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January 11, 2017

2016’s Top Searches Reveal Key SEO Trends

“Google is evolving into thinking more and more like humans do. This is great for two main reasons: a) When you’re writing for people you’ll also be writing for Google; b) If you help your visitors by answering their questions or by offering a solution to their problems, it will make your site become a more reputable resource that people will appreciate and, thus, so will Google. Point being: write and optimize for people, you’ll gain Google’s love too.”

– Louie Luc, Internet marketer at Buzz Nitrous

The end of the year is a big time for SEOs. Not only are the majority of search masters building their blueprints for the following trip around the sun, but many are taking notes on the lessons and revelations made throughout the year.

To aid the analyzing and planning phases, Google just released its top searches for 2016 with a video that gives a visual representation of the year in search.

The world’s biggest search engine broke down the year’s most popular queries in nine different categories (searches, global news, people, consumer tech, global sporting events, losses, movies, musicians, and TV shows) and even added regional filters for those who want to drill down to a more granular level. The company also made the list super easy to embed or share for anyone who wants to spread the word.



As far as the most prominent global searches are concerned, Pokémon Go stole the show as the single most searched query of 2016, hitting its peak back in July. This isn’t too surprising considering the app quickly became a cultural phenomenon and shattered Apple store records for the most downloads in the first week of release.

Just behind the cartoonish app came the hugely popular iPhone 7, and president-elect Donald Trump.

In consumer tech, Apple is as popular as ever; a whopping four of its products landed on the top 10 searches alongside Google’s new Pixel phone and three different Samsung devices.

The new president-to-be also landed on the most popular people searches along with Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Michael Phelps, along with two other Olympic athletes.

While “Powerball” was the fifth most searched term around the world, it was the single most popular query in the United States; this is also understandable considering that the jackpot became the largest in U.S. history, topping out at $1.5 billion.

Right behind Powerball in U.S. searches came musical icon Prince, as the legendary artist and entertainer who died earlier this year alongside fellow musician David Bowie and actors Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder; all of whom made the list of top global searches for losses.


While 2016 certainly had many ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, it is time to look forward to the future and integrate this information into our SEO plans for 2017.

SEO Revelations

Much of 2016’s SEO shakeups revolved around mobile devices. Things like voice search and increasing user sophistication are certainly having an impact on the landscape and, because of that, additional emphasis has been placed on the need to implement long-tailed keywords that speak to user intent.

SEO is clearly evolving in this direction. Taking a look at Google’s top searches for the year, however, clearly shows us that short and general keywords still hold immense power.

Nearly every item on Google’s list was a major story in its own right in 2016. This reflects the clear desire of consumers to obtain news from reputable sources. In 2017, brands should take note of this and attempt to integrate relevant news stories into their offerings as much as possible; just remember that it has to be applicable to your niche in some way.

In addition to these teachings, it is worth noting that a large number of Google’s top searches were also topics that were either trending on social media at one point, or were at a minimum, widely shared on social platforms.

This means that while Google still denies that social signals are a ranking factor, there is a strong correlation between the signals given by social and searches that land in the top spots for the year. This makes it increasingly important for brands to pay close attention to big stories and trending topics on social media.

Once again, if you are able to hop on those bandwagons in a way that integrates with your brand, it is advisable. Covering a story that is abnormal for your brand to touch on just to try to get a boost in the SERPs, however, is likely to do more damage than good because followers will be able to sniff out the insincerity a mile away.

While things like semantic and long-tailed keywords are increasingly important, it is clear that SEO has not evolved passed the point where more general terms are becoming antiquated.

Don’t put all of your eggs in the keyword basket, however — there is a wide variety of SEO trends on the horizon; many of which are linked to Google’s increasing transition to a mobile-first strategy. If you really want to crush it in the SEO realm in 2017, mobile is where your focus should be.

What other SEO takeaways can be gathered from Google’s top searches? What queries did you expect to make the list but were absent?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile