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Google’s Year in Search Explained

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Clarifying what happened in 2021

Every year, Google releases the most searched terms on the internet across the year, but they don’t tell you why these search terms were so popular. We decided that in the age of confusing and misleading news, providing factual summaries of exactly why these subjects were searched for was essential. From Birria tacos to Bridgerton, we found why planet Earth can’t get enough of these trends. 

Top searches this year focused on key sporting events, many of which were postponed from 2020, with cricket representing the top three positions in search. Big news items around stocks and crypto also peaked, while the COVID vaccine continued to be a highly spoken about subject across the year. Controversial celebrities and their private lives or opinions were featured across the actor, athlete and people categories, while the world’s love for Marvel remained unwavering, representing five out ten searches for films and TV shows. TikTok continues to drive trends in food and music, and the new novelty game Popcat took Southeast and East Asia by storm.  

Searches

Australia Vs India

The cricket match of the year saw Australia lose at the Gabba for the first time in 32 years, with Rishabh Pant leading a record-breaking chase in the fourth Test creating a nail-biting and dynamic series that ended in January 2021. Find Out More →

India Vs England

Two separate cricket series included both England touring India in spring, and India playing in England in late summer. The former was part of the inaugural 2019-2021 ICC (International Cricket Council) World Test Championship, which was postponed because of the pandemic, and the latter was again postponed after the Indian team recorded positive COVID-19 results. Find Out More →

IPL

The IPL (Indian Premier League) is an annual Twenty20 tournament played by regional Indian teams. The biggest sporting event in the country was originally scheduled for April and May, however was pushed back to October, where the Chennai Super Kings were crowned as champions. Find Out More →

NBA

A constant stream of search, predominantly in both North and South America, focused on the National Basketball Association and its 30 teams. The playoffs, an elimination tournament, is the peak of the sporting year, with the Milwaukee Bucks winning the best-of-seven games, defeating the Phoenix Suns 4-2. Find Out More →

Euro 2021

The UEFA European Football Championship took place over the summer. Most talked about moments included Christian Eriksen’s collapse from SCA and the storming of Wembley by fans before an epic final where Italy beat England in penalties. Controversy followed when racist comments were made towards Saka, Sancho and Rashford for missing their penalties. Find Out More →

News

Afghanistan

After 20 years of conflict, US president Joe Biden ended the war in Afghanistan this year; the longest war in American history. Over 120,000 people were subsequently evacuated, however the Taliban insurgency quickly took place, with the Fall of Kabul taking place on 15 August 2021. Find Out More →

AMC Stock 

The US cinema chain saw a massive rise in stocks after it secured financing in January, increasing fourfold, then dropping by 50 percent, before rising by 50 percent again at the end of the month. The dramatic fluctuation stabilised over the next few months, assisted by a Reddit campaign to purchase stock. Find Out More →

COVID Vaccine 

Following a devastating year of a global pandemic, the COVID vaccine continued to hit the news across the world in 2021. Subtopics included anti-vaxxers, potential blood clots from AstraZeneca, the Delta variant and controversial vaccine passports in some countries. Find Out More →

Dogecoin

A cryptocurrency initially created as a joke, Dogecoin saw an 800% surge in 24 hours at the start of the year following Reddit, Elon Musk and GameStop short squeeze attention. In May, Elon Musk’s SpaceX announced a Dogecoin-funded rideshare mission to the moon and has increased by 5,557% in the past year. Find Out More →

GME Stock

GameStop stock hit the news in January, caused by a short squeeze, causing large financial repercussions for hedge funds who had hoped to profit off the falling stock prices of the gaming company. However, Reddit forum r/wallstreetbets drove the price up by purchasing significant amounts of stock. Find Out More →

Actors

Alec Baldwin

An accidental shooting on Alec Baldwin’s latest film set, Rust, took place when a prop gun, thought to have been using live ammo, misfired and fatally shot the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, also injuring the director. Alec has since been plagued by claims of unsafe working conditions and denied his responsibility in the incident. Find Out More →

Pete Davidson

As the unlikely new boyfriend of global celebrity Kim Kardashian, SNL’s Pete Davidson hit the news hard when they were rumoured to be dating. Many media outlets also focused on his previous dating history, citing his exes including Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale and Kaia Gerber.  Find Out More →

Aryan Khan

The Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son was arrested from a cruise ship near Mumbai in October after being accused of allegedly taking recreational drugs at a party. The trial concluded in bail after 25 days in custody. Aryan was supported by a mass of lawyers, including former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. Find Out More →

Gina Carano

An infamous MMA fighter and actress, Gina was fired from popular Disney+ series The Mandalorian after her ‘abhorrent’ posts on Instagram, comparing the treatment of Republicans in America to Jewish people’s treatment in Nazi Germany. She had also shared other controversial views, mocking people who state their pronouns and mask wearing against COVID-19. Find Out More →

Armie Hammer

The ‘Call Me By Your Name’ actor was cancelled after several women came forward to accuse Armie of abuse. Social media messages from the actor, and great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer, were later leaked, showcasing sexual fantasies around violence, rape and cannibalism. News broke recently that his rape case will likely result in no charges. Find Out More →

Athletes

Christian Eriksen

The Euro 2020’s most talked about moment was when Danish player Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed from a cardiac arrest while playing against Finland in the opening group stage match. The game controversially restarted later that evening once his condition was stabilised. Find Out More →

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods was involved in a serious car crash after driving almost double the 45mph speed limit in LA. He sustained a number of serious injuries which placed the 15-time major champion’s future in the sport as questionable. In December, he announced his comeback with his son in the PNC Championship. Find Out More →

Simone Biles

Seven-time-Olympic-medallist, US gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the postponed Tokyo Olympics after claiming a mental block and bad mental health was affecting her performance. She won bronze in the beam final, the only event she finished. Many commentators called her a quitter and selfish, sparking controversy in the media. Find Out More →

Emma Raducanu

British tennis player Raducanu became a sports icon after winning the US Open at the age of 18. She is a record-breaker as the first singles qualifier to win a Grand Slam title and playing the fewest majors before winning a title and has subsequently become a major celebrity and brand ambassador. Find Out More →

Henry Ruggs III

The American football wide receiver was charged with a DUI following a fatal crash that killed a 23-year-old woman and her dog. In his second NFL season, Ruggs was consequently released from the Raiders the same day. Find Out More →

Foods

Birria tacos

The popular Mexican dish from Jalisco features corn tortillas with a filling of stewed meat, typically goat and chilli cooked in a pot. The meal was popularised by TikTok and Youtuber Joshua Weissman.  Find Out More →

Nasi Goreng

Indonesia’s national dish is an Asian fried rice with kecap manis, a thicker, sweeter soy-sauce, spring onion, chilli and garnished with a fried egg. It can also be served with chicken, or prawns. Top search queries were simply asking for the recipe, predominantly in the South East Asia area. Find Out More →

Feta pasta

Feta Pasta was the most viral TikTok recipe of the year, involving baking an entire block of feta cheese with cherry tomatoes and shallot. Cooked and drained pasta is then stirred in to make a creamy, simple sauce. Find Out More →

Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie Boards gained attention this year because of TikTok, with epic, metre-long, stacked and beautifully arranged boards becoming an aesthetic trend for events and gatherings. The trend was also driven by Valentine’s where couples were making DIY dinners for loved ones during global lockdowns. Find Out More →

生姜 焼き (Pork shogayaki)

A popular search trend in Japan, this fried pork and ginger dish is traditionally served with a side salad and rice. The dish is thought to be the second most popular Japanese pork dish after tonkatsu. Find Out More →

Games

PopCat

PopCat is an online game where users click an image of a cat to earn points for the country they are playing in. Currently, the image of the cat has been clicked 567 billion times, with Hong Kong being responsible for 121 billion of the clicks. Find Out More →

FIFA 22

FIFA 22 is the 29th instalment of the FIFA game series; a football simulation game which allows players to compete either with or against each other as their favourite football teams. The game sold 3.36 million games in the UK during September 2021, which is a 25% increase on September 2020. Find Out More →

Battlefield 2042

Battlefield 2042 is a 2021 first-person-shooter from game developers DICE, and the 12th instalment of the Battlefield franchise. The game became one of the worst reviewed games on Steam, mostly due to extensive bugs (technical issues) in the game. Find Out More →

モンハン ライズ (Monster Hunter Rise)

Monster Hunter Rise is a 2021 action role-playing game (RPG) and the sixth instalment in the Monster Hunter franchise. Players are tasked with slaying or capturing large monsters using a variety of weapons, tools, and environmental features. The game was a major success, reaching four million units sold worldwide in the three days following its release. Find Out More →

