What was the most popular search term in 2012? According to Google's Zeitgeist 2012 website, Whitney Houston topped the list in the U.S. and the world.
The official Google Blog noted, "Global superstar Whitney Houston topped many countries’ lists as well as three of our overall trending lists—her unexpected death surprising fans around the world. From Korea, YouTube sensation PSY’s 'Gangnam Style' signature dance took the world by storm, landing him the #1 spot in many countries and making his song the second most trending query of 2012." It added, "Then there was the superhuman. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s epic free fall jump made him the #6 globally trending person of the year, while the 2012 Olympics and its various athletes made it into almost every country’s top trends. And NBA player Jeremy Lin also rose on the charts this year, making him the #1 trending athlete globally."
Search Engine Journal's Mike Wheatley noted, "But our interests certainly weren’t just limited to pop stars in 2012. Natural disasters are always a big hit on search engines whenever we’re unfortunate enough to fall victim to them, as 'Hurricane Sandy' illustrates by its third place rank. Meanwhile, the inclusion of 'iPad 3' in the top four shows that no matter how many Android devices Samsung wheel into the stores, they’ll probably never win over the legions of iOS devotees."
According to CNET's Lance Whitney, "To compile its 2012 Zeitgeist, Google took more than 1 trillion queries entered into its search engine for the year and then factored in data from Google Trends and other tools. The company also excluded spam and repeat queries to find the searches that generated the greatest amount of traffic this year compared with 2011."
Of course, Google is not the only search company to compile a year-end list of top terms. The AP reported, "Yahoo said its own top-searched memes for the year included 'Kony 2012,' a reference to the short film and campaign against Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony; 'stingray photobomb' for an unusual vacation snapshot that went viral; and 'binders full of women,' another nod to Romney for his awkward description of his search for women cabinet members as Massachusetts' governor."