Lisa Gurry, director of audience PR for Bing, says that Bing users collectively created a snapshot of 2011? their searches captured the year's most important people and moments, from rising pop superstars and royal weddings to concerns for human tragedy and the global economy.
"What we've found with the most-searched list is that it provides really interesting perspectives on the significant moments of the year," Gurry says. "It's also an indicator of what's rising and falling from a pop culture perspective."
Depending on one's view of the cultural zeitgeist, it may or may not be surprising that pop culture dominated the majority of searches. But that trend comes through louder than a screaming horde of Justin Bieber fans. Love or hate "the Bieb," the most-searched person on Bing in 2011, don't doubt his grip on the country's online consciousness ? or pop culture's in general.
Gurry hopes that trend and others highlighted in today's report spark discussion within Bing's community and inspire reflection on the things they think about every day.
"We look across all these categories with the goal to try and touch everyone with some piece of information that's interesting to them," she says. "We love to surface this data and help provide insights and create some water cooler moments. It's a fun time of year for us."
Below are a few trends Gurry and her team found after taking a deeper dive into America?s search strings.
In 2011, women dominated search queries across most categories. Whether people were searching for news events (#1 was the Casey Anthony trial) or reality TV stars (#1 was Kim Kardashian), women generally left the boys behind. Even in a typically male-centric category they came out on top; tennis? Maria Sharapova was the year?s most-searched sports star, and Chelsea Handler was more popular than her male counterparts on late night TV.
Bieber fever may have rocketed the teen pop star to the top of the most-searched musician list, but Justin was the only guy making any noise; the other nine musicians in the top ten, including Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, were all female.
While it was no surprise that Great Britain's royal wedding captured hearts and minds ? it was the top-searched celebrity event of the year - people were far more interested in the bride and her maid of honor than the groom. Kate Middleton and sister Pippa both ranked high in celeb searches, but poor Prince William didn't even crack the top 100.
And then there are the Kardashians. America can't seem to get enough of Kim, Khloe and Kourtney. The titillating trio all landed in the top five on Bing's most-searched reality stars, with Kim taking the reality star crown.
As Justin Bieber basks in the search spotlight, perhaps he should give pause. All glory is fleeting - even for the powerful, as Barack Obama discovered this year. The president ranked number 5 in overall searches last year; in 2011, he limped in at number 50.
But this is the land of second chances, as Jennifer Lopez discovered. After fading from the American top-of-mind, JLo?s career resurgence with American Idol and new music resulted in her rocketing back in 2011 as the fifth-most searched person on Bing.
Gurry thinks it's natural that celebrities and the entertainment world initiate so many searches.
"I think it's indicative of our culture and what folks are interested in," she says. "And in a year where there's been a tough economy and a lot of natural disasters and tragedies, there does seem to be an interest to go escape and distract oneself with some light-hearted entertainment."
Our obsession with everything that glitters even extends to destinations. Las Vegas was the most-searched destination in the world last year. "Vegas is an interesting part of American pop culture that has obviously intrigued people this year," Gurry says.
Still, it wasn't all fun and games when it comes to search. People responded to suffering when disasters such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami struck, searching for more information and ways to donate. People still managed to focus on giving spite of the rough economy, with YMCA the most-searched charity. The rough economy was also on people's minds: "bankruptcy," "real estate agent," and "selling a home" were the top financial terms searched in 2011.
"Overall when you look at all the Bing search trends in aggregate, you're seeing the highs and lows of what Americans experienced - good or bad - this year," Gurry says.