marketers get together to explore the most recent trends in Google Search. The Insights Jam team includes Nina Taniguchi, consumer insights manager; Casey Fictum, product marketing manager; Dan Trovato, data insights manager; and me, Ashley Wells, consumer insights manager.
Ashley: So excited to have you guys here. This is going to be a really special episode where we talk Year in Search. We’ve spent every month of literally this year talking through Search and all the growth that we’ve been seeing, so excited to jam with you guys to talk about how all these things come together.
We’re going to highlight some really key themes that we saw sustain, as far as search growth, throughout the year. And the first one is “redefining home.”
Now, as you guys know, throughout the year people found ways to really normalize working from home. There’s a specific article in the “Bloomberg Wealth” that says that 65% of American workers were willing to take a pay cut of 5% to stay home.
Nina Taniguchi: I think what’s also interesting is we’re seeing a redefinition of where home is actually physically located. So, certainly due to the pandemic, we saw a lot of physical movement. You know, “address change US post office,” that particular search has grown globally by over 10,000% year over year. Just caution, it’s a small base, so of course you see that huge growth number, but still an indication of that physical relocation.
Casey Fictum: I think there’s also this change in that work day for some of us that we’re used to being in an office and having a straight eight hours of being in the office working.
So it’s a little less linear. People are designing their days as best they can around meetings, I think. So we saw media-consumption habits change last year. I know podcasting was one of those where it wasn’t spiking during typical commute hours, where it was prior to the pandemic. So, for these types of things, really the big takeaway for me is the shape-shifting of the hours.
Dan Trovato: It became really clear that there’s been an evolution, right? From people who were searching to make home their headquarters, but more as like a temporary thing, to now really trying to optimize their home and create their dream, you know, work/live/play situation. So we’ve seen searches for “wood sofa set design pictures” have grown globally by 600% year on year. Searches for “tv wall design” grew globally by over a 100% year on year.
I think it’s really interesting that we’re seeing this type of creativity — people trying to build out their home as an extension of themselves. So I think there’s some inspiration for marketers there and different businesses to use this new trend towards expressing yourself through the home.
Nina: You know, this idea of flexibility, ease, that isn’t going away. I think it’s here to stay, for sure. Because of the pandemic, it’s certainly accelerated in terms of people’s desire for that. You know, while these sort of pandemic-induced physical relocations may be on the decline, that’s definitely something marketers in a variety of industries should be paying attention to.
Ashley: This is why we, you know, have these moments to really look back throughout the year and see how these themes are really rising to the top. Which brings on our next theme, which is “Entertainment, evolved.”
What we saw a lot of this year was people finding creative ways to entertain themselves while still remaining safe. Still tons of pent-up demand to get out there, get back into the world, and get back into live entertainment.
Nina: For me, like, travel is definitely a form of entertainment. And I think, you know, if I think about my own sort of searches and how I’ve been feeling about travel, it’s definitely kind of reflected the evolution we’ve seen in the types of searches. “Can I travel,” which is still up 200% year over year, to, you know, now that things are reopening and now that we have a vaccine, the term for “international travel” has grown 300% year over year.
You know, we heard people say that they — even after the pandemic — intended to continue using some of these digital tools, like augmented reality or virtual reality, which were kind of their only ways to travel early on in the pandemic. They said that they would continue to use that even after they’re able to, you know, visit things in person.
So I think there’s a really interesting opportunity for, you know, marketers and brands to think about how to bring together the digital with the “in real life” and how to, sort of, make that entire experience kind of additive and integrated.
Casey: I think the layer that would be worth paying attention to, based on what both of you said, is the difference between hyperlocal and — now that there’s going to be this more global kind of tourist influence, there are a lot of businesses that have completely changed the way that they’ve done business. And most of that was to double down on digital and e-commerce. But also just making sure locally — within that city, town, community — that you were supporting it, whether that was through digital delivery services or, again, trying to hyperlocalize your offering because you weren’t getting the tourists or out-of-town visitors that maybe you were used to getting, or maybe hadn’t before, and now people are traveling more.
