by January 2, 2003 0 comments

If the Internet is a library, then search engines are the librarians, who will tell you where you can find what you need. 

So, if you are curious to know what people are looking for on the Internet, you will get big clues from the top ‘search phrases’ that the popular search engines keep track of. These are archived yearly, monthly, weekly, even daily and throw up some interesting facts. It’s almost as if you can peep into the world-mind and know what has caught its fancy. 

Here’s a look at some facts and figures from the top 20 search phrases clocked by Google, Yahoo and Lycos.
Different Engines, Different Trends

What’s surprising is that the top 20 search terms among these popular search engines hardly match! Since different search engines run on different searching algorithms, they turn up different results for the same keyword. And there is no search engine that fits all, yet. 

For instance, Lycos, which is primarily an American network (as they themselves admit), features the Japanese animated TV series, DragonBall, as their top searched item, (not just for 2002, but also for 2001, after factoring out sex, which is still the most searched phrase), while the venerated Google features it nowhere among its top searched queries. 

Google has interesting stats as readable charts like this

Why? A search for Dragonball on both Lycos and Google threw up interesting differences in results. Interesting because the links to Dragonball-related websites were more or less the same, except that they appeared in a different order. On the Lycos search, however, a host of sponsored links pointed to where users could buy Dragonball goodies. 

Oh, and it was easier to locate English-language websites for Dragonball in Lycos than in Google. Google’s top two results warned that the Chinese character-set cannot be displayed correctly without the installation of the same, while for the same site Lycos gave a one-line English introduction, followed by a couple of English links. Hence, friendlier. Google, however, does have an option to search only English sites. So there!

Perhaps Google searches are best when looking for pure, unbiased information, but if you want to download something or buy something, it seems that the other engines are more used.

Interest in Las Ketchup peaked at different times in different countries

Google’s top search-phrase of the year, Spiderman, was at number 25 on Lycos and number 13 on Yahoo. Yahoo figured Dragonball at number three and Playstation2 at number one. Yahoo’s top 20 looked more or less in line with the Lycos top 20 search phrases, but again, vastly different from Google’s. Commonly searched phrases according to Yahoo and Lycos include celebrities like Brtiney Spears, Eminem, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, movies like Harry Potter, Spiderman, Lord of The Rings, and other general interest topics like Taxes (and IRS) apart from sports searches like NFL, WWE (the old WWF which had to change its name after a court verdict) and World Cup. File-sharing sensation Kazaa figured among the top five on both these search engines and nowhere in Google’s roll of honors.

Interesting stats
Google presents the top searched items in very readable charts divided into many different categories ( /timeline2002.html). They call it Zeitgeist, meaning, the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era.

A glance at their summary chart for the year shows that search trends are hugely affected by specific world events, for example, searches for the Oscars got the top spot in March 2002 while in September the top spot went to the World Trade Center.

They show an interesting chart showing how the popular song Las Ketchup caught the world’s fancy in bits. Starting with a trickle in January 2002 and finding peak interests in various countries as the year progressed–May in Spain, October in Germany and consistently in the US, but which saw a big surge during November). 

Top tech searches in Google figure ‘mp3’ on top and ‘sms’ at number two. Linux sits at number four and Microsoft at number nine. 

India is the 4th most searched for destination by Google users, coming after Paris, Canada and New York. Google had 19,600,000 results for a search on India, as compared to 21,700,000 for Paris. Obviously, India as a country has still to catch up with Paris, the city.

The top movie searched for is Spiderman and the top news story is the World Cup, followed by Iraq. 

Music has Eminem on top followed by Shakira and Madonna. Eminem also tops the search for men, while Jennifer Lopez is the most sought after woman of 2002. 

Ferrari is the top brand of the year, followed by Sony and Nokia. Ikea, the lifestyle furniture and furnishings company from Sweden, figures at number five among the most searched brands.

David Beckam is the top searched athlete (sportsperson) of the year 2002, Anna Kournikova, number two and Ronaldo number three. 

Ikea is the top retailer, followed by Home Depot and Walmart. Top TV series figure The

Big Brother and Osbournes as the top three.
The Simpsons is also the most searched for children’s image on Google in 2002, followed by Pokeman. Santa Claus is number nine. 

Britney Spears tops the most searched women’s images chart and Eminem the men’s chart in the same category. Pictures of Brad Pitt and David Beckam are the next most sought after as are those of Pamela Anderson, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Anna Kournikova in the women’s category.

Among declining queries, Nostradamus tops the chart, followed by napster. Osama Bin Laden and World Trade Center also figure in this list as do Anthrax, Taliban and Angelina

Google also maintains a list of top searches from the UK, Germany and France. That shows which countries most of their traffic comes from. 

Yahoo’s Buzz Index (http:// has popular search-phrases ranked and archived in various categories as well. They have a World Report highlighting search trends for various countries in the world for English-language searches.

India does not figure there yet, however.
The Yahoo Buzz Index for music features Britney Spears as the top searched for musician of the year, followed by Eminem and Nelly. 

Jennifer Lopez is the top searched for actor followed by Pamela Anderson and Vin Diesel from XXX. The top movie is the Harry Potter series with Spiderman at number two and Lord of The Rings at number three. 

The top three TV series: Dragon Ball Z, American Idol and Yu-gi-Oh (another Japanese animated cartoon). All purely
American this.

The Buzz Index for video games figure The Sims, Half-Life Counter Strike and Grand Theft Auto 3 as the top three most popular searches. Year 2001’s sensation Pokeman is at number five. 

The sports index shows NFL (National Football League) on top followed by NASCAR car racing and the 2002 World Cup.

Anna Kournikova is the sixth most searched sports term on Yahoo.

The Yahoo World Index features the top 10 searched phrases in 15 countries all over the world. What is similar among these lists is celebrities and movies. Interestingly, Bollywood is the second most searched term in Denmark! 

Kazaa is among the top five in all countries except Japan and Korea, where it doesn’t figure. Also most countries searched for almost the same celebrities except again Japan where the top searched query is Skate Canada!

Outside the US, South Africa and UK have searched for Dragon Ball Z a lot. Other countries do not figure it among their lists of top 10. 

Lycos has a top 50 ranking for search-phrases (http://50.lycos. com). Their top searched athlete of the year 2002 is Anna Kournikova who was also the leader in 2001. The most searched for historical figure is William Shakespeare. 

The top music artists are in line with those listed by Google and Yahoo viz. Eminem, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.

Indian scores 
The above do not relate so well to India. This goes to show that no matter how global the Internet has become, its usage trends aren’t
reflecting too much global pene-tration.

The only India-specific search statistic on Google tells you that India is the 4th most searched for destination in the world. 

A search for India shows up pretty much the same results on the three search engines we checked. 

Popular Indian search engines like and are powered by Google and do not seem to be tracking search queries coming from India. It would be a good idea to start, if this is not already being done, because search trends showcase the collective psyche of people that is not only interesting but can prove useful in a variety of ways for marketers, sociologists and website designers. 

Shruti Pareek

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