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2012's Top Search Terms (by Category) and Top Websites

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For the fourth consecutive year, "facebook" was the most popular search term, accounting for 4.13% of all searches conducted in the US in 2012, up 33% from 2011 levels, according to a report from Experian Marketing Services, which analyzed the top 1,000 search terms for 2012.

Four variations of the term "facebook" were among the top 10 search terms during the year, accounting for 5.62% of US searches overall, up 27% year over year (YOY). The term "youtube" maintained its No. 2 spot in 2012, while "craigslist" moved up one spot to take the No. 3 spot. The search term "amazon" moved into the top 10 for the first time in 2012:

Below, additional findings from Experian Hitwise.

The 50 most popular search terms accounted for roughly 12% of all Internet searches in 2012, up 30% YOY.


Among other findings related to the top 50 search terms:

  • Search terms related to social networking sites dominated the results, accounting for 6.03% of the top 50 searches, up 44% YOY.
  • Common search terms for Facebook (e.g., "facebook" and "facebook.com") accounted for combined 5.84% of all searches among the top 50 terms, an increase of 27% YOY.
  • YouTube terms accounted for 1.67% of total searches, up 23% YOY.
  • Google terms (including YouTube) accounted for 1.91% of total searches, up 20% YOY.
  • Yahoo terms accounted for 0.79%, up 34% YOY.

"Navigational searches continue to dominate the top search results as users continue to visit their favorite sites via search engines instead of directly entering a web address into their browsers URL bar," said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research for Experian Marketing Services.

"Single-word searches grew 16% in 2012 as a result of continued reliance on search engine's suggested results. Other top 2012 searches reflected the ongoing infatuation with celebrities online."

New Search Terms

New terms that entered the top 50 search terms for 2012 were backpage, cool math games, fox news, pinterest, and pof (an acronym for Plenty of Fish, the top visited dating site in the US).

Top-Visited Websites

Facebook was the top-visited website for the third consecutive year, accounting for 79.1 billion total US visits in 2012. Google.com ranked second, with 78.5 billion visits, followed by YouTube (25.9 billion), Yahoo Mail (22.2 billion) and Yahoo (20.8 billion).

The combination of Google properties accounted for 109.3 billion total US visits, while Facebook properties accounted for 79.1 billion and Yahoo properties accounted for 76.5 billion.

The top 10 websites accounted for 276.3 billion total US visits overall, or 32% of all US Internet visits in 2012, up slightly from 2011 levels.

Top Searches Across Key Categories

In 2012, Whitney Houston was most popular public-figure search term in the US, ranked No. 196 among the top 1,000 search terms.

Below, top search across various categories:

Public Figures

  1. Whitney Houston (No. 196)
  2. Justin Beiber (No. 242)
  3. Kim Kardashian (No. 291)
  4. Nicki Minaj (No. 371)
  5. Bobbi Kristina (No. 397)
  6. Miley Cyrus (No. 432)

Movies Titles

  1. Breaking Dawn–Part 2
  2. Magic Mike
  3. The Dark Knight Rises
  4. Prometheus
  5. Dark Shadows

Music (Artists and Bands)

  1. One Direction
  2. Taylor Swift
  3. Justin Beiber
  4. Beyonce
  5. Zac Brown Band

Branded Destinations

  1. Disney World
  2. Great Wolf Lodge
  3. Disneyland
  4. Hershey Park
  5. Universal Studios Orlando

Primetime TV Shows

  1. American Idol
  2. Dancing with the Stars
  3. The Voice
  4. The Bachelor
  5. South Park

Sports (Athletes)

  • Tiger Woods
  • Tim Tebow
  • Peyton Manning

The top searched for sports team was the Dallas Cowboys.

News and Media (Non-Celebrity Topics)

  1. Hurricane sandy
  2. iPhone5
  3. Election results
  4. George Zimmerman 

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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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