There’s something interesting in analytics here for every company to look at: hyperlocal versus global and tourism.
Dan: Well here’s where the data guy gets to celebrate, because Casey, here’s a countertrend to highlight. The countertrend: So, yes it’s true, and it might not be surprising, that we’ve seen a lot of increases in searches for reopening, as things have started to reopen. So searches for “festivals near me” have grown globally by over 500% year on year. Searches for “in theaters now” have grown globally also by 500% year on year.
The local and outdoor stuff, the growth for it hasn’t gone away. So searches for “near me with outdoor seating” has grown globally by 150% year on year. Searches for “car shows near me” have grown globally by over 400% year on year.
Dan: So I think it’s really important. Yes, we’re seeing a lot of outdoor things growing, but there is this countertrend where we’re also seeing people who maybe are more cautious. And I think if you’re a marketer, you have to be prepared for either scenario, right?
Dan: You have to have a hybrid strategy where if you can be ready for both an online and an offline hybrid strategy, you know, you’ll do well.
Ashley: We were definitely kind of in this world where we were really just seeking some sort of in-real-life, human contact and connection. And so this next theme that I’m going to introduce is really focusing in on that. One of the biggest trends that we saw in 2021 is around people finding creative ways to stay connected, really adapt as we think about celebrations and, you know, gifting opportunities and ways to really spend time with each other in real life.
For example, searches for things like “drive through christmas lights” — which seemed to be a new tradition that popped up over the past year — has grown globally by over 400% year over year. And also things like “last minute DIY gifts” have grown globally by over 300% year over year. So, really solidifying this idea that people were not only seeking out inspiration for gifts, but really seeking out opportunities to celebrate even the small wins throughout the year.
Casey: I love this one. Because for all the kind of negativity that can sometimes surround, you know, our use of devices and just how much we can lean into them, where it becomes impersonal — this is the complete flip of that, where it proves that you can be very personal with your phones, your machines. Like, communication through the internet can be very personal. So I have some stats for this too: Searches for birthday wishes have grown globally by over 100% year over year, and also wedding anniversaries by 60% year over year. So clearly people are looking for ways to communicate that. And again, with that human touch. And they’re literally using Google to find a better way to say good night and good morning. It doesn’t get more interesting than that to me, from like a human-story perspective.
Dan: Some of these digital connections, people have really taken them to heart and really found them to be a really convenient, really value-adding way of interacting with each other. So, some of the ways that people have connected last year through the pandemic have not only stuck around, but are actually massively growing.
So if I look at “multiplayer games online,” we’ve seen searches grow globally by over a 100% year on year. “Games with friends” by over 70% year on year. Searches for “watch party” have grown globally by over 90% year on year. And so, these are things that really started last year. And when I think of, like, multiplayer games, you know, they grew massively last year. And if that volume just stayed the same this year, I think that in itself would be a surprise. But the fact that they’ve doubled again just shows how much value people have placed in it, and that some of these digital behaviors aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Ashley: Virtual watch parties is something that, literally, streaming services adapted just for the sake of last year as a way to get people to watch things together. And so the fact that it’s growing at the same rate as something like online gaming, which has been around for a really long time, shows how effective that approach is and how useful it is for people to really find — again, Casey, to your point as well — creative ways to get together and enjoy, you know, movies that they like together and series that they like together, which is really unique. And I think it really speaks to how innovative these brands have been when it comes to thinking about solutions that really work for people.
Ashley: Another really, really great discussion. It’s always a pleasure. So exciting to talk through some of the top-growing things that we saw this year in Year in Search. And that is a wrap on 2021 insights or Google Search. Thanks, guys.
Ashley: See you later.
Casey: Happy New Year, everyone.
Ashley: Thanks for joining this special episode of the Insights Jam, as we looked back at the Year in Search. If you enjoyed this video, please check out our other Year in Search content and the description below.
That’s a wrap on this year. Don’t forget to subscribe, and we’ll see you in 2022. Until then, you keep searching, and we’ll keep figuring out what it all means. See you.