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village is a 2021 survival horror game and the sequel to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Players control Ethan Winters, who is searching for his kidnapped daughter. The game earned attention for the character, Lady Dimitrescu, who earned a positive reception from fans and critics alike. Find Out More →

Movies

Eternals

Eternals was one of five Marvel superhero movies released in 2021, which starred A-listers Harry Styles, Angelina Jolie, Kit Harrington, and Richard Madden. The film follows a group of secret superheroes who unite to battle the evil Deviants. Eternals grossed $385 million at the box office. Find Out More →

Black Widow

Black Widow was one of five Marvel superhero movies released in 2021, starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour. The film follows Natasha Romanoff, played by Johansson, confronting her dark past when she discovers her ex-KGB handler is still alive. Black Widow grossed $379.6 million at the box office. Find Out More →

Dune

Dune is the 2021 adaptation of American author Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name. It is a sci-fi film that stars Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides on a journey of discovery, powers, and spice – one of the most valuable resources in existence. Dune grossed $382.7 million at the box office. Find Out More →

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of five Marvel superhero movies released in 2021, starring Simu Liu and Awkwafina. The film is about martial arts master Shang-Chi confronting a dark past when he’s drawn into the Ten Rings organisation. The film features the first Asian hero in Marvel history, and grossed $431.0 million at the box office. Find Out More →

Red Notice 

Red Notice is an action-comedy film starring Ryan Gosling and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, about an Interpol agent attempting to hunt and capture the world’s most wanted art thief. Based on 38 critic reviews, the film earned a score of 37/100 on Metacritic, making it the 30th worst rated film of the year, out of a possible 519. It is also the most watched Netflix movie of all time. Find Out More →

Passings

DMX

DMX (real name Earl Simmons) was an American rapper and actor, who had hits such as ‘X Gon’ Give It to Ya’, and ‘Where The Hood At’.  He was the first artist to debut an album at No. 1 five times in a row on the Billboard 200 charts. He died on 9th April 2021 at the age of 50. Find Out More →

Gabby Petito

Gabby Petito was an American woman who was killed by her fiancé Brian Laundrie on a vanlife trip across America with him. The trip began on 2nd July 2021 and when Petito was reported missing on 11th September, the case gained significant social media attention. Find Out More →

Marilia Mendonca

Marilia Mendonca was a Brazilian Latin Grammy winning singer/songwriter, who died in a plane crash on 5th November 2021 at the age of 26. She was known as Brazil’s “Queen of Suffering”, and set the world record for most-watched live stream gig, with 3.3 million peak viewers. Find Out More →

Prince Philip 

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and the longest serving royal consort in world history. He was known for his controversial, witty remarks and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award that reward youth development. He lived to be 99, and died 9th April 2021. Find Out More →

Brian Laundrie

Brian Laundrie disappeared when he became a person of interest in the murder of Gabby Petito; his fiancé who he was travelling across America with in a van, who was reported missing in September 2021. Laundrie was later found dead, with an autopsy revealing he killed himself. Find Out More →

People

Alec Baldwin

An accidental shooting on Alec Baldwin’s latest film set, Rust, took place when a prop gun, thought to have been using live ammo, misfired and fatally shot the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, also injuring the director. Alec has since been plagued by claims of unsafe working conditions and denied his responsibility in the incident. Find Out More →

Kyle Rittenhouse 

Kyle Rittenhouse (born 3rd January 2003), is an American man who fatally shot two men and wounded a third during protests and riots that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake; a black man who was fatally shot in his car by police offer Rusten Sheskey on 23rd August 2020; a significant contributing factor in the Black Lives Matter movement. He was cleared over the killings in on 19 November 2021. Find Out More →

Christian Eriksen

The Euro 2020’s most talked about moment was when Danish player Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed from a cardiac arrest while playing against Finland in the opening group stage match. The game controversially restarted later that evening once his condition was stabilised. Find Out More →

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods was involved in a serious car crash after driving almost double the 45mph speed limit in LA. He sustained a number of serious injuries which placed the 15-time major champion’s future in the sport as questionable. In December, he announced his comeback with his son in the PNC Championship. Find Out More →

Simone Biles

Seven-time-Olympic-medallist, US gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the postponed Tokyo Olympics after claiming a mental block and bad mental health was affecting her performance. She won bronze in the beam final, the only event she finished. Many commentators called her a quitter and selfish, sparking controversy in the media. Find Out More →

