As 2001/2 babies get their GCSEs, what were we Googling back then?

To anyone of a certain age, it will be utterly horrifying news that people born during the 2001/2 academic year are about to collect their GCSE results.

If you are among them (and we know Podium’s blog is especially popular with teenagers) then good luck – we hope you get what you’re hoping for. And if you don’t… don’t worry, it’ll all work out. We promise.

At Podium, we love analysing search trends. It’s a vital part of our daily SEO work. So, since the current GCSE students were born, how much has the world changed in terms of what we’re searching for online? Here’s how some trends have changed.

Search volume

The number of searches on Google has, as you’d expect, increased massively since 2001. In 2001, for the full year, there were 27.5bn searches. Google claims it now handles 1.2 trillion (1,200,000,000,000) searches each year.

Overall search trends – 2001 vs 2017

google search trends 2001 3

Today’s 15 and 16-year-olds have been studying against a backdrop of considerable political turmoil. Despite this, in 2017 the top trending searches were for:

  1. Meghan Markle – actress-turned-duchess.
  2. iPhone 8 – overpriced gadget.
  3. Hurricane Irma – weather system that devastated the Caribbean.
  4. Fidget spinner – must-have toy or pointless fad, depending on your age.
  5. Manchester bombing – tragic terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 23 people and wounded 139.

The world was no less turbulent when they arrived on the scene, either. The most ‘popular’ searches in 2001 were, unsurprisingly, dominated by the 11th September terror attacks in the US. The top five UK trending searches that year were for:

  1. Nostradamus – ancient prophet who supposedly predicted the terror attack. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.
  2. CNN – leading US-based news outlet.
  3. World Trade Center – the most prominent target of the attacks, in New York City. The Pentagon in Washington was also targeted, while a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
  4. Harry Potter – fictional wizard.
  5. Anthrax – deadly substance at the heart of further terror attacks in the US in 2001.

Consumer brands

google search trends 2001 2

The biggest, most-searched-for brands in 2001 feature some familiar names, and some less so. The number one phone company at the time – Nokia – was also the number one brand by search volume. The Finnish firm later failed to embrace smartphone technology until it was too late and was left behind by the likes of Apple and Samsung. The years have also not been kind to Oracle and Palm.

  1. Nokia
  2. Sony
  3. BMW
  4. Palm
  5. Adobe
  6. Dell
  7. Oracle
  8. Ferrari
  9. Honda
  10. Canon

There is no sign on the list of today’s biggest brands such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Lego and Bitcoin.

Most-searched-for men and women

google search trends 2001

The most searched for people in 2017 were:

  1. Meghan Markle.
  2. Tara Palmer Tomkinson – socialite who died in February 2017.
  3. Shannon Matthews – subject of a real-life 2017 TV drama about a famous fake kidnap plot that failed in 2008.
  4. Charlie Gard – tragic infant born with a rare genetic disorder. His parents mounted a high-profile legal battle to get him experimental treatment in the US.
  5. Jack Maynard – nonentity Youtuber who was forced to leave TV show I’m a Celebrity… after it emerged he’d sent racist Tweets. We can only assume most people were Googling his name to find out who he was, which is precisely what we’ve just had to do.

However, in 2001, here’s who we were searching for most. Back then, Google provided separate lists for men and women.

Women in 2001:

  1. Britney Spears – at the peak of her popularity, the singer had just released her third album, ‘Britney’.
  2. Pamela Anderson – former Baywatch star. We can’t work out why she was so popular in 2001.
  3. Jennifer Lopez – it was the year of the eponymous album, as singer J-Lo released the album ‘J-Lo’.
  4. Madonna – was on a colossal world tour in 2001.
  5. Aaliyah – singer and actress who died in a plane crash that year.

Men in 2001:

  1. Nostradamus – trending because people made up some quotes and attributed them to him. They had him talking about ‘steel’, which hadn’t been invented when he was alive.
  2. Osama Bin Laden – it’s safe to say lots of people were searching for Osama Bin Laden in 2001.
  3. Eminem – rap star at the height of his fame in 2001.
  4. Michael Jackson – legendary singer/songwriter (no charges were proven…) who performed some huge US shows this year.
  5. Howard Stern – controversial radio host whose live coverage of the 9/11 terror attacks – including lots of calls from eyewitnesses – was seen as being especially well-handled.

Other notable search terms in 2001

There were some other well-known words and phrases being searched for in 2001 that have since dropped off the radar. Controversial music file-sharing system Napster, fantasy film series Lord of the Rings, Windows XP, Anna Kournikova and N-Sync were all huge back then.

This stuff fascinates us at Podium. As a leading SEO company, it’s our job to stay on top of the latest trends and to understand the ways in which people’s search habits change. If you ever fancy talking to us about how we can apply our know-how and, let’s be frank, outright geekiness, to help your business, then give us a shout.