‘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.

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