Society & Social Justice

2020 Year in Review: Google Trends

2020 year in review: Google Trends

Every year, Google Trends releases its Year In Search data, with the most searched for terms in the past year in different countries and for different categories.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 dominated the year in search. One of the things I find fascinating is how it’s influenced our vocabulary. It’s also spawned some odd phenomena, like the great toilet paper shortage.

When it comes to pop culture, I already knew I was pretty out of the loop, but some of this year’s trends reinforced just how clueless I am.

So, let’s take a look at some of the year in search.

United States

The top three searches overall were election, coronavirus, and Kobe Bryant. I’m surprised that Kobe made the #3 position. I guess the top people search list didn’t include deceased people, because the top 3 were Joe Biden, Kim Jong Un, and Kamala Harris. I wonder if Donald Trump will try to sue Google because he didn’t make it into the top 10.

The top 5 definition searches were WAP, entanglement, antebellum, pandemic, and asymptomatic. WAP I had no idea (it’s from a Cardi B song), entanglement I didn’t know the relevance (it’s to do with Jada Pinkett Smith), and antebellum I was only vaguely aware of because I’d heard that the band Lady Antebellum had changed their name.

“How to” search #7 was how to help someone having a panic attack. I’m glad people want to know.

“Where to buy” search #2 was toilet paper. Coming in ahead of Lysol, Clorox, and N95 masks was Ju-C Jelly candy at #6. I’ve never heard of it, but apparently, it’s a high priority.

“Why” search #1 was why were chainsaws invented. My “why” in response to that is why does anyone care? “Why” #7 was why is everyone buying toilet paper. I can answer that—because we are sheeple.

Toilet paper was also #6 in the “near me” search category, and “where is” search #6 was where is toilet paper made.


Top question #2: Where does vanilla flavouring come from? I can’t say that even makes my top 1000 questions, but that’s just me.

The top 5 how-to questions were all somehow corona-related, including making hand sanitizer, making bread, and cutting your own hair. How to cook eel came in at #6. Delivery search #1 was afternoon tea, and I’m not sure if that’s tea as in tea or tea as in supper. DIY search #8 was diamond painting, which it turns out isn’t what it literally sounds like.

Recipe search #1 is bread, while #4 is the KFC recipe and #9 is the IKEA meatballs recipe. Yum.

“Who” question #4 is “who did Zara cheat on Sam with”, which I’m guessing might go along with TV search #1, Love Island.

South Africa

South Africa has some interesting top questions:

  • #5: What is 5G? – Is this for conspiracy theory reasons?
  • #6: Where does vanilla flavouring come from? – If this is a popular search in two different countries, I’m guessing there’s something I’m out of the loop on. Or people just really like vanilla flavouring.
  • #7: Why were cornflakes invented? – I vaguely recall, perhaps from last year’s top search, that there’s some weird supposed sexual connection people are making to cornflakes. Or maybe my memory’s rubbish and I’m just making that up.
  • #9: Why were chainsaws invented? – Again, multiple countries, so I’m guessing it’s a thing I just don’t know about.


The top 5 news searches were coronavirus (#1), election results, Iran, Beirut, and hantavirus. Why is anyone talking about the hantavirus?

Zoom was the #4 search term overall. They (and their shareholders) must be thanking their lucky stars for corona.

Cutting your own hair was searched more in 2020 than it’s ever been before. That’s the one thing I was ahead of the crowd on. The mullet was searched twice as often as the buzz cut. I’m not sure if that’s the mullet making a resurgence or the buzz cut just being self-explanatory.

Recipe search #1 is Dalgona coffee, which I hadn’t heard of, but apparently it’s a Korean whipped coffee beverage.

In India, the #3 “near me” was cracker shop and #4 was liquor shop. It took quite a while for me to clue in that a cracker shop would sell firecrackers rather than crackers you would eat. Indians also want to know what is a colon infection (#6) and nepotism (#10).

