Google Zeitgeist: Popular Does Not Mean Most Frequently Searched

As it turns out, Google’s annual Zeitgeist, which purports to list “the most popular and fastest-rising global search terms”, according to the accompanying announcement, doesn’t really measure anything.

After Danny and several other bloggers wondered how a term like “bebo” and “myspace” could top the list without other brands, and common search terms being above them, Google has changed the language describing the Zeitgeist to reflect its focus as a comparison of search terms’ popularity between last year and this year.

Google’s engineers have shared some insight into the Zeitgeist data.

According to Artem Boytsov, a Google software engineer, instead of listing off boring top search terms like “dictionary”, “maps” or a litany of pornographic terms, “we looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 — the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over. To come up with this list, we looked at several thousand of 2006’s most popular searches, and ranked them based on how much their popularity increased compared to 2005.”

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