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2009 search trends for South Africa

Which South African celebrity topped the Google search trends for 2009? Which politician topped the charts? Which topic made it to number one? Well Google’s Zeitgeist which is German for ‚the spirit of the times’ revealed 2009’s results.

2009 was a year of change in South Africa and Google has shown that people having been using Google Search to keep abreast of the most interesting news and trends as well as their favourite websites. As part of its year-end Zeitgeist trends results, which monitors search trends around the world, Google released results of what South Africans searched for last year in the categories of politics, sport, celebrities and recession related queries.

In the political arena, some of the most popular searches included firebrand ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema, who pipped Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance and Mvume Dandala of COPE as the third most searched for politician. Despite having a high volume of searches to his name, the Youth League president had to make way for his seniors, Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela who demonstrated their staying power by leading the rankings.

Former Springbok Joost van de Westhuizen had us all scrambling for our keyboards and heading for the Google search box when he released his biography. Joost’s relatively late entry into the gossip columns meant he was no match for perennial celebrity, DJ Sbu from youth radio station YFM who led the ‚most for searched for celebrity’ category. He was followed by socialite Khanyisile Mbau. Benoni-girl done good, Charlize Theron, was not to be outdone coming a close third in the rankings.

In the sports category, the Super 14 rugby was the most searched for item, followed closely by the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket, which was quite an achievement as the event was moved to South Africa from India at a late stage in the planning process. Surprisingly, the Confederations Cup was fourth in the rankings despite it being a prelude to the 2010 World Cup, following the third placed Cape Argus cycle race.

Last year’s Zeitgeist also reflected important South African concerns, such as understanding how the recession has impacted the local economy. In addition, recession-related keywords such as ‘recession jokes’ showed that not everyone took the recession so seriously. South African consumers had also adapted to the recession by being on the lookout for a good bargain, reflected an increased search for goods in the second hand market on websites such as Gumtree and Junkmail Cars.

In addition to telling us what people were curious about in South Africa, Google Zeitgeist tools also offered insight into which topics were of interest across the globe. Top search terms from over fifty countries appeared on our Google Zeitgeist webpage, – from popular song lyrics in New Zealand, to top bargain-hunting websites, to electronic brand searches in Hong Kong.

Last year’s global fastest rising searches showed interest across pop culture (with the King of Pop at the helm, followed by searches for movie New Moon and singer Lady Gaga), social networking sites and new technologies such as Windows 7 and Torpedo Gratis:

Global fastest rising queries

1. michael jackson

2. facebook

3. tuenti

4. twitter

5. sanalika

6. new moon

7. lady gaga

8. windows 7


10. torpedo gratis

South Africa’s top searches

Google reveals the internet “Zeitgeist”” (German for “”the spirit of the times””) through an exploration of the billions of search queries we receive each year. In addition to the Year-end Zeitgeist, which highlighted the top trends of 2009, we also have several tools that give insight into global, regional, past and present search trends. Google Zeitgeist tools can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymised, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur over time. These tools are available year-round for you to play with, explore, and learn from:

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