In Singapore, the #1 mental health search was peppermint tea for mental health.

So, that’s the Year in Search 2020! Were any of these things surprising to you, and were you more or less clueless than I am?

29 thoughts on “2020 Year in Review: Google Trends”

      1. No I didn’t know! Hahahaha. I looked up dalgona coffee when it was trendy and got obsessed with all the different variant flavours… I became a huge talker about mental health because finally the govt is making it a priority etc… we launched a 24/7 covid hotline for mental health, my therapist and many others been advocating hard…. and the top search result is PEPPERMINT TEA? xD

  1. I love this post Ashley! Thanks for enlightening us. Must drink more peppermint tea this year! Happy new year 🙏

  2. Wow! I think vanilla flavoring comes from the vanilla bean? I know this because whenever we’d eat vanilla ice cream (with chocolate syrup) at Granny Franny’s house, well, at one point we discovered that Breyer’s made a million different vanilla ice creams. By trial and error, we discovered that the only good one used vanilla from the vanilla bean, and you have to check the ingredients to confirm that you’re getting that one. For baking (and probably in Breyer’s ice cream) you can get artificial vanilla, but… yuck. There’s a recipe for cookies I love called galaxy cookies, and the recipe calls for a tablespoon of vanilla liquid. If you use artificial vanilla, which will save you a fortune, the cookies come out dreadful. So I’m a huge hardcore fan of genuine vanilla from the bean.

    No, it’s not all in your head! I remember something about corn flakes, too! 😀

    1. I always use artificial vanilla. I’d get real vanilla extract if I was making something where vanilla was the primary flavour, but otherwise I prefer to go cheap.

  3. Of all the year in review articles this is my favorite – I did have to laugh – a lot. Loved your trump remark, The chainsaw search cracked me up, tho it shouldn’t shock anyone that in the USA it would be at the top of the list given our devotion to violence, murder and mayhem ala “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (a phrase that is part of my medical records LOL). As for the cornflake search your memory is correct.

    1. Self-pollution… I’ll remember that every morning when I have my daily bowl!

      I wonder if storming a state legislature with a chainsaw is considered more or less acceptable than an AK-47? Or what’s the protocol if a mask-refuser shows up at Walmart in Texas with a chainsaw?

  4. I find the disparities between the countries really interesting!
    Love how the UK vanilla flavourings is top, when the world is in pandemonium to look up ways of making things taste better haha!
    Happy new year!

  5. Yes, hantavirus is very disturbing. Isn’t that what the film “Outbreak” was about? With the fuel-air bomb, young Black Dr. memorized-book-then-lost-cookies-upon-seeing-in-real-life, and I think, Harrison Ford? I still think that the Babylon 5 episode “Infection” covers things even better, in our case. kobe who?
    Forgot the other comment, sorry, will have to read again…

  6. These were so interesting! I think the vanilla and chainsaw things were random things people went mad over, I remember seeing tiktoks of people filming their reactions to finding it out… what a strange year haha

  7. Trump wasn’t in the top 10? What a bummer for him. Google must be biased and changing the stats! 😆

    Oh yeah, I vaguely remember now with Lady Antebellum changing to Lady A after the potential links to slavery issue with the name. I’m not too sure on that one though in the sense that it refers to a time period, ie. pre-war, rather than slavery or racism itself. It amuses me to think people love a band, then have no idea what the word even means.

    A lot of these are quite logical and you can understand why they’re so frequently searched. But the no6 in the UK… really? How many people want to know how to cook an eel?? Maybe they’ve done a voice search and meant to ask simply ‘how to cook a meal’.

    1. That makes a lot more sense than cooking an eel! I’ve never eaten an eel, and I would have no idea what it would look like to buy in a store.

  8. I’m going to go with “I am clearly clueless.” This was such an entertaining and informative post! It made me a better person for having read it! (And I’m sure if Trump knew how to use analytics, he’d definitely sue. 🤦🏻)

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