‘Why?’ dominated the 2020 Google Year in Search

‘Why?’ dominated the 2020 Google Year in Search

Published
December 2020

In a year that tested everyone around the world, “why” was searched more than ever. That’s the biggest takeaway from Google’s annual “Year in Search” video. Some of those “why” questions were driven by the most dominant stories of the year: COVID-19 and social unrest around the world. Others were driven by what would have been huge stories in any year other than 2020: the Australia wildfires at the start of the year and the wildfires in the U.S. this summer; the massive explosion in Beirut; and the deaths of luminaries like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis, as well as celebrities including Chadwick Boseman and Eddie Van Halen.

From a marketer’s point of view, “why is toilet paper sold out” just might be the most representative search question of 2020. It captures the curiosity and frustration of the year, and it gets at shoppers’ need for basic, practical information. Indeed, searches for “who has” plus “in stock” were up over 8,000% year over year, according to Google Data. It’s a key indicator for marketers wondering how to market in a time of upheaval. From store hours to safety restrictions to learning how to work and teach at home, people turned to search.

0:00

[stark, electronic music fades in]

0:02

[voice of male narrator] The most human trait

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is to want to know why.

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And in a year that tested everyone around the world,

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“why” was searched more than ever.

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[multiple voices asking questions in different languages]

0:16

[music suddenly stops] [somber choir singing begins]

0:18

[voice of a British female newscaster] The spread of the coronavirus

0:19

has passed a significant milestone.

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[voice of male narrator] And while we didn’t find all the answers,

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[slow, upbeat music fades in] we kept asking.

0:26

[voice of a female launch announcer] Lift-off!

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[voice of male narrator] Some questions inspired joy.

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Others, excitement. [sudden cheering]

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Life in the bubble. Whoo!

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— Do you love me? — Yes.

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— Do. You. Love. Me? — Yes.

0:40

[speaking with a British accent] I don’t know what an improper fraction is.

0:43

[Jimmy Fallon singing] Teachers should make a billion dollars.

0:46

— We found toilet tissue, y’all. — Thank God!

0:49

Put it on there, and start it up for me.

0:51

[voice of Leslie Jordan] What are y’all doin’? [man and boy cheer]

0:53

It’s still March.

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How many days ... in March?

0:57

[music suddenly stops]

0:58

[voice of male narrator] Some questions made us cry. [somber choir singing begins]

1:00

[voice of Kobe Bryant] You know, we’ve been through our ups and been through our downs.

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I think the most important part is that we all stay together throughout.

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[crowd cheering] I love you guys!

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[voice of male narrator] Some made us worry about

1:11

this spinning rock we call home.

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[voice of a female newscaster] Fires were detected in the Amazon rain forest.

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[voice of male narrator] Why were so many lives lost?

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[voice of a British female newscaster] Almost 1.5 million people have now died

1:23

of COVID-19 worldwide.

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[voice of male narrator] Why are we still asking the same questions?

1:28

[multiple newscasters saying "George Floyd"]

1:29

[voice of a newscaster] George Floyd repeatedly told the officers

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that he could not breathe.

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[voice of male narrator] So why do we still have strength to continue?

1:37

[choir begins gently repeating “Get it together somehow”]

1:39

[voice of a female protester] I believe in your power.

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[crowd chants back] I believe in your power.

1:43

I believe in our power.

1:45

[crowd chants back] I believe in our power.

1:47

[voice of a male newscaster] Chants of “Black Lives Matter” echoed from thousands of protesters

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[crowds chanting "Black Lives Matter"] in cities around the world.

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[voice of male narrator] Why are we not defeated?

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[voice of John Lewis] We have made too much progress,

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and we are not going back.

1:59

We are going forward.

2:00

[voice of a female newscaster] Planes are starting to arrive in Beirut,

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[choir becomes more upbeat, repeating “Get it together somehow”] full of international aid.

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[voice of a female newscaster] Firefighters from around the world arriving in California.

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[voice of a female newscaster] There are over 100 coronavirus vaccines in development worldwide.

2:11

[voice of a man] This is one of those times when people

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look out for one another and have each other’s backs.

2:15

[voice of male narrator] We kept going for those who showed us the way.

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[voice of Ruth Bader Ginsberg] Think about how you would like the world to be

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for your daughters and granddaughters.

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[voice of Chadwick Boseman] Remember the struggles along the way

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are only meant to shape you for your purpose.

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Press on with pride, and press on with purpose.

2:34

[voice of male narrator] Why is it that this year showed us its worst,

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and we still found ways to triumph?

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[voice of a male sports announcer] An incredible feat from Maya Gabeira.

2:41

[voice of a male sports announcer] Naomi Osaka. The U.S. Open Championship.

2:44

[voice of a man] Can’t let corona stop you.

2:45

[music begins to build] Can’t let quarantine stop you.

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[voice of male narrator] So until we get to every answer ...

2:51

[music ends with choir singing “We will get it together somehow.”]

2:55

… we’re still searching.

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