Songs

drivers license, Olivia Rodrigo

drivers license by Olivia Rodrigo hit No. 1 on the Billboard hot 100, and has been streamed on Spotify 1.19 billion times. The song broke the Spotify record for most streams of a song in a single week with over 65 million streams in the week ending 14th January 2021. Find Out More →

MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name), Lil Nas X

MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name) by Lil Nas X was the second most streamed song globally on Spotify, behind “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo. The strong has been streamed 1.15 billion times on Spotify. The title of the song was partly inspired by the 2017 film, Call Me By Your Name. Find Out More →

INDUSTRY BABY, Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow

INDUSTRY BABY is a Lil Nas X song that features American rapper Jack Harlow. The song topic is about how Lil Nas X continued his career success despite naysayers and critics saying he was a one hit wonder with his 2019 hit Old Town Road. Find Out More →

Fancy Like, Walker Hayes

Fancy Like is a 2021 country song by Walker Hayes, which found success through TikTok after Hayes and his family were making dancing to the songs for fun during the COVID-19 pandemic. The TikTok video for Fancy Like has received more than 2.4 million likes and 23,000 comments. Find Out More →

MAPA, SB19

SB19 is a five-member Filipino boy bad, and were the first act to replace K-pop group BTS in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot Trending Songs chart. The song currently has 60 million views on YouTube. Find Out More →

Sports Teams 

Real Madrid CF

Real Madrid CF is a Spanish football club, who got the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, but were beaten by English side, Chelsea, in a match that concluded 3-1 to Chelsea. The club has 107 million followers on Instagram. Find Out More →

Chelsea F.C. 

Chelsea F.C. is an English football club located in Fulham, West London. The team were the 2021 winners of the UEFA Champions League, beating Manchester City 1-0. The team also welcomed a new manager in 2021, Thomas Tuchel. Find Out More →

Paris Saint-Germain F.C.

Paris Saint-Germain F.C. is a football club based in Paris, France. They are commonly referred to as PSG and compete in Ligue 1; the top division of French Football, of which they were runners-up in the 2020-2021 season. Find Out More →

FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona is a football club from Barcelona, Spain. They are colloquially known as Barça, or Barcelona. They compete in La Liga; the top division of Spanish football, of which they came third in the 2020-2021 season. Find Out More →

Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras

Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, is a Brazilian football club based in São Paulo. The club is commonly known as Palmeiras, and one of the most popular clubs with the most trophies and successes in Brazil. They were the winners of the Copa do Brasil in the 2020-2021 season, beating Gremio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense 3-0. Find Out More →

TV Shows

Squid Game

Squid Game is a 2021 South Korean survival drama television series that features 456 financially troubled individuals competing in various deadly children’s games to be the last person standing and win a ₩45.6 billion ($38,758,372.08/£29,369,737,82) cash prize. The series gained significant attention on social media for people recreating and parodying the games. It was the most popular Netflix Original show ever. Find Out More →

Bridgerton 

Bridgerton is a 2020 period drama television series that takes place in London in 1813, and follows the aristocratic Bridgerton family. The drama received generally favourable reviews from review score aggregator, Metacritic, earning a score of 75. It is the second most popular Netflix Original with the show being watched for 625 million hours in its first 28 days. Find Out More →

WandaVision

WandaVision is a 2021 American television miniseries. The show follows the events of the Marvel film Avengers: Endgame, where Wanda Maximoff and Vision are living a suburban life that takes an unexpected turn when their surroundings start moving through different decades. The series was the first Marvel television series that shared continuity with the film franchise. Find Out More →

Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai is an American martial arts comedy-drama television series, and a sequel to the original The Karate Kid films. The film is set 34 years after the 1984 original and follows the story of the once defeated Johnny Lawrence as he re-opens the Cobra Kai karate dojo. Find Out More →

Loki

Loki is an American television series and the third Marvel television series that shares continuity with the films in the franchise. The series follows Loki, known as the God of Mischief. As an alternate version of himself, he creates a new timeline, resulting in him being either erased from existence or having to help fix the timeline and stop a greater threat. Find Out More →

Data Methodology 

To find why each search term was popular on Google, we read and explored various news articles from trustworthy sources related to the search term, and cross-referenced this with Google Trends to ensure we were looking at the most relevant news.  

The categories and subjects were all decided from Google’s 2021 ‘Year in Search’ campaign, where they announce what the most popular searches were in various categories across the year. We looked at their data from a global perspective opposed to focussing solely on one country. 

The link attached to ‘Find Out More’, was the source believed to be the most relevant to the accompanying synopsis.  


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